Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This Week In Mormons In The Media

Worst. Oscars. Ever.

Too long, as always, and full of all the filler viewers usually complain about and are promised will be done away with every year like musical numbers and boring speaches. It didn’t help that there wasn’t a single movie or category I had any vested interest in. I had three hopes this year, that Richard Jenkins would get nominated for The Visitor, that Melissa Leo would get nominated for Frozen River, and that Robert Downey Jr. would get a nom for Tropic Thunder and all three happened with zero chance of actually winning. Knowing this was a foregone conclusion weeks in advance, I had no skin in the game. And, let me be clear about this, I HATED (yes, all caps) Slumdog. What a laborious piece of fantasy fluff. You know that agonizing gap in time on “Who Wants…Millionaire” between Regis saying “Is that your final answer” and “You are correct!” that feels even longer when you know the guy got the answer right? That’s what the entire movie felt like.

It was not a good night for Mormons as we, yet again, took a whipping for Prop 8. (Mark my words, the history books will mark that fiasco as our 3rd black eye after polygamy and not giving blacks the priesthood. We’ll never live it down and we don’t deserve to). Dustin Lance Black, who also writes for “Big Love” won for Best Original Screenplay for Milk. Of course, he thanked his parents, not for loving or supporting him, but for moving him away from a “conservative Mormon home in San Antonio” to California where he realized he was gay and could be himself. Then, he went on to, basically, say all gays and lesbians were God’s children and were beautiful people and that they should feel proud to be themselves. I totally agree with this, it’s just that the comments subtly came at the Church’s expense. Oh well, we have it coming.

Then Sean Penn won Best Actor, also for Milk, and basically called us out. "For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think it's a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame and their shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that support." I’d like to share the blame with the Blacks who also voted against the bill, but I know he’s really pointing a finger at us.

So, Survivor’s back and includes Tyson, a return missionary from Utah County who is a professional cyclist. He hasn’t had much to do yet, but he was, as my good friend Chuck texted me the night of the premiere “the first to get nekkid”. (Note: Chuck did not write “nekkid”, but considering Chuck is Black, I felt the artistic license was justified since it’s probably how he would have said it in person.). I know many are horrified by Tyson's behavior, but consider the alternative: would you rather he was handing out Book of Mormon’s and baring his testimony? Not me! I’ll take this any day. Farrah and I have a hunch Spencer might be LDS too. He looks like one and his name is Spencer afterall. His bio does not seem to support this, but I’m curious if anyone knows for sure.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Call Me Ted

Reading Ted Turner’s book I became acutely aware of something about my own life. I’m dumb.

I kid myself by telling myself I’m not or that I have “different talents”, but the truth of the matter is that I pretty much lack the genes necessary to be contributing member of society. Sure, I have beautiful children and I’m employed and I love my wife and I go to church, all those virtues it takes to be a productive member of society. But I lack the ability to be a contributing one.

I go through life with a major conflict on my shoulders. Do I not excel at certain things because I don’t try hard enough or because I lack the ability to do so? My core philosophy has always been that as long as I am aware of a problem/need/responsibility/dream then that makes it a “to-do”. “I know I’m out of shape, so it’s on me and me ONLY to do it”. “I know the lawn needs to be mowed, so it’s on me and me ONLY to do it.” “I know I’d really like to start a business, so it’s on me and me ONLY to do it.” “I know I’d like to write a book, so it’s on me and me ONLY to do it.” Etc.

Our culture, heck the human race, thrives on stories of the little guy who gave something their all and came out a winner, whether it be in sports, or business, or education or American Idol. It’s what fuels the spirit that our existence is based on.

So, again, my conflict becomes: what if I show no ability to start my own business or get a PHD or play pro baseball, would trying harder fix that? For instance, I was no better at math or science the day I graduated from college, than when I entered high school. I studied, I passed classes (barely), I even had tutors occasionally, but the information never stuck. Whose fault is that?

Now, back to Turner. The man is amazing. He’s brilliant. He’s savvy. He’s visionary. He went from taking over his father’s billboard business to becoming one of the richest, most innovative, most influential people the world has ever seen. I’m humbled, I’m awed, I’m jealous, and I’m frustrated. Could anyone be a Ted Turner, or do his unique talents, circumstances, vision, and luck make him the only one qualified to wear those shoes? Believing that you can is what gets most people up in the morning, especially in a capitalistic society. I, however, have no business acumen to speak of. I don’t understand stocks or venture funding or equity or any other buzz word associated with entrepreneurialism. Like math and science, I have a feeling a lot of instruction would only accomplish retaining some of the information and for only short periods of time. So, instead, I go through life wondering “what if”. Take a piano prodigy. Does he find the piano, or does the piano find him? In other words, could anyone be a prodigy if the correct vessel was placed before them?

Bottom line: read the book. It’s fascinating and quick. My only beef is that Ted’s personality doesn’t leap off the page like it does in person. Luckily, he has friends, cohorts, and family write sections throughout the book that provides an anecdote that shines better light on the man.
Life would be easier if I didn’t see someone like Ted Turner as a goal or ideal. If I let them be them and me be me. But, that wouldn’t work because all I want to do is watch TV and eat pizza. So, where do I channel my motivation? My shoulders are collapsing!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

CA - CA - CA - Changes

So, if having a new baby wasn't enough change to one's routine, I recently switched jobs. I've told most people, but I wanted to get the full story documented so that I wouldn't have to keep going over it.

As most of you know, I've been with IBM for 4 years as an inside software sales rep. I've always liked the job, the people were great, the culture was casual and balanced and the job was rewarding when business was good. The problem has been that business hasn't been good for the last couple years and the job had become pretty rote. I've been going through the motions for a while, but because it offered such a quality of life I didn't think much about leaving.

Over the last year or so, layoffs have been going on in rounds and they kept creeping closer and closer to our group. Around November, I started feeling like I better look around because I could be next. Luckily, my buddy Jason, who introduced me to IBM, had recently left for CA (Computer Associates) and heard about a program they were starting where they would hire a bunch of associate sales reps with about my level of experience and train them to go out into the field and sell their best selling product, which is a Product and Portfolio Mgmt software called Clarity. The pay was better, the potential upside was greater and the change would do me some good.

Because we were about to have Graham and IBM pays 2 weeks of paternity leave, I didn't want to make anything official until I got back. My plan was to go back and quit shortly afterwards. Well, my first day back in the office a coworker who knew I was planning on leaving, told me about an email they accidentally saw that alluded to layoffs taking place the next week. So, the plan became wait and see if I got laid off and collect the severance and then quit if not, since I'd be taking off anyway. Well, sure enough it worked. About 20% of us were laid off that week and I was able to start my new job at CA a few days later. We've already cashed the severance check. None of my friends that have been laid off from IBM or anywhere else have been in such a prime situation.

Not only do I consider myself extremely lucky to have been recruited for a job in this economy, but it has managed to restore some faith in the Man Upstairs after years of feeling very alone. The way things worked out does not say "coincidence" to me and I can't really deny it. Not only that, but four great, but very challenging, years at IBM now make so much sense. Every challenge, every lesson, every experience had a subtext that is now the main plot. It's a relief to feel a sense of accomplishment being able to move on from that chapter of my life and know that I graduated.

I've been on the road almost since the day I started at CA. I've been in New York (Islandia about an hour outside Manhattan, not sexy NYC) for the last 2 weeks for training and I'm ready to go home this Friday. I'm forgetting what my kids look like and I miss my wife and my bed and regular food and the DVR and having a car and wearing clothes that aren't business casual, etc. One thing I'm learning about CA is they are WAY more hardcore and competitive and open about wanting to make lots and lots of money than anyone I met at IBM. The culture there wasn't like that at all. Now, I suddenly feel like "sales" isn't the bad word it used to be and that succeeding is nothing to apologize for. I do worry about the state of my soul, but that is a conflict I carry with me all the time (as has been mentioned in previous posts) and I can't let it hold me back from working hard and being confident about what I do. If you can't tell, this whole thing has caused some serious contemplation about my life, but the conclusions I'm coming to are all good and I feel like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

This Week in Mormons in the Media

In case you weren't aware, the current season of MTV's Real World features a member of the church. Chances are you weren't if you're like me and have ignored this now meaningless show for the last 10 years or so. This season takes place in Brooklyn and, so far, I haven't seen any hot tub orgies or in-house hook-ups yet, which sets it apart from most of what happens on the show nowadays.

The Mormon is named Chet and he's a real stud. I like the guy a lot because he represents the church how I wish it was shown more often. He's very hip and cool and funny and fashionable (he even wears eye liner when he goes out to the clubs), but the church has yet to be used as an obstacle or a hindrance either by him or the show. It's the antithesis of Julie who set us back a few years ago as the show's first Mormon. This guy gets it. His focus is more on morality than spirituality. I like that.

I know he's from SLC and he has referred to himself as a frat guy, so I assume he goes to the U. I don't see garments, so I don't think he's an RM and he hasn't said whether that's part of his plans or not. Many of his roommates think he's gay, or at least that was a running joke in the beginning. It's a comment he laughingly tosses aside. My only fear is that the season's big ta-dah moment will be him coming out only because it would turn his arc into a stereotype rather than just allowing him to be a cool member who's his own person.

There is another cast member named Baya (weird name) and she's also from SLC, but she isn't LDS. She's as lame as the rest of the cast is. I swear these kids are still in high school. I weep for the future.

This season's Biggest Loser has bounced back from last season's ugliness to feature some people worth rooting for. And, it appears a couple teams are Mormon. They haven't come out and said anything, but in photo montages of them at home with their families, pictures were featured of Blane and Filipe with their wives on, what looked like, temple grounds. Add to that the fact their both from Mesa, AZ and Blane's wife just had a kid they named Breckin (a dead giveaway given Mormon's penchant for stupid baby names). I say chances are pretty good these guys are part of the flock.

Former BYU football player Brett Keisel is now a Super Bowl Champion. His Steelers beat the Cardinals, unfortunately, and he even factored into the deciding play of the game by landing on the ball after Kurt Warner's "fumble" on the final drive allowing Pittsburgh to clinch it. While I'm happy for him, I'm really bummed AZ lost. They were such a great story. But, I knew when Larry Fitzgerald scored that TD with over 2 mins left that they were in trouble. You can't leave that much time on the clock.

Once again, a member of the church has been featured on Intervention. At least, I assume she is. Her name is Lana, she lives in St. George and she's one of 11 children. Plus, they kept showing family photos and they were those color-coordinated ones all members get. She never outright says she's LDS, but you can pretty much piece it together.