A Dimm View of Life

Location: Illinois, United States

Sunday, July 30, 2006


A big part of living in the twenty-first century is adapting to the fast pace of our environment. Those who are not able to move quickly are left behind. That is why many employers today are looking for people who are able to “multi-task”.

Today, I am multi-tasking. As I write this blog for your enjoyment, I am also trimming the shrubs that sit beside my garage. It is hot and messy, but I am confident that I can clear my mind enough to write and work on the bushes at the same time.

Snip, snip, snip.

This is really very simple because the two tasks are so different. For example, if I were to attempt to write a letter to my parents and write this essay at the same time, it could be more confusing. I may accidentally include a paragraph about how my cell phone dropped in a fountain of water while my son and I were playing miniature golf.

While such an anecdote may be hilarious to my parents, I know you really have no interest. Please do not be confused. I am not really telling you about the cell phone, which did turn into an expensive paperweight of no further value as a communications device. I am just using the story as an example.

Snip, snip, snip.

Just remember to keep your electronic devices, such as cell phones away from water.

Although, you would not think there would be such a problem at a miniature golf course.

Snip, snip, snip

But my point is that by trimming the bushes and writing, the two activities are so different it is difficult to be distracted. At my workplace, I often complete reports while listening to conference calls. It is the same thing as what I am doing now.

The reports are simply plugging mindless numbers and the conference calls include mindless people who nattering on about who knows what. Might as well do two mindless things at the same time, right?

Not that these two projects are mindless. I want to do both of these very well.

Snip, snip, snip.

I don’t remember if I mentioned that it is hot today. I am in the shade though and there is a bit of a breeze so it is not terribly uncomfortable.

But that really is not what I am writing about today. I am really writing about how productive we must be in today’s society. We have to work hard and work fast to accomplish great things! We cannot be content to simply come to work and do a simple job. We have to have ideas that will help the company, and help your self, move forward. We have to find ideas that will help everyone grow.

And how do we do that? We need to be thinking about what other people need! Sounds simple right? Like right now, I need a new pair of gloves. This pair is worn and my hands are starting to bleed.

So, it would be simple to run down to the hardware store and get some work gloves, right? Except that at this late hour of the day, the hardware store is closed. So I’m not going to get gloves today.

Snip, snip, snip.

They may have some gloves at the convenience store which is still open. They are always open.

But getting back to ideas, people need more than just the ability to do a job. The other day I was at the convenience store that might be selling the gloves for my hands that are not bleeding that much now, but still hurt a little. In line with me was a young fellow I remembered from my workplace.

Here is a great example of what I am trying to say. This fellow could do the job we asked him to do, but he could not see the big picture. Of course, when he worked for us, he was only nineteen. We really should not be hiring people at that age. People at that age can not see past their wallet. They can not see the big picture.

He had a few ideas about how to make his job easier. Eventually, he stopped coming to work. I figured he wasn’t cut out for the job.

Snip, snip, snip.

A few weeks ago, I heard he reapplied, but our human resource department turned him away. Anyway, he was good at the nuts and bolts of the job, but he had no real ideas.

Anyway, I saw him and asked after him. He told me he had enlisted in the Army.

He ships out in eight weeks. At any other time, this wouldn’t bother me so much. Still, in the world where we live today, this worries me. Were there truly no other options?

Snip, snip, snip. Snip, snip, snip.

That’s what I mean about ideas. A good idea makes the difference.

A good idea keeps your job. A good idea keeps you safe.

Anyway, these bushes are looking a lot better. I just have a little more to go. Tomorrow, I’ll swing by the hardware store for some new gloves.

Snip, snip.

The more I think about it, the more I think multi-tasking isn’t always the best way to solve some problems. Some tasks need more thought.

Sometimes we need to stop what we are doing. We should think about how what we do affects other people. We need to listen more, even to the mindless people, because in some cases, the process is more important than the end result.

Snip, snip.

Anyway, I am just about done with these two jobs at about the same time. The bushes are looking good.

As for my blog, I think I will go inside, wash and bandage my hands, and start again.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Superman Returns

In my view, movie reviews are helpful. Reviews can take some of the steam out of the ticket sales for a poor film and sometimes help pump up a good film.

It is hard to say if Napoleon Dynamite would have been as financially successful if it were not for the strong positive comments by many reviewers. Likewise, there are films that arrive and disappear with little or no fanfare because of poor “word-of-mouth”.

Often there are movies that come along that are so “pre-sold” that, no matter what the reviewers say, they will still sell tickets. This past weekend Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest opened and gathered a huge box-office despite tepid reviews. The week before, Superman Returns opened with a strong box-office, although I believe that some at Warner Brothers may be a bit disappointed.

Superman is one of those truly American icons that is nearly sacred. Close to ten years ago Tim Burton was nearly allowed to resurrect the franchise with Nicolas Cage as the “Man of Steel”. Although the studio was pleased with his work on two Batman films, they were not as certain Burton was the best choice for such a beloved character.

Finally, Bryan Singer took up the gauntlet and has made an aggressive attempt to revive this franchise. He angered fans of his work who wanted him to lead the third X-Men film, but seriously, who could turn down “Superman”.

According to the website Movies.com, critics average an “A minus” grade for the film. Ty Burr with the Boston Globe gets it right by saying “(Bryan Singer) respects everything about this property except the last two sequels.” Anthony Lane of the New Yorker gets even closer when he writes, “…what, exactly, was so perfect about the 1978 project that it should warrant emulation?

Lane (no relation to Lois) expresses my disappointment with the new film directly. Many times during the course of Superman Returns I found myself saying, “I have seen this before!”

I remember being a teenager when Christopher Reeve burst on the scene in the 1978 film. At the time it was truly an event. Every image was exciting! Every special effect was amazing! Every man wished he was Reeve just as every woman wanted him for their own.

Most of all, the film left us with hope. We all wanted to believe in Superman. During a time when people were held hostage overseas, we wanted to believe in someone who could make us feel safe and protect us from those who would hurt us.

Today we live in similar times, if not times where we need a Superman more than ever. Unfortunately, we are not given anything new. The storyline is similar. Out of nowhere comes Superman. Lex Luthor wants to kill people and have a new civilization for him to rule, just as he did before.

Superman meets Lois on a rooftop. Superman takes Lois for a fly-around. The two are attracted, but do not quite connect. I remember, I remember.

The two things that also bothered me was the music being the same to the last note, and the final scene where Superman flies around for awhile, then eyes the camera and smiles before shooting away. Reeve did that last time.

Other than references to the film taking place five years after Superman II, and some important changes in Lois Lane’s life, there is very little new ground. Why bother making this movie besides the fact we know it will rake in millions of dollars?

The only reason to see this movie, and if you have not seen it yet, wait for the DVD (it is worth seeing the DVD), are the performances. Singer gets the most out if his people. Spacey and Posey are incredible as the villains. Routh and Bosworth do a very nice job as Clark and Lois. Critics are hard on Bosworth, but who could stand up to the expectations. It may have been harder to play Lois than Superman!

The supporting cast of Frank Langella, James Marsden, Sam Huntington, and the various henchmen of Luther’s did a wonderful job of filling their necessary roles. Even Noel Neill and Jack Larsen, who where in the original syndicated series that premiered over fifty years ago, are in the film and truly add to it.

So what we end up with is a film that is beautifully crafted, well-acted and directed, but offers nothing new for the viewer. Superman Returns. So what.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Tavis Smiley

"An inexhaustible good nature is one of the most precious gifts of heaven, spreading itself like oil over the troubled sea of thought, and keeping the mind smooth and equable in the roughest weather." – Washington Irving

"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit." – Helen Keller

Not that long ago there were meetings held at my workplace that were a joy. There were six of us who regularly met twice a week to discuss changes and concerns at our workplace as team leaders.

Due to a good leader and great team members, we had strong, positive discussions. There were frustrations and occasional catcalling regarding some company decisions, but overall we realized that if we wanted to invoke positive change, it began with our own selves. We worked together to promote those positive attitudes.

I was never certain if it was our team leader or one of our team members, but one of the two brought a box of cards to the meetings for several weeks of meetings. The box of cards was filled with positive thoughts provided by a man named Tavis Smiley. Each of us would take a card. We would go around the room and each would read the thought and explain how it applies to us on either a personal basis or as a team leader.

Does it sound corny? Sure it does. Go ahead and sigh and shake your head. Still, it was effective as a “pick me up”. We really began to enjoy our meetings, not just because of the cards, but by developing a positive attitude as a team. I have participated in many meetings where there was a nearly visible cloud in the room. In our room, there was nearly visible sunshine.

Was that solely due to Smiley and his cards? Of course it was not solely due to the practice. It was due to the team. We bought in and encouraged each other and made our jobs enjoyable. The cards were simply a helpful conduit.

Tavis Smiley was new to me, but has been speaking about politics and a positive attitude for years. Beginning with a commentary on a Los Angeles radio station back in 1991, Smiley has worked hard to grow his career that has included at least three books with titles such as “Doing What’s Right” and “Keeping The Faith” (I have read none of his books, yet.), and hosting and producing a program for the cable channel BET for close to five years.

Today, Tavis Smiley is busy with a radio program on NPR, a television program on PBS and a radio commentary on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show”. He also has a podcast available through public broadcasting that includes clips that come from his NPR program.

This past week, his program had a very diverse group of interviews. Potential presidential candidate Mark Warner, newsman Bill Moyers and musician Bradford Marsalis were among the guests. What drew me to his site were the “Podcast Extras” with such jazz stars as Stanley Clarke, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jay Beckenstein and Julio Fernandez of the group Spyro Gyra.

In my view, the interviews are insightful. The music he includes on the program is excellent. His enthusiasm is infectious. Tavis Smiley has been developing a career for twenty years, but the best is yet to come. People may want to reject the positive attitude of Smiley as juvenile or silly, but if you listen carefully you realize that he is genuine. Check out the link I’ve included at the left. There is a lot to learn from Smiley and the people he interviews.