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A Writing Journey Often Besieged By Destination Anxiety

(BOSTON/ATLANTA :: 22 March 2009) Writing’s rocky road would be a hell of a lot easier to traverse if I had a clock to punch, regular hours to keep and a clearly defined path to the golden years.

It’d be boring as all hell, but at least I could fall back on the structure of it all.

But that’s not what I’m up to. At least not in this lifetime. As I’ve told many of my readers/friends/family members/stalking victims in the past - and to borrow a baseball metaphor - I’ve been slapping sharp singles to the outfield, with a few gappers, when what I really want is to blast a home run. Not just one that clears the fence, mind you... the type of bellowing bomb that shatters the windshield of the champagne-colored Town & Country in the baseball park’s parking lot. (Soccer mom, sorry... you deserve it for driving that bulbous mobile living room.)

This forthcoming homer, the first of many solid ideas, is my book on emotional intelligence for men, and it’s more than just to prove to myself that, Yes I can... it’s about the impact I know I can have, and to make the “cliched difference” in people’s lives that, let’s face it, won’t be a cliche if it actually sticks to the wall. When I download my idea from the ether and morph it into turnable pages, digestible prose and impeccably sourced, supported theory (the latter, hi, is for sure the slippery eel in an otherwise viewable zoo), I’ll be able to look back on my 9-to-5 days and chuckle. “When,” not “if.” When.

So on I trudge. I recently had the pleasure of meeting and listening to
Dennis Palumbo, psychotherapist to Hollywood’s writing royalty (as well as “paupers,” I guess you could say, staying with the metaphor) as their impassioned cheerleader; he’s a comfy suede recliner in a sea of Ikea chairs. He has the gusto, insight and inspiration that we writers, often impatiently, seek within ourselves, and which he delivers with an accessible, impish demeanor that perfectly embodies our erstwhile pursuit.

I shook his hand after his session at the
Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism, an event I have promised to myself I’ll attend every year. I’ve also had the pleasure of starting his book, “Writing from the Inside Out,” which might as well be titled, “Living from the Inside Out,” as we writers are always sharing some glimpse of ourselves in the words we craft. Even the most mundane local news story contains a thread of who we are, or more accurately, how our identity shapes our stories.

I write the latter thought knowing the pitfalls (more like rancid catcalls) of bias in journalism; that all media has a left-leaning perspective... yadda yadda. But we tell our best stories when entrusted with the duty, the call, that our own experiences are to merely propel the truth upward rather than somehow manufacture a truth we seek to propel. Conflating liberalism with fairness and sound judgment is an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole. Don’t go there.

So... back to the ballgame. I’m digging in at the plate, doing my practice swings... winking to Brandon in the stands, wiggling like Chuck Knoblach with one foot out of the batter’s box, staring down the opposition like Don Mattingly, waiting for the closer to bring the heat. It’s a balmy afternoon. The sun is beating down on the brim of my cap, illuminating a preview in my heart and mind of the next morning’s sports report highlighting the results:

“Veteran player does the purposeful home-run trot around the bases after the big swing goes yard.”

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Warning: Contents Have Shifted During Turbulence

(ATLANTA :: 24 February 2009) To all those sour, whiny bitches who think liberal-minded folks are reflexively following Obama because he’s a messiah, or that his recovery plan is a Robin Hood giveaway to the poor, or that we are blind sheep getting herded to slaughter, here’s my message.

Get the fuck over yourselves. Seriously.

I was asked to give Bush a chance in 2000. I did that. He failed. The most notable failure, of course, is his ridiculous invasion of Iraq and mismanagement of Afghanistan - two shitstorm doozies that continue to throw dookie on a fan that was submerged in it years ago. Where was the financial outrage then?

And then there’s Bush’s presiding over deregulation of the financial system, continuing the themes from the Clinton, Bush I and Reagan eras. We got the rich richer. The Bush’s nominations, minions and underlings were a particular source of twirling. Many of them in Justice came from Bible-chucking Liberty University, drawing from a pool of people he actually derided in secret meetings. Just ask
David Kuo, who did an exclusive book treatment in Time magazine.

“Evangelicals may share Bush's faith, but they would protect themselves--and their interests--better if they looked at him through the same coldly political lens with which he views them,” he writes. Barely anyone knows how sociopathic and opportunistic the Bush White House was with this particular group of people who elected him. Who helped put him in power, twice.

Now that we know “compassionate conservatism” is a sham, a farcical pretense, we need
serious answers to serious issues, and we need someone competent - with usage of complete sentences and a sense of reverence for the job - to oversee this enormous task we have ahead of us. And I trust Obama FAR more than I trust his predecessor, but more than that, the people out in the field who will be executing his orders.

Not all of Obama’s decisions have pleased me - far from it. Look for a post on civil liberties soon... it will surprise you. Even people on his team piss me off, and will continue to do so I’m sure over the next four years.

But this idea that Obama is the left’s “second coming” is just absolute horseshit. It is a waste of time my friends... Why not focus effort on holding the current government accountable rather than using labels to marginalize? We need to spend less effort deriding the
relief people feel (with approval of Obama running between 60 and 70 percent, although softening lately) and focus on solving our country’s woes. We’ll be better off. Seriously.

And make no mistake: Bush, Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Hannity and Rush’s perverted version of conservatism is what created the craving, the need frankly, for strong, authentic leadership. So, you are now witnessing the intense feelings of liberation that we, yes, finally have someone responsible at the helm. And it’s about goddamned time.

If our country is the overhead bin on an airplane long suffering in turbulence, we are now seeing the after effects of the shifting contents falling out. And it’ll take time to gather our belongings and deplane.

(Image borrowed from Steve Morris/AirTeamImages)

Why Obama, Pt. II: Consider What Your Future Self Wants Now

(ATLANTA :: 5 October 2008)

Step out of the shadows.

That's the message from
Deepak Chopra, writing a piece called "Obama and The Palin Effect," for the HuffPost. Chopra argues that Sarah Palin represents the shadow self, tantalizing and luring us into embracing fear and suspicions rather than engaging our more integrated, enlightened and higher self.

"She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and exhorting people to obey their worst impulses," he writes. "In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of 'the other.' For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don't want to express them."

Chopra's piece is a masterstroke in sensible reality creation and understanding where, either subliminally or directly, one can attempt to darken an otherwise bright and optimistic horizon. To turn the fear on its ear, think instead of "the other" as possibly "the one" for which we could be looking.

You are not subverting yourself to believe in a single agent of change. In fact, it's the very leadership we need in the face of the three "Es": energy, the environment and our pummeled economy, to name a few.

So, because I believe so strongly in
Barack Obama as a catalyst for change in this country, I ask you to stop and look forward:

...It's Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008. It's mid morning and you're into your third cup of coffee. One full month after our general election has passed; we are gearing up for the holiday season - but also, the next administration is conducting transition plans for January 20, 2009. These plans include choosing people for cabinet positions; setting critical policy direction and decisions; and ramping up other important political machinations that will shape our future.

On this day, would you prefer to be anticipating a McCain-Palin administration to take over, with much of the same philosophies and strategies and shortcomings of our current administration? Or, while in the transition, would you prefer to be anticipating a more dramatic change, with confidence that, no matter how scary the unknown may actually be, that by our own action and decisions, our country is going to fundamentally shift to a new tone, direction and priority system?

If you envision yourself on that day, awaiting the transition... which scenario fits with our collective needs as a country?

Barack Obama LogoAnd in the broadest of terms: would you prefer to install the oldest president ever chosen, an outwardly bitter and angry person, who chose a profoundly unqualified running mate; or would you want instead to be a witness to history - led by a clearly more integrated, connected, reasoned, decent human being, the first African American ever elected?

Does that last idea bring up a pang of fear or a feeling of pride?

If you answer "both," you're not alone. No change comes without preceding chaos, and Palin is sure tryin' hard to instill that in us - with a shameful accusation that Obama is "
paling around with terrorists." Seriously?

Do not give in to fear. Chopra writes:

"Obama's call for higher ideals in politics can't be seen in a vacuum. The shadow is real; it was bound to respond. Not just conservatives possess a shadow -- we all do. So what comes next is a contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted?"

I believe the latter.

So... your future self is sitting in the presidential transition, on that fateful Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008, with the hope that we step out of the shadows as a powerful statement against the sad, manipulative pandering of both the Bush administration and what the McCain-Palin ticket has thus far stood for.

Neither party is perfect. But this year we have a clear choice. Step out of the shadows and embrace progress.

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(graphic courtesy of geeksugar; chopra picture: intent.com)

Update: McCain gestures to Obama during debate last night (7 Oct. 2008) and says "that one," intending to be ironically and heroically dismissive and yet ending up looking like an ignoramus.


My 'Cringe Reflex' Was Tripped A Few Weeks Ago

Whether or not Palin actually makes it to Nov. 4, the choice underscores McCain's poor judgment.

If you agree that we are as good as the people we gather around us, he's starting off with one of the biggest mistakes of his career.

But there's a somewhat strong chorus of boos coming from a surprising group of people: conservatives.

-- Kathleen Parker from the National Review urged Palin to bow out, at the end of a
diatribe that revoked Parker's early support of Palin. She refers to the choice and Palin's continued verbal stumblings as triggering her "cringe reflex."

-- George Will, a curmudgeonly journalist and writer I deeply admire, calls out Palin for "
negligible experience."

-- Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy were
busted with hot mikes in deriding McCain's "narrative" pick. "It's over," Noonan said, among other things.

-- Fareed Zakaria was especially damning today on CNN, where he called the selection "fundamentally irresponsible." He writes a
striking piece for Newsweek that you can't miss.

In addition to the high-profile snub from the always conservative WSJ op-ed page, here's an extensive line-up of other commentators who are
seeing their skin start to crawl.

Is this the countdown to her recusal or the death knell of McCain's candidacy? Or perhaps neither... but that's a "door No. 3" I'm not interested in seeing.


Why Obama, Pt. I: Block Religious Freaks From A Full Takeover

(ATLANTA :: 29 September 2008) - Take a break from the financial disaster we are in for a moment. I learned a scary thing today - one of many that we can't lose sight of when we go to the voting booth.

We are in the midst of an attempted religious hijacking of American politics from pulpits across the country.

We don't need more examples of this than McCain's choice of Palin; she's fired up the conservative base of the party. But
here's a clear one in case you do. Many people have expressed concern about her freakishly conservative religious views that could be a "heartbeat away" from the presidency.

Are we open to that idea? Absolutely NOT.

A group of pastors are going to intentionally violate tax law and endorse McCain - the same candidate who called Jerry Fallwell an "agent of intolerance" and then a few years later embraced him and spoke at his school. (The self-proclaimed "Maverick" is a shape-shifting neo-con cypher that is a shadow of the shadow he used to be back in 2000.)

Still more dangerous is the Alliance Defense Fund (link intentionally omitted), a group that is poised to defend these pastors in court as they attempt to shape the campaign from the pulpit.

So, let me understand: you're going to break the law and then ask us to foot the bill when you are taken to court? This is not civil disobedience - you are BREAKING THE LAW. Equally bad is that you're pushing your religious beliefs in the public sector and our Constitution says it's wrong.

Let your parishioners make up their own minds and stay out of the process. Your job as spiritual adviser and advocate does not make the podium on which you speak a political bully pulpit.

Allow this trail of religion to inject itself and you'll see Roe v. Wade blown up... and our Supreme Court will start looking more like an Evangelical revival than a respected judicial body.

We can see how well we do when we see ourselves as the
chosen ones. Vote Obama and quite literally block this delusional world view from infecting our political system.

(Image courtesy of DailyKos)

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'Pushing Populist Nonsense' And Getting Busted By A Teammate

"Because you're a pinhead," says Bill O'Reilly, the poster guy for junk journalism, when Neil Cavuto disagreed with him on an issue regarding oil profits.

I believe O'Reilly as a populist about as much as I buy Lou Dobbs as one. Phony.

Reality is somewhere in the middle of this argument below, but someone is at least trying to keep the bully pulpit idiot honest.

To wit:


Let's Kick Off September With A F$##$%ing Reality Check

Double talk, shit shoveling and lies.

But don't take it from me. Take a peek at Jon Stewart's dumbass round-up.

"Hold on lassie. It gets bumpy from here."


Would Dr. King Have Gone To Starbucks? I'll Have A Venti Elitist

Portrayal Of Obama As Elitist Hailed As Step Forward For African Americans

Stolen Effexor Slogan Effectively Ends Ineffectual Affect Of The GOP

See more Adam "Ghost Panther" McKay videos at Funny or Die

Screw Grandpa Munster... Give Paris Equal Time

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

McCain Should Have Considered An Ashley Simpson Exit

The befuddled among us... could there be a more tragic answer to a simple, seemingly non-toxic question?

Look up "Deer in Headlights" in the dictionary... there he'll be.


Don't Let The Cuts Fool You. True Journalists Need True Training

The below NBC News report talks about the deep cuts in the newspaper business.

And my alma mater thinks that, since reporting and writing is moving online, graduate schools must train journalists as thoughtless, shallow, promotional whores instead of real reporters.

Well, don't let the deep newspaper attrition fool you: we need good training more than ever. If we want to find the next Frank Rich, the only way to do that is to keep training journalists the old fashioned way - and then fold them in with new media.

In other words, if we don't apply tried-and-true standards to our bold new medium, we'll just become big shipping carriers of information without the depth we so desperately need in a country with a free press.


Put Your Heart On A Treadmill... For Longevity, Prosperity

In remembering Tim Russert last week, NBC Nightly News ran a segment about the work that Russert did for kids, specifically the Boys & Girls Club of Washington, D.C.

He donated proceeds from his speeches and advocated for youth advancement all the time -- many qualities people didn't know about him.

The piece concluded with one of Russert's favorite sayings:

"No exercise is better for the human heart than reaching down to lift up another person."


The Best Of Men... Are Tenacious And Youthful In One Package

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, appearing on the tribute "Meet The Press" episode celebrating Tim Russert (1950-2008), honored the longtime host today with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:

"Remember, the nicest men in the world are those who always keep something of the little boy in them."

True for all of us. That show,
the longest running in TV history, will have enormous shoes to fill.

Who's going to operate the whiteboard this November? Sad

David Gregory is a great choice to replace Russert, even though it is way too early to be thinking about that.

After all, someone could only succeed him -- he was irreplaceable... especially during this unprecedented and historic political year.


The Myth (And Fact) Of Fingerprints

(ATLANTA - original date: 27 May 2008 | updated on 4 May 2011) :: In many ways, we *are the people around us.

We are an amalgam of personalities, legacies, love, hatred, ambivalence, random acts of all kinds - and yet we wake up some days thinking the entire world tilts on our axis; that everyone is against us and the sky is falling. And if you look just a little bit closer, you’ll see that’s a bunch of hooey.

Why does it matter? In the end, come judgment day - if you subscribe to such an idea - aren’t we all just gonna be part of the earth, anyway? I mean, why am I yammering on about people, the friends and family, new and old, unseen and known, who've taken the time to read, to listen, to love? Does my train of thought actually have a caboose?

Maybe. This is about knowing where love lies... about where it breathes, how we contribute to its collective, where it compounds itself and how, and when it's likely to happen again. When we turn the right stones, or seek the right fortune, there it will be. And that's for those of us lucky enough to have found love more than once, in more than one person; who are brave enough to risk the fool after getting the shaft and going great guns to find it again.

Truthfully, we're all faced with many great challenges over the term of our lifetimes. Our resiliency during these periods often help shape the way we cherish ourselves, and equally important, each other.

Jimmy Roberts, sports reporter for NBC and commenting on Andre Agassi some time ago, shared this spontaneous, eloquent gem about a person's unspoken impact:

"An old friend of mine used to say that there are people in this lifetime who leave footprints. In other words, there are these people, and we all know them, who have an impact. They aren’t necessarily the best at what they do; they might not always behave the way we wish they might, but they make an impact on all of us."

This thought is true for everyone - not just those like Andre, whom we might put on a pedestal. Consider Chris "Crusty" Haddle's fight against
mucinous adenocarcinoma, which caused a dull ache he detected in his lower abdomen that felt like simple appendicitis, but turned out to be stage-two cancer that required radical surgery. He'll need six months of chemotherapy to make sure nothing has spread.

Also consider Gene Rector, who was officially diagnosed today with lymphoma, and who will start with his doctor on a treatment course that will likely include chemo *and* radiation since it has spread to his spleen.

So what's or who is at work here? None of us can point to one thing. But the remaining residue - both in emotional and metaphysical terms - is that we should always know the fingerprints that our friends, family, neighbors, strangers on the street, anyone, leave on us. They contribute to your own. They are the cherished gas in our engine, the great person we've not yet met, the random person in public with whom you've just connected somehow... on a road that would be much more boring and barren without them.

So, run to the windows, rush to the phone... tell your mother, your friend, even someone you're unsure about. Tell them their impact. Crusty and Gene have both in their own ways changed me for the better, and for that I'll always be grateful.

Being good to each other, even when it might step on your own purpose or agenda, is tantamount to a peaceful coexistence. Think about it. If we use that mission in everything we do - from the politicians we choose down to the type of milk we buy - we'll see a spontaneously different world around us.

Because someday, somehow... someone will see your "footprints" in the sand, your fingerprints on something great, and admire the decisions you made.
- WP

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