[ always tell stories ]

In Celebration Of 400 Tweeps: Here Are My 'Simple Four' Social-media Tips

In celebration of hovering
around 400 Twitter followers - clearly, some of the smartest folks on the web - I give you my “Simple Four” social-media tips and suggestions. Here we go:

Leave dirty laundry to the cleaners. Your best pal, your hairdresser, or perhaps an unlucky neighbor - those folks are the sympathetic ear you’re looking for. They could also be the object of your ire; don’t complain about someone or something unless you’re a) saying explicitly why it matters and b) following it with a solution. Any complaints about people in particular will feel to your readers as venting and sour grapes. Contribute to discourse and two-way discussion, because, in the end...

It ain’t about you. This web-advice gem came from a talk I heard from the incredible Peter Shankman, offered mostly to folks who get pissed off about something or someone, and take that complaint to Twitter or Facebook. “I deserved that promotion.” “I hate my sister.” “My colleague is a douchebag.” Or, a more specific Facebook post from a friend in response to a celebratory, pre-grilling food picture I loaded to Facebook: “That looks like dog food. Food pictures are my pet peeve!” I care about that, why? How about you be irritated in your quiet voice and let me, and the rest of us, celebrate a fun moment? (The burgers were exceptional, btw.) Make your posts useful to your friends and followers, or run the risk of appearing self-aggrandizing.

The “offending” Facebook dinner preview

Make your posts about your friends and followers - in this case, inspiration for cooking recipes - or run the risk of sounding vapid, self-obsessed and useless to the people who look to you for wisdom.

3. Don’t be a jerk. This is pretty straightforward: be respectful and always keep it classy. Here’s an example in support of this bullet, courtesy of the seemingly thin-skinned @Shoq on Twitter. After questioning his fiercely one-sided impugning of people who are concerned about Bradley Manning’s treatment - and after I joined with @a_picazo in asking him why - he Tweeted this: “.@wildcatatl I think you might either be sleeping with @a_picazo, trying to, or alternatively, you're just fucking stupid.” He then blocked me from his stream. I honestly didn’t understand why this otherwise progressive voice was railing on people so hard, without proof or support of his skepticism, and I honestly wanted to know why. The lesson: engage in conversations and debates in a mature way and do not needlessly flame people. Especially folks who know how to post about it later.

Always, whenever possible, include links. Be kind, support your findings. Your followers want to learn more about your positions and opinions. Tweets are nominations, if you will, for the most compelling news items of the day. Go to Mashable for more on this topic. The immediate click-through rate isn’t staggering, but if someone is evaluating your Twitter stream to decide if they want to follow you, those links will stay there and quite likely help you later.

Folks on the Internet want engagement, not one-sided preaching or personal blather. Scale to and maintain the high road - in the end, you’ll be rewarded. Happy


'Freedom To Hate' Will Lose To Freedom To Love, Every Time

In celebration of National Coming Out day, “hate” is a four-letter word.

This past July, Mary Grabar - somehow, inexplicably, professor at Clayton State University and conservative speaker and author - wrote a piece for the AJC entitled, “Freedom to Hate in College Shrinks.” With apologies for the dated material, it seems appropriate given recent events. In her piece, she led her pedestrian swat of ironic prose with this gem: “I tell my college students to feel free to hate.”

In the piece she gets busy demonizing groups - the Anti-Defamation League, Gay & Lesbian Straight Education Network, among others - that fight for the rights of marginalized youth and espouse understanding in schools, including use of emotional intelligence, for the advancement of society. Grabar bemoans that her students’ rights to youthful, exuberant, unencumbered hate have been systematically denied. They are “enjoined from hating” the people and behavior around them, and are, in her mind, neutered from expressing their opinions by evil feeling circles:

“Their teachers act as “guides on the side” for their little groups in which they are forced to expose their feelings and discuss historical examples of ‘hate.’ Creepy ‘emotional intelligence’ consultants make them show all the other kids how they react when they get angry or sad. They are made sissies in front of everyone when a big bearded guy asks them, “What was it doing to your heart?”

Some of them are even graded in a new subject called “Social and Emotional Learning.”

But I declare to my students, “Now that you are legal adults you may hate whomever you please!”

They look at me like prisoners who have forgotten what freedom is like.”

What’s “creepy,” Ms. Grabar, is you. Not you, specifically - your ideas. Do you see what’s happening in this country as it pertains to unchecked hate? In the past two weeks, we’ve had no fewer than five suicides related to bullying of gay teens. Is this a form of the hate you want your students to freely express? Why not teach them the perils of hate along with responsible self expression - rather than couch it in some form of social martyrdom where folks are let out of a metaphorical prison that simply, absolutely, doesn’t exist?

We had the situation in New York City where
three men were allegedly sodomized, burned and whipped simply for being gay - at the hands of nine youth who, I think it’s fair to say, expressed their prejudice as free thought. We’ve had myriad other examples of hate run amok in this country - I, too, was bullied in school when I was a kid. It makes you feel small; like you want to die. Have you ever felt that, Ms. Grabar? I can tell you with 100% certainty, kids all around this country ARE feeling that. And your ideas put them in greater peril.

This weekend was Gay Pride in Atlanta. It’s one of the nation’s most festive celebrations of free expression and togetherness and non-hate you can find; this year brought a bit more poignancy because of recent events. I invite you to come visit and see for yourself what understanding an anti-hate looks like, and what good it can do.

I drove down a Midtown Atlanta street on Saturday and saw a religious protestor’s sign that read, “I now pronounce you Pervert & Pervert.” Perhaps one of the sign holders is a former student of yours, Ms. Grabar? Why should you condone such speech when you have the opportunity to persuade otherwise? Not control, not imprison, as you suggest -
persuade. That’s your job as a teacher. Do it.

# # #


Get Real, Mr. Deal: Bring Common Sense Back To A Wayward State

(ATLANTA :: 19 July 2010) Tomorrow is election day here in the city of Atlanta and across the state of Georgia. We have been barraged by a litany of ads that tout the conservative cred of our candidates - including a now-infamous slam on Karen Handel’s previous support on “gay-partner” benefits and adoptions. Here’s a sample:

This is a multifaceted political trainwreck in that, since this charge, Handel has renounced any and all progressive values as she seeks the GOP state of Georgia gubernatorial nomination - and the conservative Deal appears to think he can score points with voters here in our state by calling her on it. (
He trails in the polls.) John Oxendine, also a GOP candidate in Georgia, tried to outdo Deal by associating himself with a mailer that basically used the same message.

Seriously? You’re so married to your conservatism - and so desperate to win at all costs - that you’d blatantly ignore and foment disgust within a segment of your constituency by maligning support of it?

My problem is that there are NO issues discussed in these mailers - NONE. Zip. Just a fraudulent indictment of someone who bucked her party on progressive issues in the past.

I am an independent voter who can at least appreciate when Roy Barnes, Democratic state candidate, calls out the GOP for its state shenanigans about succession and rejection of stem-cell research.

Get real, Mr. Deal, et. al. If you are to be considered for governor of this state, you must realize that you ALSO are asking to preside over the city of Atlanta, its people and its surrounding environs. The city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia’s relationship has only gotten more adversarial under the leadership of Sonny Perdue, who has thwarted key city funding and development, and even
disturbingly lead a prayer in front of the statehouse for rain. I object to those and other of his policies, although there is evidence of a thawing in relations of late.

If I am to swallow your bitter advertising pill, Mr. Deal - and if you make it into office, or even if Handel does - YOU are also required to accept, acknowledge and nurture the moral, civil, cultural and commercial center of this great southern state.

Here’s a hint: it’s NOT the statehouse, nor does it live under the Gold Dome. It’s Atlanta. And we will be voting this season.

Atlanta - cited as the “
gayest city in the nation” by the Advocate (a story picked up by the AJC, NPR, and our own ProjectQ Atlanta) - is a national treasure that includes gays and lesbians, Mr. Deal (Miss Karen, I’d pay attention to this, too). Your advertisement is disgusting and offensive, and will hopefully be ineffective as a dual-discriminatation, negative-attack ad.

I’d like to remind you that Atlantans - gay or straight, black or white, liberal or conservative -
will continue to speak up and seek the gay-partner spousal rights and gay-adoption benefits you malign in your ad. We will ALWAYS try and speak truth to your pursuit of power, and keep you honest at every point in the process. In other words, the more the state of Georgia tries to marginalize and diminish this great city and its people, the taller we will stand in reminding you not to mess with us.

Handel now says that Gay parents are "not in the best interest of the child." I happen to know gay parents, many of them. And you are completely and utterly full of shit.

As an intended gay parent myself, I represent the opinions mentioned in Deal’s ridiculous ad or in Handel’s comments or in Oxendine’s direct-bigot mailer campaign - and I object to all methods AND the content of the argument. They are all, down to their very core, false promises intended to scare people into voting for you. And it’s utter nonsense.

Mr. Deal, Ms. Handel, Mr. Oxendine: I invite you to take 10 minutes to speak to a candidate like Graham Balch - he has a mature and open worldview and an understanding of urban life that seems to be lost on you (and he’s in a tough race of his own). He rejects the status quo. He sees a city and state where EVERYONE thrives, where all people are accepted and encouraged to enter into partnerships and parenthood if they so choose. He is fiercely protective of our environment and wants us to pay teachers fairly and create superb learning environments. He is the Democrat for Georgia State Senate District 39, so feel free to look him up.

This Atlantan will be in the voting booth tomorrow, and I will select those candidates who understand me, my friends and my family, and whomever can celebrate diversity - not use it to malign your opponents.

(This post was sent to both the offices of Mr. Deal and Ms. Handel; I will update if I receive any official comment.)

(Photo courtesy of 11Alive.com, Atlanta.)


Check Your Attitude At The ER Door. Thanks.

Following is a review I did on Yelp - one that turned into an accidental rant on healthcare. What I wondered is what was going on for this woman to take her opinions out in the open, in a healthcare environment, where people are in emotional need? Makes no sense.

“Dispassionate, curt, thoughtless and sloppy. Our visit here, from beginning to end (including an obnoxious, mealy-mouthed teabagger-rant from a staff nurse just before surgery) was an utter failure.

Before I highlight the nuts and bolts of this experience, I should say I wasn't the actual patron, but rather, an ardent supporter of a pal going under the knife for umbilical-hernia surgery.

In my important role, I wanted to be strong for the person going in to have this general-anesthesia procedure. It was no small event, despite being downplayed by the surgeon in the consult beforehand.

The universe continued to work its mysterious ways, too, because the House of Representatives passed healthcare reform the day before our visit to Doctors Hospital. President Obama was due to sign the bill the following day. We were sandwiched in between those two events.

So... Rule No. 1 of the "first do no harm" mantra: keep your GD political views of this legislation in the nurse's break room. Seriously. As we awaited the actual start of the surgery behind a keeping-room curtain, we had the misfortune of listening to an attending nurse verbally regurgitate Glenn Beck's talking points, at great length, about how healthcare reform is going to cause "armageddon" and that it was "rammed down people's throats" without consultation from all sides.

Aside from that point being utter fucking crap, I just simply do NOT want to be distracted from anything other than support for the person I'm with. Period. You, ma'am, are deeply and profoundly inappropriate in your expression of your views - thrown around the hospital common area as if everyone (other nurses, doctors, patients, family, et. al.) agreed with you, or even had the faintest desire to listen.

Well, let me break it to you in this public arena: we don't all agree with you. but that SO isn't the point: Keep your GD eyes on your charts and your patients and your schedule and your medicines and shut the hell up about politics. Do you want to change the way the system works? Then do THAT instead of trying to heal people. Period. Co-opting your workplace to espouse political views - ones that directly offend and undermine your place of business - is the height of irresponsibility. And it caused me and my friend a lot of consternation before an important procedure.

My suggestion to hospital admin staff is to take this Yelp review (which, btw, will be provided to them) to your next nurses meeting and let them know that festering, vitriolic healthcare diatribes should be left in Congress and have no home in ANY workplace, but especially a hospital.

Now, about the actual day. We waited 3.5 hours from admission to surgery wheel-in; the doctor skipped over us in his initial rounds; despite having my contact number, no call was made when surgery was completed; when I returned I got attitude from the receptionist who promptly implied that I was MIA when she called me in the waiting room even though she knew I needed to stop home before returning to the hospital; our discharge care was nonexistent and our instructions looked like they had come from a third-rate, Wichita doc-in-the-box.

Before this experience, I was center-left on healthcare reform. Listening to this nurse, though, catapulted me into a rabid, Air America socialist firebrand lefty who will, if any future visits call for it, stay the hell away from the OR at Doctors Hospital.”

# # #

'Gay Panic Offense': How About You Go Fight Crime And Keep Your GD Hands Off

Here is a video round-up of Eagle-raid-related protests. Go here for a link to the SoVo video page, or here for the ongoing news story. Also, Mike Alvear has a great (but scary) round-up of what happened on his blog.

If you’re so inclined, write a letter of complaint to the Mayor’s office of communications and then make a comment here about the reply you get.

Here’s the contact info:

Beverly L. Isom, Director of Communications
404.330.6558 office
404.886.2334 cell

Mayor Franklin has apparently played pretty dumb in responding to this aggressive action, so we need to hit them with protests.

A round of applause to Mike Alvear and Justin Ziegler and everyone else who spearheaded this City Hall protest - taking a stand in the torrential rain.

And then finally, a rally outside the bar:


My Recent Facebook Rant And Other Corporate-greed Shenanigans

Fuck it, I wish our nation’s companies weren’t so fucking god damned greedy.

(Actually, I just wanted an excuse to swear and be able to justify it -- like I needed one.)

I was cussin’ in the same way after a recent news post about Novare Partners, a local company with whom I’ve had a beef for a number of years in its flagrant greed and disregard for what’s best for Atlanta. “For whom are we building in this city,” I asked back then. “For the people, or for the bank accounts of the suits?”

Turns out the bank accounts are not as fat as we thought they are - in fact, this company is being questioned as a “going concern.” Seriously? This is your legacy for our city?

Just because you CAN make a building, it doesn’t mean you should. Evidenced by the spectacular disaster that is Spire Midtown - its retail more than 50% vacant (sometimes more) and its interior spaces looking more like a Budget 8 Motel. Anyways, my set-up on Facebook, sparking a number of comments from my friends, included the following few-sentence editorial from yours truly:

“When you build shitty buildings, fuck up your retail spaces and allow a city to be mired by sameness... I say: you had it coming. (This is my version of "I Told You So.")

Then it reminded me of the Piedmont Park parking deck controversy, that was a soap opera starring a highly paid executive presiding over a no-bid contract and very little transparency in how they awarded it. Here’s the editorial I sent to the AJC:

The Garden, Parking Deck & Conservancy: Of Two Minds In Midtown

I’m following the debate over the Botanical Garden’s parking deck, as I hope many city residents are. The work of the Piedmont Park Conservancy has benefited me -- as an investor at Piedmont Crest, a new Park-side condominium development off of 12th street; as an ALTA player out of Piedmont Park Tennis Center; and as a frequent visitor to Park events such as Screen on the Green, the Dogwood Festival and the Dave Matthews Concert.

I am also a paid member of the Conservancy. Their work has, without question, brought this great park of ours forward – and has made it greener, cleaner and more full of life. We are the better for it.

So it’s with a heavy heart that I question the defensive and self-promoting editorial by Debbie McCown, the Conservancy’s Executive Director (“Conservancy openly takes park from blight to bright,” @issue, 22 August). This stuffy piece was the second of the one-two punch I read in the AJC, after a gaggle of attorneys wrote in defense of the Botanical Garden’s independence from city affairs and state Sunshine laws (“Plan will be a boon; Garden has nothing to hide,” 25 August 2007). Why are we rehashing this stuff?

Both McCown and Team McBeal are missing the point. We are on a slippery slope when we as a city give ourselves wholly over to the private sector. It’s one thing to source corporate assistance to help create a commercial thoroughfare such as the Midtown Mile; but quite another to give over a natural jewel such as Piedmont Park. Not only have our city planners ceded control of that treasured asset – we are, in many ways, relinquishing the spirit that our residents, our Mayor, our visitors and our city council members have worked so hard to build. As an activist, property owner, journalist and business manager here in Atlanta, I stand firmly behind Mike King’s plainly worded editorial (“Park groups should let sun shine in,” 17 August 2007). It asks, in simple language: Now that the Botanical Garden’s Grecian Army of lawyers has snake-charmed the presiding judge to toss many of the claims brought by Friends of Piedmont Park, just come clean.

Show us how you’ve awarded contracts, to whom, and why; disclose your finances and balance sheets; and give us less lip when we ask you to comply with Georgia’s Sunshine laws. You’re doing the city’s work, the people’s work, even if it’s not coming directly from City Hall. If you’ve given no-bid contracts to friends of the Conservancy, as is rumored, then I want to know about it. And so do a lot of other folks.

Doug Abramson, principal of Friends of Piedmont Park, the advocacy group leading the legal opposition to the parking deck, also says our great gains in beautification have come at a price.

“The Garden and the Conservancy do some good work in the Park, but when questioned about their decisions and their practices they respond that they have raised millions of dollars over the years and somehow that should insulate them from public scrutiny and accountability,” he says. “As stewards of our public park and as representatives of the City, they should act transparently and disclose how and where money is spent, and otherwise conduct their affairs publicly.”

Actually, the current parking arrangement works pretty well. Piedmont Park Tennis Center – one of the last units of the park still managed by the City of Atlanta, run expertly by Sharon Lester and her team – enjoys regular access off Park Drive to the modest yet ultimately convenient parking lot adjacent to Magnolia Hall and, yes, the Botanical Garden. We have managed with this arrangement because the unpretentious parking area provides a small, controllable yet effective resource when these great events happen (including our home tennis matches). My teammates and I use this lot frequently and do not want to see it torn up. Rather, it should be maintained and used as is. What about eco-friendly asphalt? Low-water landscaping? More restricted access? Other creative uses? This area could be a testing ground for new environmentally friendly landscaping products, but all we ever hear about is how this mammoth car deck is going to be our savior, an expansive car heaven that will alleviate Midtown’s parking woes.

Let’s also remember how royally the private sector can fumble the public ball. After mulling this issue, I kept having nightmare reminders of Iraq reconstruction getting handed over to the likes of Halliburton, Parsons Corp. and others -- only to have billions wasted. Do we need such a profound example of alleged no-bid private contracts gone awry? I don’t think so. Privatization, in some weird way, seems to absolve officials from the personal care and obligation that comes with public management. And since secrecy breeds skepticism and mistrust, here we are.

I write this, clearly, of two minds, because again, I know full well the benefits we’ve seen in the Park. I may be a Conservancy member, but remain a dissenting voice within, hoping the air around this project is cleared. But this nose-thumbing, redundant, “look what we’ve done for you lately” approach is maddening and makes me want to scream – and it should bring all Atlanta residents to their front porches, too, to do the same. McCown earned nearly $115,000 in annual salary in 2005, which has most certainly increased since then; in that year, the Conservancy paid more than $100,000 to an external PR firm. Are these needed expenditures or extravagant usage of donors’ generosity? And that’s only the stuff we know about.

Simply singing one’s own praises does not magically immunize you from public speculation – particularly when you have people in the city who enjoy the park set-up as is, and would rather not indulge the Botanical Garden’s desire to give their members in Alpharetta a more convenient place to park in the city. I use the tennis center proudly, along with its parking area, knowing the recently updated clubhouse and courts there are the last bastion of municipal-managerial excellence that the park has.

I am a traditionalist and would prefer to see the park’s car-management system kept the same while still have the park expanded and enhanced. However, if the parking deck is our savior, show us how. If any of our private partners must stand on a pedestal to claim grand success, and continue to move us forward in this great city of ours, let us peek behind your curtain so we’re all on the same page. Without that, it’s a mystery too great to accept.

I **definitely** would have swore a lot more if I thought it would have spurred them to print it. (They didn’t.)


The Lowest Common Denominator Seeks To Go Lower Still

Think we’re done with prejudice? Think again.

A man was
beaten in midtown last week for no other reason than his sexual orientation. “Are you gay?” two white men asked. When he replied, “Yes,” he got his ass kicked. Here’s some reaction:

To those two perpetrators, I say: get your shit together, because otherwise, you’re just taking up space. Also, get a better way to pass the time than to vomit your internalized fear onto other innocent people.