Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Over It?

About two years ago, I tried blogging for the first time. I did it on Blogspot, and I’m pretty sure I did two, maybe three entries, before I got bored. There is only one entry I remember, and it is one that stirred up quite a bit of controversy in my life.

I was working as a production assistant on The Ellen DeGeneres Show at the time. I was very, very, very excited to have landed a job there, as working with Ellen had been my dream since I was roughly twelve years old. And so this particular blog was all about loving the idea that I was finally doing this job. Of course, the inner workings of this show were (are?) absurd, and I referenced that in my post. Mostly I talked about loving being there, but I believe part of the post was about a particular decree from the executive in charge of production mandated that no more than two PAs could sit in the PA office at any given time, or one of the many other ridiculous rules. As PAs, our job was to be treated as trained monkeys, and though I’d come to accept that in my various jobs, it had never been as bad as it was at this show. It was actual contempt for human dignity.

Anyway, the point is that I wrote this post and forgot about it. And months later, it became what I consider to be the downfall of my budding career at The Ellen DeGeneres Show. I got called into the office of my quasi-boss, who was, at the time, a very good friend. She told me that there was word on the street that I had been writing about the show on my blog. This was interesting, since no one at the show should have known about this blog, as I didn’t even really tell anyone I knew that I existed. However, I had done the postings while at work, so it wouldn’t have taken much for someone to just look at the browser history on a particular computer. Or, more likely, to stare over my shoulder as I wrote.

This shouldn’t have been such a big deal since, as I mentioned, the blog said nothing objectionable. I printed out the post and gave it to my boss, but she said she trusted me and had no interest reading it. I didn’t violate my confidentiality agreement (though maybe I am now, which would be awesome) and I didn’t say anything negative about Ellen herself (just about a few of her employees). And, again, the overall message of the post was positive, since it was all about me finally living the dream.

That didn’t matter to Ellen’s PA, of course, as he had apparently learned about this site and passed the URL onto Ellen’s security team so they could investigate. My boss told me she knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, and that there was nothing to worry about. She just thought I should know. She didn’t know how Ellen’s PA had found the site, and she also wanted me to know that people were talking. Of course they were. I’m sure the URL for the blog had been passed around the office and everyone had a good laugh at the idea that someone who worked for The Ellen DeGeneres Show might have actually, at one point in her life, been a (gasp!) fan of Ellen. These people were too cool for such a thing, thus laughing at the lowly PA was the proper thing to do.

I don’t know why I’m writing about this now, more than a year after I was fired from the show. But I’ll tell you this. There’s nothing more embarrassing than being fired and then not having an answer every time someone says “Why?” Because I don’t know why I was fired. I know that my first sense that something was up came with this blog thing, but I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. I know that when we shot the promos in Orange County right before season three, the head writer treated me like shit, for absolutely no reason, and that the next week I got a phone call that I was being let go I know that I have spent the last year+ going over every thing that ever happened at that show, trying my best to be as objective as possible.

And I also know that I’ll probably never understand it. But the thing of it is, I didn’t like most of the people who worked at that show. They were self-absorbed and entirely too proud of themselves for making a daily syndicated television show. And some of them were just mean. I never felt like I belonged there, so in some ways being fired was just inevitable. It was just a big slap in the face, and of course it was particularly devastating since this was my lifelong dream and all.

But what are you gonna do? I can’t make them hire me back. And despite my best efforts, I can’t get anyone to give me a real explanation. Everyone who could tell me the truth was too busy covering his/her own respective ass. And my very good friend and quasi-boss gave me about five minutes of her time to tell me that it was awful, and then proceeded to ignore me completely. I’ve lost a few friends, but that was the quickest it’s ever happened. And I guess that probably sucked most of all.

P.S. I hate that picture of me, but I couldn’t think of anything else to put there.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sibling Rivalry

When my brother, Matt, was in seventh grade (I was in tenth), he went to a school dance at Ruckel Middle School. I wasn’t there, of course, but the story presented to me was this: there was a student at the dance who suffered from sort of mental/physical handicap (probably cerebral palsy or the like). She was all alone against the wall, watching everyone dance. People were probably making fun of her, because that’s just the sort of awesome stuff that kids do. But my brother, being the sweet boy he once was, walked up to this girl and asked her to dance.

That was how he used to be. Now, to put it plain and very simply, he’s an asshole. And it’s not just the opinion of his beleaguered older sister. In fact, most of my current friends who have met my brother walk away wondering what the hell is wrong with that guy.

The main problem that seems to get between me and my brother is of a political nature. He’s a Marine. I am not. He served in Iraq. I did not. He knows everything. I do not. That’s the gist of it.

Seriously, though, the military thing seems to be the big elephant in the room, despite the fact that we were both Air Force brats growing up. We all (including my sister Noelle) were the children of an Air Force test pilot. We lived on military bases, hung out with military folks. We went to air shows. We know us some military. We respect it. I almost joined the Air Force myself, but backed out at the last minute. The point is, I am not in any way anti-military.

But my brother seems to think I am, based on my status as a liberal who, oddly enough, opposes an illegal war thrust onto a nation by a man who fancies himself a dictator or king, instead of an elected official who WORKS FOR US. This type of logic does not sit well with the brainwashing the military provides for free (well, unless you count the cost of potential loss of limbs or life) in basic training and throughout one’s service. The enlisted men and women are particularly vulnerable because their sole job is to take orders. Read up on Abu Ghraib for a more detailed example of what “following orders” gets you.

But you can’t talk to my brother about these things. Not because he’ll argue with you, but mostly because he just won’t listen. He is convinced that what he believes (or has been told to believe) is true.

I took him to a screening of Jarhead (along with Peggy and Christine) a few months after he came back from his seven months in Iraq. Christine and I went to go get snacks, and when we came back, Peggy and Matt were having some sort of argument, although it was fairly good-natured at the time. The basic idea was that Matt didn’t seem to think that women should be allowed to serve in the military. Why? Because of their menstrual cycles. It was a liability, and one the military could not afford.

When Christine and I got into this mess, it was still civil. And as far as the rest of us are concerned, it never got beyond civil. But at one point, I said something that I don’t even remember, and my brother got up and walked out. We had driven him to the theater, but he walked back to my apartment (3.5 miles away) and drove himself home to Camp Pendleton.

Since that day in November 2005, I have barely said a word to my brother, through no fault of my own. I called him, emailed him, whatever. He never responded. Only in the last few months has he talked to me at all online, which is nice.

The thing is, the military only made things worse. My brother turned into a bit of an asshole in his teenage years, and never really seemed to snap out of it But even when I was in college, we still got along really well. We were close, I guess you could say. And now I’m amazed by the way he treats people. I’m disgusted that he can’t get through anything (including waiting in line to go into a movie) without finding a place to buy a beer. I’m beyond angry that, on his myspace page, he mentions liking to shoot Iraqis, referring to them as “savages.” I’m appalled by his ridiculous ego and even more appalled by his need to share this ego with every person around him, as loudly as possible.

If I bring these things up to him, even in an attempt to have a real conversation, it’s a fight. If I mention his behavior to my parents, I’m told to give him a break (as if, being the youngest child, and a boy at that, he hasn’t been given enough breaks in life). The whole “feud” is mostly considered my fault, but I think really my parents just don’t see him enough to know how he behaves now. They still see their baby boy who asks handicapped girls to dance and who, sometimes, still shows signs of being that boy. Something just happened to him, and it’s pretty screwed up.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Growing Up

Growing up is a weird thing. But I’ve decided it might be all the weirder when one comes from a military background. It’s not the military aspect of it, it’s the moving around. I lived in a lot of places growing up, and my parents had a lot of friends. Those friends had kids, who were inevitably my friends. Never was this more true than at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Edwards was the place I lived for the longest as a child, and was until recently the place I had lived the longest in my life. I was there from about seven years old until I was almost twelve. My father started off at the United States Air Force Test Pilot School. At the time, all students at TPS lived on the same street on base, Sharon Drive. This is no longer the case, as the military razed Sharon Drive in an effort to modernize the base--a huge mistake, in my opinion. I was very young, of course, but I still have strong memories of the parents parking cars at the top and bottom ends of Sharon so that we could have a block party in the middle of the street.

Those people who were my friends then have moved on. My parents speak to very few of the other adults these days. They had a reunion in 2002 which was marred by the fact that, several months earlier, one of their classmates was killed in the breakup of the space shuttle Columbia (Commander Rick Husband). For a few years there, we went to Colorado over Christmas break and met up with a few people over dinner. But even with this age of technology, it seems more and more difficult to hold onto the ties to the people from my past.

It’s different for kids who grew up the same place their entire lives. Those kids have a place to come home to, and the friends they’ve known forever are still around. I have the distinction of going to kindergarten with the same people with whom I graduated high school, but I moved about eleven times in those thirteen years between. And my parents now live in St. Louis, a place I never lived. My brother and sister graduated high school there, but I’ve only been there for extended vacations. It’s not my home. And I haven’t been to the place I call my hometown in over five years.

So now I go on myspace.com and look at the profiles of those I’ve technically known since I was seven years old. And it’s just weird. They have friends I’ve never heard of, they consider their hometowns to be completely different from my own. And they’re grown-up, too. They’re not supposed to be, because in my mind we will always be the kids who got up on the roof and stomped during a neighbor’s baby shower (a proud Edwards tradition). I will always be the little girl who joined a neighborhood boy in tormenting the neighborhood (particularly a child who, we learned much, much later, might have been borderline retarded. We were little, so forgive us). But they’ve graduated college, they’ve gotten married or had kids.

Thanks to the military, other places defined other parts of my life, and I tend to get nostalgic for each of those places as well. But Edwards was essentially my entire childhood, so it’s hard to not feel like it’s a special place.

Maybe everyone else is as nostalgic as I am. Whenever we get together, which is rare, there are talks of distant memories. But the memories only get more distant, and the connection we had more loose. I guess everyone agrees that’s just a part of growing up, no matter how (or where) you did it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Buck O'Neil

Even if you don’t care one bit about baseball, I think it’s important you know who Buck O’Neil was. I won’t profess to be a lifelong fan of the man, as I actually only learned about him in February of this year. But that makes it all the more important that I make sure other people know who he was, too.

O’Neil was born in Carrabelle, Florida, in 1911, into, of course, a segregated world. He attended segregated schools, and faced the racism that was unfortunately inherent at the time. He worked hard to finish college and got into the Negro Leagues as a first baseman. He was a great hitter and an excellent defender (one season he had just one error, which is remarkable). When the time came to integrate Major League Baseball, O’Neil was already 35 years old, so Jackie Robinson became the face of integration. O’Neil didn’t play in the majors, but he became a scout. He is credited with finding and molding such stars as Lou Brock, Ernie Banks and Joe Carter. In 1962 he became the first African-American manager in the majors. He spent a year in the big leagues and another dozen or so in the minors, then continued his career as a scout.

But O’Neil thinks his best accomplishment was being one of the driving forces in creating the Negro Leagues museum. Without him, this country might not know the stories of those players who would have been superstars had they only been allowed to play with everyone else.

In 2001, Major League Baseball set up a commission that would meet again in five years to vote on who from the Negro Leagues (among others) should be in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. They met this past February and voted in seventeen men and women. Buck O’Neil was not one of them.

This is when I first learned about Buck O’Neil. Keith Olberman and many baseball fans across the nation were outraged that the committee had somehow overlooked this legend. But Buck O’Neil wasn’t feeling sorry for himself. He volunteered to speak at the Hall of Fame induction, talking about those others who were voted in, not mentioning that he deserved to be there, too. And when Keith Olbermann interviewed O’Neil shortly after the vote, here’s what he had to say:

“But I just want to thank all of the people that felt the way that they are feeling right now. But don‘t weep for Buck. No man. Just feel happy, just like I am, being thankful, just like I am, that I can do and have done the things that I did do. “

Buck O’Neil spent most of this year traveling the country, promoting the Negro Leagues museum. He checked into a hospital in August with exhaustion. He died Friday, October 6, 2006, of bone marrow cancer and congestive heart failure. If the Hall of Fame sees fit to vote again, Buck O’Neil will not be there to see his name immortalized with those he played with, and with those Major League players who credit him with their own Hall of Fame inductions.

On Saturday night, I went to the Dodgers’ National League Division Series game. Before the game, they had a moment of silence for Buck O’Neil. They put his name and picture up on the big screen, but there was one problem. They spelled his name wrong. They wanted us to celebrate a moment of silence for a Buck O’Neal. Certainly not as big an injustice as not being voted into the Hall of Fame, but couldn’t someone have fact-checked this?

Maybe it’s stupid. After all, we’re only talking about a game. But it seems to me that Buck O’Neil and his fellow Negro League players were about more than just the game. They weren’t getting paid anything, and they certainly weren’t getting the credit they were due. But they played, and they waited and, if Buck O’Neil is any indication, they did so with a hell of a lot of class.

Thanks to Keith Olbermann for teaching me about Buck O’Neil.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Compassionate Conservatism

I wanted to write about “Jesus Camp” today, and then this whole thing with Mark Foley, a Congressional representative from my home state of Florida, erupted. And I just have to say something about it.

Foley sent inappropriate emails to at least one former congressional aide, and had a pretty explicit IM chat with another aide. The guy is a pedophile, no question. But what’s being reported now is that there has also been a lot of speculation about his sexuality before this. Many have assumed that Foley is gay, and according to Bill O’Reilly, “it wasn't an issue at all until now.”Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, claimed that if the GOP leadership confronted Foley about the emails before they were reported by ABC News, they would have been accused of gay bashing.

It is beyond maddening that the news media and the government seem to be making a big deal about the fact that Foley was engaging in this behavior with a male. Does that really matter? As Keith Olbermann said on his show tonight, “This isn't about Foley being gay. It's not about what the kids did. It's about an adult, male or female, straight or gay, taking sexual advantage of children. And other adults protecting that adult."

Bingo. Gay or straight, Foley is showing strong pedophile tendencies. And someone, somewhere in government, knew about it. The documented emails and IMs began in 2003, and several congressman have indicated that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was told about the inappropriate (though non-sexual) emails long before this year. Hastert says he can’t recall anyone ever telling him, but if someone did tell him, it would have been in a conversation where that person told him a dozen other things as well. Interesting how he can quantify a conversation that he says he can’t remember having. While the original emails in question were not sexual in nature, they did involve a representative of the United States government having inappropriate contact with a minor (asking for his age and a picture, for instance). Again, to borrow from Keith Olbermann, wouldn’t this have been the time for GOP leadership to step in and do something? Were they waiting for a child to come forward with allegations of physical molestation?

A spokesperson for the Family Research Council (the name just tells you it’s a conservative group, doesn’t it? Conservatives are the only ones with families) was interviewed on CNN this afternoon and said, “It's outrageous, it's shocking. But it shouldn't be totally surprising. When we hold up tolerance and diversity as the guidepost for public life this is what you end up getting.”

And there is now an article on the Family Research Council web page entitled “Pro-Homosexual Political Correctness Sowed Seeds for Foley Scandal”.

In other words, America deserves this for letting the gays into government. And “tolerance” and “diversity”? Apparently those are now bad things. I guess we should just do what the right wing really wants, and kick out everyone who isn’t straight, white and Christian. Then America would have no problems at all.

I bet the members of the Family Research Council just loved “Jesus Camp”.

Political cartoon courtesy of brucegarrett.com

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Weekend Roundup

My hair came in this weekend, finally. Christine and I went to Hair Art on Saturday to make sure it fit and get it styled correctly. As it turns out, the hair sort of arrived almost exactly as I wanted it. It just needed a few trims here and there, and it was done. I went through the day staring at my reflection every chance I got. Christine thought it looked great, and I think I’ve earned the right to be a little conceited about my--or, rather, some anonymous European woman’s--hair. It did look good. I will take a picture soon.

Today I went for a run, and went the furthest I’ve ever run in my life, both in distance and time. 3.5 miles, 49:33. Average pace of 14:08 per mile. Not speedy by any means, but it was quite the accomplishment for me.

The Red Sox are not in the playoffs. The Dodgers are. Christine decided at the beginning of this season that we should become Dodgers fans, and so we did. It wasn’t that hard--they have Nomar and Derek Lowe, after all, so there is plenty for a Red Sox fan to love. And rooting for the Dodgers doesn’t affect my fanaticism for the Red Sox. Barring a World Series meeting, the two won’t impact each other at all, so I can feel free to root to my heart’s content. But I think we all know that when it comes down to it, I bleed Red Sox red.

Tomorrow I’ll write about “Jesus Camp,” which we saw on Saturday night.

Oh, and today my paternal grandmother turned 79. Happy Birthday Grandma!