Thursday, June 13, 2002

Hi Fluffernutters:

It's Superhero Thursday!

My superhero this week is very special and very brothery, because it's...


(my big brother)

You probably know and love Ben already, and if you don't love him it's only because you don't know him, because to know him is to love him. He's just aces, and that's a fact, Jack.

You also prolly love and rely on his daily columns/blogs, which synthesize all news in the worlds of technology and science: Ben Sullivan's Tech Blog, and IT Insider. I think he has maybe 57 other secret blogs, and apparently he has a column at FoxNews, which I had to find out about through Tony Pierce. (Fox is having problems right now so I'll link it later.)

Ben has so many incredible talents: He's a fantastic writer and reporter, great editor, super headline writer. He's also the most natural leader I have ever known. He cofounded Prognosis, the English-language paper in Prague, and among many things, he served as a kind of mother/father for the whole staff. If anyone was feeling underappreciated or misunderstood, they turned to Ben in a quiet moment and let it all out. Ben listened respectfully and always gave them an honest and useful answer.

I know this not because Ben ever told me, but because numerous people told me their Ben-stories over the years at Prognosis. The paper was a volatile fusion of exceptionally intelligent people with appropriately neurotic artist-temperaments, working like mad and drinking way too much and living in a world of freedom and music. Ben's presence kept that paper from exploding. How Ben managed not to explode is another question.

One of Ben's greatest qualities is the ability to walk into a room and naturally find the most intelligent, artistic, funny people present. Actually, they find him: He has an invisible Good-People Magnet in his heart, which means he is extremely gifted at gathering and nurturing fertile groups of people. Put Ben in any location for more than three days and he's got people around him and plans going--a newspaper, a magazine, a plan to help random people in L.A. Ben has the soul of a poet but the pragmatism of a handyman, and this means that he understands the moody confusion of creative people, and they find comfort in his can-do solidity.

Ben is the last person to toot his own whistle about anything great he has done. He has taught me so much by example. One Ben life-lesson is that it's much cooler to let people figure out the neat stuff you've done than to brag about it. (Obviously I'm still learning.)

Another Ben life-lesson is not to borrow stuff from your friends too much, and never to borrow money from friends. Basically, take care of yourself and, if anything, be the one to give. (Definitely still working on that one.)

Ben and I are very different, but he has taught me (again, by example) that differences are really important between friends. These differences allow us to complete each other, and to experience a wider range of things vicariously. He never makes me feel I should be like him. I think this is a supreme form of love.

As kids, Ben also tried to teach me that it's OK to fall asleep whenever you feel like it, to get up as early as you want, and to watch cartoons for as long as you want. Ben was kind of a Zen kid. He did what he felt like, and it was always right for him.

Ben understands something sacred and secret about Los Angeles, and he has been gravitating back to that secret ever since Prague. Toward the end of Prognosis, he began a campaign to get everyone to move here. Everyone, including me, said, Yuck.

Obviously, we were wrong, and Ben's instincts, once again, were right.

Ben also has an impeccable sense of ridiculous fashion. Ben made an art of mixing hideous Jams shorts with absurd footwear (slippers, flip-flops, all kinds of sneakers) and brightly colored hideous T-shirts. It's amazing.

Ben is also the most passionate fan I've ever known: He loves the L.A. punk band X with a love that knows no bounds. How much does Ben love his X? Ask the dust, my friends.

(Ben recently got me into the L.A hero-writer John Fante--which is another story.)

I could tell you about Ben for hours, because he's not just my hero this week. He's my hero every week. If you know him well, I know you feel the same way.

Such a wonderful Ben!



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