Mar 27, 2015

Rocketing Into Spring!

The next few months are....well, let's just say that I'll probably even be less present online than I am currently. But here are some great opportunities to catch me face-to-face.

I've been working on my calendar, and over the next few months, I'll be spending many weekends socializing, enjoying my interests, and basically procrastinating (all of this while building my new marketing consultancy and finding/performing work). So if you're interested in meeting up with me, here's the highlights for April and May:

April 8th - The Doctor Who Meetup group and Chicago Nerd Social Club are putting on a joint social at The Scout, located at 1301 South Wabash. For more details/RSVP, find us via Meetup and Facebook.

April 9th - It's time for another Chicago Geek Breakfast - a casual networking event at Wow Bao. We sit and we talk, and build relationships - click the links for details and to RSVP

April 18th - Chicago Doctor Who Meetup is holding its monthly screening/lecture of a classic Who episode: check out for details

April 17th and April 19th - I will be a guest/attendee at Windy City Pulp and Paper . April 19th - that Sunday - I will be reading "Crossing McCausland" from Tall Pulp and serving on a 2:00 pm panel. Now, what will I be doing that Saturday, you ask....

April 18th - Daina of the Sherlock Chicago Meetup group and I will be co-presenting on gender roles in Sherlock Holmes at Columbia College's one-day Geek Culture Gala. Check out details via Facebook.

April 24 - 26th - Yes, I'm doing C2E2 this year - special thanks for the press pass. I'll be the confused looking one with the well-worn "old school lawyer case".

May 2nd - Please join me for "The Wibbley Wobbley Timey-Wimey Guide to Doctor Who" at Oak Lawn Public Library's first annual Fanfest in celebration of Free Comic Book Day. It's family friendly, has a nice south side location (on 95th street just west of Cicero), and - more importantly - free to attend!

May 9th - Come join me at the DePaul's Celebration of Supernatural - I'll be on the morning panel for antecents of the show, and we're conveniently located downtown - 14 E. Jackson, near the Red/Orange/Blue/Pink/Brown Lines. (Special thanks to Brant Fowler of Comic Related/Zone 4 Podcast for his assistance and expertise, since I'm engaging in a "crash course" in the show). Although it's free to attend, I suggest RSVPing via Eventbrite

May 10th - Chicago Nerd Social Club Leverage 101 event; details to follow. (Here's the obligatory Leverage-themed blog post)

May 14th - Yes, it's another Chicago Geek Breakfast at Wow Bao.

May 16th - Chicago Doctor Who Meetup will have an event at Blue Box Cafe in Elgin. Details forthcoming (because - let's face it - nobody likes spoilers. Nobody

May 20th - It's a very special Who Meetup. Trust me, it's that good.

May 30th - The Chicago Doctor Who Meetup and Chicago Nerd Social Club is putting on a brunch for Who fans at Medici's in Hyde Park. Please check out details via Meetup and Facebook.

As I stated yesterday, my life's changed in many ways. I'm glad now to say that I'm happy busy....and hope to see you, dear reader, at an upcoming event.

Mar 26, 2015

Eight Years Ago This Month....

Sunset over 64th & Pulaski
...things leading up to the move were a blur: so much so that I don't recall what happened in what order.

With my impending move from St. Louis back to Chicago, I had left an extremely dysfunctional work environment. (One thing I don't miss about that time - daily cluster headaches). Packing, saying goodbye to friends, setting up the details of the move - all of these blurred into one continual experience. The one thing I do remember was the actual day of the move: my huge, loft-like apartment empty (only the "warp chamber"/support beam standing), Dax upset that her litter was moved (and that the carrier was out), and waitng for the movers - and my aunt - to contact me with next steps.

Remembering the day of the move feels more like a hallucinatory dream that an actual experience: heading down to Lambert Airport to pick up the van - then my aunt - for the one-way drive back to Chicago. Then meeting with the movers who emptied my apartment (and my storage locker in the basement) who would meet me a few days later. Packing the van, putting Dax in her carrier, and then heading down I-55 towards Chicago.

The drive itself was relatively uneventful - my aunt had offered to switch off, but I don't remember if we did or not. I do recall that, in listening to a Monkees CD (my aunt was a huge fan), Dax - who had been silent during the day - had begun crying up a storm during the first drum break of this song - ironically, just as we left Missouri proper:

After six hours, we arrived at Mom's house - at the time, she lived in a large three bedroom apartment - the same one she and Dad had rented years ago. It had only been eight months since Dad's passing - there was still a sense of emptiness about the place, a lingering discomfort mostly due to its size. (Thankfully, Mom moved into a smaller one bedroom in a different neighborhood - one like the more pleasant neighborhoods in south St. Louis - two and a half years ago). Within moments she joined us in the van and we headed for my new apartment.

Ironically, it was only meant to be "temporary" - it was a rear two-bedroom unit behind a storefront on Pulaski. (Two shops - a dog groomer and an insurance agent - shared the front. The dog groomer is still there; the other storefront is a small travel agency). It was dark, hidden, but had some of the unique charms of my unit in Eugene, Oregon of all places - it felt more like a small house than an apartment. Granted, the view could be better (windows opened up to a small garage, and then an alley), but there was a nice, almost peaceful quality to the residence. It would take some time to adjust (especially for Dax - it wasn't as large as the St. Louis apartment, and was more cramped due to lack of storage space.

That initial year-and-a-half was full of challenges - finding a job within a near-depression, lack of state funding meant very little in the nonprofit space....but through determination and hard work (especially starting with Net Tuesday, where I found my "tribe", as it were), I managed to squeeze out some temporary jobs, followed by being hired (through assertive networking) as a freelance agency analyst.

Since then, life has been pretty interesting....rebuilding something of a social/dating life (something I did far more frequently than in St. Louis), Dax's passing two years ago, various career changes, and eventually the decision to form my own consultancy. (In between, keeping my civic engagement high, moving from Net Tuesday to both nerdy board member and unofficial Doctor Who social chair). My life right now is full of promise...

....and something which, even at the time, I couldn't say about the move. In many ways, Chicago's internal conversations parallel those of St. Louis' - the ever present "why can't we be a great city again?" conversation lingers. But unlike St. Louis, Chicago seems to be more willing to look inside and deal with much tougher issues. In all honesty, part of me wished I could help my St. Louis friends during the Ferguson crisis, but now I'm feeling as if my transition is somehow complete: I've been more involved in local matters, have my own collection of friends, and feel a bit settled in my 'transition' apartment.

And to think it only took me eight years....

Mar 23, 2015

THE ARMSTRONG LIE and Noble Cause Corruption

Sometimes, we willingly engage in a "big lie": we see a situation for what it is, and are unwilling - or unable - to accept some more unpleasant truths. Those truths sometimes revolve around the idea of "noble cause corruption" - that people with noble causes sometimes engage in behaviors that can potentially short-circuit their efforts.

The documentary The Armstrong Lie takes on both - focusing on Lance Armstrong's 2009 Tour de France "comeback"....and reframing it within the context of his 2013 admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

Watching the film, I was impressed by director Alex Gibney's ability to focus on individual and situational complexities yet laying them out in a straightforward manner. His other films (including Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Client 9) have focused on moments in contemporary history where self-delusion and destructive behaviors often have great impact on the cultural fabric at large. The Armstrong Lie does one better - Gibney implicates himself (and readily admits this in the commentary).

The film is actually two films - an abortive 2009 documentary called The Road Back (which had been shelved due to then-present allegations) and a follow-up to Armstrong's infamous admission of "doping" to Oprah Winfrey. Exploring the various ways in which this story unfolded (and allowing the 2009 footage to provide slightly ironic commentary), The Armstrong Lie really makes the case that for some, self-mythologizing and self-delusion often work hand-in-hand. Some stories are built on a lie, but taking that lie to its ultimate extreme - where the lie takes on the tenor of truth - can be the greatest character lapse.

Gibney allows Armstrong and several others - critics and colleagues - to tell their own story. But the strength of The Armstrong Lie is that Gibney reiterates the basic deception at the heart of this story. Towards the end, Gibney provides a closing narration that helps solidify the major themes of the movie. He also provides some insight into Armstrong's character - that a man who came back from a horrendous health situation may make that part of his narrative. And that may not necessarily be the smartest move for an athlete.

Good documentaries do more than just describe a situation - they create a context and a narrative that reaffirms human truths. Regardless of your feelings about Armstrong's actions, The Armstrong Lie makes a strong case for greater skepticism and exploration, especially when the narrative mixes the personal with the professional.

A must-watch.