Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Poignant? Twice in one article? Poignant?

I looked at a thesaurus to find synonyms for the word "poignant." I found these:


Please keep those in mind as you read the following, excerpted from Publisher's Weekly magazine:

Skyhorse Publishing announced today that it plans to publish Letters to President Obama: Americans Share Our Hopes and Dreams with the First African-American President in April 2009. The initial printing will be 50,000 copies in hardcover.

Skyhorse is encouraging Americans to submit letters for consideration by visiting www.letterstopresidentobama.com. Asked if they were afraid of a "wingnut reaction," associate publisher Bill Wolfsthal replied that "The highly qualified editors of the book—all professors at University of Michigan and Cornell—will edit the collection to create a thought-provoking and poignant collection."
Asked what would happen if Obama did not prevail on Election Day, Wolfsthal said, "We’ll deal with that if it happens. The book might still be a poignant piece of history if Obama should lose."

"I know this book will make a unique statement about who we are as American in 2009," added Wolfsthal, "and will provide an opportunity for citizens to share their feelings with one another—both by writing letters and reading the finished book."

"......." I'm mostly speechless.

I have to believe that in the first use of poignant, "..a thought-provoking and poignant collection," the publisher was thinking of the first group of synonyms: moving, emotional, touching, affecting and tender.

With the second use, "..might still be a poignant piece of history if Obama should lose," the others descriptors fit the context better:
sad, heartrending, distressing, heartbreaking, upsetting and agonizing.

Believe it or not, John McCain still has a few (million) supporters. Not one of them will be heartbroken or distressed should Senator Obama come up short in the election.

Can someone please explain to me what on earth Americans will have to say in letters to President Obama, after he's been in office for approximately sixty-five days? Our hopes and dreams? That's what we'll write him? Really?

Whatever. What if the unthinkable happens, and Obama is not our next President? The publishers have considered that horrifying thought. Remember, the book will "make a statement about who we are and might still make a poignant piece of history."

But the editors are prepared for an onslaught from people less than honorable about the intentions who misunderstand the spirit of the book. Is that what he means by "wingnut" reaction? Are "wingnuts" the people who choose to vote for someone other than Barack Obama? Why does that make them less than reasonable? Are these Americans not allowed to contribute letters to President Obama, and share their hopes and dreams with the first African-American President? Agenda anyone???

May I pose a hypothetical here? It's possible that some voters will be thrilled and delighted if Senator Obama were to be defeated. I know - there aren't really any of those people in existence if you take the world view espoused by publishers from coast to coast - but let's suppose there are. Where is there room for them in this statement about who they are as Americans in April 2009? Are they a poignant piece of history, too?

Doubt it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

More things I don't understand....

The list is varied and long. But here's the latest:

I don't understand the commercial for Match.com. I've seen several versions of it and I'm still confused.

Whatever the variation, this online dating service shows an attractive person posing for some video tape, laughing, smiling, and generally looking amiable and approachable, which I suppose represents the kind of members one might find on Match.com as you look through the dating prospects. Great, right? The people on Match.com are exactly the kind of people you're looking for to meet, date, and then possibly partner with for the rest of your life.

Except for this: their offer. I'm paraphrasing but the commercial contains a guarantee of sorts: if you don't find someone within the first six months of membership, they'll give you another six months for free.

So in other words, we may not be able to meet your needs in six months but hey, stick around for another six for free. Maybe things will work out.

This makes no sense to me! I get the FREE offer and all - I suppose that's the least they could do after six months of no significant relationship budding - but isn't that kind of like saying "Thanks for supporting our service. We know it didn't work out very well which is why we're not going to try to re-sell it to you. But we also don't want you to try another one instead. So stay here - and keep looking. Maybe someone will turn up."

Seems to me that the largest efforts in online businesses like this must be the sign-up factor. Once you're in, and have paid your dues, they don't want you to leave, even if they let you stay for free. After all, the number of hits, number of members, and page views sell ads and web banners. So losing members is not a good business plan.

I'd feel better about the offer if it gave a money-back guarantee. Sign up and look for your partner or six months! If at the end of your membership, you find yourself alone, we'll give you your money back. The extra six months are positioned as a free thing - and they are, I guess - but what is the value? The value should be finding friendship and romantic partnership.

Caveat: I've never used one of these services and I have friends that have - and continue to do so. Maybe the extra six months for free are extremely valuable to members who want to keep up their profiles and meet new members regularly. To me, as an observer, it just feels like a hollow offer to me. "We didn't work for you, just give us a little longer; we might not work then either but at least we didn't work for free." Quite compelling, I must say.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

flying story 2

Here we go: my flying story number 2. This is the one that unfortunately gets and less surprising as the years pass and the frequent flier miles pile up.

I love the aisle. I always request the aisle and I almost always get the aisle. And I'm not a tall person so it's not as if I need the aisle. Maybe it's a touch of claustrophobia if it's even possible to have a touch of that.

Also, I don't hate flying but I don't exactly love it. Maybe I don't really want to gaze out the window contemplating the wonders of 30,000 feet and the fact that it makes almost no sense that airplanes do actually leave the ground and get airborne than almost unbelievably land again somewhere else, somewhere they plan to land in fact.

So, that said, I settled into the aisle seat, and amazingly the middle seat remained unoccupied for a very long time. Then a young mother and her daughter - maybe 18 months old or so - walked down the aisle and stopped at my row. The two of them were going to share the middle seat.

In a moment of magnanimity, I offered up my aisle seat, imagining it might be more comfortable for the mom in terms of space and elbow room. "Did you want this seat?" I asked. "It might be easier for you..."

She answered "Yes," and stored her three or four bags then took the aisle seat. Please note, she didn't say, 'yes, thanks very much,' or even 'yes, thanks.' Just yes. Maybe she was tired. I was about 7 am after all.

I usually hate the notion of flying near children. I've had too many annoying experiences with them. But the thing is, it's almost never the kids themselves that annoy me. It's their parents, or the other adults around them. This was no exception.

The point of this story is that we had a 2 hours+ flight in front of us and the mom had not one toy or book or game or snack for her little girl. Not one. Nothing except one tiny stuffed animal that the little girl never put down. How could that be? How could this woman board a plane with several carry-on bags, including what looked like a diaper bag, and not have anything to amuse or feed her daughter?

Maybe she's having difficulties. Maybe she's preoccupied by some very bad news...maybe she's flying somewhere for a funeral for god's sake. She didn't strike me as a very warm or open person but what did I know? My few attempts to converse with her went nowhere. But who am I to be so judgmental?

None of that changed the situation. So here's me, sitting next to the adorable little girl, and her clueless, semi-stoic mother, with nothing but the Skymall to amuse the child. She and I paged through the magazine, trying to find the puppies and kittens. (If you know Skymall, you know there are perhaps a total of six pages of pet supplies, so this little activity got old fairly quickly.) Luckily, the little girl had a very sweet disposition and if she was really bored, she never let on.

As we began our landing, the girl started to whimper and cry, probably because her ears were popping and she felt uncomfortable. You won't be surprised to hear that the mother kept saying things like this to her: "Quiet....be quiet. Okay now, quiet down."

I pulled out the water bottle I carried and offered to pour some of it into the sippy cup the little girl was holding. I offered it with a lame, "Maybe it's her ears....you know. Something to drink will help..."

I filled the cup and the little girl took a drink, then settled down. Weird that I filled it, not her Mom, no?

Last little bit: as we prepared to depart, the young mother stood up in the aisle and began gathering her belongings. The little girl stood on the seat, and I couldn't help but hold out my arm to kind of protect her from falling or mis-stepping as she stood there. Once the mom had everything, she turned for her daughter.

Unfortunately, the little girl reached her arms out to me instead. "Oh no, honey! Go to Mommy! Go on!! Bye bye sweetie..."

What the heck? I read her a Skymall and gave her some water and she's reaching out to me? Good Lord. I watched the Mom walk her daughter through the airport - I can only hope she was heading home to some family support or to her husband who would give that little girl a hug.

Just a bad morning I told myself. Just a bad morning.
I hope.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Two new flying stories

One is sort of familiar; one is surprising.

I just flew home from a business trip and encountered one very surprising element on my trip down; and one not so surprising (unfortunately) event on the way home.

On the outbound flight, everything was going along just beautifully for about 2 hours. As we began our descent, it was pandemonium - sort of. A few rows in front of me, the flight attendant grabbed the microphone and in a rather frantic, loud voice, announced the following: "If there is a doctor on the plane, I need you to come to Row 9 RIGHT NOW."

A few people walked up the aisle toward Row 9 and encountered...God knows what. By this time, the attendants - maybe as many as three of them - were hovering over someone in Row 9, seated by the window. One of them was screaming "Sir! Sir! Sir! I need you to sit down....Sir!!" Clearly, he wasn't responding.

Reminder that the plane is, in fact, getting closer and closer to the ground, and at this point we have several attendants leaning over Row 9, a few people who are medical types also hovering or kneeling near the passenger in distress, and at least one person seated in Row 9 standing in or near the aisle.

While this medical attention of some kind is being given to the passenger, the attendant came back on the intercom and asked everyone on the plane the following:

"Does anyone have a Xanax?"

A Xanax? For whom? For her? For the rest of us to split? For the passenger having a problem? For the pilot?

The pilot then announced that everyone must keep their seats after we land and allow the paramedics to board the plane and remove the passenger with the emergency. I kept thinking: so what's going on? Are we going to land with about six or seven people - including passengers - just standing there?

Yes, the answer is yes. The plane landed with two passengers from Row 9 standing; plus two or three medical people kneeling or standing, and two attendants also on their feet.

I'm not normally a difficult flier but I have to tell you: it's going to be very, very difficult to obey that "raise your tray table and put your seat up" directive the next time we're heading into an airport to land. It will be very, very difficult to not respond with something like the following: "My tray table is staying down and my seat is staying reclined! I was on a plane with people STANDING throughout the landing for God's sake! And not airline people, seemingly trained for just such events. Passengers like me who just happened to be in Row 9."

I won't say it of course. I'll raise my tray and bring my seat up. But I'll want to.

The story of the sadly familiar story on the return flight incident next time.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Okay, I won't send it. Fine by me.

Let me understand this.

Ringo Starr, one of the two remaining Beatles on the planet, and arguably the most endearing but possibly also the least musically versatile among them, has issued a statement to his worldwide fans that he is calling a moratorium to his fan mail.

He hasn't been sitting idly by, reliving past glory and brooding about how it all changed. Over the past twenty years or so, he's assembled interesting and talented musicians from time to time, and toured the world with his music. Quite successfully I might add. His 31-city North American summer tour just ended.

So let's take a look at his video statement, shall we? In reference to his fan mail, he had this to say: "It's going to be tossed. ... I'm warning you with peace and love, I have too much to do. So no more fan mail. Thank you, thank you. And no objects to be signed. Nothing. Anyway, peace and love, peace and love."

Well, isn't that interesting. I hopped onto Ringo's official site and saw his notice about "no more signing" prominently displayed. So there it is: he will give his fans exactly nothing in terms of autographs or responses to their letters, cards, emails, etc.

I suppose, after more than forty years in or near the world's celebrity spotlight, he can certainly choose to do that. What I don't understand is his notion that he has "too much to do." Like what? Honestly, like what? His fans have a lot to do, too - more than he has on most days I would guess - more than he's had to do since 1970 I would imagine. And yet, they find time to write.

Besides, I don't think you can issue a peaceful and loving warning. Can you? Does that really work as a concept? A peaceful warning? A loving one? It's softer than saying "I'm warning you with unrest and hatred..." but at least that sounds more honest.

Here's what's ironic to me. Directly beneath his video message telling fans to stop contacting him, the website contains the details of a photo contest, asking fans to submit their favorite Ringo and the All Starr band photos from the tour this summer.
Here's the language they use in the promotion:

Have you been coveting your picture of Ringo and his All-Star Starr band
captured from the recent All-Star tour?
Ringo wants YOU, his loyal fans, to submit photos taken from his 2008 All-Star tour.
Ringo will hand pick his favorite photo to be featured on his official website, Ringostarr.com.
The lucky winner will also go home with a Ringo Starr Autographed Drum head!
Winner to be notified via email in early December.

I think that's nerve. in other words, here's the message from Ringo, or at least from his webmasters: "I don't want you to write a personal letter, expressing your thanks or admiration or whatever for my career. In fact, I'll toss anything that comes my way. But I will take your photos - and not pay you for them - to populate my website. And by the way, I'll send you an autographed drum head if I really like the photo."

Ummm - here's a thought: hire a photographer! What - your fans are supposed to supply you with photos for free? So they can get a photo credit on your website? Please.

Maybe some fans will send in photos of themselves writing letters to Ringo, sending him some memorabilia to sign, and then putting them in the mail. Maybe they'll send photos of themselves checking their mailboxes for autographed photos of Ringo that never come. I'd love to see those on his website.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Maybe we're pretty easy to figure out after all

I love it when I read articles or studies that tell us how women are complex, complicated creatures. With all due respect to the researchers who conduct the surveys, hold those focus groups and collate all that information, I need to weigh in with the following conclusion: no, we're not.

Don't get me wrong. I think some of the women I've met along the way are among the most interesting, most provocative thinkers in the world. It's just that deep down, regardless of our life circumstances, our educations, or our various life situations, we seem to crave the same things.

Example - I just spent a few days out of town on business. Along with my laptop, I packed a away a few movies, just in case I wanted to entertain myself in my room. (This trip's entertainment had a distinctly Jane Austen flair: Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth version.)

You shouldn't be surprised to hear the following: every woman accompanying me on the trip (there were five of us) semi-seriously asked if we could blow off our "work" agendas for the evenings, our client dinners, our "drinks before dinner" with vendors and meet in my room, order room service, and watch a movie. Tempting, I can tell you.

I know what you're thinking: but if you were all away on a trip together, you are sort of the same breed of professional women. This had to be the reason why this pajama party with an English accent was so appealing to us. Maybe. Maybe not.

I read a women's message board online recently where women answered this question: "How do you pamper yourself? What are the little luxuries you indulge in?" The uniformity of the answers was not surprising, given my premise about women not being all that complicated or all that different. In a mini-homage to Marlena Dietrich, women mostly answered that they want to be left alone. Here's a brief summary of the kind of answers they gave:

quiet time
an uninterrupted nap
a hotel suite by myself where I can bathe or shower uninterrupted
a couple of hours alone with a book
a movie by myself
bubble bath
drink a cup of tea and listen to music by myself
spent travel points at a nice hotel by myself - bubble bath TV, room service, nap
bargain shopping by myself

Are you seeing a pattern here? Honestly, there were pages and pages of these tips and almost all of them contained some measure of alone-ness. Many incorporated water, books, music and TV / movies.

I have to do some thinking about this but it seems to me, women feel somewhat fragmented, and unable to carve out time for ourselves in our personal lives. (I'd love to read how men would answer this question. Somehow I doubt being alone would top their lists.)

More to come - anyone with some wisdom to share on this is more than welcome.

Monday, October 06, 2008

just when you think you've had about as much as you can stand....

...one of your kids comes through for you and helps you remember that life isn't entirely made up of one scandal, one tragedy, one misguided notion after the next. And I thank God for my kids every day.

The latest reminder of all things fun and wonderful and surprising about life comes courtesy of my youngest (by eleven minutes) son, Cameron. He was talking about some friends of his and I thought about one of the summer evenings they spent together. During one of those last August evenings, when we had a week of the first cool nights that were inevitably coming our way, Cameron and some of his friends took in a double feature at one of the area drive-ins.

The evening started out comfortably enough but by the time the intermission began, the temperature had dropped at least ten or fifteen degrees, and the air had a legitimate chill in it for the first time in months. Cameron and his friends were headed to the refreshment stand and unfortunately, Cam was the only one without a hoodie or even long sleeves. The idea of sitting through the second movie as he grew increasingly colder wasn't pleasant.

Friends to the rescue. Luckily, the boy who drove to the movie always carries a gorilla costume in his trunk. Yes, a complete gorilla suit, including a headpiece and gorilla face. That's being resourceful and creative at the same time. Cameron quickly suited up and everyone walked to the refreshment stand in relative comfort.

The best part of the story is not that Cameron felt perfectly at ease putting on a gorilla suit at a drive in. Not that he walked by dozens of people who stepped aside for a gorilla. Not that this could be called slightly unconventional by almost everyone. No, the best part was that the people working in the snack bar gave him a fried banana and his friend Pat took a picture of him eating it.

I love this story. I love it because truthfully, only Cameron could casually and with no affectation at all put on a gorilla suit and wear it around a drive-in movie. I love it because it's exactly the kind of story you think about when you think of kids and funny things they do precisely because they are kids. I love it because sometimes, maybe when Cameron may be driving me crazy about school or college applications or something else that is quite earth-shattering and possibly life-altering (in my mind, not in reality) I can remind myself that he once wore a gorilla suit to get warm and buy a bucket of popcorn at a movie.

I may not ever remember his high school trig grades, which may turn out to be blessing anyway, but I'll never forget about the night he wore the gorilla suit at the drive in.