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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Clear eyes, full hearts...

Thanks to the magic of digital video recording, I was able to stop time, to delay the inevitable by almost 24 hours.

But as a wise man (or was it a woman?) once said, all good things must come to an end.

So on Saturday--almost a day later than the NBC executives planned it--the Lights went out. But what a way to go out.

"Friday Night Lights" ended it's five-year run as one of the greatest American television series ever in the same way the show lived: vivid acting performances, innovative cinematic work, and brilliant storytelling.

As the finale progressed, it was clear that the theme of "family" foreshadowed the end of the Taylor's time with Texas football. The move to Philadelphia was the only logical way for the core values of the show--loyalty, integrity, and family--to win out.

"Friday Night Lights" was never about football. Football was just the setting, the context for the relationships and for the stories of navigating life.

As Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton walked away, arm in arm, it affirmed everything the show stood for. It also allowed those who created the show to remain true to themselves and to the story they were telling.

There will be other actors and technician and storytellers who come along and deliver brilliance to our television sets. But at this time, in this era of "reality" television and faux-stars famous for being famous, it was refreshing to see the craft of making a television show so expertly executed.

We'll miss you Eric and Tami, Julie and Matt, Riggings, Tyra, Landry, Street, Buddy, and the rest. Thanks to the producers and staff for giving us five years of greatness.

Texas forever.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Smoke

A puff of smoke drifts away on the night air. It fades and you follow it but it continues on until you can follow it no more.

It will never return and what remains is that which surrounds you now. New sights, new tastes, new smells.

The puff is gone as that is it's nature.

Nothing left but to make a new puff.

Goodbye, smoke.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

But what do you DO?

Farmer.  Teacher.  Cop.  Firefighter.  Engineer.  Doctor.  Builder.  Developer.  Artist.  Grocer.  Scientist.  Soldier.  Sailor.  Airman.  Marine.  Writer.  Butcher.  Baker.  Candlestick maker.

What do you do for a living?

If you can't describe what you do for a living in one word, you're not a producer.  You're not bringing anything to the table.  If you can't describe what you do in one word, you're making a living off of the labors of others, suckling at the teat of those around you.

The more words in your title, the further removed you are from actually producing something of value to society.

Don't believe me?  Try this one:

Chief Executive Officer.

Now that's a doozie of a title.  But what does a CEO actually produce?

This doesn't mean that you're gonna get rich in a one-word profession.  But is that the point?  To get rich?

The day after Ayn Rand's bellwether novel, "Atlas Shrugged," finally made it to the big screen is as good a time as any to ask yourself this question.

What's your purpose?  What do you do?  What is it that you're producing to sustain yourself?

Now, I'm a Project Manager and Director of IT Security for a Fortune 500 company.

But what the hell do I do?

Over the years, I've shifted gears and changed directions so many times I have no idea what the hell I am professionally.  Every time I get a new job--almost always for more money and more "prestige"--my mother asks me the same question over and over again before she understands (or just gives up and just smiles and nods):  what it is exactly that you do?

Her father was a farmer.  Her husband was a teacher.  Her grandson is a scientist.  Those are easy professions to understand.  Her father farmed.  He produced food to feed his family and that had value to others, hence he made his living selling what he produced.  Her husband taught children the skills they would need to go forth and enter one-word professions, if they chose to do so.  Her grandson--my son--conducts research that will benefit mankind long after his time on this mortal coil has ended.

But what about her son?  He directs the activities necessary to ensure the security of data and information, as proscribed by the government agencies with which his company does business, and manages the projects that support these business activities.

I'm more ashamed by that than I was that time she caught me masturbating in the back seat of our Oldsmobile station wagon after church when I was 13.

So what's next?  What new gear can I find and what new direction shall I take that will move me toward doing something for a living that I can explain in one word to my mother?

That's the challenge facing me today.  I've reached the point where it's no longer OK to chase a buck for the sake of having a buck.  I want to do something that will matter, that brings value to myself and those around me.  I want to produce.

Life is not something that happens to you.  Life is the product of how you live.  The choices you make and the actions you take are your life.

I want mine to matter.

Wish me luck.  It's time to finally do something.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Even Keanu Reeves ain't falling for this

Two of the most frightening words a Project Manager can hear:

"Matrixed organization."

While the concept of assigning members of one team to support a project is fine on paper, too often organizations confuse "matrixing" (assigning a person full time to support another organizational element's objectives) with "jam more crap down people's throat while taking no organizational accountability for the successful completion of the project."

Frankly, if matrixing an organization were such a good idea, don't you think combat units would give it a go?


Coming soon:  A systems approach to building project a project TEAM.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Til death do us part

I ride a Harley. A 2006 Ultra Classic, smoke and black cherry with Screamin' Eagle big bore and 6-speed transmission. She's completely badass.

I'm gonna turn 50 later this year. Granted, I'm a young-at-heart 50 (my wife calls it "immature") but my body is somewhere between 57 and 68 years old.

A lot of people look at me and just shake their heads when they find out I ride. I'm in a position of reasonable responsibility, Director of IT Security for a Fortune 500 company.

Some will just blurt out the most bizarre things. "I knew a guy who wrecked on his bike and scraped his penis down to a stub on the asphalt." "My wife's cousin got hit head-on by a Greyhound bus full of NASCAR fans." Crap like that.

Most people I know look at me and just can't believe that a responsible, college-educated, quasi-professional man like me would risk his very hide and life riding a death-cycle.

You know what? Fuck 'em.

I've never met a 70-year old man who was ambivalent on the topic. Those who have ridden all have the same reaction when they see me. First, a sublime smile creases their already well-creased faces, the veil of 25 years or more fall from their eyes, and they all say, "Man, I miss riding. I had a 19-umpty-ump panhead...rode her across Texas in August. Best time of my life."

Those who have ridden never say, "Man, I regret all those years I rode. Biggest mistake of my life."

You know who does say that? People who never rode. Without exception, every 70-year old man I've ever met who didn't ride has a story about the time he almost bought a Harley...but didn't. Their faces turn wistful and their shoulders slump. It's the one that got away, the one big regret of their otherwise full and satisfying lives.

What about the ones who didn't make it to 70, you ask? The ones who were hit head on by a Greyhound full of NASCAR fans or whose penises were scraped to stubs?

What about the ones who DID die on their death-cycles?

Good for them.

None of us gets out alive. And one thing nearly 50 years has shown me is that the worst thing ever is longing for the opportunity lost, wondering "what if?" about the one that got away.

So, if I DO die out there on my badass 2006 smoke and black cherry Harley Ultra Classic, I'll go out doing something I love. And I'll look good doing it, too, because everybody knows the two coolest things in the world are riding a Harley and smoking cigarettes. And I do that, too.

I have not had a single regret over getting and riding my Harley. Not. One. Single. Regret.

How many things in your life can you say that about?

So go ahead and shake your head when you find out that I ride. Think me a fool. Go ahead.

I'll see you when we're 70.

P.S. Glimmer Train took a pass on "Love Stinks."

You know what?

Fuck 'em.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Break in the action

I took a break from "Dead Drunk" for a few days to work a side project for my great-nephew.

Now, I don't know if he's a great nephew -- I'm pretty sure I'm not a great uncle -- but he's my sister's daughter's son so the project was necessary.

Anyway, I wrote a short (24 page) children's book for Austin. My avuncular tale was the story of Flat Stanley's adventures in Florida.

It won't make the NYT bestseller list but hopefully it'll crack Austin's top 10.

So, it's back to the grind. I had to re-outline DD over the weekend but I'm on track. Goal for the week: complete chapter 2.

I've found that taking the time to update "Where There's Smoke" keeps me focused and on task. I don't use my real writing time to update here but thanks to my smart phone, I can use my time in the "media room" to keep my thoughts organized.

I hope Austin enjoys my little side project as much as I did. I just need to make sure he understands that we didn't really eat mermaid.

I'm saving that for one of the sequels to DD.

Keep writing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

TV is the debbil

Didn't turn the television on when we got home from work tonight.

Finished chapter 1.

Coincidence?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Baby Steps

"It's easier to sustain momentum than to build it."

Full time job (gotta pay the man), family, obligations...a million competing demands for time. Time that could be spent writing.

It's easy to succumb to the excuses, so it's nice to show forward progress, however slow and halting it might be.

I finished the prologue of my novel, "Dead Drunk" over the weekend. I've also got most of the first chapter written and have the outline done. So I'm making progress. Most of my writing time comes on the weekends now but I'll take what I can get.

Really I should make what I need instead of taking what i have but it's all about progress. Baby steps.

I've also got a short story -- "Love Stinks" -- submitted and should have a response by the end of next month.

I found an iPhone app for blogging so even when I can't take (don't make) time to sit down at the computer, I can still manage to pound out a few words while...well, while I'm doing other things.

It ain't easy being a writer. But what choice do I have?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Open the vein

I spoke with a friend last night.  He's going through a difficult time, facing all measure of uncertainty in his life.  "Once you've lost everything," he asked, "what do you do next?"

I answered his question with a question:  "What do you want to do?"

Ay, indeed, my friends.  There is, in fact, the rub.

To know what you want to do requires knowing oneself.  To know oneself requires introspection, a practice many avoid for fear of the dragons and demons we are almost certain to find there.  Going forward on an ill-conceived journey seems the easier path, easier than looking backward and confronting the worst in ourselves.

Of course this is not the easier path.  Until we face, confront, and conquer (or at least reach an armistice) with our past, our present it haunted; our future clouded.  Our walk is labored and weary-making.

My friend is an artist.  A damned good one.  So I encouraged him to look inward by seeing what the canvas revealed.  I told him greatness is found, not in revealing the mind but by opening the soul.  "Open a vein," I told him.

"Physician, heal thyself," I told myself.

So, at 6:00 am on a Saturday morning, I sit and open the vein.  I've walked through the things my friend is now facing, being haunted by the spectral vision of the past, looking fearfully forward at a life uncertain.  Left with but one choice:  look inward and clear the demons huddled in every corner of your soul, to be free to move forward.  It ain't fun.  Only necessary.

My life today is beyond my imagination.  In facing my past, I've built a future with a perfect today in my lap.  Oh, I'm sure there are more demons, as yet undiscovered but I keep looking.  When life's going gets difficult, I can be sure the challenges are internal rather than imposed on me.  So I look inward, seeking out the culprit so I can be free.

And free I am.

But it's one thing to look inward.  It's another entirely to let someone else look in there, too.  Oh, it's a helluva lot better than it used to be but giving someone else a glimpse into the twisted vestige of my inner self is still a daunting task.

Yet, greatness is only found in fully releasing that which is inside.  That's not to say greatness will be found; only that if it is there, it can only be found by dropping all defenses and letting everything flow out.

Only by opening a vein.

Of course, "open a vein" sounds so violent.  (Then again, so are most of my stories but that's another thing for another time.)

Wordsworth found a more poetic and gentle way to say the same thing:  "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."

So that's what I'll do today.  I'll find the breathings of my heart and fill my paper with these.  No more excuses, no more delays.

Of course, should the breathings of my heart evade me, leaving me frantically searching my mind, rather than my heart, for the perfect expression, I'll do what I've always done:

I'll just open a vein.

Happy writing.