4.12.2014

Are we supposed to play roles?

I've been reading the book Lonely, and it's made me wonder if we're expected, or if society is set up, for us to play roles as we get older. I think when we're in school and we have an outgoing or social personality, we naturally make friends who we can call or hang out with at random times. We don't need structure to connect with others because our interests and personalities help us to bond with them more organically.

But as we get older, most of us have to work to pay bills, and to advance in our careers, we have to navigate tiresome interactions that cut into spontaneity. Not everyone can be trusted because they have their own agenda or they're simply not good people. Or they could just be boring conformists.

Some people amazingly stay in touch with their school friends, so even if they're isolated in a new situation, they manage to have some type of social life that doesn't require them to be anything than who they are. There is so much movement and individualism in American society (the one I know best since I live here), that it's like people are putting up fences around themselves as they proceed on their own tracks. So crossover seems to occur in structured situations: work, kids' schools and activities, or groups people join.

There are many causes of loneliness (which I want to discuss in another post sometime), but one of them is the lack of connecting with people through natural interactions. If someone gets involved in an organization, it's easy to communicate with people through formal events or plans. But what would happen if the organization ceased to exist? Would those people want to hang out and even help each other? What about mothers who are in the suburbs raising kids and connect with other moms around them through sports, park programs, PTA, etc? When those kids grow up and move away, they won't have the kids' activities and goals to work within to connect to other parents. So their role is a mother, a working professional's role is entrenched in a socially inclined workplace, and another person is on the board of some group. Their roles are set, and they come with places they belong.

But is it possible to belong without having a formal title or role? I know only a few people who don't tie relationships to roles or responsibilities. They just like to connect with people and make an effort to communicate despite the context. But it seems most people expect pieces to be in place, and when a piece of the environment is gone, the cord is cut.

American society seems transient and temporary, which I think causes isolation and loneliness.

4.07.2014

I'm back in language land

It's been almost 10 years since I've started this blog, and when I first started it, I was doing a lot with language: writing, editing, translating, reading...plus, I was an aspiring fiction writer and needed a space to express myself and my love of language.

Then a lot happened in my work life, and part of it consumed my mind to the point where I really didn't have the space or energy to write much here. Basically, I got interested in the radio biz when I met Rick Kogan, then eventually got some work in it about a year after that. Then the drama began, and I was trying to balance dealing with the challenges of the [not always nice] people and the business itself, which seems to be hanging by a thread (when you compare it to other media and entertainment outlets). Somehow I've managed to stay in the business for eight years, and recently achieved the seemingly impossible: I've been hired to write and edit at one of the top stations in the U.S.A.

Until recently, I'd been so focused on audio, though I did continue writing and editing for various businesses the whole time I was working in radio. Plus, my podcast was getting a lot more traction, so I focused more on that because it was satisfying to get positive reactions and lots of hits. (But this blog had gotten lots of hits too, especially before social media took my attention away as well.)

I just didn't have the headspace to think about language other than when I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) or used it at work.

But now that I have this unbelievable gig, it's totally reignited my love of language. I sit there wondering how I can make active verbs more effective than passive, and I just feel good because what I write goes on the air to millions of people within minutes. It's a satisfying writing experience.

I've even begun to read more because I feel more settled at a great station that seems to have no drama. It makes thinking off the clock easier and more accessible because I'm not wasting brain cells trying to figure out a survival strategy.

So I'm going to post here more often, and get into language enjoyment once again. And I still have more to say about my months-long absence, but it's time to eat something now :D

6.26.2013

The Help

Yesterday I did a post about The Hierarchy of Personality. This is part two:

I'm talking about radio, but I'm sure the entertainment business and TV news also have talent who treat people like The Help. Some people who are on the air haven't gotten the memo about the democratization of the media. They think they are the most important figures in the culture and think people are there to serve them, whether they're producers, interns, sales people, or even station management. They are the performers, they seem to think, they're the ones disseminating information, and it doesn't seem to occur to them that they are human beings who are equal in worth to other human beings.

Talent who see others as The Help express such an attitude in various ways. When sales people go to talk to them, they see it as a waste of their time and might grant an audience for a brief moment before they say they have to leave. They think sales is not supposed to be in the vicinity of their craft. After all, they are the talent, and the sales people are "over there"; why would they want to spend time with them? They're part of the bean counter class; they don't get it. And when station management wants the talent to participate in a meeting, they don't see it as necessary because meetings are for regular workers who have to do what they're told. They think management doesn't understand how hard it is to talk into that microphone every day, to come up with something witty and compelling. They're just a bunch of suits that don't get it either. And producers: who are they? They're supposed to have everything ready and do everything, even when the talent change their minds. It's as if the talent are lying on a divan and are being fanned by large feathers which The Help hold. If the talent want the fanning to go faster, they end up complaining that it's too fast, even though they requested it. They'll keep changing their speed requests and are never satisfied and complain that The Help are inept because they're not able to deliver what they want. Or it's as if the producers are holding buckets that must catch every drop of liquid that spills over from the talent's cup, wherever the talent go and however they're holding the cup, even if it's not correct or structurally sound.

Sometimes the talent will appear really nice, but they're really being condescendingly benevolent because if they don't treat The Help graciously, they won't get what they want. But behind closed doors, when they're talking to what they perceive as their equals, they'll complain about The Help, no matter how small the perceived infraction is. They'll smile and speak in a seemingly professional way because they need a technical issue resolved, which makes The Help feel like they're interacting with talent who are really "cool". But once The Help walk away when equipment is working again, the Talent will roll their eyes to those in their inner circle and nitpick about other problems that are always, in the end, The Help's fault.

But woe to the talent who are confronted with talent who are greater than they are. All of a sudden, they are faced with someone more important, more powerful, more beloved than they are. They get upset when those bigger stars don't respond to them or treat them as The Help. They have no condescension as they do for the lesser people who usually surround them, but aspire to be like that greater talent and even envy them. They look for approval and become disgruntled if they're not considered equal to those higher beings. But it doesn't occur to them to take their negative experience and apply it to those people they treat as The Help. They just resume their attitude and continue their status quo.

But not all hope is lost, because there are talent who understand that the media is no longer the monolith it once was, that they're merely human beings in a business who are interacting with other human beings in the same business. The talent that do not treat others like The Help speak to people respectfully, without condescension. If they're rude, they apologize to those they've yelled at or whom they've been overly demanding towards. They realize that if someone were to behave towards them in such a negative way, they wouldn't like it, which is why they have the humility to recognize they were out of line. They also don't see the people around them as in a caste system, who reside in a lower tier. They see everyone as part of the team, whether it's the intern, producer, management, or janitor. But even if the media weren't in meltdown mode, no talent should treat anyone as The Help, no matter how much power they think they have.

6.25.2013

The hierarchy of personality

I posted this on Fakebook, but I think it's something that people can relate to in various businesses, based on some feedback I got from a couple of people who read the essay before it was officially posted. It didn't occur to me that a hierarchy of personality exists outside the media, but they said it does. One person even recommended the book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, which seems like an extreme version of what I'm talking about. Anyway, here's what I wrote:

I've noticed that there is a hierarchy of personality in radio. There is probably a hierarchy in TV too, but since I haven't worked in it, I can only assume it's similar. In the hierarchy of personality, someone emerges at the top of the structure, in a hierarchy that, of course, exists vertically. The determination of who is at the top is made either explicitly, because people have assigned importance to the person and have given that person freedom, or it's made through an understanding within the culture of the station.

When someone is at the top of the hierarchy, they can act how they want. They don't have to worry about reigning in their personality to get along with coworkers or appease their superiors. If the person is on-air talent, then their superiors are the management of the station. If the person is someone in station management, then their superiors are the upper management of the company. Some people assume the talent are at the top, but because corporations are running many radio stations, the management may be the most important entity. It just depends where the station is, who controls it, and how the hierarchy has developed.

When a person reaches the top of the hierarchy, the rules that those who are lower down the ladder have to follow are optional. Also, the privileged person can express how they feel: if they're angry about something, even if it's as minor as a color they don't like, they can express their anger, and the people around them won't think there's anything wrong with how their behaving. In fact, there are people who excuse such anger, saying it's just how they are, though they feel it's important to prevent such an expression of wrath on them. However, if someone lower in the hierarchy expresses anger, even if it's justified, people will not accept it and may revile the person. That's because the person doesn't have the cushion of protection that the privileged person has.

People surrounding the top person will acquiesce to the point that they will suppress their own feelings and be hesitant to give their opinions. They also won't express any dissatisfaction or frustration towards the top person, but will instead yell at, berate, or belittle those who are lower than they are in the hierarchy. They will put up with anything the top person does and stay silent when that person degrades them because they understand that the person holds the power to their livelihood and even their future. They know their place, and know that there are enough people below them who will, in turn, tolerate their eruptions or snide remarks.

The top person may decide to not arrive on time, attend meetings, do paperwork, do commercials or promotions (if they're talent), listen to other people, or consider other people's feelings. Their demands must be met and usually are because they exist in a space that is free for them but not for others. If they want to worry, they can. If they want to complain, they can. If they want to be happy, they can. If they demand a certain item, office, or workspace, they'll get it. However they want to be, they can be who they want because their personality can be fully expressed, and they know that no one is going to impede that.

What people at the top of the hierarchy of personality do more than anyone else, is treat all other people like "The Help." However, a person doesn't have to be at the top of the hierarchy to treat others like The Help. That is done at different levels, and it's prevalent as well. (Read about The Help here.)

6.03.2013

How blogs used to be

I came across a blog that was linked from Twitter, and it really reminds me of what blogs were like before Fakebook became popular. It's called Random Thoughts from an Info Junkie by David Eppley, and what strikes me is how personal it seems. I've been reading blogs for several years (mine is going to be 10 years old next year), so I remember when blogs were the way people communicated with each other, discussed issues, shared feelings, and even became friends.

Then social media became more mainstream, and people started sharing more there. I can understand why, because you get a more immediate response, you have a closed system of friends, and essentially a captive, engaged audience. Uninformed "analysts" claim that social media has made blogs obsolete, but I disagree because information can be shared in different ways online.

But what's emerged are a lot of informational blogs, blogs built for business, marketing, and other pragmatic functions, and it seems like it's becoming harder to find the more organic, honest, and non-commercial blogs.

I sort of miss those blog-dominant days because a network grew that allowed a variety of voices and styles to be read outside the mainstream media. It came to a point where I stopped reading some established columnists because their observations seemed inane, and they seemed arrogant. I remember the "media elite" dissing blogs and other online expression, and I even wrote a post about it around seven years ago. So as they hunkered down in judgement of "us", I alternatively found lots of great writing and thoughts from people who had a passion to express themselves but hadn't had a vehicle before.

Even I started posting at Fakebook more than here (as you can see from the dwindling post numbers over the years), but it sort of backfired. I assumed Fakebook was a briefer version of blogs, thus thought there was nothing weird about posting my feelings and struggles about challenging pursuits. But when someone said I appeared unhappy and some others showed concern that I was posting such stuff online, I looked around and realized the bloggy aesthetic had morphed into a shallow, vain expression that sets out to impress rather than share. I didn't think my FB posts were a big deal and not that revealing or pitiful, either, but I wasn't successfully conforming to the environment the FB bosses had created (as described in the book I read), so I seemed "unhappy", that "something was wrong."

So yes, count me as someone who's sort of lamenting the loss of the blog world as it used to be, though I'm sure those blogs can still be found in a few corners of the Web.

5.30.2013

Translation: Kyuji Fujikawa's blog post about missing baseball

Today, the day after the Chicago Cubs announced that relief pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa was going to have surgery and miss a year of games, he wrote this blog post about it:

Real thoughts

Everyone, there was very bad news in the morning--excuse me. Also, thanks for the encouraging messages!
I've gotten support for this injury, but I feel disappointed because I haven't been able to live up to the Chicago Cubs' expectations.
I cannot show everyone the place where I pitch, and I can't see the scenery of the batter and game from the mound.
I definitely want to return to the mound to see the scenery again!
Now, I remember where I was on the mound three days ago, and I don't want to forget it.
Of course, I love baseball.
When I read everyone's messages, I wanted to write a bit of my true feelings.

Unfortunately, I missed a great opportunity to break some news. The day before the American media talked about the injury, he did a blog post about it. I saw it yesterday, the day the big news came out. But if I had looked the day before, well...I would've become a sports journalist, even if only briefly :p

3.25.2013

Acknowledgments with a twist


This week, John Records Landecker's memoir, Records is Truly My Middle Name, is being released, and he has written Acknowledgments that end like this:

I would like to thank everyone who listened. I would also like to thank everybody I ever worked with — but if you’re one of those people who made my life a living hell — go f--- yourself.

I don't think I've seen such sentiments in an author's preface, but I'm sure he said what lots of people want to say.

BTW--the book was produced by Rick Kaempfer, a fantastic author who I interviewed for this blog about his books $everance and The Living Wills.