Saturday, March 01, 2008

Life in Motion

Tonight's post begins with this lovely photo of some of my nephew Jim's kids enjoying winter in Iowa. Like me, Jim has produced a very impressive number of offspring, all unique characters.

My old friend Ken Kelley, who died earlier this year, loved kids. Somewhere I have a Polaroid he took of my oldest son, Peter, in his first Little League replica uniform (the Cubs) posing and ready for action.

Since writing my memorial for Ken in January, I have heard from many, many people, including some of Ken's relatives who were left out of the information loop by his immediate family when he died.

Today, I heard from Wayne Kramer, the skilled guitarist from the MC5, who had found my post and liked it. Of course, there will be those, like Ken's immediate family, who may wish to airbrush his memory (see the official obituaries that appeared in Michigan and here in San Francisco.)

But I tried to write about the true Ken, because he was so much more compelling a character than the airbrushed version. He was a very difficult person to be friends with. He also was the most loyal friend anyone could ever ask for.

Real people are not necessarily always simple or easy to understand. We throw around pejorative labels in this country with a carelessness that borders on cruelty: alcoholic, homosexual, drug addict, child porn possessor, dealer, whore, slut, junkie, sexist, racist, fundamentalist...and on and on.

But these words do none of the work necessary to understand others. They help separate us, that's all. We need a new language based on empathy. For Christians, there may be a sort of comfort in "there but for the grace of God go I."

But that is essentially a statement of superiority.

What I am thinking about tonight is how we might embrace each other on a new level, one based not on our perceived shortcomings, but one based on our unique personal strengths.

In these terms, our departed Ken, and so many others, deserve a better label. Maybe "angel" can work.

What do you think?


Friday, February 29, 2008

We're official

My business license(s) arrived today, one in blue and one in orange, with no explanation from the City for these color choices.

Anyway, I'm under a directive to display at least one of these licenses in a prominent place here, in my place of business, so I chose my favorite religious frame and placed it in a spot you simply cannot miss as you walk into my abode.

Once we received the official imprimatur from the City, our fledgling business decided to act like our colleagues in the business community, so we all took the equivalent of a golf break late today to watch the opening practice of this spring's soccer season.

The player we're sponsoring, who is known by her nickname, Thunderfoot, performed admirably, in the cold, windy wilds of St. Mary's Park, just south of Bernal Heights.

In other news, all of my vegetables are sprouting now.

The plum tree out back is cloaking itself in ever-more-thick coat of white blossoms.

Our sourgrass field is in full bloom as well.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Becoming a Zipster!

Yes, that's me, driving a Zip Car next to the Bay earlier today.

Zip is one of those innovative companies cropping up in various cities in response to the hassle and expense of owning automobiles these days.

It's easier to become a Zipster than it is renew your driver's license -- both of which I've done these past few days.

Just go to, sign up for your zip card, and reserve a car from any of the many locations around town convenient to you.

Then, take your zip card and scan it on the windshield of your reserved vehicle; the car unlocks and off you go!

You can rent it for any length of time.

What impressed me the most was when we got to the lot, a short walk from my house, Mariko (my rented Toyota's name) was nowhere to be seen, but there was another Toyota (named Charlesetta), and a couple of Priuses.

So I dialed 1-866-4zipcar and the friendly young woman who answered simply reprogrammed Charlesetta to recognize my zipcard (and made sure I got Mariko's lower hourly rate, $7.78) and off we went.

Think about it. If you lead an orderly life, you do not really need a car 24 hours a day. Today, for example, I only needed Charlesetta for 2.5 hours, so that's all I paid for. (Gas, insurance, etc., is included in the price.)

Next time, maybe I'm gonna rent a Mini named Me...


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wooden Moon

The eyes of human beings are sometimes said to be a "window to the soul."

I've heard Secret Service Agents brag that they can identify an assassin by looking into his eyes. (If so, why do they always wear sunglasses? Don't those impede one's ability to look straight into another's eyes? I think so.)

Cops often claim they can tell whether a suspect is lying by how his or her eyes move under questioning.

Reporters often claim the same thing. I have done it. It's tempting to think, after many hundreds of interviews, that you can identify the occasional prevaricator among the many honest sources.

But, I'm not so sure. There are those so convincing with their lies that even jaded cops, reporters, and investigators fall for their act.

Then, there is the role of eyes in attraction. We know, from biological studies, that a person's pupils tend to expand when they look into the eyes of another they find attractive.

Many a hopeful paramour, once aware of this fact, tries to gauge the pupil expansion factor in a new potential lover. Trouble is, you need a special tool to measure this phenomenon, so you're probably better falling back on your other instincts, should you find yourself in this kind of situation.

Eyes. With our eyes we watch one another. We read. We watch movies, TV, and electronic text on computer monitors.

Our eyes also express our inner feelings. We tear up, get angry, sad, happy and curious, depressed, evasive, newly engaged and it all comes out in our eyes.

Tonight, the photo at the top of my post is an illusion. A "moon" painted on wood sitting on the slats of my back porch. I think of it as the Blue Moon of Kentucky, but then again, I am a country music fan.

To you, it may remind you of another way of seeing, a la the great John Berger.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

David's Management Theory (Part One) + Springtime's Promise.1

Here's an old org chart, circa 1997, from my days at Wired Digital. You gotta click on it to see the detail. If you're really interested in what my management theory entails, please click on the title of this post and it will transport you to today's post on b/Net.


Everything's growing, petals are falling, the sweet odors of fruit blossoms float over the city. Our weeks cycle through warm, dry periods and wet, chilly ones.

No doubt about it: Every cliche about this season is true. It's a time of renewal, a time of growth, a time of shedding the old and seeking the new.

Most of all, it's the season of hope.

And hope is what I sell, as a manager, teacher, and writer. For confirmation that life sucks and we're all doomed to tragedy, you can find many other voices.

For abusive treatment, fear that you'll lose your job, and confirmation of what you view as your inadequacies, you have many, many managers and academic advisers out there, ready to fulfill your dark fantasies.

I'm just no good at that stuff. I believe in life, in the future, and ultimately, in the innate goodness of human beings.

That's what I write and why I teach, and that is also how I manage.

Idealism has its season and that season is spring. I myself was born in spring (April), and I've always loved the season. Even as a boy in cold, cold Michigan, with frost still on the ground and few specimens to find, I loved building my insect collection for a school science assignment.

I remember finding 11 different species.

The only difference from then to now is that, rather than killing those creatures (which was required to complete the assignment), now I would wish simply to photograph them in their element.

It's springtime and creatures large and small are in the mood to reproduce. Spring Fever, they call it, when we are all wired for love.

What say ye? Make love, not war.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Dark Days Ahead

First, congratulations to my blogger buddy Josh Micah Marshall for winning a prestigious George Polk Award last week -- the first blogger to ever do so. Josh was all over the firings of U.S. attorneys that eventually forced Bush appointee Alberto Gonzales to resign as Attorney General, and he kept at it until the mainstream media finally caught up with him.

All forms of journalism, including investigative reporting, are gradually making the transition from old to new media, and Josh's blog is one of the best for political junkies, as I've previously noted here.

Meanwhile, Ralph Nader has decided to enter the race for President. Democrats, remembering Florida in 2000, are beside themselves with anger that Nader might once again help aid Republicans to steal an election away from them.

But I doubt that will happen this year. Actually, I am sympathetic to Nader's motive, which is to broaden the choices available to the American electorate. We can only hope that a conservative candidate also enters the race.

It won't be my personal favorite, Mike Huckabee, because he smells an opportunity in 2012, now that he has established himself as an attractive national candidate within the Republican establishment. We've not heard the last from him, trust me.

But perhaps some other renegade (Newt Gingrich?) could decide to compete with John McCain for the Christian conservative base, which is only lukewarm toward the presumptive GOP nominee.

The last two Democrats standing -- Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- are fighting it out to the death. And death is exactly the paranoid fear now sweeping the African-American community.

The legacy of the Sixties -- when Malcolm X, JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy all were assassinated, not to mention so many other civil rights leaders, continues to prey on the minds of black people in the United States.

They can be forgiven for suspecting that the residual racism in this country will not allow a black man to ascend to the highest elected office in the land.

Of course there are those who would try to kill others simply to attain a sick measure of fame. We know this all too well now. Perhaps this is the main lesson from the painful murders of the '60s -- it wasn't a conspiracy of the FBI, CIA, and military intelligence that we most had to fear, but a far more insidious enemy -- those among us so alienated that the only way they can imagine to attain glory is by extinguishing the life of somebody famous, or (in the case of the school shootings) a mass of innocents.

It is always hard when you are in the midst of an age to recognize its distinctive patterns, but I suspect we are living not in a time when sociopaths try to kill leaders as so much as they decide to kill peers.

Neither is acceptable, of course, and that will be part of the social agenda facing the next President of the U.S, whoever he or she may be.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

We are what we see

Total Solar Eclipse. (courtesy of NASA)

This neighborhood is the home of murals. On block after block, artists of varying abilities have painted their visions on the walls of buildings.

Often, graffiti spray-painters deface the murals. Meanwhile, the plum trees are in bloom, and they dress up the streets next to the murals, defaced or not.

When storms hit here, like this weekend, these trees drop their petals all over our cars and sidewalks, coating everything in an aromatic pink carpet.

Sometimes here, you round a block and see a vision of a city that somehow seems sweeter than any in our real world.

When the rains stop, blossoms float on pools here like the candles floating on waters in China and Japan this Spring Festival.

Once again, Happy New Year!