Tag Archives: TV

From Hot Air to Second Wind (Part 1)

I hear it all the time: “How did you get into writing these crazy columns, anyway?”

Truth be told, I used to hear it only once in a great while when I started my own weekly commentaries in 1998, emailed essays that through creative accretion morphed into my webzine, What Next?, cyberheir to my 1987-1990 print magazine, Pedantic Monthly: The Journal of Contentious Persiflage. Let’s just leave that all aside for a moment, shall we?

writers write

Writers write, right?

Okay, then, so I started hearing it a bit more when a few of the larger, louder web journals began carrying some of my flammable and inflammatory musings to a larger, louder audience; and then, having reached a crescendo with a regular “Culture Shock” feature at a big-time slam-bang web event known as The American Partisan, I heard it all the time. “Where do you get this stuff? How did your brain come to work like this?” And they still weren’t called blogs.

Like most writers, I’ve been writing since, well, since I could write. And I was raised in let’s-call-it a patriotic household, where Flag Day meant something (or other) and July 4th really meant something or other. So, from an early age, I was both writing and thinking right in lockstep. Something turned me from that conformist path, back to my (everyone’s) exclusive and eclectic one, took me out of the Silicon Valley biz world right when everything was turning to gold, and set me back on my proper journey—artist, not merchant. And I’m good with that.

Okay, then. Take a deep breath. (Not you. The guy in Schenectady.)

By the early 1980s, after thrashing about in a few different careers—insurance agent, financial planner, struggling musician, permanent student, part-time deadbeat—I found myself working for a Silicon Valley computer supplies distributor while recording original jazz in my basement on the “latest” four-track cassette multitrack recorders. On the Day Job, the company branch I worked at was supposedly the flagship of a $100 million fleet, which led me to conclude that the other tubs were probably not even seaworthy.

The general manager was a balding yuppie adulterer with the absolute worst taste in co-defendants, who never convinced anyone to respect him, though he tried long and hard. He was a shallow snot-nose punk kid pushing 40 begging for a fat lip. I figured he’d read a Tom Peters book or some other in-search-of-superlatives management manifesto that succeeded only in making him even more insufferable than he was born.

Bill was my first management role model.

During one holiday stretch, I became a “team captain” charged with exhorting my cross-departmental squad to more phone orders, cash collections, same-day shipping, etc. I tried to get into the spirit of the event. I followed my starchy boss’s directives, and played it fairly straight the first few weeks, until I realized that the contest itself was insignificant compared to what I was discovering about myself and my relations with others.

What I was learning about human beings I had either missed or ignored before. I discovered that exhortation was not motivation; that pride and enthusiasm are instilled, not inserted, into people; that all the one-minute maxims in the world don’t make a manager, mentor, or leader; and that the stress of competition must be relieved by a little fun.

People are bundles of balancing acts, emotional and rational, ephemeral and material. I learned this, as I learned all my lessons about how to lead and motivate, the way any effective learning is done: by making mistakes. My initial mistake was following someone who didn’t know where he was going; in doing so, I committed a second grievous error, which was taking on someone else’s demeanor. I had removed from my team captain persona the gregariousness and joy that make me who I am, as if those traits were inappropriate in leadership.

I was becoming one guy on the job, another guy everywhere else. After about a month of looking at meeting rooms full of unhappy harried faces, I stumbled upon a realization that would make me a congruent person for the home stretch of the contest: I recognized that I had better relationships off the job, when I was uniquely, solely “me,” than on the job, when I was a group member, one of “us.” I seized on this revelation like a stick shift and slammed it into overdrive.

Come back soon for Part 2 of ‘From Hot Air to Second Wind.’

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Off the Grid but On the Job

It’s exciting when unpredictable mixes and mashups of today’s various technology trends converge into something new or, as often happens, new againTelecommuting is presently enjoying a resurgence of interest, a second wind, you might say.

As high-performing media and tech professionals seek lower-impact lifestyles, enlightened firms are attempting to integrate them into a workforce of both diversity and flexibility. But will companies be able to accommodate telecommuters working off the grid, in so-called tiny houses or other alternative structures?

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Living Large in a Small Way

The new generation of high-tech pros includes a sizable fraction of folks that are ready to commit to a lower-impact lifestyle. The formula has three ingredients that can be combined in various ways to make it all happen:

  • Smaller, more affordable, greener, smarter home designs have made it possible for today’s professionals to lessen their total “eco-impact”;
  • the proliferation of WiFi and the ubiquity of the Internet mean that distance workers can log in remotely with computers or what-have-you; and

Fork in the Country Road: Which Way for You?

Is a simpler, halfway-back-to-nature lifestyle right for you? There are many variables, but the number one priority is picking your piece of paradise. If you have land, or the means to get some, but have no patience, you can buy a Tumbleweed house-to-go and drive it right onto the property. In many states you need no building permits, because little houses on wheeled platforms are, ahem, trailers.

If you’re the kind of nature lover that needs to upload files while watering the vegetables, you’ll be glad to know there are a variety of ways to power your lifestyle in a sustainable, suitably eco-safe and -sane manner.

Power Sources of the Future… Now

For years, the only way to get sufficient power living off the grid was to use gas-guzzling, smoke-spewing generators, essentially little car engines running to charge batteries of some kind (12v DC railroad systems, battery and bulb, were a popular choice, and still are).

Today, we not only have more options, we have clean and consistent ones. We’ve been hearing it for years, but it just may be true this time around that solar is poised for a big breakthrough. As the cost of sun power continues to drop, there are other alternative sources maturing into cost-effectiveness, such as wind power.

Power requirements for a laptop and a few tech devices are not difficult to achieve with small solar arrays, but you need to evaluate your situation carefully. It may be better to get small, individual chargers (solar, hand cranks, stationary bikes, etc.) for your small devices. Your main power generator needs to support the computer and satellite Internet.

A Few Limitations, but Worth It to Some

Assuming you’re not too far into the wilderness, you may also be able to establish a WiFi connection over 3G/4G with your smartphone or mobile hot spot doohickey. Of course, Verizon and other telecoms have 3G/4G netbooks and laptops on the same kinds of monthly plans as phones.

You can probably forget the big flat-panel TV, though, and may only be able to use a few devices at a time on your “main,” although you can run some on their built-in batteries and schedule recharging. (How much simultaneous power slurping do you really need to do?) Try minimizing your power use, even as you balance your career/work obligations with your new lifestyle.

Yes, you can have your cake and eat it, too, but perhaps we should tweak that metaphor a bit. Try this: We can live and work in nature, without devouring it.

Rise of the Celebreligious!

The whole sick culture of celebrity worship should come crashing down any day now. It really should.

It won’t, of course, because something has to fill all the empty space. Since fewer and fewer people read, converse on matters of both import and interest, learn something new about the world they live in, or do something to bring about the world they dream of, there’s a real need for an all-consuming belief system and faux mental activity that’s, like, hip and harmless, not like those mean people in church.

And so, we have the new “celebreligious” movement, where the sheer number of A- through D-list personalities in film, TV, theater, commercials, fashion, music, professional sports, and (hold your nose) politics guarantees no shortage of gods, demiurges, ascended masters, and/or saviors for the yearning masses.

How comical that, once upon a time, TV was called “the wasteland.” Whatever is not on TV today is part of the New Wasteland. That’s a fate worse than death for up and coming yuppies.

The amount of media time—web, radio, TV, billboards, store displays, everywhere—given over to well-coiffed mediocrities, the anointed ones in this new celebreligion, is simply astonishing.

In some “big news” from AOL that came out a couple years ago, which I am showing you by way of exercising the Fair Use doctrine (since I am going to ridicule the thing), we have the ultimate comment on modern fame. We have an acceptably dishy blonde and a Joe Pickup kind of guy, and the caption writers feel that they have to tell us who’s the celebrity. Hmm…

I would have sworn that “unrecognizable celebrity” was an oxymoron. For far too long we have had to endure untalented noodleheads who were, we were told, “famous for being famous.” It’s gone on so long that the gossipmeisters and tabloids are running out of people who fit even that elastic definition.

Get ready for a new paradigm (that’s the third one this week). The media’s bishops and cardinals of celebreligion will now move on to anoint people into celeb-hood and make them “famous for not being famous.” There would appear to be an endless supply of candidates, since it seems to be what much of the American public aspires to, although the route to that status has changed over the generations. People don’t want to work to get rich and maybe even famous anymore in America. They just want to be rich and famous.

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