Archive for January, 2014

The Curious Morass of Stephen Glass

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

NO DO-OVERS FOR STEPHEN GLASS_Where Excuses Go to DieShamed ex-journalist is definition of Get Character or Become One.

Here’s the background in a nutshell: They made a movie about how full of crap this guy is, and in recently denying his bid to become a lawyer, the California Supreme Court agreed that Stephen Glass is an unreformed, serial liar (and a bigot).

The court’s decision is the document your mother warned you about. The first few sentences alone hooked me, and as I continued reading I couldn’t help but pause to appreciate how good I have it.

I may be a convicted armed robber who the state of California once sent to Folsom prison, yet to the best of my knowledge and documentation retrieval efforts no court decision or official determination of me is anywhere near as condemning as this decision on Glass. Blame it on Hayden Christensen’s wooden acting if you must, but not even Hollywood’s version more indelibly reinforces the expression that cheaters never prosper.  (Yeah yeah, they often do, but  journalistic fraud circa 1998 doesn’t quite reach the heights of today’s macroeconomic mega-scams or the cheating wars teachers and Chinese-trained GPA hackers are now waging.)

America is a nation of second chances, yet the court’s decision essentially stamped “NO DO-OVERS” across Stephen Glass’s doughy face. How harsh is that!?

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Wherein I Attack the Word “Blessed”

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Excessive use has reduced the word to a good-for-nothing air kiss.

CHIMP BLESSED WITH HUMAN BRAIN_Where Excuses Go to DieI’m blessed, you’re blessed, she’s blessed, those kids are blessed, the Seattle Seahawks are blessed, blessed-blessed-blessed!  Since when did so many people start benefitting from divine intervention? When did “luck” morph into into a Vatican Press Office buzzword? Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly fine to cram the annoyance of an entire Christmas letter into a single word, but could you do it with this one a little less often?

And while we’re at it, for the love of all things peaceful and plain, don’t ever throw it at me as a projection of good things to come. Don’t use “Blessings!” as a goodbye salutation. Nothing makes you sound less employable.

Yeah yeah, it’s just terrific as hell that gratitude has gotten fashionable, but isn’t gratitude supposed to be shown, rather than flaunted? We’re supposed to give thanks, not blab thanks.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present without giving it – yes, I have heard that one. But while some small dogs are cute, the ones that bark  in order to be paid attention to are more or less the worst creatures on earth. And way too many people use the word “blessed” as an excuse to announce bark their personal status. (more…)

Jail Was Easier than Feeding My Grandmother

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

At 94, growing her hair long is the extent of her personal choice.

Photo by Alexander KleppestoIt was just an ice cream sandwich, placed in a bowl and broken up after it had thawed some. My mom had handed it to me, saying as she picked up a magazine, “Here, give your grandmother her dessert. Help your grandmother.”

She deserved the five-minute break; she’d been sitting next to her mother for the past 37 hours. Neither of my parents has left her side in years, whereas my brothers and I have the luxury of going wherever life takes those who aren’t trapped.

When I arrived I found my grandmother and my mom in a very nice hospital room. The staff was largely Catholic-Hispanic, so I knew both felt comfortable and free to exaggerate to their heart’s content. The large window perfectly framed the setting sun, and you couldn’t ask for a better time to look out at it. Which was all I wanted to do.

But my mom had put me on the spot by handing me that bowl. I resented her for it because I’m a selfish person first and an empathetic one second, plus I’d become aware of dueling feelings that had arisen within me. I felt both unworthy of and above this task. I was afraid of an up close look at what age had done to my grandmother, and while I wanted to believe this was normal, my brain defended that fear with pride and conceit. (more…)

Ever George Washington Bridge Someone?

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Have YOU ever deliberately “inconvenienced” co-workers or enemies?

Symbol of Political Bullying_Where Excuses Go to DieA mayor declined to endorse his state’s governor during an election, so the governor’s top aides ordered a shutdown of lanes on a heavily used bridge. Delivery, maintenance, and fire trucks, as well as school buses, ambulances, and commuters, were mired in gridlock for days, causing outrage, scandal, and backlash. The perpetrators, who joked about the resulting chaos in emails, have since been found out. Check your local internet.

So what are your excuses for inconveniencing adversaries on purpose?

Oh, come on. Payback? You’ve never done that? No, I don’t mean shut down a bridge – I mean, impeded someone intentionally. Haven’t you ever waited to send your print job to the office copier until right when a co-worker needs it to prep for a meeting? Ever put off booking your boss’s flight ’til only middle seats at the back of the plane were available? How about crankin’ the thermostat? If any of this sounds familiar, you’ve George Washington Bridged someone. (Now let’s abbreviate that down to “you’ve GWB’d some fool,” or “you pulled a GWB.”) (more…)

L.A. Sheriff Baca Steps Down

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

You can’t run for reelection when you’ve been indicted by the Feds.

He was the most powerful elected official in Southern California.
His jail was compared to Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq.
He was called “deliberately indifferent” to civil rights abuses and corruption among his deputies.
He saw controversy and criticism as opportunities.
He compared his job to missionary work.
What a surprise.

3000_Baca_Photo by Grant Slater–KPCCI once came across what I thought was a dead or dying 50-something Asian man in the 3000 block of the Men’s Central Jail. He was lying with his head between an open cell’s steel toilet bowl and the concrete wall. This last cell in the row had been left open for those of us housed on the tier because of overcrowding. The old man was there for two days; others used the bowl around him and on him. Someone should’ve been told, but not an eyebrow had been raised by the other inmates, so I was afraid to speak up.

These units at MCJ are referred to as modules, and their ground floor walkways –still very much in use– have been dubbed “The Freeway.” That was just about the worst place an arrogant fuck-up like me could imagine, and I was there to stay. One afternoon, from outside that open cell, I heard someone yelling angrily because the man was in their way, and I was torn up in ways I’ve never felt. So I walked up to the module’s sally port cage door, got the attention of a Sheriff’s deputy, and told him the old guy needed to be dragged out of there. I got waved off and told to get lost. (more…)

Dumping Toxic People vs. Loser Management

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Dumping all the so-called “toxic” people in your life is an excuse.

TOXIC PEOPLE_THE FINAL SOLUTION_Where Excuses Go to DieIn line for coffee the other day I overheard a woman urging her two companions to rid themselves of all the “toxic” people in their lives. It sounded like a New Year’s resolution conversation had collided with an annoying friend story, but who knows and who cares?

She was off and running, listing relatively intimate evidence that proved a certain friend was a “guilt trip assassin.” This person had to go, she reasoned. And the relief and freedom she’d soon be experiencing by taking action would no doubt be something her two companions would want to get in on. Of this she sounded sure, if vulnerably so.

Now, maybe it was the hand gestures, the loud-talking, or the sequined fedora, but this young lady sounded like a mosquito in my ear canal. Following a life-coach testimonial with gossip as your example of why Friend X should be dismissed only demonstrates your poor coping skills.

Get rid of the toxic people in your life? What, you have a list? And you’re gonna push the button on all of ’em? Have any idea how much demented resolve that takes? I’ve seen it done on prison yards, but never in coffee shops.

Besides, what monsters are we talking about? Psychic hostages? Emotional cripples? Abusers? Followers? Manipulators? Martyrs? Excluders? Stalkers? Downers? Demanders?

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