Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Charlie Sheen and America's Restaurant

Charlie Sheen

I cannot help but be entertained by the Charlie Sheen saga, especially since I unfortunately have too much personal experience dealing with people in my life losing all semblance of coherent thought.  However, in all of Sheen's craziness, he actually raises a couple of really good points.

First, Sheen is right on the money when stating that he should not be a role model and act in accordance with artificial standards strangers place on them.  Now, he may not be doing a great job with his fatherly duties, but his behavior should only affect those immediately involved with him and not people who have no affiliation with Sheen.

Also, I have little tolerance for behavioral standards placed upon Sheen due to his role on the show.  Trying to guise Two and a Half Men as a family show is laughable.  Furthermore, from what I have seen of the show, Sheen's character seems to be similar to that of his real life persona.  Before this latest episode, Sheen was actually lauded for his professionalism on the set and only recently did his actions compromise the production of the show.

Now, I hope for Sheen to find a good place in his life, as he is a very funny actor and I am one of undoubtedly millions that loved his work in the Major League movies.  However, Sheen is making some sense in some of these ramblings, and I hope that something comes of these increasingly gratuitous interviews (and hey, I watched his CNN one, so I cannot pretend to not be entertained in some fashion).  And really, the entertainment industry is the last place to be expecting a code of conduct from its workers.

America's Restaurant

Okay, I realize that NBC needs summer programming filler.  However, this America's Restaurant show irrationally bothers me.  The Chili's, Olive Garden's, and Applebee's, and other national restaurant chains have already been over exposed and we do not need another chain restaurant.

In most areas of my life, I have become reliant on these national chains and brands, and will be reliant on them for the foreseeable future.  However, I think the food and drink industry remains strong on a smaller scale basis, with thriving microbrews and excellent independently owned restaurants.  Now, I luckily live in a metropolis that has countless quality local options.  That being said, I am making a point to avoid major chain restaurants and enjoying craft beers.  In this case, it makes both good business sense and is a somewhat amiable cause.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Personal Dichotomy

Going back to the initial ADSZ posting, this will be more introspective and less my commentary on a situation or random misinterpretation of a phrase (that in hindsight may or may not be true).  Sort of continuing on the body language theme of the last post, I am certainly not someone you can read by just by my expression or demeanor.

While I always look calm and stress-free on the outside, that is assuredly not the case on the inside.  I have grown to stress too easily over the simplest things, and worry way too often about things I generally cannot control.  Whether at work or at home, I will chastise myself over the simplest mistakes, even realizing that mistakes happen.  In fact, I probably deal with big mistakes much better then the minor ones.  I expect that big mistakes happen while not having the same tolerance for the smaller ones.

Some of the best advice I ever received from an old high school friend was to never allow your feelings to stew inside, yet I have done a poor job of taking this excellent advice despite the potential ramifications.  Now, I am releasing some of these feelings in a blog post that anyone can access.  However, that is in part with the understanding that only a few people are actually reading this and those are the people I would be more open to anyway.

One emotion in particular that I need to find a proper release for is anger.  For financial purposes, I keep delaying the inevitable that I need to join a health club for my general health and well being.  With my work at Macy's occupying the energy needed for the positive stress release from long walks, I no longer have a proper outlet to release my anger in a fairly private setting.  Even with my position at Macy's being relatively stress free (especially compared to most of my friends and my superiors there), I need to find another positive outlet for stress relief.

Continuing with the stress theme, I generally try to avoid the big things in life that bring stress, with my picture under the definition of confirmed bachelor in the dictionary.  Yet at the same time I frequently find ways to unnecessarily raise my emotions in silly debates and arguments.  As I get older, my tolerance for perceived idiocy lessens and I spend way too much time engaging with people whose opinions I never will sway (even if they are often terribly wrong).  Instead of doing the wise thing and let ignorant people be ignorant, I lower myself to try to change the stance of people that are blissfully stubborn (or the people that love to use hyperbole in arguing a non-definitive point).

This last paragraph illustrates my battle between humility and arrogance.  For the most part, I am a pretty humble and affable person with a self-deprecating sense of humor.  I will try to find humor in most situations, even when it may not be the most appropriate situation for it.  However, I have a strong belief in the opinions I have formed in most situations I talk about (particularly sports), especially since I have spent an inordinate amount of time forming said opinions.  At the same time, I need to open to better information that can change my opinions when necessary and admitting that I may not always be right (just right most of the time).

All in all, I am happy with the balance I have with this dichotomy (and in general) for the most part, but at the same time it is a fine line that I walk that will inevitably get me into undesirable situations because of this delicate balance.  Hopefully I can expand these bounds so that I can be that characterization of cool and calm I am often perceived to be.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Why Being Fake is So Important and Valued

Four posts in, I am temporarily breaking my no sports references rule, though this will be more of a human reaction based on a sports event and not some complicated event breakdown.  Though I weighed on the Jay Cutler situation briefly on Twitter and in other places, I will delve into it further here, tying in my take from the situation into a broader view on American society in general.

Most of the venom from the Cutler situation came from his appearance, from his outward disappointment on the sidelines, to not acting in the career altering pain some of his lesser intelligent colleagues and media members expected him to be in to not be in the game.  From the due reading about second degree MCL sprains (and sprain equals tear in medical terms), it is simply the type of injury that makes playing on it highly questionable and unwise.  Medical professionals and objective advisers universally agree that Cutler should have not continued playing, and that by continuing to play he was at great risk to suffer a career altering injury.

The real sorry aspect of all of this is that if Jay Cutler had just been on crutches, or for the real conspiracy theorists, stayed in instead of spending time with his significant other in public places, this whole situation would have been an afterthought and footnote in history.  Just because Cutler can walk around in a normal fashion does not change the fact that he could not move laterally or had no stability in his knee.  But hey, if he had some unnecessary walking aids, Cutler would really look injured.  Basically, the smart PR move would have been to put on a ruse just to fool the simple minded and milk the seriousness of a moderate injury that luckily avoided being much worse (most MCL injuries come with accompanying ACL ones).

Even better are the complaints about Cutler's poor demeanor and body language on the sidelines.  Forget the natural feelings of disappointment of being unable to continue playing in the biggest game of his career, everything would be great if he just put a smile on his face and immediately transitioned into cheerleader mode.  After all, that is what a true leader is supposed to do (never mind the fact that Cutler indeed was enthusiastic and helped his backup later in the game).

Universally hailed as having a poor attitude and lacking leadership qualities, I find Cutler's lack of false pretenses refreshing in a sports world that still views the intangible as far more important than the tangible.  Disregarding that he consistently got up after being sacked and hit at least five times a game, and rarely misses practice despite a body that has to be ravaged based off of the punishment he takes on a weekly basis, Cutler's body language and demeanor must disqualify him as a leader or even representative teammate.

Listening to a Rich Eisen (Voice of NFL Network) interview today, he emphasized that Cutler has a perception problem.  Yes, the "problem" is that unlike most athletes and people in general, Cutler does not care about his perception.   At least not enough to issue some PR spun statement that says nothing and defends something that has no business being responded to.

Going beyond Cutler, body language is my favorite ballyhooed trait that is exponentially overvalued in just about every circle of life.  To use a personal example, I looked outwardly disappointed during a job interview this fall after an unexpected turn of events.  My body language negatively reacted when the job description for the position I was interviewing turned out to be noticeably different then expected.  I made a three hour trek to Naperville for the position (I do not drive), and while I established a good rapport with interviewer and still maintain contact with the agency, I should not have to pretend to feel different about this miscommunication.

Yes, I unfortunately realize that body language is strenuously evaluated and that I will need to improve on that during interviews.  No, that does not make it any less superfluous or lazy manner of evaluation.  If people were not so fake in their verbal communication, nonverbal communication would not be so critical.  Instead, this cycle of superficial behavior continues and people continue to make evaluations based off outward mannerisms.  Apparently, we still judge a book by its cover despite that saying being taught to people from their first moments of lucidity.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Unintentional Ignorance

The basis for this post comes from the seemingly innocuous phrase, "In spades".  I previously never thought of this being a racial term, though it does make sense in retrospect. Still, my parents have used this phrase for years and it evolved into my vocabulary when speaking of something in large number.

Now, I admittedly used this phrase mostly when describing problematic situations, so I can better understand its negative connotations. However, I never thought anything of it until a friendly colleague at Macy's quietly took me aside and told me that phrase was inappropriate.

When discussing this with my mom today, I asked her about the origin of the phrase and she casually agreed that the phrase probably had racial overtones.  Admission from her aside, I wholeheartedly expect that phrase to remain part of her everyday vocabulary.

Now, I would not indemnify my mom as a racist by any means, and her open mindedness played a big role in me being allowed to explore my beliefs without the worry of being persecuted for being different.  The fact that she grew up with an intolerant dad (the type that the Archie Bunker character was based off of) undoubtedly left her with bad habits that she frankly had little chance to shake.

On the other hand, my dad's motivations could certainly be questioned further, as he regularly uses hurtful and insensitive language without thinking twice.  Deep down, I think he's more open minded then his actions and words would lead you to believe.  However, a strong part of his core beliefs are shaped with a strong cloud of intolerance over their origins.

Again, a good part of this is due to an upbringing that refused to acknowledge, accept, and promote the differences in people.  His late mother (my grandmother), with whom I had a somewhat strained relationship with, took an almost sadistic joy in the fact she likely would not live through Barack Obama's presidency.  Obama being elected president scared her to the core, and she was one of those people who would openly admit that his views and policies would ruin the country. 

My dad's father was even tougher handed, the type who ruled with an iron fist even when different tact was necessary (not the type of parenting my dad needed to receive by any stretch, and something I resent as I learn more about my father and the genesis of his mental illness).  Likewise, tolerant would be about the four millionth phrase I would use to describe my dad's father, somewhere right next to mild mannered.

With that type of upbringing, my dad had an uphill battle to be anywhere in the neighborhood of open minded.  As I mentioned earlier, I think he has a pretty open heart deep down, with life experiences from the military and working with a diverse set of people in the medical industry helping to counteract his upbringing and initial belief formations. 

Taking this back to me, I assuredly inherited some of my parents less desirable thoughts, actions, and vocabulary that has passed from generation to generation.  What I hope and expect is to a put a stop to this ignorance, as it is no longer unintentional if I know about it and do nothing to change.  From a relatively minor thing to not using an objectionable phrase, even in casual conversation, to more serious ignorant actions, I need to make the necessary improvements so that I can be a good example to potential further generations.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Take on the Giffords Situation/Gun Control

No, I have not been under a rock last week, though 51 hours of store inventory in six days and then getting sick part of the way through that (and toughing it out, very unwisely the last day) made it feel that way.  Even still, I have managed to hear most of the pertinent facts about the Tuscon tragedy involving Rep. Giffords and certainly have an opinion about the matter that I will proceed to share.

While this turned out to be more of an isolated mentally ill person that failed to receive necessary help, at least this situation brought a much needed focus towards the appalling rhetoric exhibited throughout the political world.  Both sides of the aisle need to step back, stop demonizing their opposition, and intelligently engage in debate over their differences.  Instead of scaring people through all out attacks (something I will touch on more in a future post) to vouch for their candidacy, hopefully political candidates can revert back to present facts behind their own beliefs instead of shouting down their opponent.

For me, the more pertinent and potentially long lasting issue is the hope for stricter gun control laws.  In a perfect world, guns would only be legal for hunting and protection for necessary enforcement officials (police, military, etc.).  Constitutional scholars strongly oppose that stance, but honestly I do not that think many Americans have the capacity to bear arms and it should be viewed as much more a privilege and not right.  I am all for people having the rights to do just about whatever they want within reason, but gun control is the one issue I am for strict legislation and very little personal freedom. Ideally people could bear arms responsibility, and I understand the necessity of bearing arms for hunting beyond just the sport of it (even if I'm not personally a fan), but the consequences of irresponsibility using guns outweighs the positives of bearing arms.

Even for hunting purposes, I propose a thorough licensing process where gun owners have to pass stringent written and physical range testing before earning the right to carry arms.  Also, I would keep a strict limit as to how many guns people can own at one time (2-3 maximum).  Any abuse of these rules or failure to meet regulations, as well as any crimes committed before or after earning a license, leads to a temporary or permanent bans depending on the circumstances.

I realize that gun control reform will not go this far, but stricter gun control is necessary and unfortunately it took a tragedy of this magnitude to shine attention back on this long standing issue.  Felons and mentally ill people should not be allowed to own guns, period, and I would be disappointed with anyone that disagreed with that statement.  I am open to debate further regulations beyond that, and realize my above take is considered extreme by many people, but guns have always made me uncomfortable and I believe that far more harm then good comes from using them.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Hat tip to my man Vinnie for pointing this article about the U.S. Military hero supporting Wiki Leaks, and I am all for the truth being told.  Now, Julian Assange is far from a savory character.  However, just because he may be a miscreant in other parts of life does not mean that he cannot make a difference in a time when we need some answers to where the country may be headed.  Life is not categorically right or wrong, no matter how much some people cling to that belief.  Now, I admittedly may be not be super comfortable with Wiki Leaks and want to allow the government privacy when needed (and yes, it is needed at times).  That being said, government cannot use their privilege of privacy as a crutch and rely on consistently misleading the very people that elect them.  If you do not want to take the word of Mr. Assange because of his character issues, take the word of a legitimate United States hero that had the courage to serve our country and an equal amount of courage to take a tough and unpopular stance on the hottest issue of the past few months.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Broadening My Horizons

            For a brief introduction, I am in many ways your stereotypical 27 year old while male immersed in the social ways of suburbia and private education.  While I have left my comfort zone on occasion, most notably on a service trip to rural Mississippi during high school, southern country clubs would blush at the lack of diversity in most of my previous interactions.
With equal parts laziness, cautiousness, and the fact that I am many ways a simple person that can easily exist talking sports, sitcoms, and drinking beers with buddies, I never thought too much about the fact I live in my comfort zone as much as possible.  However, I hope and expect there to be more to me then just this simple caricature.
Now, this is by no means a knock on any of my close friends and I assuredly cherish their friendships and all of the time spent together in the past and hopefully future.  I may strongly disagree with some of their political and social stances, but at the same time try to embrace our common interests and not argue over the differences.  While a good part of me wishes I could sway their beliefs on some key issues, I also respect the fact that there will be differences and that everyone needs to be their own person.

Getting that introduction out of my way, the first experience that inspired this posting comes from a chance meeting on Halloween weekend.  With my Halloween plans in flux as usual, I ended up contacting my man Vinnie and took up the invitation to hit his friend Maggie’s place in the city.  Initially meant to be a way to start my evening while another group of friends got their Halloween hi-jinks out of their system, it turned to be a fun and enlightening discussion with the type of people I rarely interacted with in the past (even though I share many of their beliefs).

After that great time, I was very happy to find out that everyone from this group would be joining the usual cast of characters at our annual Friendsgiving event.  In particular, it was fun getting to further know Colleen and her good friend Mike, a quiet but thoughtful person that added a lot the festivities and our discussions when he decided to contribute.

This brings us to the main inspiration to this post, an awesome New Years Eve experience that I thoroughly enjoyed, even if my energy level may have been a few levels lower then normal.  Exhaustion from five weeks of working overnights, lack of sleep, and a very sore left knee thanks to my clumsiness hitting the ice hard on Wednesday night (and I apologize if I reeked of menthol from Icy Hot patches on my knee to help ease the pain) hit hard once the initial adrenaline and excitement wore off.  Still, even if my demeanor may not have indicated it at times, I indeed greatly enjoyed myself and the event certainly surpassed my high expectations (awesome job for everything Maggie).  

To add some depth to my ramblings here, I want to share a quick anecdote from my man Vin right before we entered the party.  Knowing my tendency to be unfiltered in expressing my thoughts and casual use of poor/hurtful language at times, Vin gave me a heads up that there would be a diverse cast of characters here, from sexual orientation, gender, and race.  Honestly, I was very happy to here this and expected nothing less.

That my reaction there came naturally is certainly not cause to celebrate, and it is admittedly not the same reaction I would have had at earlier points at my life.  While I strive to be open minded and accepting of anyone and everyone (and shape my beliefs about issues to be based on that line of thinking), I have unfortunately not always been that way.  

In my younger years, I could be kindly described as an ignorant bastard that frequently used hurtful language, even in the company of people that would be rightfully offended by my lack of care and tact.  I believe that I have matured over the years, and thankfully advanced past that inadequate line of behavior and thinking.  Still, I need to acknowledge my past to help shed light on my experiences for why the experiences described here carry more meaning to me then just your normal fun time at holiday parties. 

Finally, I also must acknowledge that the atmosphere on New Years Eve was certainly fun and festive, with unfiltered thoughts flying and the atmosphere being the total opposite of stodginess.  I will always be someone that will speak his mind and joke around with people, especially when I have a good feel for the setting.  I really look forward to spending time with this group of people in the future, and I hope that I can make a semblance of the impact on their lives as they are starting to on mine.