Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On Being Compelled

I swore to myself - as opposed to swearing at everyone else, which is what I usually do - that I was going to maintain at least one blog post per week through the end of the year as a run-up to a major re-design of the blog and my web presence in general, which I plan to launch in the new year. Some weeks, though, it's a little hard to focus. It was a week where everything got swept away.

Now, I could take the common route with blogging, which is to form all my general complaints into some king of entertaining narrative, but complaining seems a bit pointless. It's not like you care, right? You might get a good laugh out of my misery, or maybe just toss me a knowing nod because you've been there, too, but whining is a little too self-indulgent for me. Besides, no one would believe most of my gripes because they sound like a bad stand-up routine. I mean, who would buy that both my toaster and stove broke in the same week? That's like a weird conspiracy against heating elements.

I could do my standard political riff, but politics this past week has mostly been about Sarah Palin and I really think I need more of a challenge than that. Although, I did see a "Sarah 2012" bumper sticker this morning, which actually made me seriously consider the Mayan Prophecies for the first time.

I haven't talked about writing in a while, but considering the amount of student work I'm slogging through, now is probably not the best time to discuss that particular subject. The weird thing about teaching writing is that not only are you bombarded with difficult and troublesome material, the process takes so much time and energy that it salts the earth of your own work. After reading student scripts all day, one of the last things I want to do is sit down and work on my own stuff.

Oh, wait, I've found a point to make today after all, because this is the key difference between professionals and amateurs: we pros are compelled to do it. Even after the long day of mediocre grammar, I still make myself do some real writing. Even with no real plan in mind, I sit down to blog because that's what I committed to. It's not always inspiration and latte, sometimes it's brain sweat and angst. Welcome to my world.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lessons From The Strike

No, no, I'm not going back on my promise to leave the baseball blogging until spring training, nor am I going to wax on wax off about the writer's strike of a few years ago. I'm talking about the transit worker's strike in Philadelphia over the past week. Now that it appears to be over, there's a few items that have crystallized for me and I'm passing those little diamonds along to you to save you the trouble of thinking really hard.

First, the political lessons:

  • Organized labor may, at one time, have been essential to moving forward as a country, but that time has passed.
  • Asking for unreasonable demands in an economy like the one we have right now is no way to gain public sympathy and support.
  • Union leaders really need to be made aware of the fact that they, like politicians, represent a constituency. They need to look out for them, not their own consolidated power.
  • At the end of the day, $50K for driving a bus is a hell of a lot of money.
  • If you choose to strike, you need to be prepared to absorb the wrath of the people's lives you have damaged in the process. Don't expect everyone to cheer for you because you strong-armed someone into giving you more than the bulk of America is getting this year.
Next, Road Rules addendums:
  • If you don't drive normally during rush hour, you're probably doing it wrong.
  • Yes, we know you're inconvenienced, but you don't get to break the law because of it.
  • Don't make lanes where there are none. The yellow lines mean something.
  • DON'T BLOCK THE BOX! If you don't know what this means, turn around and drive home immediately.
  • Patience, Courtesy. You will get there. The earth will continue to turn.
And finally, the IQ rules:
  • If you don't take the trouble to really understand how these issues work, please keep your mouth shut. On the other hand, don't get pissed at someone else for pointing out your ignorance. Yes, this is for all of you who think any mass transit agency has money to spare.
  • Don't take your anger out on the wrong people. The union instigated the strike. The people who are still working did not. They deserve a thanks for the work they're doing.
  • Employers shouldn't use the strike as an excuse to fire people who are genuinely impacted by this strike. On the other hand, workers shouldn't use the inconvenience of the strike as an excuse for a vacation.
  • For those of you who think mass transit is a big waste of time and money, you may now return to the rocks from under which you have crawled.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hit the Showers

As the baseball season winds to a close, with the indomitable Yankees taking the Phillies to school, I have come to a new conclusion: no matter how much talent you have on your team, no matter the efforts select members put forth, it is possible, even at the highest professional level, for one guy to screw the pooch.

Growing up, there's much talk of the benefits of being on a team, and learning to work together, and all kinds of other sports metaphors for life which really don't mean a thing if you're the kid getting the shit beat out of you in the showers. There's a lot of people who say it's all a team effort, that it's not about individuals, and the people who say that are just full of crap.

In baseball, you're playing for a team, but the reality is you're only as strong as your weakest link. Here comes the surprise: I'm not really complaining about Brad Lidge, the once-bullet-proof closer. I'm talking about Charlie Manuel, the manager. You see, Lidge should never have been on the mound in the first place. Everyone in Philadelphia knows it, the Yanks discovered it, and you can bet that every single Phillie knew it before Lidge's toe ever hit the rubber.

How demoralizing must it be to the other players to see Lidge warming up? Because no matter how strongly you've come back to tie the game, you have less than even chances that Lidge will be able to hold the game tie, especially to bats as ferocious as the Yankees. Think about this: at your job, if you clearly screw up more than half the time, how long would your boss keep you around?

We're not in your neighborhood baseball league, where everyone gets to participate despite their skill level or lack thereof. We're in the World Series. No one cares about Lidge's self-esteem. It's nothing personal. He can't do the job, he shouldn't be on the mound. Why can't Manuel see that? Why won't somebody tell him?

I'm gonna watch tonight, because no one does what Cliff Lee does. It'll be a treat. I've had enough tricks for one season.