Friday, May 28, 2010

Taking Chance

Before I shut off the computer and go home for the long weekend, I’d like to offer a reminder to anybody interested that HBO will be airing ‘Taking Chance’ Sunday night at 9pm EST. I know all of us will be thinking about and thanking our friends and loved ones, with us still or not, who are serving or have served in defense of our country this weekend. There are two reasons I highly recommend ‘Taking Chance’ to you all. First, it is an extremely powerful, well written, and acted, true story of an American families sacrifice.

The other reason is that within this story being told by a Marine military escort, we see in the mirror another story that plays out every day, right now, and it goes largely unacknowledged. You get the idea of what I’m talking about the first time our Marine notices the landscaping crew working around the building in which Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps’s body is being loaded into the hearse for the first portion of his journey home. The simple act of reverence this crew of strangers pays as they stop working, remove their hats, and stand at attention is profound.

We live in a time of extreme cynicism and doubt. Our media purveyors exploit this and never leave alone an opportunity to ‘expose’ us to all the many wrongs that exist in America today. As similar scenarios akin to what Chance’s Marine escort witnesses on the first day of journey play out throughout the film, what is affirmed for me is a rejection of the portrait our media paints of us Americans, that we are in fact an overwhelmingly decent people. It affirms for me a continued rejection of doom saying prognosticators and loud mouth talking heads that we simply give far too much weight.

American’s are NOT those people, they are the ramp workers at the airport who stop and remove their hats, they are the anonymous drivers of the cars who turn on their headlights and get in line behind a military hearse. They offer a kind word to a soldier in uniform at an airport, pay for a soldiers meal, offer him/her their seat. You cynics go ahead and mock all you want. While I’ve known my fill of folks to the contrary in my life, it’s this overwhelming majority of people I speak of above that I recognize as American.

Watch this film if you can and a heartfelt thank you from the Phillips family for all those who are serving and have served, with us still, or not.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

We’re going to throw this ball of string around…

Yesterday we had some fun here out on these here innerwebs riffing about corporate improvement seminars and after reflecting on it a bit I kinda felt bad about all the disparagement and stereotyping I was posting via iPhone, so… actually, I don’t feel bad about it at all. It was even more a waste of time then I originally thought. I can’t comprehend a bigger waste of money and time as these things are. No, I don’t want to stand up in front of a class and play/act workplace scenarios, no, I don’t want to take my shoes off and get into a circle, no, I really don’t want to argue with a customer care employee during a breakout session over a case study involving something I know everything about, and he/she knows NOTHING (“now, now, Mr. Phillips, everybody’s opinion in the group matters and should be given equal weight…” No, actually it doesn’t you van down by river living, Red Bull guzzling moron who is passing herself off as an instructor. Do you actually buy this crap you’re pimpin’?). As a matter of fact, the only way I got through the DAY LONG EVENT was that I balanced my seething hatred for the instructor and my fellow participants by imagining how great a ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch the whole thing would be. This method worked out so well that when at the end of the excruciatingly painful session when the instructor did what?.... That’s right, predictably handed out the piece of shit book that nobody will read, I had to suppress out right gut busting laughter. I actually had to excuse myself when she followed that up by handing out a fucking LAMINATED (!!!) cheat sheet that we were advised to hang prominently in our cubes (see photo). So funny, and at the same time so sad. Your comments helped get me through the day too of course (thank GOD for the iPhone!). Maybe this Facebook/blog thing does have value after all (Suck it haters!).

From the volume of comments it’s obvious we’ve all had to sit through these things at one time or another and it’s cool that my little declining revenue, buggy whip making company thinks well enough of us remaining employees to spent a crap load of money on shit like this, but perhaps the outright resentment I feel is just another sign of me getting old. I never enjoyed these deals before, but I don’t recall wanting to eat a bullet after one like I did yesterday either.

So, as a result of my successful employment of the ‘Think of the Saturday Night Live sketch this would make’ method of getting through it, coupled with my infinite desire to pay it forward, (because let’s face it, that’s the guy I am, right?), and this groups uncanny knack for mocking people to the point of earning a express ticket to hell, I thought I’d up the stakes here (This will be fun kids!)

I ask that you first recall the last time you got stuck in one of these seminars. Then, use all your well honed powers of shallowness to disparage and stereotype an individual or aspect of your experience. Doesn’t have to be a person, could be an incident, or the wreched sandwich platters, etc… Here’s one off the top of my head…

I remember actually being flown into our Washington DC headquarters for the day for one of these things years ago. Following eight hours of a particualrly horrible mind numbing presentation involving paradigm's and synergy's, I went to return my car at the Hertz Dullas Airport location and was dangerously late for my flight home. As I was getting myself out of the car, I was also struggling with this stupid fucking pile of binders of worthless charts, graphs, and acronyms I was never going to read EVER. It was cold and windy and I was dreading lugging all this shit onto the bus, through the terminal, security, those crowded piece of shit people mover trams they used to have at Dullas, anyway… As I was handed my receipt from the future terrorist and rental car associate, I happened to notice that in the trunks of all these returned cars that were open as part of the car return MOP were stacks of the same binders that I was barely managing to balance under my arms! I did what anyone would have at that point. Like the CIA field operative wannabe I am, I nonchalantly waded through the line of returned cars on my way to the bus and tossed all my crap into one of the open trunks without drawing a bit of attention to myself. Beauty!

The people watching at these things can save your life using this method. The overzealous young employee who is totally into it, the hovering HR sponsor pacing like a prison screw around the room making sure you’re taking it all seriously, the executive that was forced to attend who doesn’t do shit but gaze at his Blackberry all day, etc… I could make any and all of these folks funny for a sketch. Drop your ideas in the comments here, or on Facebook and don’t forget to fill out your course evaluations before you leave…