Sunday, June 27, 2010

I Hope Andy Warhol Was Wrong

In 1968 Andy Warhol was quoted as saying "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Geez, I hope not. Have you done the math? The US population alone is 307 million, that’s almost 77 million hours of television coverage! I can’t take that much stupid.

This prediction has morphed into a birthright, a cultural imperative along with a flat screen TV and a BMW. You must be famous at some point in your life; you just have to figure out how and there is no shortage of avenues for you to take.

Television has brought us the reality show, PUH-lease, what part of any of these shows even approaches reality? America’s Next Top Model, America’s Got Talent, American Idol, Addicted, Armed and Famous, Amish in the City, Are You Hot? Average Joe, The Apprentice, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Big Brother, The Biggest Loser, Basketball Wives, Beauty and the Geek, Boot Camp, Brat Camp, Bridezillas, Battle of the Network Reality Stars – and that’s only a small sampling of the As and Bs!

What people will do, say, or eat just to get on television never ceases to amaze me. I couldn’t even watch the trailers for Fear Factor without a stomach flip; the entire premise seemed to be based on getting people to eat disgusting things. Survivor and Big Brother are all about psychological head games (this is fun to watch?); one takes place on a “deserted” island (save for a few hundred film and production crew) and the other in a house that no one can leave. Wife Swap; I’m sorry – I can’t tell you what that’s about – can anyone out there help me?

Unfortunately these people are rewarded with exactly what they crave, celebrity status. The tabloids and magazines cover them as if they…did something. They’re constantly being photographed and interviewed because they’re on TV. They’ll go to the opening of an envelope. Other television shows have them as guests, sometimes even elevating them to reporters and commentators; you know where Elizabeth Hasselbeck of The View came from? Survivor: The Australian Outback. I don’t even know where the Kardashians came from.

It’s a vicious circle; you become famous for being on a reality show. Then you’re photographed and interviewed because you’re on TV. Then you’re on the cover of a magazine and someone says “let’s get him/her on the show!”

The real challenge seems to be just how long these “stars” can string this along. Case in point, Rob Mariano aka “Boston Rob”, who parlayed his initial stint on a season of Survivor into 2 more, as well as 2 seasons of The Amazing Race, his own reality show “Rob and Amber Get Married”, about the wedding to his wife whom he met on Survivor (a collective ah, or is that eww, is appropriate here) and then because apparently we would care what happened after they got married, “Rob and Amber; Against the Odds”. Not to be limited to the US market only, he also picked up a season on the Canadian show “Reality Obsessed” (what a shocker).

So let’s see, from Survivor: Marquesas in 2002 to Survivor: Heroes and Villains in 2010 – that’s an 8 year run - his 15 minutes are up. I guess there are worse ways to make a living, although if you make me watch any of these shows I’d be hard pressed to think of any.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

10 Things I Need To Thank My Father For

On this Fathers Day, along with the whoopie pies I sent, here is the rest of my gift to my dad – or more accurately my thanks for the gifts he’s given me.

1. Work Ethic. My father has an unshakeable work ethic and this has been firmly instilled in both my brother and I. “If you’re going to do something, do it right” is something I remember hearing over and over again during my childhood; however its worth noting that this was delivered more as an imperative than an ethos (anyone who knows my father is nodding and smiling right now). It was his expectation. I can tell you that I’ve had many a happy employer over the years due to my work ethic.

2. Brevity. Conversations in our house were typically direct, and to the point. We didn’t really pull punches; we said what we meant – assessed the damage – and moved on. We didn’t belabor issues into the ground. While sometimes these conversations were uncomfortable, you knew where everyone stood. My husband comes from a family of conversationalists. They like to talk and talk and talk, summarize things, and then look at it from a different angle. Its pure torture for me and I’ve come to call it “heel grinding” because that’s what it feels like to me. I find beauty in brevity and try to apply it both to my oral and written communications.

3. Fearlessness. When I tell people about my dad, at some point their mouths start to gape open a bit. It might be the fact that he’s started and sold 3 very successful companies over the course of his life, or that he was a charter boat captain, a lobster fisherman, a race car driver, a Busch Grand National crew chief, a private pilot who owned his own plane, etc. - you get the idea. I’ve always thought of my dad as fearless; if he wanted something, he just went about getting it. I like to think I have some of that in me too.

4. Making your own way. Every now and then my husband has to remind me that we’ll never be handed anything; we’re going to have to work for everything we have. I’ve known this along, because it’s the same message my father always delivered to me – count on yourself and you’ll never be disappointed – but every now and then I would forget it; usually at those times where you just look to the sky and say “Really? Really?” because you can’t imagine any worse luck, taking on any further burden, or having anything else go wrong. But I’ve always had confidence in myself, and now I’ve also got my husband to count on, and I think we’re doing pretty good.

5. Jumper cables. I still have the set that my father gave me when turned 16 years old and got my first car. No matter where I’ve lived, eventually everyone always figures out that I’m the person that has the jumper cables in the neighborhood (as our mailman did about 3 weeks ago). I’ve received more compliments on a) the fact that I have jumper cables b) what a nice set they are and c) that I actually know how to use them!

6. Change. The amount of change in our lives when I was growing up is probably directly related to #3 above. My father was never afraid to make a change. If he wanted a better (or warmer) life, he evaluated what needed to be done and a plan was put into action. This applies to himself - his hobbies and his work life - but also to the family. We moved a lot; I attended 8 schools in 12 years, but looking back it was a great lesson to not accept less. Less than what you want. Less than what you dream for. I took this example to heart and moved so much in my 20s that family members learned to record my new address in pencil, not pen, lest they loose an entire page in their address book to scratch-outs. But I don’t regret any move (location or career), even though some were lateral changes, they all led me to where I’m at today and that’s a great place!

7. Mirrors. No, not those mirrors, the mirrors on your car. Growing up I had a horse and so therefore we also had a horse trailer. When I turned 16 my dad said that I could start driving myself to horse shows – as soon as I could back the truck (a regular pick up truck with a cap on the back – which means you can’t look out the back window!) and trailer up our driveway, from one end to the other. No big deal you say? Our driveway was almost a half-mile long, had two hills, and more curves than Pamela Anderson. I practiced every day after school and after about a month I took the test, and passed. At virtually every show I ever attended, I was asked to back up somebody’s rig for them; I was the go-to person after they had seen me park mine. To this day I back up my car with the side mirrors even though I can see out the back window, something my mother commented on during her last visit; “Just like your father, you back up with the side mirrors.” I took it as a complement.

8. Leadership. As I mentioned above my father has started and sold 3 very successful companies during his life and at each he developed a strong following of dedicated and satisfied employees. No matter your background, pedigree, resume, or degree - my father values people – and those people that he values are treated and appreciated accordingly. This is a strong contributing factor to his success. The number one reason employees leave a company is always thought to be money. It isn’t, that’s just something employers tell themselves to justify the turnover. It’s lack of acknowledgement and appreciation for their work. I’ve tried to apply the same principles in my career and based on feedback from the people I’ve worked with, and for over the years, I think I’m on the right track.

9. Letting go. My dad’s got a temper and I inherited that from him in spades. I’m not thanking him for that, because sometimes even I hate my temper (it can frighten those around me), but what I remember most about my dad’s temper was how quickly it passed. Don’t get me wrong, he could be a real shuttle-launch (his term, not mine, but he does use it to describe me – I’m enjoying turning the tables on him :o), but once the initial blast was over, it was all about moving on. I’m exactly the same way. If I have to have a temper, I take a small amount of solace in the fact that I don’t scorch the earth – just the immediate area around the launch pad.

10. For being the family’s “go-to-guy”. My dad has been everyone’s go-to-guy for as long as I can remember. He just knows things, and people. No matter what the issue, people would call my father. He’d have an answer, or at least an idea, or know who to call for the same if he came up blank. This has been a heavy burden over the years; family funerals come to mind – there’s always one person who must carry the weight for those who are unable to in their grief and more often than not that’s been my dad. He’s always there for anyone who calls. Sometimes it’s his time, experience, connections or advice – but I believe people think of my dad like State Farm; he’ll always be there when you need him most. I know I do.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Breaking Up is Hard To Do

My 1-year subscription to a magazine is about to expire, I know this because nearly everyday I receive something in the mail alerting me to this fact. It started about 9 months ago with notices stating “your subscription will soon expire, renew now at this special rate!” Huh? Clearly their definition of “soon” and mine differ greatly. At this point in our relationship, I was still trying to decide whether or not this magazine was worthy of my limited reading time. A particularly interesting issue that I lifted from a doctor’s waiting room had seduced me into signing up for a full year of home delivery, but now that we were regularly seeing one another some of the shine had worn off. It just wasn’t as exciting as that first “stolen” date.

A couple of months later and the envelopes started arriving in bright colors with enticing words printed on the outside. “Act now and save.” “This special won’t last long.” “VIP offer.” By this time I’d pretty much decided that I was over this mag and renewal was not in my future. I found myself lazily flipping the pages, barely interested in the contents. I knew I’d made the right decision when I tried “recycling” them to my neighbor and even she couldn’t muster enough enthusiasm to accept a free magazine.

And then it was crunch time; less than 4 months to go before my subscription ran out. Was I aware of this? If so, then why wasn’t I taking action? The envelopes turned red, literally, and the messages printed on the outside that were once so appealing started to take on a darker tone and contained at least one, if not more, of the following words: urgent, late, expire, terminate, last – you get the idea. I began to feel like a hunted woman; these people would not give up. I just wanted the whole thing to end. I didn’t even care if I got the last couple of issues still owed to me and I was afraid to go to the mailbox.

And then there was a light at the end of the tunnel; my husband handed me the mail and there was an envelope marked “Final Notice”. YEAH! On the same day I also received my last issue; I know this was my last issue because it arrived with a paper cover that was printed with the words “LAST ISSUE” on it. I get it. This is my last chance. They’re not going to stick around forever while I ignore them. They have more self-respect than that. Finally, the long year was over and we had finally broken up. I looked forward to digging into some good books.

And then, just like any good horror film, or the boyfriend that you can never really break up with, they were back. I received a brightly colored yellow envelope letting me know that as a courtesy they’ve extended my subscription for another 2 months, free of charge, because apparently they were concerned that perhaps I’d fallen, and couldn’t get up, and had missed the last 9 months’ renewal notices, and if I acted now I could take advantage of the very, very low – one time only – special renewal rate of…