Giving It One-Hundred and Ten Percent @ Twenty-Five Seven Industries

Left it all on the field today, coach

“Man has such a predilection for systems and abstract deductions that he is ready to distort the truth intentionally, he is ready to deny the evidence of his senses only to justify his logic”

 –Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Well they’ve done it again!  Who’s done what?  You might be inquiring internally.  The folks who brought us such mind-numbing gems like “giving it one-hundred-ten percent (110%)”, and other nonsensical B.S. phrases, have decided to open a security firm.  The Name is twenty-five/seven (25/7) Protection Security Super Store…like nails on a chalkboard.  I don’t know if it was the exact same people, but I hate to think I live in a world where there are multiple factions of people who fail to understand the most basic concepts of logic.  Why does this bother me?  It bothers me because I’m an elitist, who is easily disturbed.

While it is true that I am easily disturbed by lapses in judgment (not my own lapses, or yours, but other people’s), it is truly a troubling premise that divorcing oneself of simple logic is a valid way of describing oneself as a hard worker.  “I may not do the heavy-lifting when it comes to thinking, but what I leave on the court more than makes up for it, don’t you think, coach?”  In the world of sports, I’ve only found this idea mildly disturbing because there is no need to cry over spilt milk, as they say.  How high do you really want to set that bar?  If a baseball player wants to claim that he gave one-hundred-ten percent (110%) on the field I can allow for it.  Chances are it is not the dumbest thing he’s said all day…probably.  But, this is the name of a company.  Not just a slogan someone mistakenly thought was clever.  It is the name of the company…with commercials and an internets site and everything.

Seriously, are these the individuals you want offering you security?  “How many hours are there in a day?”  “There are twenty-four (24) hours in a day.”  “Well, in order to get your business, we’re willing to work twenty-five (25) of those hours…and that’s every day.”  “Well there are seven (7) days in a week, are you willing to work eight (8) of those?”  “Don’t be an idiot, we can only work seven (7) of those, but we guarantee to give you one-hundred-ten (110) percent during those seven (7) days.”  Clearly, these peeps are not Beatles’ fans, and maybe that’s why I’m feeling charitable.

In their defense, calling your company twenty-four/eight (24/8) Protection looks like a division problem whose answer is three (3), and that does little to help one feel secure.  But, there is another solution: twenty-four/seven (24/7) Protection…you boys can have that for free.

I also find it a bit problematic that people think so highly of their work ethic that it requires a hypothetical measurement of both time and effort.  Superheroes can give one-hundred (100) percent.  They do this because they’re special.  Regular people are good for around seventy-five (75) percent…driven, ambitious, regular people; regular people who’ve something to prove (probably because of an unfortunate choice of names that they received at birth for which they must spend their lives over-compensating)…not me.  The bulk of us give around sixty-two (62) percent, according to sources.  Those numbers are true…you can take them to the bank.  Chances are they will be the truest numbers at said bank…yeah that just happened, Bank of America.  But consider this the next time you hear an athlete claim to have given one-hundred-ten (110) percent on the substrate they use to perform, they said that using zero (0) percent of their brain, so how does that math work out?

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Jesse Stumped: Why I Wouldn’t Make a Good T.V. Exec

It’s Always Sunny Here

“Found her right there. Against the float.” –Jesse Stone

There is a fresh Jesse Stone T.V. movie set to air tonight May 20, 2012.  This series baffles me and has since the release of Stone Cold in 2005.  The movies are small-screen adaptations of a novel-series whose chief character is a down-on-his-luck detective who tries out for a chief of police gig in what seems to be a sleepy town, and gets it…mainly because the President of the town council thinks that Stone is a drunken maladroit who will be easy to control.  They both find that they’re first impressions were misinformed and wacky hijinks ensue.  The idea of this character living in the world of pulpy commercial fiction seems completely normal to me, but why on earth, given the massive amounts of media to be consumed on any given night—including Sunday, would anyone waste anymore time rewarding the “efforts” of a franchise that seems to be resolved to the idea of “phoning it in”?

Tom Selleck plays the lead role in this series, and the lead problem in my ability to buy into this tired formula.  Tom Selleck stopped being a viable option for playing a quick-as-a-whip detective somewhere in the late eighties (80s) when Magnum P.I. wrapped.  Since that time, he has been trying his hand unsuccessfully at a myriad of roles.  Of those roles, his stand-outs were: playing a creepy ophthalmologist on television’s Friends, and the Police Commissioner of the NYPD on T.V.’s Blue Bloods.  These are two roles in which Selleck seems believable…at least to me.  This is not to say that Tom Selleck is a poor actor.  While he is not very rangy, his role in the Quigley series and others of the same stripe are sufferable.  The problem with this series is Selleck is not as young as his character Stone and as such, really cannot pass his interpretation of this character off in a way that seems compelling…not even for a thirty (30) second T.V. spot.  There is actually a scene that makes it in to the commercial in which a shooter fires a rifle at Stone and he “dives” out of the way, however, based upon the lack-luster performance of said dive the viewer is left wondering: “Did he dive out of the way, or did the rifleman find his mark?”  If this was a teaser then the makers of the series have assumed the audience even more stupid than one could safely assume based upon the evidence the viewers have so far provided, which is substantial.  This was no teaser; this was an intentional “stunt” gone horribly wrong.  It was a small slice of evidence that, even though Selleck has yet to grow weary of the pay-checks the Stone series provides, he too is sick of the franchise…or he’s just horribly old and arthritic…or both.

Selleck is not the only one guilty of losing the thrill of the Stone franchise.  The writers of the series…read: the folks who are adapting the novels to made-for-T.V. movies, named this installment Jesse Stone: Benefit of the Doubt, what is happening with that sub-title?  Hey guys, was Jesse Stone: Meh not available?  It’s a title that’d be more comfortable as a parody version of the movie than an actual episode.  It’s not like the writers have an incredibly tough job.  It is clear, to even the casual observer, that the bar for this franchise is set remarkably low, and I’m not saying that this show writes itself…I’m saying that it was already written by the late Robert Parker, an American crime writer, who—like most American crime writers—has received far too many accolades for his own brand of commercial fiction, but like singer Tom Gabel says, “Constant entertainment for our restless minds, constant stimulation for epic appetites”, eventually the quality of entertainment, and the intensity of stimulation wanes without our having noticed.  Or maybe we have noticed, but nobody cares.  Feed me; feed me, the remaining relevant sentiment of the American viewing public.

The people in charge of this franchise need to make a tough decision here.  Maybe it’s time to end this series, let Tom Selleck go back to Blue Blood, and let him ride that snake all the way to Valhalla, or wherever short-shorts wearing mustachioed warriors spend eternity…Selleck does strike me as being a bit too “metro” to spend the after-life among Nordic heroes.  If ending the series seems a bit Draconian, then a re-boot might be in order.  Cast It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Rob McElhenney as Jesse Stone and give Selleck ironic cameos throughout the run.  McElhenney has already proven to have the moves necessary to pull off this action role.  Add to that the fact that this would be a dream role for his character, Mac, on Sunny and you have—what they call in the biz—a win, win.  The bonus being that Rob McElhenney has the comedy chops to breathe new life into this role.  The folks who bring us the Jesse Stone series are essentially writing a comedy whether they’re aware of it or not.  We could all laugh a bit more comfortably if they’d just have the decency to embrace that fact.

 

Hey Garth Have Another Cookie

“America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.” –Oscar Wilde

There are commercials, on T.V. of late, declaring the praise of a new television channel being added to the “Discovery Networks” stable, name of “Destination America” which drops on Memorial Day, probably because this is the most patriotic the network could afford to be.  Who knows the profits that would’ve been lost had they waited for the most patriotic of all holidays in the world, Jesus’ birthday, July the Fourth (4th)?  Patriotism isn’t free…or is it freedom that isn’t free?  Either way, the television network seems to have picked an appropriate name for itself.  Not that I think that T.V. networks name themselves, I’m no idiot.  Those names are controlled by a cabal of some sort, according to various websites that seem to have an unhealthy obsession with shaven heads and Nazi Memorabilia.  Anyhow, the reason why the name seems apt to me is that after seeing many of the commercials for the impending channel, the ratio of people in said commercials who are dangerously overweight seems to be around seventy-five (75) percent.  Perhaps in fifteen (15) or so years the T.V. channel will re-brand itself into an even more appropriately telling theme, “Destination Type Two (2) Diabetes”.  The channel is a re-branding of failing channel “Planet Green”, a channel whose weakness should’ve been obvious to anyone within moderate proximity.

Oh to have been a fly on the wall when “Planet Green” was originally pitched, my guess is “Destination America” was not even a concept at this point.  If it were I think the pitch would’ve gone thusly:  “Hey boss, I was thinking we would start a network the sole purpose of which would be to inform Americans about environmental issues.”  “That sounds interesting, how would it all work?”  I imagine the boss would answer.  “Well, I’m glad you asked we would develop a line-up of shows that explain to Americans that unfettered consumerism and irresponsible capitalism has led to the failing health of a fragile ecosystem.”  “I’d be willing to bet that a lot of people would tune in for that…we could sell a great deal of commercials on that channel.”  “Yes sir, I think you’re right!”  “Hey just in case this high concept network fails, do you have a lower-concept idea that’ll garner wider interest in today’s sophisticated American society?”  “We sure do, picture this, twenty-four/seven (24/7) dancing monkeys.  We call it ‘Monk-Dance USA’.  “How about something lower?”  “Yes sir, we have this other network idea where-in Americans observe other Americans barbequing meat.”  “Can the people who are doing the barbequing be in the neighborhood of four-hundred (400) pounds?”  “Sir those Americans will be in that neighborhood with no intercession by us.”  No intercession means no money, right?”  That’s right!”  “Great, backburner that and let’s try the greenie thingy.”  “You got it!”

I know what you’re thinking: “For a blogger, this guy’s a genius!”  And, for the most part, you couldn’t be less wrong.  While that may not be the exact way the conversation went, I’m quite confident it is close.

So to sum up what we’ve learned so far: “Discovery Networks” is dropping the drowning “Planet Green” channel to re-brand it as the unabashedly patriotic “Destination America” so that Americans, who are spiraling toward a diabetic dystopian future, have yet another channel devoted to showing people cooking and eating…what could be more American?

My only hope is that there are more challenge shows, shows where people challenge food to a duel.  “Hey you six (6) pound hamburger, I’m sick of you acting so cool and bullying me and my friends with your irresistible smell…I challenge you to allow me to eat you, in the interest of proving a point of one stripe or another!  We shall duel at dawn…by which I mean Noonish, as that is how long it takes me to prepare for the day.”

I’m not interested in making a statement about specific numbers or body types…or even to comment upon what constitutes being over-weight.  My point has more to do with the pervasive attitude of an increasingly unhealthy populous who seem to react to any advice about eating healthy as though it comes straight from the mouths of belt-way elitist despots hell-bent upon ruining our collective fun.  This is only made more obvious when an educational network quickly has to re-brand into a food network.  While we’re on the topic, has anyone ever notice how little travel there is on the “Travel Channel”?

If one were to make the argument that the premise of this post is shaky at best, I would have no retort.  I mean there may be legitimate reasons why “Planet Green” couldn’t survive.  The name alone makes me sleepy and gaggy all at once.  But in all honesty, the idea of writing a post about how a boring T.V. channel bit the dust seemed, well, boring.  Not to mention the fact that given the circumstances, the social commentary essentially writes itself, so win, win.

There is an old saying: “The stars might lie, but the numbers never do.”  It is in that spirit that I parse the subject of an over-weight America, and it is not so simple as to be blamed upon T.V. cooking shows alone.  There are a myriad of reasons for this statistic.  For one, I blame the American Flag.  “What, Old Glory?!” you might be asking yourself.  Yes.  We have a very busy flag, from a design perspective…lots of stripes and stars.  Add to that this incessant and paranoid need to plaster that thing on everything that walks, swings, and sleeps between sea and shining sea, and you’ve a recipe for unhealthy weight gain.  That flag doesn’t look good draped over any frame smaller than four and half (4.5) bills.  I mean the French flag could be worn by a svelte man…a young Garth Brooks showed us that…but only an old Garth Brooks could pull off an American Flag shirt.  And four and a half (4.5) is a minimum you would be wise to go about six-hundred (600) pounds to really make that flag pop.

I’m not a big fan of over-simplifications (unless they can help me get away with something) (say an easy thousand [1000] word post) (just as one example; apropos of nothing), so please don’t hear me as saying that television food shows and the American Flag are to blame for the unhealthy weight epidemic faced by our fair country.  But I think we can all agree they’re not helping much.

The Parent/Teacher Conference and The Panic Attack

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.”–Charles Spurgeon

I’ve had a long battle with my adrenal glands and how they affect my life.  It’s a struggle that constantly calls in to question my ability to function as a normal human being.  I’m not the only person for whom this is a problem.  However, that is a small consolation for a guy who wants to be a good husband and father.  This time my adrenal glands decided that a parent/teacher conference would be a great opportunity to show me the breadth of their capabilities.  “Hey if ever you wonder if we have what it takes to help you perform in the face of a bear attack, don’t give it a second thought…this is what we have to offer.”  It is comforting to know that my body is well equipped to handle a situation in which my life hangs in the balance, but all of that adrenaline is completely useless sitting in a child’s sized chair in a pre-school room.  But, alas, I’ve no control over when or how this will all take place.  And that simple fact makes me feel small.

The internets say that: “Panic Attacks” or “Panic Disorder” are bouts of anxiety that peak quickly and subside over the next few hours (I’d quote that and attribute it but really who has the energy, right?).  Jay Mohr, a comedian/actor who has long struggled with the disorder describes it as: life saving amounts of adrenaline injected into one’s blood stream for no discernible reason (I’d quote that if it weren’t for the fact that it is a poor paraphrase).  For me: it is like having a heart attack that robs me of any chance of living in the moment (I’d quote that, but I’m no douche bag…actually that’s not entirely true).  But all of that has little to do with my reality and, by-proxy, the reality of my little girl who only wanted to show my wife, and youngest daughter, and I around her pre-school.  Sooo demanding, right?  Seriously, what is her problem!?

I was around thirty-four (34) when I first had a run in with my adrenal glands…it was a bit like the dance scene in Michael Jackson’s Beat It video.  I was driving a truck down the road at the time, and though there was neither sand nor gravel in it, it was still eight (8) axels long and twelve (12) tons of steel, aluminum, and fiber-glass, not what you want to be driving when your adrenal glands come at you like one of the peripheral characters on television’s Jersey Shore.  I had recently been awarded the honor of fatherhood by the great common-wealth of China (or is it a Republic? Who can remember?) (to the poor, they’re all the same).  Anyhow, the medics who came to attend to my “heart attack” informed me that the stress of my new-found fatherhood had probably caused this infarction.  Phew, that was good to know…problem…reason…simplified reality…time to move on.  The problem with this half-assed assessment became apparent when the same thing happened later with no perceptible provocation…like a main character on television’s Jersey Shore.  Since then I’ve had around a dozen of them, one lasted around two solid hours, after which, I tasted adrenaline for the whole next day and into the following.  It tastes like blood.

There are many educated opinions about the proper treatment of this disorder.  I’ve read a good many of them.  Beyond that, I have heard many more uneducated opinions about what I should be doing to treat this problem.  I’ve yet to decide what to do.  Mainly, I just wait for it to go away magically.  None of the material I’ve read, nor have the opinions I’ve heard described this method as being effective.  But that fact has done little to change my choice of management plans.  I don’t want to be afflicted by anxiety, I want to be laid back and unflappable like I was when I was a kid.  I want to return to my “punk-rock” “who gives two shits” attitude.  This, however, is nothing more than vanity.  As I grow older, I’m realizing that I need to let that part of my life go.  This decision is not only becoming apparent in my heart, but it is becoming inevitable because of the way my body is reacting with the chemicals that it produces.

My fears of seeking treatment stems from the idea that any ground I give allows this malady to define who I am…even if it is a small part of my reality.  Lately I’ve become increasingly aware of the fact that if I don’t seek out treatment for it, it will define the lives of my family.

Oddly Compelling

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” –Aristotle

I never got around to writing a post for Sunday evening’s deadline, part of the reason for this is because I went to a Men’s Retreat held by the folks at Seaside (the church that I attend) and The Refuge (the body of believers connected with the Coffee Oasis).  The idea of a Men’s Retreat is the reason for today’s title, Oddly Compelling, because it is not easy for me to put my finger on what exactly draws me to these events.  Most of the things that motivate me in normal life are not present at these gatherings.  The food is good, for camp food (which is an apt qualifier, as the food at my house is just actually good)—there is no T.V., which is a real struggle for me…I love T.V.—the beds suck, which is a terrible reality for a guy who is almost forty (40) but has the back of an eighty (80) year-old, and the knees of a sixty-two (62) year-old, combined with the sleeping habits of an infant.  The equation is summed up thusly:  40+40-18×.6≠sleep.  All of that to say, if the things that come together to make the sum of any given Men’s Retreat were made into bullet points and thrown onto a brochure my answer to the invitation would be: “thanks, but no thanks” (wow a Sarah Palin reference) regardless of how beautifully appointed said brochure was.  But I never regret going.

Sometimes the guest speaker is engaging and is solely responsible for my not having regretted the sacrifice of the weekend…actually that is not true…rarely do I find the guest speaker to be all that compelling, and even when I do, they are never solely responsible for my enthusiasm about the event.  I have a hard time with most speakers as they have a tendency to speak Christianized English, in which many terms are glossed over without definition and leave me wondering whether or not I agree with what was communicated.  Because I generally have the type of a relationship with the speaker that a few interactions in two days can provide, I lack a long-term barometer that I can use to fill in the blanks of a given sermon…this, to me, is off-putting.  It is in no way the fault of the speaker.  This is my hang-up.  At the end of the day, it is not the speaker that draws me to these dealings, there is something else.

If not the food, television arrangement, the sleeping quarters, or guest speakers—then what?  Why on earth do I go to these things?

It is the chance to be around some of my closest friends without the constraints that time and the pressures of everyday life put on us, that I like best about these things.  It is a chance to just allow relationships happen.  I must be honest, I don’t show up prepared for this—it takes me at least half of a day to warm-up to the idea that I can talk to one of my friends about a given subject for as long as we want.  Sometimes having distractions is great when a conversation gets too personal.  Eventually, I am reminded about why it is that these guys are my good friends.  The conversations are safe.  I begin to realize that I can be who I am without threat of recourse and that is refreshing.  Once that comfort is established, something magical happens…not in a Harry Potter fantastical way…more of a unicorn and popcorn flavored jelly-bean kind of way (I know you thought I was headed a different direction with that one…but here we are).  The retreat becomes greater than the sum of its sub-standard parts.  It’s a little like what happens when you take an eighties (80s) Trans-Am, mix that with some red lights that swoosh from left to right, add to that a dry-humored English speaking voice with a British accent, and throw in a dash of David Hasselhoff—you end up with a strangely compelling television series.  I know what you’re wondering: “Does The Hoff represent human relationships in this analogy?”  If I were you I’d treat this analogy like the sun…don’t look straight at it.  It’ll make you cry.

We get to explore absurd movie premises without wondering if our children are running out into traffic or drowning in a toilet or a half-full five gallon bucket of water (or is it half empty at that point?  I always get my optimism and pessimism mixed up in these scenarios).  No matter, you get the point.  We talked around the campfire about whatever subject came to mind.  One absurd movie premise had to do with the rapture being a person, that person being me, me being played by Sam Jackson—the rapture (which is me played by Sam Jackson) decides it is okay to steal car stereos during itself.  The result being that, at a Christian Camp, most of the people and all of the car stereos go missing in the blink of an eye.  No of course it’s not funny here…but there, it was hilarious.  We get to play games.  Actually, speaking of absurd premises, what do you get when you combine nine snooker balls and a table that is shaped like the water troughs used in 19th century gold mining?  A game called Gutter Ball, a name which belies the game’s addictive nature.  You and an opponent line up four balls, one set red the other white, in any arrangement you choose, then you both take turns using a white ball with a red spot to try and knock each other’s sets of balls off of the playing surface of the trough by rolling it at the balls and striking them.  It’s a game that is both absurd and oddly compelling.  This game could have no better home than a Christian Camp.

What is the point of all of this?  Really, not a very Zen (writer’s note: MS Word insists that one capitalizes the word Zen in order to spell it correctly, which is also not very Zen) question.  But, if I were to toss together a summation, it would probably follow thusly: I love the men’s retreats because they are the evidence that relationships are important.  The only way that these times could be considered remotely enjoyable is if the relationships, whether revisited or newly built, were important.  And they are…or are they?  The answer is yes…

Was Father Time Bullied as a Child?

“Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time which every day produces, and which most men throw away.” —Charles Caleb Colton

What is the hang-up?  Why is it that I can never quite catch the hang of time?  It’s either too slow or too fast, I rarely feel as though time and I are simpatico.  There was a time when I thought that I was the problem.  But, thanks to an ever-growing sense of self, I’m beginning to think that Father Time was beaten up a lot for his lunch money back when he was just Pre-Pubescent Time.  As a result, he is seeing to it that we never feel comfortable in our skin…I shouldn’t say we, maybe he’s just messing with me.  For instance: it seems like every thirty (30) seconds there is a new movie released in the “Twilight” franchise, which causes much consternation and near-mental-health-melt-downs from your fave-rave blogger.  On the other hand, it seems like “Barnes and Noble Classics” will never get around to releasing an affordable paperback edition of “The Anarchist Cookbook”.  Explain the disparity, Father Time!  I doubt “The Anarchist Cookbook” guys are draggin’ ass; those Kats are go-getters.

As a child I never gave this idea much of a thought, I was just continually disappointed by how long it took for my birthday to arrive every year, or how slowly the school day dragged on and on and on.  Time was just a painful reality.  This is starting to feel like a “Wonder Years” monologue…but I swear there is a point to which I am stretching.  Maybe I’m reading too many blogs of late.  Camping trips would just fly by, and I would never have the stones to call Father Time out…Why The Face, Father Time?  I’m older now, and I’ve come to realize that after a certain point in one’s life, having fun ceases its duties as a prerequisite for the act of time flying.  Nowadays, time just simply flies.

I have nothing going on…meaning: my life is not punctuated by events.  I am a stay-at-home dad who goes out with his friends a couple of times a week, but I have no place where I have to be at any given time during the week.  This does strange things to your perception of time.  It can, at times, feel as though you are adrift in the Pacific doldrums of life…waiting, wondering: “Is there really a mass of plastic out here the size of Texas?”  Which seems random, but the doldrums make you wish for any number of things that fall well short of interesting, just to break up the day.  The other day, I caught a glimpse of my youngest daughter, who is three (3) years old (she looks two (2)—but she is not) running around the corner into her room, her tiny legs clad in some appropriately patterned pajama bottoms, and I thought: “This is all changing before my eyes, and I’ll never get that moment back”…that little, insignificant moment.  These are the moments around which my life is now built.  I’m cool with that.

In order to be cool with that, there falls upon me a greater responsibility to live in the moment…to not allow myself to be involved in epic matches of wit with the gate-keeper of occasion.  In that spirit, I call a truce…I don’t know who took your milk money Father Time, but I’m not interested in the wrestling match any longer.  I’m just going to relish every moment that my thick Irish skull resolves to recognize.