Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hospitality, Regional Stereotypes, and the Little Blue Truck


When I went to Texas to college, I was pretty off put by the regional stereotype of Southern hospitality. There were times when I would experience this stereotypical hospitality and unless it was through a "logical connection" (say the mother of a fellow student), I would tend to write it off as fake. A person who didn't know you greeting you with big grins, a firm handshake, or a bubbly twangy voice was too much for me. I justified this outward hospitality as a regional stereotype that was as much about putting on a front as a pair of overpriced dress shoes might impress someone in a New York city board room.

I think (hope) overtime, my negativity to hospitality wore off in someways over my years in college and the following years when I still lived in Texas. I came to see that many (most) people were genuine and their friendliness wasn't simply a regional cover-up for the blemished past of Southern culture, or any other sociological or cynical interpretation. In the way values pass from generation to generation I've come to value   many parts of that culture.

Tonight I read my kids the cute and fun story Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry. The story is a simple story (spoiler warning...just kidding), about a Little Blue Truck who is friendly to others and big Dump Truck that is too big, fat and busy for others. When the dump truck get's stuck in the mud, not only does the Little Blue Truck help out, but the farm animal friends who he's been friendly with over time.
The Dramatic Enterance of the Dump Truck in the Children's Story Little Blue Truck
In a more critical time of my life, I might have criticized a stereotype, suggesting the busy dump truck might have a soul, and his presentation as a focused contributor misrepresents the fast paced culture of other areas of the country. I couldn't say such a thing with a sincere face today.

Instead, while reading it to my children, who do not live in the South, I thought about how I would want my children to embody the hospitality associated with the Southern stereotype. I would love for my own children to have a natural hospitality that not only is natural, but also in genuine. They won't have the twang, but they can have the heart.
"Welcome Y'All Image" from Flickr: Unquenchable Fire shared under Creative Commons.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Scheduling A Stop To Smell The Roses

I don't know about you, but one of the things that I find to be hard to do is "stop and smell the roses." To me it becomes almost a Catch 22 type of thing, because to slow down means planning to slow down which means more doing.

This relates to me specifically it seems at my life stage (but feel free to tell me it's more than just that), but at this stage in my life, as a father of three kids under the age of five life goes fast. Between getting the kids fed before work to a frantic rush home to get home take care of the kids while my wife and I slapped hands to say "tag" before I headed off to a meeting, life just seems fast.

I find myself saying "slow down" and "cherish these moment." And even in those quick hand-offs and rushes I look at my kids, my wife, and many other aspects of my life with joy and I say "slow down, brother, appreciate these things."

And it's odd that in the effort to say "slow down" I am practicably saying to myself "seize the day" which is something quite different. The act of slowing down and enjoying these things, like my family, creates the urge to do things...I say "slow down enjoy your kids, maybe you should schedule a vacation to do so," or even in a less time/financial draining way I say "what about a fun picnic trip to the park."

And I like these ideas, vacations, picnics, outdoor adventures, indoor forts, and the works, but some of these desires spring out of slowing down, and they are anything but slowing down.

I think I feel this way when I read about phone apps that are supposed to simply my life (oh look, a new great list maker, or a way to socially engage with other like minded rose smellers, it even captures my GPS coordinates of where I smelled the roses and plots them on an interactive map).

Or, I feel this way when I talk to my wife or friends, because we're all seeing different ways to cherish the moments in ways the eat up the calendar.

Don't get me wrong, I don't just want to sit on the living room floor and have a starring contest with a two-year old in a zen-emphasis of slowing down.

I don't think the answer to stopping and smelling the roses is more pictures - we take more than we could ever reflect on.

And you can hardly schedule a stop to smell the roses.

But I wonder if what I really want when I say I want to slow down, enjoy each moment, cherish the memories and "stop and smell the roses," is that I really just want to make sure that I am present. A sense that "where I am, is where I am." And that if I'm with a friend, my wife, or one of my children that I'm one hundred percent there with them - in all my senses...and maybe not so much my nose, but my eyes and my ears particularly. If I tune my eyes to see the people I'm with, and my ears to hear what they are saying, I'm pretty confident that my mind will follow and tune out the other distractions that keep us from truly stopping and being where we are.


Images: Dog Nose From Giant Freakin Robot post here; Tulip Picture from Wallshq found  here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Bombing - What Is This?

Front page headline of Times-Picayune
(New Orleans, Louisiana daily)
One of the things that I find most challenging about the Boston Bombing is that without much real information outside of the actual tragedy.

The event truly is a tragedy. Between injuries, fatalities, public disturbance, and all sorts of reasonable causes for unrest there's no argument the event is sad.

The Boston Marathon in itself is such a meaningful event for many, not to mention the actual participants, and as a sight for a violent act it is simply shocking.

Yet past shock, I was a little surprised...not entirely surprised, but a little, to see some TV stations today on with continuous coverage, the words "breaking news" at the bottom of the screen, and yet at the same time, no news at all.

Eating my lunch at work there was a television on in the break room  the breaking news banner at the bottom of the screen, and my eyes peeled to see what was breaking. But it was no real news, it was new video footage and information about suspects and witnesses being picked out from a crowded video.

Newspapers all across the country fill their cover page with updates, that aren't really updates at all, and it seems like what they should do, this is the way we cover uncertain tragedy.

Is it foreign terrorism? Certainly if this is an act of foreign terror, the scope of the story is big - there is a feeling that we should feel the echo of previous acts of terror. Clearly the scope is not that of the 9/11 attacks, but I've heard people over the past couple days recall the days after the 9/11 attacks and the impact of the day. Yet it's uncertain if this event even falls into those categories.

Is it domestic terrorism? If it's domestic terrorism, then what's it about. With a highly partisan nation there's a fear that this could be a statement. Is this an outcry against taxes? Gun legislation? Right-wing extremist? Left-wing agitators? Most theories here seem a little ridiculous, because an act of idealism is so far from irrational, and there hasn't been any attempt to clearly connect the events to a cause. The homegrown extremist angle of course creates a whole different conversation and creates different meaning to the event.

Is it a psychotic maniac? American tragedy of this nature often is connected to these unreal characters who perform an act of true insanity on the country's center stage. These James Holmes, Ted Kaczynski, or school house mass shooter, car bombers, and other individual crazies fill the news in new ways every year, and if this is one of those situations, again the conversation changes. If so, this general attack of leisure and the inability to be protected in public certainly will create a flair of fear and further discussion on weapons, concealed weapons, and mental issues.

When the conversation changes, the way we feel about the event changes, and there is a lot of room for details. Those details will not only color the way we feel about the event, but also color the way the news and story progresses going forward.

But in the meantime, I permit the news coverage to die down and let the investigations take place. There is no need for the news to create news at this point, or figure out what to call the event...an act of terror, a tragedy, an attack? There's so many potential conversations, but any of them are really premature at this point. The lens through which this event is viewed still isn't there, so when confronted with the news coverage I think it's hard to know how to watch the news.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Soccer Snacks

My daughter (4 years old) just did a little mini season of Pee Wee Soccer season. It was only four weeks, but something I found interesting is the whole world of post-game snacks.

The group she played with was pretty relaxed, but as I've talked to other parents of toddlers, this seems like a new stressful frontier.

When I did kids sports, I kind of have this memory of getting orange slices and a Hi-C after the game.

In the world of food rules, I honestly would have been fine if they let everyone just be on the own to give there kid a drink and something to eat after the game.

But, somehow the classic orange slices and Hi-C doesn't seem to fly (the orange slices because they're not pre-packaged and potentially not organic, the Hi-C because it's owned by Minute Maid which is owned by Coca-Cola which means parents think it's bad for kids and probably has high-fructose corn syrup in it, even if it doesn't).

So, what's a parent to do?

Becuase snacks didn't come with specific food rules, the snacks and drinks varied significantly. And yes, on her team of 10, one kid was gluten free.

Here's the snacks/drinks she had after her four games.

Week 1: Horizon Organic Milk with Pre-Packaged Apples and Caramel dip
Week 2: Capri Sun with pre-packaged individual Goldfish Crackers
Week 3: Capri Sun with Lays Potato Chips and Sweedish Fish Candy
Week 4: Capri Sun with a Fruit Roll and Fruity Pebbles Treats Marshmallow Treats

Four weeks down, four very different snacks and every one's still alive, and no complaints on our side since we don't have too many food rules (especially when it comes to a one time snack). But it's still interesting and a little stressful as a parent wanting something easy, kids will like, and they're parents will appreciate.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Mr. Selfridge and Today: Items Behind The Counter

The Ladies Behind The Accessory Counter at Selfridge & Co.
In episode 2 of Mr. Selfridge, the main plot point is the tough decision about relocating make-up, face cream and perfume to the front of the department store. One of the decisions is not to put lipstick on display since it has a reputation of being used by "ladies of the night."

Obviously, the times have changed...perhaps in part due to Mr. Harry Gordon Selfridge himself. But it's interesting how much the times have changed.

The other night my wife and I were discussing this, and next thing we know it's a Cialis advertisement on TV. They talk not just about erectile dysfunction  but being ready when the mood strikes, erections that last more than 4 hours, and not impacting when "you've gotta go." It's a mix of casual common terms and phrases, next to medical terminology.

I'm not against old people having sex, much in the same way that people in 1909 didn't appear to have qualms against lip stick. But the lip stick was a behind the counter product, something you wouldn't display on the counter or in a store shop window. It seems to me, that these days, there's not many "behind the counter" products on any more. And maybe it's me, but I wish some things, like Cialis (or legal services for medical settlements or personal injury, stool softeners, or feminine products) would go back behind the counter. I'm not against them, I just don't need to see them advertised front and center.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Quick Thoughts on the first episode of Mr. Selfridge

This past week my wife and I watched the first episode of ITV Studio's Mr. Selfridge.

I look forward to watching the second episode tomorrow night on PBS. Here are some first thoughts.

  • Unless you're a Masterpiece Classics regular, I think it'd be hard to watch it without comparing/contrasting it to Downton Abbey.
  • This is not a child of Downton Abbey, it sees to be it's own type of show, and if anything reminds me more in terms of content of AMC's Mad Men (period business/marketing film, strongly creative potentially personality) as opposed to Downton Abbey which seems to be similar only in that it's period British film that airs on PBS.
  • The title character, Jeremy Piven as Mr. Harry Selfridge was certainly interesting, but I wonder if his strong personality will be interesting through multiple episodes or becoming tiring
  • Truth is usually more interesting than fiction, but since Harry Gordon Selfridge is a historical person, I wonder if this series will meet a challenge (especially in terms of creating a multi-season show) with the limitation of being based on a true story?
  • Since the show has already aired earlier this year in England, it would be tempting to cheat and see how things play out, but I'm going to watch this with fresh unspoiled eyes.
  • The first episode introduced so many characters, I'm curious who's going to be the true supporting players, and really stand out. In episode 1 the standouts seemed to clearly be the supporting females, primarily Aisling Loftus as Agnes Towler (obviously some of the most striking scenes - the gloves, the house visit, the rose suggestion), and Katherine Kelly as Lady Mae Loxley (her dialogue always seemed well scripted to counter-balance Pivens strong over-the-top dialogue)
  • There's so many great stories to tell, and I think a modern period serial of this type is an incredible way to tell the story of not just a life, but of a time. I'd love to see more projects like this hit prime time.
  • Between the story, the presentation of the story (including fantastic production value) I hope this show is an enjoyable show to watch the remainder of the season.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Future Fourquels

In 2011, after identifying that the 2011 movie calendar had five films with fourth installments (I call those fourquels - although I understand that they're really called Tetralogy), I took the time to figure out what movies had been trilogies to help identify potential future fourquels.

Since today is April 4th (04-04), I thought...why not revisit this list, although 2013 is remarkably unfourquelesque - just one that I know of, and it comes out tomorrow.

Upcoming Fourquels On the Calendar:

April 5, 2013: Evil Dead (83, 87, 93, 13)
February 7, 2014: Robocop (87, 90, 93, 14)
June 13, 2014: Jurassic Park 4 (93, 97, 01, 14)
June 27, 2014: Transformers 4 (07, 09, 11, 14)
March 27, 2015: The Penguins of Madagascar (Madagascar: 05, 08, 12, 15)

Future Fourquels? Probably Not - But It Could Happen:

• Alex Cross 4 ('97, 01, 12)
• Ape Woman 4 (1943, 44, 45)
• Austin Powers 4 (97, 99, 02)
• Back to the Future 4 (85, 89, 90)
• The Bad News Bears 4 (76, 77, 78)
• Barbershop 4 (02, 04, 05)
• Beverly Hills Cop 4 (84, 87, 94)
• Big Momma's House 4 (00, 05, 11)
• The Black Stallion (79, 83, 03)
• Blade 4 (98, 02, 04)
• La Cage Aux Follies 4 (78, 80, 85)
• Cannonball Run 4 (81, 84, 89)
• Captain Nemo 4 (54, 61, 69)
• The Chronicles of Narnia 4 (05, 08, 10)
• Creature from the Black Lagoon 4 (54, 55, 56)
• Crocodile Dundy 4 (86, 88, 01)
• Dairy of a Wimpy Kid 4 (10, 11, 12)
• Escape to Witch Mountain 4 (75, 78, 09)
• Evil Dead 4 (83, 87, 93)
• Flash Gordon 4 (36, 38, 40)
• The Fly 4 (58, 59, 65)
• Friday 4 (95, 00, 02)
• From Dusk Till Dawn 4 (96, 99, 00)
• Goal! 4 (05, 07, 09)
• The Godfather 4 (72, 74, 90)
• The Grudge 4 (04, 06, 08)
• Harold and Kumar 4 (04, 08, 11)
• Home Alone 4 (90, 92, 97)
• Infernal Affairs 4 (02, 03, 03)
• It's Alive 4 (74, 78, 87)
• Jeepers Creepers 4 (01, 03, 11)
• Jurassic Park 4 (93, 97, 01)
• Look Who's Talking 4 (89, 90, 93)
• Mad Max 4 (79, 81, 85)
• Major League 4 (89, 94, 98)
• Matrix 4 (99, 03, 03)
• Meet the Parents 4 (00, 04, 10)
• Men in Black 4 (97, 02, 12)
• Mighty Ducks 4 (D4?) (92, 94, 96)
• Mr. Belvedere 4 (48, 49, 51)
• The Mummy 4 (99, 01, 08)
• The Naked Gun 4 (88, 91, 94)
• The Never Ending Story 4 (84, 90, 94)
• Oceans Eleven 4 (01, 04, 07)
• Poltergiest 4 (82, 86, 88)
• Porky's 4 (82, 83, 85)
• Predator 4 (87, 90, 10)
• Rugrats 4 (98, 00, 03)
• Rush Hour 4 (98, 01, 07)
• The Santa Clause 4 (94, 02, 06)
• Smokey and the Bandit 4 (77, 80, 83)
• Super Fly (72, 73, 90)
• Toy Story 4 (95, 99, 10)
• Transformers 4 (07, 09, 11)
• Underworld 4 (03, 06, 09)
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