Archive for May, 2014

Learning from Others: Adding A Little More Zest to Our Lives

May 29, 2014

Whether it’s nurture, nature, or simple mimicry, our personalities usually include a mishmash of attitudes and behaviors that we’ve picked up along the way. Admiring others and wishing we were more like them is something we’ve all experienced. After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? Framing this line of thinking in a more quotidian manner, if you could take a technique or ingredient from someone else’s recipe and apply it to your own, what feature might you choose? Zesty chilies? A long, slow simmer? Roiling boil? An undertone of ginger? Sweet, slippery mango? The French word pastiche is a cognate of the Italian noun pasticcio, meaning a pâté or pie-filling mixed from diverse ingredients. I love this image of the celebratory pate; after all, parties with a mélange of food and drink are meant to be fun. But, for purposes of this post, what makes the concept of pastiche so great is that we’re adopting some element of another’s life that we admire and then making it our own.

 

Think about someone you admire. What is it, exactly, that this person does so well? Why do you appreciate this? Is this something you wish you could do more of, yourself? How might you start?

 

The last question is harder than it sounds. Adopting new behaviors or attitudes is tricky business, especially when you consider that bringing something new into our lives usually requires we surrender something else. For instance, we all know that in order to move a new bed into our bedroom, we must get rid of the old. Sayonara lumpy mattress! There ain’t enough space for two–you can’t sleep on both. Now, apply this analogy to your own anger, feelings of victimhood, or desire to achieve X. If you admire someone for being cheerful and wistfully observe that their life is sunnier than yours, one of the critical first steps you’ll need is to give up your resentment or the negativity you’ve clung to all these years. Set that burden down! But, what if your old, grumpy self provides a measure of safety (which is why you developed it in the first place, fyi) and to shed that cover means you’ll feel vulnerable? What then??? Here’s another: if you want to lose weight, you’ve got to cut out the calories. (Alas, I’m well acquainted with the challenges of this particular equation!) When we’re preoccupied with lugging around our disappointment or emergency candy bars, we’re not free to cultivate a more positive, slimmer self. If change is the goal, there are safeguards we must forgo—and this always leaves us feeling exposed. But, how much worse can that be compared to the discomfort you’re feeling now, with your tiresome bad habits?

 

A few days ago, upon returning from her college reunion, a high school chum wrote to me. She reported that she didn’t have a great time mixing with her former classmates. “I realized long ago that my mingling skills are exceptionally poor. Perhaps I could become your mentee. Or perhaps I’ll just accept that I am what I am.…” This is not the first time my friend has regretfully made such observations about herself. She often bemoans her socializing skills while approving of mine. It’s true, I know how to mingle; I come from a long, notorious line of Master Minglers. While I’d be delighted to give her some tips were she to ask, I suspect she feels more secure lingering on the social sidelines, embracing her status quo. Her choice. Because we are so different, the way she socializes would always differ from my approach, but she could form a pastiche of my dexterities with her personal party élan. Sounds like a pretty good combo-pack to me.

 

It’s no surprise we admire fine qualities of those around us–their sparkle or mischievous wit, their steady calm and sense of purpose, their fantastic mastery of word games. Over the course of my life, I have shamelessly aped the talents of others in order to maximize my chances of an improved outcome. But to do so, I had to consciously set aside those old, maladaptive behaviors which kept me stuck in a place I didn’t want to be. Being able and willing to adopt the better behaviors of others has allowed me to continually revise and improve who I am as I march forward. Constant retooling is as much of the re-booting process as appreciating who we were before and how far we’ve come…

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Reverence and Resilience: Heartbreak in Isla Vista

May 27, 2014

Dateline: Santa Barbara, California.

By now, most of you have heard about the tragic shootings in Isla Vista, the beachside community adjacent to UCSB. A lone, deranged young man decided he would wreak revenge upon humanity, swearing he would, “slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blonde slut” he found and the “obnoxious brutes” who were with them. To memorialize his plans, he posted a chilling YouTube video and composed a 140 page manifesto setting out his reasons for instigating such horrors. Having lived and worked very nearby, I am familiar with the area and watched the sheriff’s press briefings live on the Internet.

 

What happened in IV is awful beyond words and reminiscent of prior tragedies involving innocent life suddenly and inexplicably wiped away. And the fact that this senseless act occurred at the onset of Memorial Day Weekend, a time when we, as Americans, pause to revere the sacrifices of our war dead triggers complicated feelings about grief, loss, privacy and gun rights, mental illness, the limits of legislation to control an individual’s actions, regret, and resilience.

 

This last word is the most important of the series because the world–and life–moves forward, no matter what has befallen us. And thank goodness this is true. As searing as any loss a person or society has suffered, we need humanity to continue. So, having said this I’m setting up the resilience portion of this post.

 

Now comes the reverence. (Or lack thereof.)

 

What has haunted me most since learning about the events in Isla Vista came from a quote made immediately in the aftermath of the shootings. A local newspaper, The Santa Barbara Independent, published an article that stated, “One young man, Sam, who was sitting at Starbucks on Saturday morning, recollected that some people seemed clueless to the whole incident. Others said they ‘weren’t going to let it ruin their night.’” A second article quoted an on-site journalist reporting, “Some people are curious what the hell is going on, and others are cruising around with 18-packs.” In another, some students were observed “doing their homework” on nearby patios as law enforcement investigated. Reading these observations appalled me. The utter lack of empathy reflected in the statements or actions of those who couldn’t be bothered to pause or alter their behavior by murder and mayhem goes beyond any sort of thoughtless, shocked reactions of callow youth.

 

I’ve pondered a lot about how or why people could behave this way ever, let alone in the context of their fellow students and community. Where is the reverence for the lives lost and the peace shattered? I know individuals can say cold-blooded things without truly meaning to inflict harm or show such absolute disregard for the plight of others, but the quotes I mentioned above seem to me to surpass any such foolishness. When I reflect on these reports, all I feel is sadness that those people will have to live, for the rest of their lives, with the fact that they uttered such awful words and wonder if their actions accurately reflect a person so devoid of humanity. In the chaos of the aftermath, they simply couldn’t be bothered to get upset about the shootings that happened right there, where they could see and hear the suffering all around them. “How could you be like that?” I wonder. And, yes, I am judging.

 

It’s true that in the face of any tragedy, those who survive must continue with their lives, an important aspect of this process involves letting go of the emotional pain and shock those impacted feel. In order to find a clear way forward, the agonized must redefine their love and relationship to who or what has been lost. It is our moral obligation to continue living life. But moving on does not include casually roaming the streets of IV with packs of beer and offhand remarks about spoiled weekends. This is not resilience. There is no reverence in such behavior. This is something else, entirely.

 

So, while we pray and mourn and celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us—whether lost in war or something much closer to home—I urge you to include in your thoughts compassion for the unfeeling few who simply can’t be bothered.

Limited Mobility Devices: What’s Your Crutch?

May 22, 2014

I always know when my dad has been using my office because, invariably, the tv will be tuned to the Military History Channel or Turner Classic Movies. As anyone who visits such channels can attest, the ads are finely tuned to, uh, an “advanced” demographic. This particular audience has inordinate interest in buying gold, Stain-away denture cleansers, and foldable walking aids such as the HurryCane (Freedom Edition). I chuckle whenever I watch the scenarios of happy seniors using these gadgets to negotiate everything from billygoating along a mountain trail to gamboling the strand in their plaid pants and jaunty sweaters. The only thing standing between them and Mount Everest, the ad promises, is the appropriate mobility device! I might call that a sherpa, but the good folks at Remedial Odyssey tell me it’s a Bobcat 4 Wheel Scooter. As I watch, I remind myself to be more charitable. “In time,” my older self cautions. “Be nice.”

 

But the truth is, we all rely on crutches of one sort or another. Some of these aids are healthy and appropriate and some…not so much. What’s significant is recognizing that we do it, too. Everyone has their vulnerabilities, and they change with age. What gets us into trouble is when we forget this or scoff at others for needing assistance that we, in our infallible judgment, deem, somehow, excessive or objectionable. Years ago, I met someone who exhibited a somewhat nervous temperament. A particular distinguishing feature about them was the highly structured schedule to which they adhered. Each day was carefully planned and announcements made that they only had X amount of time to devote to an interaction before they needed to go. The first time I heard their proclamation, I was somewhat taken aback, especially since they were the one issuing the invitation, but once I realized what the unspoken reason for doing this was—this was their coping mechanism for an unruly and nervous making world–I adjusted. I could take pleasure in their company without being there for that long.

 

Of course, as we all know, widespread crutches to life’s stresses include the regular assortment of addictions, controlling conduct, martyrdom, a need for approval, irascibility, or acting helpless—we’ve all had experience with people who manifest such behaviors under certain circumstances. Instead of letting it annoy us, the trick is to recognize that the behavior is simply their crutch. They have limited ability to handle certain types of anxieties, so this is their HurryCane; this is the extra wide space in which they choose to park.

 

Ok, but why is this important?

 

It’s important because the more we can recognize and deconstruct another’s maladaptive behavior (or crutch), the easier it is for us to respond with kindness and patience. When we understand what they’re really doing, we no longer take it personally or feel so irritated. If I were to interpret my friend’s announcement as a sign that they found my company tiresome, I’d react far less well and the evening would be a wash. Instead, after thinking about it, I could see that their crutch reflected way more about their anxiety than it did about me. So, I relaxed, ordered a quick drink, and revised my expectations of chortling through the night. We both enjoyed ourselves.

 

Now, take this theory and apply it to an annoying relative or colleague. Can you identify their crutch? Can you see how this relates to a larger fear that dominates their thoughts? Does framing the problem in this manner decrease your exasperation? Maybe there’s a better way for you to interact with them when they start doing that thing that drives you crazy. A re-booter appreciates that kindness and tolerance for others’ weaknesses is the best sort of accommodation life offers. And, we can only hope, the Golden Rule will be applied to us when the time comes…

The Hidden Parameters of Quantum Weirdness

May 20, 2014

Years ago in college, I fantasized about being a theoretical physicist; alas, my brain doesn’t have the neural connections needed for such pursuits so I had to shift to Plan B. Although I can manage many other sorts of cognitive functions, I’m supremely maladroit at grasping the equations and the perspective critical to scientific research. However, what I lack in such talents, I compensate with imagination and the ability to apply exotic principles to the far messier (and equally unquantifiable) realm of human experience. So, it comes as no surprise that when I read about outlandish sounding research involving concepts such as quantum entanglements, the EPR Paradox, and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle my attention is caught. I stare at the words, half jealous that I can’t fully comprehend what these researchers are getting at, but energized by how I might use their work as a launching point for my own. And so it is that I begin this post.

 

Quantum weirdness is an authentic construct that occurs at the subatomic level of science. On a scale where everything is measured in nanos, the classical rules of physics no longer apply. In 1935, Albert Einstein and two colleagues wrote a paper suggesting that two subatomic particles, thousands of light years apart from one another, can instantaneously respond to each other’s vibrations. They named this phenomenon the EPR Paradox, a premise which has subsequently been confirmed. Now, just think about this for a minute. According to this principle, two subatomic particles can respond to one another faster than light can move through space. The dilemma is that the EPR Paradox/quantum entanglement construct conflicts with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. In other words, two established laws of physics appear to contradict one another—and yet, the reality is that they’re both correct.

 

So, where does this leave us?

 

What this suggests is that there are other factors at work which researchers have been unable to detect. Unthought of questions yet to be resolved.

 

It requires a flexible mind and a great deal of imagination to push past the parameters of the accepted. Allegations of hubris, insanity, recklessness, or any number of other things are usually cast at those who push beyond what is considered “solid information.” Of course, it’s understandable that people get jittery when scientists start publishing papers about introducing new, artificial nucleotides (A,T,C, G + the new X,Y) into a DNA sequence. I’m not sure how I feel about it, either. But, let’s go back to the problem presented in that quantumly weird world where Relativity and Entanglement intersect. They contradict one another and, yet, they both exist. What does this tell you? What are we missing in our understanding?

 

People do contradictory things all the time; and they can’t explain why they do so—they are as weird as they are relatable. The reason I am harping on this is that there are many aspects of our lives and relationships where we do not have the full picture. Re-booters recognize that there is much we don’t know, and may never fully understand; but we know both things are true. Ours is the human version of the EPR Paradox. The thing we need to remind ourselves is that hidden parameters–to our lives and our mindset—exist, and if we dedicate ourselves to recognizing that these parameters play a role in our choices, and work at detecting the traces or echoes these mysterious influences leave behind, our overall understanding of our life may be enriched. Does any of what I’m saying make the least bit of sense? We err only if we believe we know it all, whatever “it” may be. There’s always more to the story.

 

Whether one has a personal relationship with God, are a Humanist, Atheist, or whathaveyou, when one considers topics such as the secrets of the universe or the secrets of the human heart, I think we can all agree that there is way, way more “out there” that we don’t know than that we do. Sometimes, this realization can feel humbling or intimidating, but it leaves room for occurrences we’d never dream were possible. I like to think about it as the amazing influence that makes life so magical. Re-booters and researchers, alike, grappling with the mesmerizing quagmire of quantum weirdness.

A Mystical Experience

May 15, 2014

On those rare occasions when I have the house to myself, I’m like a pig in mud. Seized by an ecstasy of biblical proportions, it’s practically indecent. But, far from cavorting about the house naked or inviting teeming hordes to ragers on the deck, I am doing…nothing. Nothing at all. Haven’t even left the house. Listening to the birds sing, unruffled by any intrusion of my domain, I revel in the quietude.

 

Can you sympathize?

 

How often do you get to savor a space without anyone around to interfere? As beloved as these other people are (or are not, as the case may be), and as much as we may, overall, appreciate their camaraderie, there’s nothing quite so delightful as having the house to oneself. All my elation got me wondering what, exactly, is it that I am celebrating?

 

Not sure I know how to answer that.

 

I think, for me, at this point in my life and re-booting journey, there is little that feels within my control. There are things I have to do, but not much of it is what I want to do or in a way of my choosing. I struggle to establish an existence that feels solely mine. It reminds me of that man without a country. So, when I get to engage in the fantasy that this house is my house, living according to the whims of my own preferences, giddiness ensues. But the truth is, life with my dad isn’t so bad; I’d feel lonely were I rattling around all alone, all the time. (Virgina Woolf’s ruminations notwithstanding.)

 

What fleeting pleasures do you savor?

 

It intrigues me that certain situations can only be cherished when they’re ephemeral. Like class reunions, were we to engage on a daily basis with many of our former classmates—absent those cherished few who will forever have a place in our hearts–the magic rapidly fades. Why is it that only a few, treasured people or experiences are able to captivate us over the long term? That despite the years and miles between us, they remain under our skin, bring a smile to our faces, and remind us that we have been known, have been seen, have been cherished? Are my pleasures real or have I made them up, illusions to keep me company? But, that’s just me.

 

So, I sit on my deck, soaking in the silence, comforted by the knowledge that my solitariness has an end date. In a few days, I will rejoin the company of others. I suppose that’s where the expression, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there,” enters the conversation. Even I, someone who lingers so much on the edges of life, want to be known. I just really, really like it when I can know others in time-limited spurts.

 

Reconciling our private self with the public is more elusive than many realize. More often, as mature adults, we’re torn between the responsibilities we’ve assumed and that private, demanding, insistent part of ourself which dwells within, the one that has no respect for any social contracts we’ve signed. Problems arise when we make no accommodations for that ferocious secret self, burying it beneath the priorities and obligations of the Rest of Our Life. I think I’ve just answered my own question about why all the giddiness. It is only in moments like finding ourselves alone in the house, clandestine occasions where we get to be the person we want to be, eat, or read or think the things we want, what would we do with ourselves if we could be that way each and everyday? What would our lives be like if we were with that person who appreciates the us who manifests on that sun drenched deck? So goes the dilemma of the re-booter.

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The Annual Performance Review

May 13, 2014

This time of year, my birthday always seems to crop up, presenting itself as a key opportunity for “assessment.” Ah hem. More frequent evaluations of my Life Plan lend themselves to unhappiness because shorter time increments make it near impossible to measure real progress. In other words, for sanity’s sake, I try to limit my navel gazing to one day per year.

 

Overall, I’d say this was a pretty good year. While I haven’t managed to secure employment, other aspects of my life make up for this. Birthdays make me anxious because they remind me of how fleeting time is; I worry that I’m letting myself down by not accomplishing all the things I intend to do. I worry about being lazy or deluded or just plain lame. I’m not sure which I loathe more: worry-filled navel gazing or the painful ritual of workplace performance reviews. Either way, the boss is a bitch.

 

Of course, what we want to achieve and what we believe we should achieve, often varies significantly from what is right for us, right for our “particular journey.” Those rare times when we look back and realize that a specific struggle taught us something we didn’t know we needed to learn provides reassurance that the course of our life may not be quite as haphazard and disappointing as we think. And it is with this thought in mind that I have made a scary decision. My re-booting requires re-tooling. My decision is this: from here on out, I am setting aside my ego, setting aside my ideas of what an acceptable, “serious” job for me is and am simply going to seek out any and all opportunities that sound fun and interesting. This is actually a Very Big Deal—made more so by my sharing my decision with you. So, that’s my birthday present to myself. Freedom.

 

Lo these many years, I have tenaciously held onto a rigid definition of what my career (let alone my life) should look like. What others decided was fine for them, but I wanted respect–impressing others with the seriousness of my work efforts. “Wow! She’s hard core. Look at all the serious, important work she’s doing,” I fantasized. Of course, no one said this, let alone thought it. While, to be fair, I really cared about the work I did—I believe in the supreme importance of education, basic university research, and the democratic process—but I had never planned to toil in these fertile fields. So now, a handful of years after my life imploded, all this “impressive” work I did has garnered no respect here in DC. I’m tired of beating myself bloody again brick walls. I’m making a change.

 

So, to repeat, from this day forward, I am setting my ego aside. I am giving myself permission to consider types of work that would never meet my definition of important or world changing. I am even going to try to retire my ferocious competitive streak and simply look for intriguing prospects in whatever form they present themselves.

 

Has it taken all this struggle, disappointment, and agony to get me to a place where I’m willing to strip down to the most basic parts of me? To step from behind my protective shell of pride and ambition? And to do so in a city like Washington that exists only for those rapacious enough to play hardball? I have no idea what will come next.

I have a request for you, my fellow DR readers: I would appreciate it if you’d send me a few, short lines telling me what it is you enjoy about this blog, what you’ve gotten out of it. Sort of a feel good gesture to the birthday girl who’s trying her best to focus only on doing the things she loves.

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A Transcript for Life

May 8, 2014

Once you reach a certain point in life, your scholarly and academic past is basically irrelevant. And don’t get me started on the varying sorts of intelligences people have which may, or may not, be reflected in one’s formal education. So, it came as an enormous surprise when a friend told me that one potential employer had requested a transcript. Given the fact that she works on Capitol Hill, I assumed they wanted some print out of her testimony before a congressional committee—not so. Instead, they wanted to see her law school grades from 30 years prior. What????? How in the world would marks from long ago academic studies reflect, in any way, her talents, experience, or knowledge today? This is not a question of whether she actually graduated, received a diploma, or passed the bar, this is reviewing actual letter grades for courses that reflect nothing about current day professional skills.

 

Scoffing at the inanity of what she was being asked to provide, I told my friend, Amateur Hour comes in many forms. So do Gate Keepers.

 

Over the course of my career and life, I have witnessed and interacted with a wide variety of people who consider themselves assessors of particular standards. Most of them are idiots who have no real sense of what’s important when making a key hire and simply look to promote those who either mirror their own credentials or those of their superiors. The analysis begins and ends at how closely the candidate resembles themselves. Instead of seeking out glimmers of creativity, lessons hard learned, or skills that cannot be taught, they ask for transcripts.

 

I’d laugh were it not for the fact that it is these same people who control whether or not one even makes it to first base. Sure, we can walk away and refuse to play with groups represented by such fatuous individuals—whose sense of great importance is but a cloak for bottomless insecurity–but the truth remains that they often stand between where we are and where we want to go. Since there are way more ignorant, easily threatened people in this world than there are creative, intelligent ones, you need to find a way to work within the system. I’ve seen examples of truly brilliant people who refused to do so and never got anywhere because an Army of One is, still, just one. So what does a re-booter do?

 

You need to be clever. You need to anticipate the Gate keepers’ concerns and strategize around them. If my experience in Academia, Government, and the corporate world is any barometer, I can say with total confidence that the Gate keepers always (and I mean always) have a personal priority that is part of their assessment equation. No, I’m not talking bribery; I’m suggesting that unspoken fears or desires can be addressed, massaged, or alleviated.

 

One of the hardest and biggest workplace lessons I learned was about office birthday parties. Although, like Elaine Benes, I detest the ritual of forced, workplace socializing, my unwillingness to participate in the weekly ritual resulted in my being branded all sorts of terrible names by my coworkers. This naïve choice on my part set the tone for all subsequent interactions with anyone else in the office and made my ability to get my job done exponentially harder. So I learned. Now, you will see me cheerfully participating in every candle party, cookie sale, holiday festival, you name it, I sign up for the pot luck.

 

This sort of knowledge can’t be found on any transcript. You get me?

 

What lessons have you learned that standard methods of evaluation won’t uncover? And, even more importantly, when you are evaluating unknown others, whether for work or social purposes, are you caught up in your own, little rigid checklist? A re-booter is smart enough to know that they haven’t thought of everything, that people come with all sorts of surprising qualities that we might miss if we insist on examining their transcript.

Marveling at the Driftwood of Conversation

May 6, 2014

As regular DR readers know, I am an unrepentant voyeur of human behavior. Nothing pleases me more than picking up the driftwood of conversation as it passes me by. “The ex-wife and all that stuff,” one man shakes his head. “Watch me get in trouble,” chuckles the woman at a nearby table. “My high school friend was always fascinated by knives, so he became a surgeon,” explains another. “So, there they were, at the French Heritage Society dinner, furious with one another, and toting this dog around wearing diamond earrings dangling from its ears,” she reported. “What he and his wife get out of snake poking, I do not get.” What???? People are endlessly fascinating. Each and every exchange provides glimpses into worlds unknown, delighting and mystifying me on a continual basis. Whatever these folks are up to sounds way more exciting than anything I know, so I cheerfully coast on the coattails of others.

 

Taking your curiosity and powers of observation with you wherever you go assures an interesting day. What was a recent, really odd thing you noticed while out and about? Once you start paying attention, you’ll notice that instances pop up all the time: people who make random comments to you, sui generis; flirtatious behaviors witnessed in line at the bank or happy hour; posturing by various parents during a little league game, including women wearing sport jerseys that say “Scoregasms” on their back—yuck! Who are these people? What is going through their minds? Not only is most of it hilarious, but instructive. Noticing the world around us teaches us about lives 180 degrees different from our own, making us aware of possibilities that, up until the moment we tuned in, we were blind to. Cautionary tales abound. Are baby dolls dressed in thongs a common sartorial option these days? What cynical wardrobe choices does Mattel make available for the Ken doll?

 

An important element of re-booting (and life) is the ability to enjoy the wide variety of humanity which surrounds us. We need to laugh everyday! To do otherwise, to ignore, miss, or scowl at this roaming version of the Canterbury Tales is akin to refusing to indulge in the feast spread before our feet. I have close, personal acquaintance with a woman who has invested the last 30 years glowering at everyone and everything around her; dedicating herself to feeling jealous, indignant, and outraged by whomever crosses her path and, brother, it shows. Who, in your life, does this remind you of? Who plays the Grumpy Gus no matter what nice thing is done for them or however ridiculous the mistake may be?

 

When was the last time you really laughed with a friend?

 

It saddens me when I see people who seem to have forgotten that life is meant to be joyful. By saying this, I don’t intend to diminish real world worries and concerns—I have them, too—but life is meant to be enjoyed. For all the problems that are out there, they still can’t crowd out the talents, kindnesses, solutions, and wacky ridiculousness that our fellow journey men offer up for us to savor each and every day. And the thing about it is, they can be cheap laughs—in the sense that you and someone diametrically opposite from you (politically, lifestyle-wise, you name it) can share a brief moment of appreciation for the absurd. Making merry is the balm that eases us through the rest of our journey.

 

Honestly, if I didn’t have my sense of humor, I would’ve ended up in a very bad place. As many difficulties as we face, somewhere, hidden throughout our day are little nuggets of amusement that it’s our job to find. Make it a goal to uncover at least three today—see if you don’t feel better. A re-booter understands how much laughter sets the stage for us to be stronger and more resilient.

A Vaguely Embarrassing Love

May 1, 2014

I love to watch TMZ; I do, so sue me. What I enjoy most about it is the Greek chorus quality of the staff when they pitch and comment on their various celebrity reports—never mind that I have no idea who 80% of the subjects are and care hardly a little for the remainder. Several people have rolled their eyes when I’ve told them of my affinity for the show. “It’s so low brow,” they mutter. “How can you waste your brain on such rot?”

 

And it’s not that they’re wrong. TMZ is 100% artificial sweetener, the kind that leaves a bad taste in your mouth; the show has no redeeming qualities, but I faithfully watch it, anyway. As a form of perversity, I kinda like being an outcast amongst those types who consider PBS NewsHour or Meet the Press a more valuable way to spend their precious time. (Yeah, those shows really provide useful insight and cutting edge overviews of the nation’s business.) Sometimes, you just need to make peace with loving an activity that vaguely embarrasses you.

 

I cannot justify my love for TMZ anymore than I can justify my love for the Dallas Cowboys. I know there are a million better ways to spend my time than watching a show reporting on the goings on of ignorant and grossly extravagant minor celebrities behaving badly, but I remain undeterred in my devotion. For me, anticipating the snarky wisecracks of the TMZ chorus is worth the grief I get. TMZ staffers have no filter in what they say and it’s pretty darn droll!

 

OK, so that’s my confession. Your turn.

What is that thing you love to do but hunch your shoulders and drop your head at the thought of admitting this secret devotion? Do you have a disturbingly large collection of painted toy soldiers? Are you so hooked on comic books that you stash them under your bed, more coveted than a centerfold pull-out poster circa 1983? Do you keep a secret, year round, supply of emergency MREs just in case Armageddon occurs? Is your default channel set to QVC or the Hallmark Movie Channel?

 

Don’t tell me you have no humiliating proclivity because you do. We all do.

 

So, this is what I have to say about such matters: be loud and be proud. As long as whatever you’re indulging in doesn’t hurt children or small animals, don your Civil War reenactment costume, pull out that book of Klingon, reenact the modern dance scene from Oklahoma! If it makes your heart sing for whatever mysterious reason, I say go for it. A little message of inspiration from me to you.

 

On an entirely different note, I have two book recommendations for all of you. First up: It’s a great, quick read about a masterful con man who is now in the pokey for murder. The book is called The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Impostor by Mark Seal. What a Svengali this guy was! Here’s this German fellow who comes to the United States and masters English by studying Thurston Howell III in reruns of Gilligan’s Island. What he gets away with and the vast array of people he fools is astounding—a terrific read, if you’re up for a fun distraction. The other highly entertaining read I recommend is This Town by Mark Leibovich. It’s all about the Washington game of glitz, manipulation, and mutual masturbation adoration that goes on between the political and media elites here in DC.

 

Ok, so this isn’t a typical DR blog post, but you get what you pay for around here. Let me know if you like the books (or care to confess your embarrassing activity.)


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