Monday, June 26, 1995

'Til I Awoke

Back in my grade school days, I was a bit estranged from the rest of my classmates until I struck up friendship with John Oleson. John was moderately popular, but once we began our alliance the whole was greater than the parts, and the two of us ran the playground. Whatever four square court we appeared at was the one of choice. We picked and chose whoever we wanted to work with in any group assignment. On a lark, we had most of the guys in the fourth grade class playing hopscotch. What we said was the law of the land.

Like all partnerships, ours was one destined to end as I decided to move on to bigger and better things. John soon became the outcast, as I let everyone know, it was either me or him. Give a guy a little power and the temptation to abuse it can be strong. As I grew up, this experience developed into food for many future therapy sessions. In a way I felt I used John up, and got caught up in the web of popularity. I felt bad for John, wasting a valuable friendship for a test of other's loyalty. Later on, I over compensated for this by being fiercely loyal to anybody, or any organization who gave me any type of break. I was thankful for any opportunity anyone ever gave me and went out of my way to pay back acts of kindness. I also began to have a recurring nightmare of meeting a Cinderella type figure, helping others see her beauty and watch her go away after she obtains her princess status.

All this comes to mind, because I just saw While You Were Sleeping. It, of course is a movie I've wanted to see since it opened last spring, but because of my schedule, I just haven't had the chance. After a particularly difficult work week, I actually took time on my scheduled day off to get out of the office. It was tempting to go home, lie down and rest all afternoon but I lifted myself out of my stupor into the oppressing heat, and plopped myself down into the cool darkness of the movie theater sanctuary.

Regular readers of the newsletter (God help you all), know my fondness for Sleeping's star, Sandra Bullock. Much as I enjoy her movies, I haven't exactly enjoyed her meteor like rise to fame where she has even been dubbed the "new Julia Roberts..." To me Ms. Bullock's appeal is in how much she reminds me of someone I once knew before all the movies started. (Was I the only one that wept at Speed?) So while I used my busy work schedule as the excuse for not seeing While You Were Sleeping sooner, in actuality I could have found the time if I could have gotten over the feeling of losing someone I discovered. This was the movie that shot her to the upper echelon of moviedom (she is the starlet of choice in the discussion groups of America Online), and I didn't know if I could handle seeing her in this new role.

In the beginning, it didn't look good. Unlike most days, I was in an EXTREMELY bad mood. I stood in line for mouth watering refreshments, and the lady next to me who was standing at a closed register, cut in front of me. I bit my tongue. Spilling popcorn all the to my seat, I was taken aback by the three previews shown: one for some high school valley girl movie directed by the same guy who did Fast Times At Ridgemont High; one for Stallone's new dreadful looking movie; and the last for Hackers which looks like an elongated MTV video. All three featured blaring music and as I watched the images fly loudly by, I became a bit depressed. Would any of those three movies enlighten their audiences at all? Whatever happened to quiet films with characters we relate to? Escapism yes, pointless screen filler no.

Thus the gentle opening to While You Were Sleeping was a welcome sight. And as Ms. Bullock made her entrance, the clock struck midnight and Cinderella appeared with a grin. The movie of course, is about Lucy, a lonely Chicago Transit Authority token taker, who falls in love with a man from afar, saves his life, and through a series of wacky misunderstandings, is taken in by the victim's family as his fiancee. She falls in love with the victim's brother, and the goofy, but lovable family accepts her as one of their own.

Ms. Bullock is a breath of fresh air every time she appears on the screen. Her unusual sense of humor contrasts against the naturalness of her acting, creating a different type of movie beauty than say, Julia Roberts. She is not sleek and sexy, she is more the offbeat soulmate, know what you're thinking, share in a good joke type actress. Her appeal is as an Everywoman, someone we care about. As the movie winds down to its climatic finish, her dilemma in trying to sort out what she really wants, and how she is going to explain it all to the family that's taken her in, Ms. Bullock elicits a great deal of emotion and sympathy as the good hearted Lucy. We just want to see her happy, and when she is at the end of the movie, we leave feeling good about the world, if only temporarily. Then we all wake up again.

Monday, June 19, 1995

Baby Blue

This week, the newsletter celebrates its third anniversary. (Well celebrate might be too strong a word- observes, marks, ponders, passes through, struggles to overcome...) Therefore, we'd like to indulge ourselves here for a moment, and look back at some of the history of this publication.

June 1992: The first decision made by the newly formed editorial board is to name the newsletter- The Cheapo Record it is so christened. Unfortunately, there is not enough Applause in the name, so a committee is formed to come up with the ultimate all encompassing newsletter moniker. Hopes and ideals run high and spirits soar.

June 1992: The original editor, Leave it to Beaver's Tony Dow, resigns due in part to a clamor from the stores that he is too devoted to writing about his favorite folk singer, Donovan, and not enough about actual store news. The announcement stuns, yet delights the Cheapo empire. Al makes a teary announcement at a well attended staff meeting, saying, "Things just didn't work out."

August 1992: The name committee submits a list of potential newsletter names to all stores. The feedback is underwhelming, to say the least, and the committee goes back to the drawing board.

June 1993: The newsletter marks its first anniversary by printing an award winning issue devoted entirely to the rewards of good, effective, cat grooming.

July 1993: The newsletter goes bilingual, sparking controversy by selecting Pig Latin as the second language of choice. The powerful swine industry raises an amazing racket in protest (itay oesn'tday elphay attersmay anyay hatay orfay omesay easonray hetay uzzlingpay ecisionday isay ademay otay insertay hetay ordway "ruffletay" etweenbay everyay aragraphpay).

January 1994: The name committee tries once more, submitting the name, Cheap Clap Talk. The silence is deadening and the look on the editor's face is even more confused than ever.

June 1994: The newsletter's second anniversary is marked by the naming of Sandra Bullock as the newsletter's official spokesmodel.

September 1994: The newsletter goes electronic as David nearly electrocutes himself spilling a cappuccino into his printer.

April 1995: Things slowly quiet down following the publication's biggest misstep: crusading to make Chicken Gumbo soup, a requirement in all employee's diets. Employees cry fowl, and the experiment is shelved as being a little bit before its time.

June 1995: The name committee tries once again, declaring that in a few weeks, the newsletter will once and for all have a permanent name...

Last week, Steve Danuser wrote a column that underscored what we, and when I say we, I mean the newsletter, are all about. Steve has been a regular contributor over the years, and his articles and input are always a welcome source of thoughtful and well expressed ideas. Any company of any size is going to go through some communication difficulties. 99 percent of life's problems can be attributed to some problem in communication. I personally always hoped that the employees of our company would find the newsletter a good source of information, and a vehicle they could freely use to express their opinions about what is going on from the front lines. We wanted to enhance dialogue between us all. The newsletter was never meant to solve problems. It was meant as a means to communicate and spark common ideas throughout the organization. We haven't succeeded as much as we had hoped when we began this venture, but we have been around now for three long years, and somehow managed the nearly unthinkable: delivering an issue each and every week during those three years. That is something I'm very proud of. It has truly been a lot of work, and I would personally like to thank people like (and including Steve) who have devoted time by contributing and raising issues they see affecting the company as a whole. I also would like to thank Al and Mary who have stuck with us all these years, letting us have a lot of fun along with the work. The company itself has undergone a lot of changes since the newsletter began. It has been a challenge for everyone and the work will of course, never be done. One thing that occurred to me this past week as I ran into a whale of a first basemen during the heat of a softball game and saw what has passed for my life speeding before my eyes, is it isn't so much about the peaks and valleys, good times and bad, it's about all the stuff in between. That's what matters. Thanks everybody!

Monday, June 12, 1995

Nobody Told Me

"If you are too tense, try reducing it to a fifth"

If people spent as much time teaching monkeys to sing as they do avoiding conflict and blame, you and I might now be selling CDs by the Monkey Tabernacle Choir. There seems to be a disease sweeping the country that causes people to believe that if they don't see or think about something, it really isn't there.

Following in the tradition of that other great American, Dan Quayle, last week Senator Robert "Bob" Dole delivered the following news flash to his future constituents, the American people: Hollywood is producing a lot of crap that includes too much violence, too much loveless sex and is threatening and corrupting the very moral fiber of our great nation.

Granted, some of what ills our country is that our kids can see daily at their neighborhood movie theater, the killing and destruction of hundreds and hundreds of faceless bodies while being taught that the hormones of love are about self gratification and those same beautiful, faceless bodies. But perhaps an even bigger trouble is Washington's denial of responsibility, that it is almost as easy to buy a handgun as it is to buy a box of Jujubees, or that perhaps some of our political responsibility is in figuring out problems of people struggling to survive rather than passing on the blame, honoring the rich for being rich and punishing the poor for ruining a good thing.

What makes Dole's announcement politically cynical is that he criticized Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers while giving his Republican thumbs up to Arnold Schwarzenegger's True Lies. In other words a movie making a commentary about the media's and the public's role in glorifying violence, a movie with ideas is corruptive while a movie comprised scene to scene of cartoon violence that entertains us, is O.K.

This whole notion that we must somehow protect our youth by not exposing them to the harsh realities of life is only adding to the problems. Yes, Hollywood needs to produce better movies, no argument there. But if we were to raise our children to think critically, to see crap as crap, we wouldn't have to try and cover their eyes and ears at the pictures flying from the TV while gunshots and sirens ring outside the window. There are those that truly believe that what someone doesn't know can't hurt them. There is probably something inherently wrong in exposing a young child to a barrage of senseless entertaining violence. Yet there is probably something equally harmful in limiting the thought process by shielding someone from "bad" ideas.

Dole has received a great deal of attention from his "startling" criticisms. Analysis has begun to determine its effect. The dialogue has opened over the role and responsibility of the big Hollywood conglomerates that produce our entertainment in building values we all should share and appreciate. This undoubtedly will be an issue in the 1996 political elections as candidates stumble over themselves criticizing the culture while presenting themselves as the ideal family MAN, the pure, the good hearted.

This mantra of "family values" is what is rapidly becoming the status quo, which is scary enough. What is even more scary however, is that nearly everyone agrees the majority of our entertainment is dreck, and yet we all somehow accept that and enjoy it anyway. Washington is right in pointing a critical finger towards the entertainment industry, while Hollywood is equally correct in pointing the finger back out east and questioning just who is to blame. In between, we are dulling our own senses while raising a generation that is either too dim to realize and demand quality, or too cynical to produce and deliver something better. Instead of avoiding the underlying political and social issues, and trying to figure out who is to blame, perhaps we should ask if the shadowy figures on the screen are corrupting our youth any more than those shadowy (in an altogether different way) people that set and determine our political agenda and environment.

Monday, June 5, 1995

Beauty of Boules

Besides my family, and music that spins round and round, perhaps the thing I have loved the longest in my life is the game of baseball. I'm not sure what it is about the game; doesn't matter if it is playing or watching, but the game changes my frame of mind and if only for a moment, my concept of time. It is something I keep coming back to that seemingly is forever in my blood. Whether I'm putting myself in front of a bad hop ground ball, or whether I'm watching Mo Sanford throw yet another base on ball, I can't get enough of the game. If my ultimate end is a liner off the old noggin, I'll die one happy fellow.

The one area of the game that does irritate me however, is the literary trendiness, the attraction of intellectuals who are all too willing to share their opinions about the greater social and political significance of baseball. (Last fall's Ken Burns PBS documentary was the ultimate extreme of this ugly romanticism.) Over the years, the nature of the game has changed from a pastime to a huge buck business, but the fundamental attractions, the perfection and pace of our greatest sport remain constant.

With all this in mind, I recently have been fortunate enough to stumble across another sport that might in time (and backwards reflection) come to mean something similar to baseball. Like baseball, this one is a family sport and man it is a trip! I'm becoming a bocce ball fool!

The game of bocce ball is much like the game of life. It's as relaxing to play as it is to watch. The object of the sport of course is to get your ball closest to the peanut, or whatever it is that little yellow target is called. Others can come along and knock you far off the beaten path, and ultimately, whenever you think you're closest to your goal, someone rolls an effort just slightly better than your's. It is a sport of pseudo-strategy. Whether it is using a skipping style to release the ball or whether it is tossing the peanut in a long grassy area, the game, like life, is full of options. And you are never sure where you'll end up until the last player has tossed.

OK, It's taken three years, but I am completely out of ideas. Instead of inspiration, I'm running entirely on love. So...The following is a poem that was recited to me the other night by my cat, Max. Some of the words may be wrong but the flavor is correct.It promises to make you laugh, make you cry, but most importantly, make you think....

Cats out of the bag
and the fat lady sings.
Cats out of the bag
and a distant siren rings.
You know how I feel
you know what it means
You know how I feel
not always as it seems
Howl at the moon
blast from the past
Howl at the moon
the best one's last
Whiskers a feelin'
a glow deep inside
Whiskers a feelin'
like a coastal tide
Tummy is a growlin'
desire is bare
Tummy is a growlin'
the smell of your hair
Darkness is here
the vision I see
Darkness is here
why must it be?
Your voice I hear
why must you speak?
Your voice I hear
it's the one that I seek
Presence I can't escape
I'll never quite forget
Presence I can't escape
back in time when we met
You belong to someone
and I do too
You belong to someone
I don't know who
All I see is your's
stuck inside these walls
All you see is mine
echoes hear and call
Cats out of the bag
no secrets are hid
Cats out of the bag
It's adieu that I bid

Next Week: Haiku from Dave's guppy!