Oct 31 2008

Wherein I Reconsider my Career Choices and Other Options

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

I don’t write about myself a lot. This is due to a lot of things, but today I’m feeling introspective, so, as with Newscoma’s Annoying Autobiographical Pauses, if you don’t want to read me writing about me, enjoy these stories about former Darwin Award winners.

I’m a 36 year old college drop out. I left college the first time almost exactly 16 years ago. The reasons aren’t really that important right now, but let’s just say that financial and personal problems led me to believe that college was no longer a priority for me.

I moved back home and began working odd jobs, I worked in Fast Food, and as a tuxedo inspector at one of the largest tux rental facilities in the US, and then, as a fulfillment manager at a local book publishing company. All three of these jobs occurred between 1993 and 1995.

Somewhere in 1994 I met up with some kindred spirits in the theater world, this led to an 8 year working relationship that eventually brought me into the industry that I now work in. I opened a business with one member of that troupe, and wrote and performed in all kinds of productions. There were a lot of good things in that time that engaged me personally, and helped make me who I am today, but the abject poverty that I experienced at that time eventually became too much to bear. By the end of the 90’s I had decided that poverty just wasn’t working for me, so I took a job in the event production industry, which is the industry I work in today.

As with any job, there are trade-offs. I find myself out of town for long stretches of time, which puts pressure on relationships of all kinds, and makes it difficult for me to be involved in many of the civic activities that I was involved in during my more impoverished days. On the flip side, I’ve been able to buy a home, and live a fairly comfortable, even slackful life when I am at home. Because my “office” is someplace new nearly every week, there are few of the long term, or deep seeded internal struggles that make up many work environments.

Now, some ten years into this career, I’m starting to question what I’m missing. I’ve lived in Memphis for nearly 4 and a half years, and in many ways, still feel like an alien. Part of this comes from the logistical challenges of cultivating new friendships while maintaining a schedule that keeps me out of town some 200+ days a year. Part of it comes from the cliquish nature of Memphis. Still another part comes from having the social graces of a wood chipper.

I like what I do, by and large, but I don’t like not being able to immerse myself in the local political culture, warts and all. Despite my long-term fascination with politics, I haven’t found myself to be any more or less jaded than most people. I believe that, while some may involve themselves in politics for personal gain, that most people get involved because they feel they can have a positive impact. I still believe in the positive potential of political involvement and activism, and that is, in large part why I write this blog. If I can’t be here, perhaps I can, at least, add something to the conversation.

So now I want to be here more. I want to get physically involved in the process. My intellectual involvement, but physical detachment from local politics is no longer satisfying my desire to try and make a difference in the community. I want to get down in the trenches…there’s just this one problem; how do I do that, and maintain a travel schedule that I can barely keep up with? Or, if I ditch much of my travel work, how do I maintain even a portion of the financial security that I’ve worked for the past 10 years to achieve?

It seems like a Catch 22 that makes me nervous.

So, I don’t guess I’m writing this for any kind of advice or anything, but to flesh out the balance between what my wallet, brain and heart think I should do. All three of these “internal entities” are in varying degrees of conflict, to a point that I may just have to do something, and deal with the consequences, or do nothing, and enjoy the financial gains, while feeling that my desire to be a part of building transformative change here in Memphis is hamstrung by my inability to fully integrate word and deed.

Anyway, if you managed to read this “poor little rich boy” (I am by no means rich) story and not make a mocking tiny violin gesture in my general direction, I guess you’re either sympathetic, or not used to mocking people nearly enough. I would be mocking the hell out of me right now if this weren’t bugging me so much. So yeah, that’s it. Thanks for dragging yourself through my miniature string quartet of self-pity. Have a good Halloween.

Oct 31 2008

Innocent Until Out of Appeals

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

Oh the irony. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) contends that he is not a convicted felon until he exhausts his appeals process. Nice.

This is an interesting standard from a guy who voted to restrict the number of appeals that death row inmates can utilize.

Does the Senator believe that a convicted sex offender, murder, or other unseemly character appealing his or her conviction, is not a convict? I doubt it, but under the standard espoused by the Senator, that would be the case.

Stevens may not be in federal custody, or in jail, or anything else, but that doesn’t make him any less a convict. The long hard truth of the matter is that Ted Stevens has been convicted, and until that conviction is overturned, he is a convict, period.

I love the way Republicans will do just about anything to keep from being held accountable for their misdeeds, or from being labeled something that they would have no problem labeling someone else facing the same circumstances.

Senator Stevens, you’re a convict, whether Alaska has let you vote or not. Get used to it.

Oct 31 2008

Early Voting is Over

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

Yesterday was the last day of early voting here in Memphis. While yesterday’s numbers haven’t been released, the total number of votes recorded as of yesterday morning was 226,929, 60% of the total votes recorded in the Presidential election here in Shelby County in 2004. Looking at the trend lines of participation, we could see 67% to 70% of all the Shelby County votes cast in the 2004 election, cast before Election Day. That’s pretty impressive.

31 states have some form of “No Cause” early voting, be it absentee, mail in ballots, or the Tennessee style early voting. I early voted for the first time in Little Rock back in 2000, and have been early voting since.

Elections in the US have been held during the workweek since the beginning of the nation. While other countries vote on Saturdays or Sundays, we chose Tuesday. This may have been more manageable back in the early days of our nation, when there were fewer people who could vote, but now some 232 years later, it’s a logistical nightmare.

Few States and Counties can support the cost of distributing and maintaining the number of voting machines required to keep the lines flowing smoothly for the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of potential voters in one day. This is one of the key reasons early voting was adopted in Ohio. 2004’s legal challenges and voting machine shenanigans (several areas, populated largely by African-Americans got far fewer machines than more sparsely populated areas with a different demography) showed a weakness in their system and was an embarrassment to the state. Giving people two weeks to vote gives them an opportunity to make sure they have time to do so without the last second “whoops I forgot my ID” (something I just can’t imagine. I carry my ID everywhere, who doesn’t carry a DL or something with them everywhere they go?), or arriving at the wrong polling station, etc. Further EV takes pressure off local election commissions, by spreading the turnout over two weeks rather than concentrating it in one day.

Most importantly, early voting equalizes the playing field for thousands of workers who, for whatever reason, may not have been able to make it to, or wait in long lines at the polls next Tuesday.

I know there are plenty of people, including a large number of Republicans, who feel that early voting tips the playing field against them. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know that any party or ideology that works to exclude anyone from the process, overtly or covertly, is working counter to the ideals, many of which are still not fully realized, that make this nation great.

For my part, I’m glad we have early voting here, and hope that it increases participation, even if that new participation comes from people who are my ideological opposite. The more people get involved, the better our nation can be.

Oct 29 2008

Freedom Awards

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

I don’t talk about work much here on the blog, mostly because the majority of the events that I do don’t move me in any spiritual or intellectual way. Just like most of you, I go to work, and do the best I can to my ability even when I’m not particularly interested in the content of the event or the overall message.

Occasionally I get to do an event that is both intellectually and spiritually engaging. Last night was one of those occasions. Last night the National Civil Rights Museum held it’s annual Freedom Awards Banquet at the Convention Center Grand Ballroom. It was the culmination of a day full of events. I was fortunate enough to be working the event and it was an inspiring occasion.

The honorees were Vice-President Al Gore, Dianne Nash, and BB King.

All three of the honorees were entertaining and engaging, but the message of Dianne Nash has stuck with me more than anything anyone else had to say. Paraphrasing part of her message;

The oppressor and the oppressed are co-dependent. Until the oppressed rise up and challenge the supremacy of the oppressor, the oppressed are an active participant in the oppression.

Ms. Nash acknowledged that many people view this as blaming the victim, but I get where she’s coming from; We have no control of our destiny until we TAKE control. Until that happens, we are the victim of our own inaction.

Hopefully, in the coming days, the NCRM will post some of the video from the event, but in lieu of that, here is CA video coverage of some of the events leading up to the evening.

Video from The Commercial Appeal

Oct 27 2008

Schadenfreude, Stevens Style

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

schadenfreude |ˈ sh ädənˌfroidə| – noun – pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.

Senator Ted “Series of Tubes” Stevens (R-AK) was convicted today on seven counts of false statements related to his Senate disclosure forms.

In this case, the cover-up was the crime.

Stevens will most certainly appeal, though he will likely lose his seat to Democratic challenger Mark Begich, ending his run as the longest serving Republican in the Senate.

As a side note, just how screwed up is it that Alaska may elect a Democratic Senator, and Tennessee probably will not? Very screwed up, that’s how.