Nothing But Flowers

Legendary economist and social commentator Peter Drucker once wrote, “Every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation…a ‘divide.’ Within a few short decades, society rearranges itself–it’s worldview; its basic values; its social and political structure; its arts; its key institutions.” He goes onto claim that we’re currently living through just such a transformation.

I believe that postmodernism is an implement in the transformation Drucker writes about. In fact, the very aspects that bring criticism raining down on it–the disconnection, fragmentation, and numbness it generates–are creating a cultural, intellectual, and philosophical clearing that fosters this transformation.

As messages mash together into some relativistic white noise, and the significance of ideas and philosophies reach a point of equal banality, the din will eventually morph into a form of silence, similar to the phenomenon where sensory stimuli of a static nature is eventually tuned out by our brains. Therefore, instead of having a merely entropic effect, all of this postmodern chaos might just help create a new “quiet.”  In this quiet, new ideas, philosophies, and conversations may be heard with greater clarity, in which case, we should be more clearly guided by them (their Marco to our Polo) through the old arrangement and into the new.

In this environment we will, I believe, be guided into a nexus of objectivity.

Today, as I was driving, the Talking Heads song, “Nothing but Flowers,” popped up on my playlist. The song is a testament to this notion. Talking Heads were postmodern poster children, yet bandleader (and Renaissance man par excellence) David Byrne never came off as a deconstructionist or a hedonist. Moreover, it never shocked me as much as I thought it should when he abruptly changed musical genres, from art/pop/punk to Latin world music.  Yet, today is the day I think I finally, really grokked Byrne’s shift.

I think Byrne’s “old” music with Talking Heads served as a tool to desensitize audiences to the inherent absurdity part and parcel with the existential hell we’d created for ourselves. Talking Heads helped us look at all that in way that helped stay our hands from slitting our own throats.  They helped us just laugh at it.  Once we were done laughing, rolling our eyes, or being downright ornery about the whole thing…once we were past our “fear of music,” as it were, we ceased to notice either the music or its underlying messages much anymore.

I believe that Byrne was aware of all this at some level, and he knew that we, his audience, were ready to receive new messages…ones that represented the real things he wanted us to know. He delivered these to us wrapped in a happy Latin beat so we would recognize them as different from his previous messages and connect his new songs to a contiguous stream of thought. “Nothing But Flowers,” a standout track on Talking Heads’ final album, was Byrne’s introduction to this new paradigm. It didn’t even present his thesis yet, but it was certainly an invitation to all of us, “Jump in, the apocalypse is fine.”

And on the other side it’s quiet.  And nothing but flowers.

Years ago
I was an angry young man
I'd pretend
That I was a billboard
Standing tall
By the side of the road
I fell in love
With a beautiful highway
This used to be real estate
Now it's only fields and trees
Where, where is the town
Now, it's nothing but flowers
The highways and cars
Were sacrificed for agriculture
I thought that we'd start over
But I guess I was wrong

Once there were parking lots
Now it's a peaceful oasis
you got it, you got it

Wood stir sticks for coffee: an environmental impact analysis

A short paper I just wrote for my Sustainability for Business class.  It ain’t Shakespeare, but it does represent an important epiphany I had this morning: the businesses that are selling wooden stir sticks as a “green” alternative to plastic ones could very likely be full of shit.

Here it is:

Recently, I’ve noticed a move from plastic stir sticks to wood ones in nearly every shop I visit. I’ve assumed this change is an attempt by coffee shops to be more “green” because a move away from petroleum-based to organic products intuitively seems to be a good one. When it comes to wooden stir sticks, looks may be deceiving. Upon conducting a brief lifecycle assessment of wooden stir sticks, I would have to rate the trend a 7 or 8 in terms of its impact on the environment. In other words, despite distributors’ assertions that wooden stir sticks are “better” for the environment than plastic ones, they still represent a potentially significant negative impact on the environment–specifically as it relates to the destruction of virgin resources required to make the sticks and the waste generated after their use.

There are five stages in the lifecycle of a wooden stir stick: 1. Growing and harvesting white birch trees (the wood primarily used for stir sticks), 2. Manufacturing the sticks, 3. Distributing the sticks, 4. Using the sticks, 5. Disposing of/recycling the sticks. Although one could find red flags at any step in the process, the types of concerns raised in stages 2-4 are common across today’s commercial spectrum. The rise in the amount of white birch to accommodate increased demand, however, presents a real and immediate environmental concern. Further, although technically compostable, companies selling these sticks tout it as a presently meaningful benefit. This claim is erroneous, if not outright misleading.

Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources states, “The volume of paper birch (another name for white birch) has decreased significantly since 1983.” Moreover, growth rates have decreased over the past 23 years and are currently negative, which means that white birch mortality currently outpaces new growth. Present-day harvesting methods are one probable culprit, as birches grow naturally alongside aspen trees in the wild. The two types of trees fair better in “mixed” woodland systems, yet require different harvesting methods to most effectively support regeneration for each of them–aspens flourish with a clearcut method, while birches do well with a see-tree or shelterwood one. Commercial cutters typically favor clear-cutting. As a result, aspen trees often take over in areas that were far more balanced before cutting was initiated. This trend has put birch populations in a precarious position, as the number of pole-sized trees has decreased almost 35% since 1996, and the number of seedlings and saplings has decreased as well. Even more alarming is that the ratio of removals to growth tripled from 1983 to 1996, which implies that commercial cutters have not gotten the message that the birch population is in trouble.  An increased demand for this type of wood from stir stick manufacturers can only exacerbate this already troubling situation.

Companies’ composting selling point is also an area for concern. Although wooden sticks represent no more waste than their plastic counterparts (in fact, they represent less intrinsic longterm waste, as they break down easier), the composting claim as a selling point could lead to negative impacts. To be certain, wooden stir sticks have been deemed “compostable.” Whether they are “backyard” compostable or, like corn-based PLA containers, need to be composted in a commercial facility is still up for debate. Assuming they are compostable via facilities only, their use reaps virtually no net gain in environmental impact terms. At present, according to an article in Coffee Talk magazine, “There are only 144 commercial composters across the country serving 30,000 communities, the compostability…becomes almost an irrelevant environmental benefit.” Besides, in order for stir sticks to be composted, they need to be disposed of in a separate container–not the garbage. To date, I have not personally seen or heard of any coffee shop in the US that boasts a “compost bin” for stir sticks, PLA containers, or any appropriate organic waste, for that matter. Finally, one has to wonder whether the false sense of security the composting claims creates might lead to consumers using and disposing of wooden stir sticks much more freely than they used and tossed plastic ones. If this is the case, the change to wooden stir sticks could represent a net reduction in sustainability for the coffee shop industry over their plastic predecessors.

Both concerns are compounded by the fact that, according to CoffeeStatistics.com (which purports to be the leading provider of coffee statistics), Americans alone consume about 146 billion cups of coffee each year. And the coffee shop industry continues to be the fastest-growing segment of the restaurant business. The number of coffee shops in the US grew 157% from 2000 to 2005, and it continues to grow at a robust 7% per year. If the industry is truly committed to a sustainable path, real eco-friendly alternatives to both plastic and wooden stir sticks need to be found…quickly.

You won’t like me when I’m angry


Hulk In a balanced world, it’s not hard to argue for the necessity of
anger, nor for the healthy expression of it.  In many of my talks, I tell people that I think anger is an okay
thing.  “In fact,” I say, “I feel
completely comfortable expressing it on a daily basis.”  Yet, how many times has it held me
back, stopped me in my tracks, and led me to make choices that were (ahem) not
in my best interest?

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get a handle on this anger
thing.  Not to rid myself of
it.  I don’t think that’s possible.
 There has to be a way, I would
tell myself, I can achieve some…mastery over it.  How do I get to a place where I’m running my anger instead
of it running me?

My answer came in this realization: anger, above all, is a
reflector.  Put aside everything
else you know about anger, and think about how it functions.  When someone makes you angry, your
internal dialogue is “I can't believe so-and-so did that to me.”  That thought ticks you off, and it
leads to another thought: “Why would so-and-so do that to me?”  Then, if you’re anything like me, it’s
not much of a leap to, “Why would so-and-so think it’s alright to do
something like that to me?” and, the
Pièce
de
résistance, “Why would so-and-do want to hurt me like that?”

Each of these thoughts bounces off the anger reflector and hits you
again, knocks you around, batters you. 
Each ensuing bruise, each scrape pisses you off all the more.  Thus, begins the spin.  One “why me?” question begets another,
and so on, and so on, until your whipped into an emotional frenzy.  And worse, your mental bandwidth is
jammed with an ever-growing swirl of thoughts around this one…issue.  Pretty soon, you’re consumed, and deaf
and blind to everything around you, a captive of the reflector and the perfect
storm it creates.

The key to mastering my anger, I’ve found, is in simply
understanding that the reflector exists. 
Once I got a handle on that, I could start seeing when it would pop up.  “Wait…is this the reflector?”  This single question has given me
enough pause in potentially combustible moments that I can at least make a
choice.  I can choose to talk to
so-and-so, for example.  I can
choose ask myself a new question, ala Byron Katie: “Is that really true?”  Usually, I choose to chuckle because
when I take an honest look at the situation, I find that often I’ve
misinterpreted or misunderstood something…or put a meaning on it that the other
person never intended.  I give
myself the gift of a moment of choice…to be hurt, or not to be hurt?

It’s taken me a long time to get here, but once I understood this
aspect of anger it…helped.  The
reflector still pops up, and there are still times when storms brew.  Nowadays, though, they’re more
cloudbursts than full-fledged gully washers.  My mind is clearer, I don’t get stuck as often as I used to,
and my relationships—with others and with myself—are better for it.

Confessions of a “go for it!” guy

Folks perceive me as a “go for it!” guy, it seems, and
they all ask me how I do it.  They wonder what quality I possess that allows me to
walk forward while they feel stuck at square one on their
journey to achieve their own aspirations.

They’re usually surprised at my answer, because manifesting
aspirations, in my opinion, has little or nothing to do with who you are or
what type of person you are.  No one
would accuse me of being a type-A personality, for example.  I am also neither fearless nor infallible.

So what’s the secret? 
How do I live into being the manifesting “go for it!” guy?  It’s not who I am; it’s what I do.  And it’s very simple. 
I wake up every day, and I make an active choice to ask and answer two
questions:

1.     What’s one thing I can do today to move me
closer to achieving my aspiration?

Every day, Saturday and Sunday included, I do one
thing.  It could be as easy as
sending and email or making a call. 
It could be something larger. 
It could be resting and spending time with my family or friends.  It could be working out.  The bottom line is I make a conscious
effort to check in with my journey every day and land on something I can do that
truly moves me closer to realizing my chosen aspiration.

Even more important, no matter how large or small that thing
is, I remember “it’s better than nothing” is something!  If I did nothing that day, there’s a
100% chance I’d feel bad.  This
way, there’s at least a chance that I walk out the day feeling…okay.  And sometimes great.

2. Do I trust myself
to get my “one thing” done?

Walking the walk is usually a lonely and tedious business.  More often than not, there’s no one in
the room nudging me onward other than, you know, me. 
Making good on my promise to myself to do “one thing” is the
difference between standing still and moving forward.

Anyone who’s been in any kind of relationship in life knows
that trust isn’t an automatic thing. 
Trust is built.  I’ve gained
a level of trust with myself by being honest with myself.  If I think, for whatever reason, I
can’t do my chosen “one thing” that particular day, I accept it and don’t beat
myself up for it.  Then I ask
myself question #1 again, this time putting the emphasis on “can do” instead of “one thing”
when I ask it.

As I’ve kept promises to myself over time, I’ve grown to
trust myself more.  Now, as the
“one things” I tend to come up with each day are larger and more challenging,
it seems that my answer to the “Can I trust myself?” question is typically
yes.  I have a track record now and
credibility with myself.

I can’t promise you what works for me will work for
you.  I have, however, learned
this:  everything you try—even if
it doesn’t work—gets you one step close to discovering what really does work
for you.

And for those of you who are wondering…Yes.  This blog post is my "one thing" for today.  🙂

The top of the mountain ain’t enough

Vertchange
These were two good men in this race–two men whom I would have been proud to call my President.  Yes, I had my issues with John McCain.  Mostly, though, they were of the "scratching my head and wondering where the hell the John McCain I thought I knew went" variety.  But I knew in my heart that both of these good men truly put "Country First."

So…first off, thank you, John McCain.  Thank you for everything you have given to this nation–so much–and thank you for your continued service in its name.

Last night, monkeys tumbled off our great nation’s back in droves.  So much history was made last night–I love the way David Gergen on CNN kept saying, "The significance of this night cannot be overstated."  Certainly, it is going to take this country, its citizens, and the world years to understand and then live into that significance.  It sure feels good, however, to be here today.

I am excited.  Strangely enough, it’s not because we’ve just elected our first black president.  I clearly pay homage to this amazing milestone, but what truly excites me is how President-Elect Obama brought something back to many, many of us that it felt like we’d lost.  How, above all, he embodies this.

I feel like an American again.

When Michelle Obama said at the beginning of the year, "for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback," she took a lot of heat.  Of course, what those who seized on that comment didn’t mention was that her remark was a follow up to this statement: "People in this country are ready for change and hungry for a different kind of politics."

How folks could misconstrue her comment as somehow un-American, was beyond me.  In fact, I took it as one of the most American statements of the election year.  I mean, since when did questioning our leaders and our political landscape demonstrate a lack of patriotism in this country?  Questioning authority is, after all, the foundation upon which this country was built.

More to the point, Ms. Obama’s comment, In a sentence, it summed it all up.  I don’t know if I could put myself as squarely in the "not proud of my country my adult life" as she was.  I felt pretty damned skippy voting for Bill Clinton in ’92 and ’96.  I felt like our country was moving in the right direction.  But these past eight years…

I had, myself, begun to lose hope.  How we could allow an election to be stolen.  How we could buy into politics of divisiveness and ideology.  How we could be at each others’ throats.  How we could, in eight short years, become the "bad guy" in the rest of the world’s eyes.  How we could move from relative prosperity to the brink of economic ruin.  And how, as Rome was burning, we were fiddling–still arguing and bickering as flaming pieces of our society fell charred and broken at our feet.

I felt like an alien in this place.  Or like I’d somehow waken up in a parallel dimension, in some strange Shadow America.  Like the evil Star Trek Universe: American Political Landscape Edition.

I woke up again last night.  Finally at home.  And my hope returned last night.  Not in the feeling of having bet on the right horse, but in Obama’s first words as President-Elect where he told the nation:

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.  Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers – in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.  Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.  As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

I was and am proud of our resiliency as a nation and as a people.  Of our ability to learn from our mistakes.  Of the renewed sense of purpose that seems to be taking root in our hearts and, more importantly, in our actions.

For the first time in a long time I stand on the road and look down it thinking, come what may we might just be okay.  Not because Barack Obama was elected President, but because of how he was elected President.  By people of all ages, colors, and creeds coming together under the cause of reclaiming our unity while celebrating the diversity this nation–a nation of immigrants–was created to celebrate.  Because for the the first time in a long time, it seems not about how "I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m good and you’re bad."  Rather, it seems to be about "how can we lift each other up."

I can get behind that.

That said, I woke up this morning feeling only mostly good.  The world didn’t suddenly change over night, though we would like to think it somehow did so magically.  We face the same problems waking up this morning that we faced yesterday and the day before–and not just the tangible ones, like the economy or the war in Iraq.

I am talking here about the harder to peg, much less resolve, issue of defining ourselves and each other by our differences as opposed to our similarities.  I’m talking about the thing that gives us permission to de-humanize each other and knock each other down.  The thing that puts me and my agenda above you–sometimes at any cost.

That didn’t go away last night.  Truth be told, in some ways, the potential for it to raise its ugly head even higher was kicked up a notch or two.  That makes this time one of great potential, but as I’ve told my kids time and time again, potential is a double-edged sword.  Because from this vantage point, I can see how we can go either way, folks.  This could lead to our darkest hour as easily as it could lead to our brightest one.

Achieving our potential as a nation won’t just happen; it requires great vigilance and patience and sensitivity and action on all our parts.  It requires each of us reaching across the divide.  Graciously and humbly.  Everyone…no matter who you voted for.

Yes…I want a healed economy and a healed international landscape, but even more I want a healed country.  A country of healed hearts and spirits–across the spectrum.  If we’re ever going to live up to our claim of "one nation under God", we need that.  All of us.

So, President-Elect Obama, I congratulate you.  And I call upon you…to be your word.  To be the leader we all pray you are.  To really be President to all of us, as you promised.  And to lead us not merely to the top of the mountain, where the view is great.  Yessiree.  But also to the other side, where, as Martin Luther King envisioned, "all of God’s children, black men and white
men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands
and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last!
thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’"

Can we do that?

This I believe: Yes, we can.

Don’t Panic

Dontpanic2
Today is a day that we all stare into the face of the boogey man.  Today is a day that many of us, already teetering in the day-to-day, wonder what tomorrow and the next day will look like?  And the day or the year after that.

Or we’re asking ourselves if there’s even gonna be a "tomorrow".

My mom was a child of the Great Depression, so I’ve heard my share of stories about the hardships that time inflicted on people.  Real people.  Losing jobs.  Losing homes.   Going without.  Going hungry.  On the street, even.  Lives and families devastated.

And even if it didn’t deal a death blow to you and yours, it left scars.  Ones you carried through the rest of your life.  No one was immune from that.

I’ve spent a lot of time this past weekend wondering if we’re on the verge of repeating history.  I mean, we’re damn right on the line now, correct?  True dat.

I asked myself what is the one thing I can do–the most important thing in the moment–to help maintain the integrity of our country and our economy in this hour of need.  The answer came to me in the form of the timeless motto from the great British philosopher, the late Douglas Adams.

The answer is, simply, "Don’t Panic."

And while we’re at it, there are a few other "dos and don’ts" we might wanna consider:

  • DON’T think Democrat or Republican, or one ideology or another.  Let’s face it, that’s one of the things that got us into this mess.  We’ve spent so much energy–especially over the past eight years–focusing on why we’re different than the other guy, and why we’re right and he’s wrong, we’ve lost track of the most important thing we all have in common: we’re all people.  And we’re all Americans.  At this time, more than any other, we need to remember this above all because "United we stand; divided we fail" feels pretty palpable at the moment.
  • DO cut your representatives in Congress a little slack. They know they should probably vote in favor of the recovery bill before them right now, but they’re scared to death that they’ll lose the upcoming election because they did just that.  Guess what?  They know the recovery plan is as whack as we all think it is.  But they know–like we all should know (at least admit)–that to do nothing right now is to fiddle as Rome burns.  It’s the best bad solution we have.  Perhaps the only one.  And both freakin’ Presidential candidates support it.  What else is there to say?  Send them the message that it’s okay to act and, we’re not going to hold it against them next month.
  • DO vote.  Regardless of how we got into this mess, we need to stand up
    and exercise our right–our direct tangible avenue to voice how we
    believe the country can best work its way toward recovery.  It’s time to stand and deliver as Americans.  Let’s get all Nike on those voting booths next month.
  • DO look out for one another now.  Well, all the time.  But today, specifically, when the Golden Rule might just be the most potent and profitable fiscal strategy any and everyone can employ.  I have been self-employed and a business owner for going on five years now.  I’m no millionaire, but I am keeping a roof over my head and my hat in the ring.  And "paying it forward" and "helping other people succeed" and "charging what’s fair versus what I ‘could have charged’" have served my businesses well.  Both businesses–screenwriting and professional speaking–are growing.  It doesn’t matter whether or not nice guys "finish last"…they "finish".  Crossing the finish line is, after all, what matters.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the movie RUNNING.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Don’t worry so much. We’re gonna be okay.  And one good thing about tough times is that they serve to remind us what’s truly important–and critical–in this life.  Turns out it’s a pretty short list.

As I sat down to write this, I looked to the guy who lead us out of the last big mess for a bit of wisdom.  These word from Franklin D. Roosevelt, which seemed merely "historical" before, feel downright pertinent today.

"When Andrew Jackson, ‘Old Hickory,’ died, someone asked, ‘Will he go
to Heaven?’ and the answer was, ‘He will if he wants to.’ If I am asked
whether the American people will pull themselves out of this depression, I answer, ‘They will if they want to.’"
  He goes on to say, "I
have no faith in ‘cure-alls’ but I believe that we can greatly
influence economic forces. I have no sympathy with the professional
economists who insist that things must run their course and that human
agencies can have no influence on economic ills. One reason is that I
happen to know that professional economists have changed their
definition of economic laws every five or ten years for a very long
time, but I do have faith, and retain faith, in the strength of common
purpose, and in the strength of unified action taken by the American
people."

We can walk this walk together, folks.  We can make it through the eye needle and be even better on the other side.  If we come together.  If we stand truly united.

If we don’t panic.

It might, in fact, be the one thing that saves us.

And apparently I’m not the only one…

Courtesy of Yahoo! News:

WASHINGTON – Paris Hilton’s mother doesn’t share John McCain’s sense of humor.


McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, said last week that his campaign ad mocking Democrat Barack Obama with images of Hilton and singer Britney Spears was part of an attempt to inject humor into the presidential race.

On Sunday, Hilton’s mother, Kathy Hilton, a McCain donor, registered her disapproval.

"It is a complete waste of the country’s time and attention at the very moment when millions of people are losing their homes and their jobs," Kathy Hilton said in a short article posted on the liberal Huffington Post Web site. "And it is a completely frivolous way to choose the next president of the United States."


The ad plays on Obama’s popularity by dismissing him as a mere celebrity, like Hilton and Spears. The Obama campaign has said the ad is proof that McCain would rather launch negative attacks than debate important issues.

McCain on Friday denied that his campaign had taken a negative turn, saying, "We think it’s got a lot of humor in it, we’re having fun and enjoying it."

Kathy Hilton, however, was unpersuaded, calling the ad "a complete waste of the money John McCain’s contributors have donated to his campaign."

Kathy Hilton and her husband donated a total of $4,600 to McCain’s campaign earlier this year.

Wait..!  Do I suddenly find myself in the strange circumstance of agreeing with Paris Hilton’s mom?

Either a.) I have found myself mysteriously transported into the bizarro dimension, or b.) there is some kind of consensus on the overall crappiness of your "humor", John McCain.

Your guess as to which one it is.

I would have voted for you, John McCain

There was a time during primary season in the 2000 election, months before the Pretendsident hijacked everything, when–in my eyes, at least–you were the man.  You were tough but likable.  You were the guy that walked the fine line between conservative and progressive, and you did it with style.  You were strong and solid on the issues, but you were willing to listen and be swayed when people on the opposite side of the fence made sense.

Had the 2000 primary season gone another way, I would have voted for you.

I feel bad what happened to you after that election–how the Bush administration castrated you and beat you into submission.  And though I shook my head over the last few years at what a hollow shell of your former self you’d become, I was secretly heartened when you tossed your hat in the ring this time around.

Maybe, I thought, we’ll see a glimpse of the real John McCain for a change.  Now that he will, presumably, be out from under the thumb of the Bush regime, maybe he’ll reassert himself.  Maybe he’ll disavow and speak out against the politics of divisiveness, corruption, and hate that have gained a death-grip strangle hold on his party and our country.

Alas, I was to be sorely disappointed.

I don’t know what happened to you, John McCain.  What happened?  When did you go from the man to "the man"?

And when did you fall so far that the value of your word and your integrity was lost forever?  I thought they had gotten your body and your mind…but your soul, too?

Take a look at this memo from McCain campaign manager Rick Davis, dated March 11, 2008 (courtesy of Time Magazine).  It pledges a "respectful campaign" from your camp, John.  One in line with the "highest standards" you have held yourself to throughout your life.  And finally, this…

"Overheated rhetoric and personal attacks on our opponents distract from
the big differences between John McCain’s vision for the future of our
nation and the Democrats’. This campaign is about John McCain: his
vision, leadership, experience, courage, service to his country and
ability to lead as commander in chief from day one."

Do your constant attacks on Barack Obama’s character since he’s become the presumptive Democratic nominee jibe with the commitment you made, Mr. McCain?  And is your wife guilty of a bald-faced lie when she said on the Today Show (on May 8): "What you’re going to see is a great debate.  Which is what the American Public deserves.  None of this negative stuff, though.  You won’t see it come out of our side at all."

If she wasn’t lying and you weren’t lying, then how do you explain this ad?

As if the comparison to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton wasn’t enough, you set the stage for the ad using (I believe) footage from Obama’s recent speech in Berlin accompanied by ominous chanting that made the event look like scene straight out of Triumph of Will.  There’s even a moment when you seem to have Obama mouthing the word "war".  So…in total, what you’re really implying is that Barack Obama is the irresponsible, reckless, and dumbed-down celebrity that Spears and Hilton embody AND Adolf Hitler to boot?

It’s too much, John McCain.  Too much.  You have gone too far.  Fallen too far.  Too low.  Shame on you and your smug countenance at the tail end of this disgrace of an ad.

I gotta tell you, I am an Obama man.  I believe in his message; I believe in his vision, which I think might actually deliver on a promise George Bush the first made years ago–of a "kinder, gentler nation."  One that is prepared and able to operate in the 21st Century world.

But even in 2008 there was a moment.  When I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.  When I thought that maybe the John McCain I was proud to support in 2000 would break through the crust.

I am sorry that didn’t happen.  Mostly, however, I am disappointed.  Deeply disappointed.

UPDATE — August 2, 2008, from Reuters:

"Republican John McCain‘s
presidential team mocked Democrat Barack Obama on Friday as an
overconfident, Messiah-like candidate with a tendency toward
exaggeration in a Web ad that closed out a week of attacks.

"The ad, e-mailed to supporters, refers to Obama as ‘The
One’ and uses rhetoric from some of Obama’s high-flying
speeches, making fun of quotes such as, ‘We are the ones we’ve
been waiting for,’ and ‘This was the moment when the rise of
the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.’


"’It shall be known that in 2008, the world shall be
blessed,’ the announcer intones. ‘They will call him: The One.’"

And the finale:

"McCain, at a news conference, smiled as he talked about the
new ad.


"’We were having some fun with our supporters,’ he said. ‘We’re going to display a sense of humor in this campaign.’

"He said he was running a ‘very respectful campaign.’


"’I don’t think our campaign is negative in the slightest,’
he said.

Really, John McCain?  Really?

What color is the sky in your world?

Dr. Jones and me

Ijhat_2
I was down at the New Amsterdam staring at this
yellow-haired girl
Mr. Jones strikes up a conversation with this black-haired flamenco dancer
She dances while his father plays guitar
She’s suddenly beautiful
We all want something beautiful
I wish I was beautiful
So come dance this silence down through the morning
Cut Maria! Show me some of them Spanish dances
Pass me a bottle, Mr. Jones
Believe in me
Help me believe in anything
I want to be someone who believes

–Counting Crows

First, I need to tell you this: a friend of Robbye’s and mine invited us to a sneak preview of the new Indiana Jones movie yesterday.

Second, I need to assure you that there zero spoilers in this post.

Third, I need to tell you that what I am writing here should, in no uncertain terms, be construed as a review of the film.

And finally…Fourth, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, I would suggest you click away to some other site, like this one (cuteoverload.com).  Spend a moment in your happy place.  For, regardless of my assurances, if you read on, I believe that the experience of watching the movie could be spoiled for you.

That’s the last thing I want.

Okay…is the coast clear?

Good.

‘Cause if you’re not gone by now, I’m not gonna listen to any "Bill ruined the Indy movie for me" nonsense.  Got it..?

Word…

For those of you left, I’m really not going to review the movie.  That’s not my place.  That’s for the likes of my friend, Colin, who covers that base quite superbly already.

This commentary, I would like to be clear, is a reaction–my reaction–to watching the movie.  And I think that there is a more-than-credible argument for why that is different animal.  I, for one, don’t care if you watch the movie.  I, for one, am not trying to sway you either way.  And I have no intention of supporting my position by discussing the relative merits (or lack thereof) of the movie in any great detail.

That said…anyone still here?

One…two…ah…three..?  Okay.

For now, all you need to know is this:

Did I like the movie?  No.

Was I disappointed in the movie?  Sorely.

Here’s why…  It had less to do with the kludging pace and lackluster energy; less to do with the absolute lack of focus, much less story; less to do with sub-par special effects and editing than it did with the absolute lack of creativity demonstrated over the course of the 2 hours and 4 minutes of my life I will never get back.

Okay…whew!  I can’t believe I just said all of that.  Because I gotta tell ya, being more or less a newly minted professional screenwriter, I feel like putting an opinion like that out on these Internets for the whole world to see is, like, a possible career-limiting move.  Like the title of this post should, more appropriately, be How to Ruin a Screenwriting Career in 1400 Words.

I am, however, trusting the movie gods.  That they are just and forgiving.  And that they will, somehow, appreciate my humble words.

Because I am not here to trash the gods.  I am, actually, here to honor them.

But they need to know this…

Guys!  10 years..?  10…years?  And that’s the best story you could come up with?  That’s the best you could do?  That hackneyed, bumbling affair?

I don’t know what to say.  I mean, for Pete’s sake!  You’re Steven Spielberg and George Lucas!  And no offense to David Koepp, either, but…crap!  If I had handed in a draft that rough, it would’ve been soundly and utterly rejected.  Overall, I’ve seen better and more compelling storytelling from babes stumbling around in the proverbial woods.

I don’t get it.  If I was them, I don’t know if I’d be able to sleep at night.

Good, bad, or indifferent, it doesn’t matter.  Paramount and Lucasfilm and the other stakeholders will all be fine in the end.  Per a story in Reuters today: "Even critics underwhelmed by the latest Indiana Jones venture conceded that it would make little difference in terms of box office, which they predicted would be strong."

And therein lies the problem.  Not that I begrudge Paramount and Lucasfilm and the other stakeholders making money off the movie.  God, no!  Quite the opposite.  And I pray with all my might that I do the same someday soon.  The problem is embodied in a specific word in the Reuters article: venture.  Not ADventure…just plain venture.

I feel like Messrs. Spielberg and Lucas lost their connection to the innovation, emotional center, and kinetic excitement that inspired people to gladly lay their money down time after time and place them atop Mount Olympus in the first place.  It seems that it’s no longer about the music.  It’s no longer even about the show.  It’s about the venture–ergo, the transaction.

Well, don’t worry, Messrs. Spielberg and Lucas, we’ll show up again.  We’ll lay our money down again for a few more moments with Indiana Jones, even if they are ultimately disappointing and unfulfilling.  We’ll do so based on past merit alone–of past movies (even though many of them, quite frankly, faired no better than this one) and, of course, of yours.

We will climb in bed with you one last time and go through the motions because of our longstanding relationship.  Because of our history.  We’ll know, however, that you’re really not present anymore and that the whole affair is a hollow and empty version of what was.  We’ll know we’re clinging onto thin air.  And because we love you, we’ll do it, even though you’ve abused our trust.  Because, quite honestly, we pity you, so we just sigh and tell ourselves it’s okay if your better days are behind you.  Whaddya gonna do?

In the same Reuters article quoted above, Harrison Ford asserts that he won’t read reviews for this movie because, he says, "it’s for the people who pay to get in, and whether they are getting satisfaction for their dollars spent."  If that is truly your assertion, Mr. Ford (because your very active involvement in this movie from its inception would indicate the contrary), would you please do us all a favor and tap Messrs. Spielberg and Lucas on the shoulder and clue them in, too?

Alright, enough grousing.  I mean, if I was Messrs. Spielberg and Lucas, I’d be ready to throttle me by now and screaming, "We get it!  But what do you want us to do about it!?!"

I think I have a very simple solution: stop trusting the opinions of the people immediately surrounding you.

Let me explain…  Though I am certain the people immediately around you are great and talented people, I am assuming that they are either a.) your employees, or b.) people who want to impress you.  That, and you guys are Steven-fucking-Spielberg and George-fucking-Lucas!  Who is going to disagree with you, regardless of how lame your ideas may be?  Gentlemen, I have lived in Corporate America; I know how the dance goes.  No matter how much you preach "open door" and "okay to dissent", no one’s gonna do it.

It is, by the way, not their fault, either.  It’s the way things are.  I gotta tell ya, if I had to stand in front of either of you and deliver a critique of your work, I would be shaking in my boots.  I’m not sure I’d be up for it.  In fact, I am shaking in my boots simply for posting this commentary!  For the possible backlash it might have on my own career.

You have to find some other way to test your ideas because the current way is clearly not working.

My suggestion?  Listen to dissenting critics because they’ve got it pegged pretty well, I think.  And more important, listen to your fans–the ones who have been there with you all along.  We’ll guide you through.

Because we believed in you.  We trusted you.  The two of you are almost entirely responsible for creating the most important–screw icons!–idols of my generation and the next.  For heaven’s sake, "Jedi" or "Jedi Knight" was identified as the 4th largest religion in England’s and Wales’s 2001 census, beating out Judaism and Buddhism!  Me thinks that says it all.

Just so you know, we’re not going anywhere.  Again…no need to worry.  So fuck the venture and return to the adventure.  Go back to the basics of the game.  Have fun again, and let us have fun with you.  Get back in touch with us…us!  We miss you, and our taste and our opinion, after all, paved your way to the top of the mountain.  …Right?

Trust us.

That’s all we ask.

Because our belief in you inspired many of us to believe in ourselves once upon a time.

And we want to believe.  …Again.

We need it, in fact.  Now more than ever.  Please don’t let us down.

If I may direct your attention to the right side of your screen…

FIRST…

You’ll need to start by scrolling down a bit. Yes…yes… Stop!

See it?

I am finally shouting from the virtual rooftop what I should
have shouted out weeks, if not months, ago.

 

Obama1
BARACK OBAMA ROCKS.

He has my support. He
has my vote. He has my hands as he
strives to help heal our country and then realize the America all of us have the secret
audacity to hope for, but rarely give that hope the voice it deserves.

Not that it matters greatly, I suppose, whether I announce
my support for him or not. I’m just one
guy—not even really a blip on the RADAR screen of the blogsphere, much less the
world. One thing that Obama’s campaign
has done, however, is to take me back to my junior high days in Mr. Clough’s
Social Studies class when the guy from the filmstrip assured us that every vote
counted. That everyone’s voice mattered
in a democracy.

Every voting cycle I cast my ballot. It has, however, been over a decade since I
have done so and felt either a.) like my vote really mattered, or b.) like I
was voting for someone who truly had an interest (much less the ability) in giving our country the simultaneous TLC and tough love for which it
desperately cries. For over a decade, as
I stepped from the polling station, I’ve crumpled up my “I voted” sticker and 86-ed it with a cynical huff.

I believe that this year will be different.

Today, former candidate John
Edwards said, per a Reuters story by John Whitesides, “What he brings to the
table is the capacity, number one, to unite the Democratic Party. Number two, to bring in new voters, to bring
in people who haven’t been involved in the process over a long time and to get
people excited about this change."


I think you nailed it, Mr.
Edwards. Yet, I would also add that he’s
also brought people who HAVE been involved, but in whom the light of hope is
all but extinguished, back into the process, as well. Because we finally have someone to crow
about. Someone we don’t feel bad or slimey
about when we invest our time and money and trust. Some who, for once, is not merely the lesser
of two evils.

Not that I believe any one person represents the magic
bullet or that Nirvana is just around the bend. I believe, however, that Obama’s vision and
integrity and passion—and his audacity to hope—will (to borrow a quote from
Zach on the night Robbye and I announced our engagement to the kids) “revive this
bleeding dog of a family.”


If you will join me in this improbable quest, if you feel destiny calling, and see as I see, a future of
endless possibility stretching before us; if you sense, as I sense, that the
time is now to shake off our slumber, and slough off our fear, and make good on
the debt we owe past and future generations, then I’m ready to take up the
cause, and march with you, and work with you.
– Barack Obama, February 10, 2007

You go, Obama. I, for
one, am beside you all the way.