by on Mar.27, 2013, under money, music, philosophy, politics

It started with silence, empty air. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to the radio in the car even though I still appreciate new music. I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge, so my morning and afternoon commutes became a vehicle to slake that thirst. I can certainly bore you with the details of my podcast consumption habits that formed from there, but that isn’t really the point of this story. The point is that with the recurring set of shows I had come to listen to, I had gotten ahead of my supply with plenty of road ahead of me. So, recalling hearing good things about The Nerdist from somewhere, I queued up the latest episode and was instantly hooked.

Two weeks later (late last week), I’m listening to Chris Hardwick chatting with this YouTube Rap/HipHop artist named Macklemore. It was a compellingly interesting episode, but without clips of his songs my curiosity was only mildly piqued. But over the weekend, on an evening after the kids were in bed, I sought out his supposed breakout hit, and here is what I found:

Say what you like, but this thing is hilarious, catchy, clearly not kid friendly (glad I listened after bedtime), fun and light, and also has a message nested in there.

Jump to today – there has been a bit of a Facebook movement where people are changing their profile pics to red squares with pink equal signs on them (or some variant thereof). This is in support of marriage equality and coincides with the Supreme Court’s initiation of hearing arguments about California’s Proposition 8. I’ve read the arguments that this is a weak move and that a stronger action would be to donate money to causes, etc. I don’t care – I partook and I stand by the sentiment that it stands for – we all deserve to live and love equally.

So this evening as I’ve relaxing (once again having gotten the kids settled for the night) and perusing the musings on Facebook when an inkling tickles the back of my brain from that Nerdist episode – Macklemore also spoke of another song he did that got some mixed reaction called Same Love:

I watched this and got goosebumps and nearly cried, emotions swelled – a mix of pride and hope as well as shame and sorrow. Watch it, and you will get it (or you won’t, you are entitled I guess). This is more than just a music video – it is a short film as well as an anthem for the marriage equality and gay rights movement. I immediately posted it to Facebook.

The point that I’m getting to here is this: I could sit here right now and write entire blog posts about each of these videos. And if I did, the Venn diagram of their traits would be a small sliver of awesome. The one – a serious and moving story and diatribe about the plight of a yet oppressed minority within our nation and world, the other – a light, pompous romp about making fashion gold out of Goodwill fare (with an unveiled jab at the fashion/consumerist establishment). Together, these songs (and many others) paint the picture of a complex, intelligent individual who has a decided talent for expression through verse – one whom I now have a great appreciation and respect for and had otherwise no knowledge of two weeks ago.

Am I about to start clothes shopping at thrift stores now? Not likely. Am I gearing up to march on Washington over political issues? Not this week, but I wouldn’t rule it out. What I’ve really learned from this is two things: First, never underestimate a medium – I was never a big fan of HipHop and mostly dismissed it as the messages were all gold, guns, and girls, but here I was proven wrong. Second, labels don’t always fit – Macklemore doesn’t get much radio airplay as he is unsigned and pretty much a YouTube artist. But Billboard is starting to get where the audience is, and as such, he made it on the charts AS an unsigned YouTube artist and has since been on SNL and various other gigs (again, I could likely do a whole blog post on this topic as well).

The bottom line is that if I can still have my mind opened further at the age of 37, we all can if we let it happen. If it’s from this, you’re welcome. If it is from something else, that’s great too. But the moment you close out new experiences you stop living in the world, and the world is a variegated and interesting place.

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Lessons Learned

by on Aug.08, 2010, under family, philosophy

They say (whoever ‘they’ are) that you learn something new every day.  I’ve learned a few things today.  To name just a few, I learned that I’m going to be an uncle once more over, that I am apparently boycotting Target, and that even though I know very little about the new Showtime series, “The Big C”, I have no intention whatsoever to ever watch it.

In many ways my life is currently about development.  For one, I am currently one of the lucky members of a company-sponsored leadership training program at work.  Myself and 11 others were selected from over 50 people who applied for the program, and we collectively meet for 2 hours a week to learn how to be better leaders.  There is also a project component to the program (there has to be some sort of measurable benefit, right?).  Some seem to be of the opinion that the project is more important than the training to the powers that be, but while I doubt that is necessarily true, even if it is it seems that the project is an important one and what better way to enforce the lessons at hand than practical application.

Additionally, I’m learning how to manage my kids more effectively.  When every suggestion/request/command that I issue is greeted by my daughter with inquisition and and by my son with either ignorance, abject compliance, or abject defiance, it is difficult to avoid yelling from time to time.  But I’ve noticed that yelling often begets yelling and can rapidly deteriorate even with the best of efforts to steer back.  So I’m making an effort to avoid yelling at all (it is a true test of stamina sometimes, believe me).  Now I just have to groom them not to yell back … I’ve got time.

Also with my kids, I’m learning to be careful what lessons I pass on.  I was explaining how picking flowers is traumatic to the plants and in doing so anthropomorphizing the parts of the plant to better impress upon her the pieces of it and how the interact (e.g., the roots are the plants mouth, the leaves its arms) – while she got the message that the plants had little chance of survival given her incomplete extrication, in the end I get a shrug and the statement “but I love the way their butts feel on my face.”

To elaborate on some of the learnings of the day, firstly my sister-in-law seems to be expecting her second child.  We are all routing for a girl (other than Cricket, the rest seem to be boys on my in-laws’ side).  Target apparently stepped in it with the homosexual community by contributing $150,000 to the right-wing political action committee, Minnesota Forward, who then used the funds to promote Tom Emmer in the Minnesota governor’s race, who happens to support banning gay marriage.  Being generally anti-right-wing-wingnut and of the stance that everyone should have the right to be happy in whatever shape or form suits them so long as no one is getting hurt (non-consensually), I think this is a big step in the wrong direction and is disappointing coming from Target.  I won’t likely be picketing, but I do tend to shop there semi-frequently due to my dislike of Walmart.  But I’m sure I can find somewhere else to purchase my random household items until they dig their way out of this one.  Finally, the last item is related to work and is frankly the main reason that I’m up and on my computer at this hour on a Sunday night/Monday morning.  I will likely be sleeping in a bit and going into the office late to cover for these late hours (they’ll live).

My final lesson learned for today is that is likely smarter once all is said and done and obstacles are cleared to going about ones preferred business (in my case, going to bed), spending a half an hour delaying that by writing an arguably cheeky blog post about nothing in particular is not the wisest course of action (especially since the motivations behind writing said post are mostly vague feelings of guilt and spite).  And I know that in such a state, I’m not likely to go back and proofread it either to make sure I didn’t make any important mistakes or make an ass of myself (not that I often avoid those things anyway – it keeps things interesting), so this post could be doubly dubious.  But I’m nearly done, so I may as well let it be what it is.  After all, you live and you learn.

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The Man Who Knew Too Little

by on Jul.18, 2010, under About Me, philosophy

I’m not getting any younger, and I hope that I’m still trending in the direction of smarter.  In less than 24 hours I’m going to be entering the latter half of my 30’s.  As my dad would put things, today if you rounded my age to the nearest decade, I’d be 30 – tomorrow it would be 40.  While oversimplifying things, it is hard to argue with the logic of it.

In truth, I hardly feel like I’m about to be 35.  But perhaps my mind just likes to let me feel that way.   Most of the signs of my age are things I can live with (I’ll take graying hair over balding) or tolerate (ibuprofen helps at times).  Some are comparative – while I don’t feel like I’ve matured more than a little in the last decade, but if I was anything like some of the 25-year-olds I know 10 years ago, then I’ve come a longer way than I’ve noticed.  I guess that a lot of it is perception.  But so far there are no costs to my age that I can complain about.

Kids help.  While on one hand they certainly can be challenging a lot of the time, the biggest challenge they offer is to your own perceptions of the world and what matters in it.  Before I had kids, even in my 20’s I found myself making efforts to define myself as an individual – both to myself and to others.  Now I know who I am and don’t feel a need to prove it to anyone.  My responsibilities are clear and my resolve is steadfast.  Plus they can make life so much fun.  They have personalities that are so big and bright that I can’t help but be drawn into them like the best show to watch is happening right in my house.

All that said, as I reflect on my time thus far in life I feel the need to question my progress.  Have I done all that I should have done by this point?  Do I know all that I should know?  It is the kind of introspect that leads to no good answers and often just to no good – the kind that leads to mid-life crises (and I can’t really afford a new sports car right now).

But again, perspective helps allay my mind.  I’ve never been one to give in to peer pressure or be all that comparative to or covetous of my neighbors.  And so I can soldier on in the knowledge that I know what I know and I’ve done what I did.  The only thing I can do is keep making the most of my time.  And at the moment I think the best use of such time might be for some sleep and prepare to tackle another opportunity for life experiences in the morning.  If I have any of note, I’ll be sure to let you all know.  In the least, perhaps you might learn from my mistakes.

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Travelogue – a Side Track

by on Jun.16, 2010, under career, money, philosophy

As exciting as I’m sure my daily chronicles of travel have been, I’m going to take a day off from it to write about something else.  This concept was something I discussed with a colleague last week at the conference in San Francisco and got to talking about again with another colleague this week in NYC.  After chatting about it, we dug up this link and made some popcorn.  The below video is a condensed version of a longer talk – the longer talk is good to, but doesn’t include the awesome whiteboard work demonstrated in the video below.

In watching this, as baffled as the results seem to be to a number of experts apparently, to me this seems akin to common sense.  While money can be a decent incentive, it is not the great incentivizer.  If it was, then rich executives would be the hardest working people in the world (while a handful of them might argue that they are, most of them are far from it).  The interesting coincidence of this topic is that in the discussion, the company that is used as an example of a different way of thinking about incentivization is the very one that sponsored the conference I attended last week.

I am very tempted to send this video to the top executive team at my company and see how willing they may be to adopt some of the habits of it.  I’m sure they will really love the full-length version as it seems to suggest that the sales commission model may be flawed as well (well the CEO and COO would like it, sales maybe less so).  What is important to glean from this, though, isn’t that monetary incentives like bonuses don’t work (though apparently they don’t), but that what does work is to pay people what they need and deserve (so that money is not an issue) and motivate people through personal challenge and growth, a level of autonomy, and a sense of purpose.

I am also motivated to consider the lessons of this set of studies in the context of parenting.  Obviously children aren’t motivated by money (at least not most kids) and material rewards and punishments have limited results. But perhaps more intrinsically valued rewards may be more motivating.  If I have any luck with it, I’ll post an update on the matter.

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Given Pause

by on Jun.04, 2010, under philosophy, TV

I was up last night enjoying my double-shot of fake news, and found myself surprised by Stephen Colbert.  Okay, that on its own is not surprising – his brand of humor revolves around being startlingly if mockingly conservative and I for one get and enjoy the joke.  But no, he was in the midst of an interview with the band Vampire Weekend and brought up a reference to one of their lyrics about the Oxford comma.

If you are not familiar with the Oxford comma (I hadn’t been familiar with it by that name until last night myself), it is the final comma before “and” or “or” in a list if 3 or more items (e.g., apples, bananas>,< and cantaloupes).  I’m sure most of you could probably care less about this matter, but its necessity has apparently been refuted and vacillated over the years and I have actually had discussions on this matter with people and happen to share Colbert’s expressed opinion on it.  Apparently the modern American convention is that it is assumed and thus unnecessary.  But traditionalist, Oxford scholars, Stephen Colbert, and myself believe that its inclusion or exclusion change the meaning of the phrase as it is possible to have compound elements within such a list (e.g., ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, or tuna fish).

Again, I admit that this is a fairly minor matter and why I have such strong opinions on it I cannot really explain.  But it was interesting to witness such a juxtaposition as this subject matter being discussed between a fake pundit and a young rock group whose music intones nonchalance.  Certainly there are less trivia matters in the world than proper comma use, but I can’t help but be given pause be such matters.  Perhaps it is my affinity to debate any subjects that may have no right or wrong side.  Perhaps in a world where it is easy to feel like the reach and longevity of our impact on it may be minimal, rhetoric can seem as important as anything else.  Or maybe I should just start going to bed earlier.

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