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The Death Of Us All

In December of 2001 I drove my car to see the Fellowship of the Ring.  I bought a tank full of gas and a full price admission for $22.85.  I was cautious yet hopeful because the year in film had not been kind.  Sure kids got the 1st Shrek, 1st Harry Potter, and Monsters Inc, but adults got The Mummy Returns, Hannibal, Jurassic Park III, Pearl Harbor, and wait for it… Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes.

It was the summer of patriotic bombs, Indiana Jones rip offs, brains for dinner, and Aperham Lincoln.

If it’s surprising that the first film in Jackson’s Rings Trilogy will be 10 years old this year, consider how much has changed since The Fellowship was released 3 months after America was reminded that the world was still a dark and dangerous place:  Gasoline and milk are now roughly the same price per gallon, everyone owns an iPod, and Peter Jackson’s weight is more Gollum than Gimli.


The Old College Try

I once heard someone say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” This person had clearly never been around a preschooler, because they like to ask questions just to watch you scramble to answer them.

If you’ve ever caught yourself in the middle of asking a stupid question you’ve realized that the questions we typically categorize as stupid are categorized as stupid because the answer is obvious to a majority of people.

I’d like to point out that there is also another type of stupid question and that’s the question that has nothing to do with the subject at hand.  In any given group of people there are some that fail to make the transition from an old topic to a new topic.  They get caught up thinking about an idea that the group has moved on from and the next time they speak, they prove it by asking a question or sharing a tidbit that has nothing to do with the current conversation.

This easily distracted person often finds themselves wandering down hypothetical pathways towards solutions to problems that don’t, or shouldn’t exist.  Their questions typically take the group off topic and leave it mired in minutiae.  Their assumption about what the group is talking about, leads to statements and questions that derail forward progress.

In the wake of the most recent NCAA Football scandal, opinion makers and broadcasters have been asking stupid questions like, “How do you keep players and coaches from breaking the rules?”, “How can we limit an agent’s access to players”, and “Shouldn’t we just start paying the players already?”

Bad questions often come from fundamentally bad assumptions.  Those assumptions are the rabbit trails that keep people from actually addressing the real problems facing people.  Assuming that colleges should be profiting from the entertainment value found on the athletic field comes from the assumption that schools should be responsible for organizing sports teams and sponsoring contests in the first place.

The question we should all be asking is actually, “Do athletics play any meaningful role in the process of higher education?” To raise the stakes, ask yourself what football has to do with a doctorate in mathematics?


You Aren’t Convincing Me.

I remember the last time that I talked all of my friends into going to the movies with me. I say “last time” because it didn’t go well. It was the Summer of 1995, July 29th to be exact. I was 21 and I’d never seen a bad movie… not that I was aware of anyway.

I had no idea that I had spent my teens developing “taste” and was about to realize this at a movie that was a smorgasbord of garbage.

I had been bragging to my friends that “Waterworld” was going to be the blockbuster of the summer. How could it not be? In one of the greatest trailers of all time, Oscar winner Kevin Costner played a fish man, who sailed a futuristic catamaran, that launched Jet Skis into a post apocalyptic future, filled with bungee jumps. It was more 90’s than the 90’s.

It was also the biggest bust in the history of movies.

I had convinced a half-dozen college students that spending $6.50 on something that wasn’t food would be worthwhile. We watched Kevin Costner drink his own urine while drawling his way through an undercooked but overblown rip-off of the “Road Warrior”. I got teased about it for years. No one who was there will let me forget it.

The movies that get remembered are the ones so good you want to see them again, or so bad you need to see them again with a friend. The rest are enjoyed to a degree and then lost to history which is sad, because many agreeable films are never seen by a large audience.

One of these is the 1996 period/dramedy “That Thing You Do.” Set in the “Mid Beatles” 1960’s, Tom Hanks directorial debut features a great story, a good ensemble cast, and a tone that is cheeky without losing its innocence.

There’s a classic moment where Jimmy, the overly focused artist, tries to convince Lenny, the good time guitarist, that their band name, “The Wonders”, should be spelled “The Oneders”.

Lenny’s response is, “Looks like the Ohneeders.” Jimmy clarifies by explaining that the word “One” could be the wordplay to “One-ders” as “Beat” is to “The Beatles”.

Lenny’s response? “Got it… looks like Ohneeders.”

The scene works because while Jimmy is assuming that Lenny doesn’t get the wordplay, it’s actually Jimmy who’s missing the point. Jimmy’s successful lobbying for the pun mean’s that the band plays a lot of pizza joints where everyone’s come to see “The Ohneeders.”

I’ve found that when it comes to making decisions, leadership is actually a lot more like Jimmy than we want to believe.

I’ve spent a lot of time going from person to person, then meeting to meeting, believing that if I just explained my idea well enough, people would want to get on board with it.

The truth is that sometimes people just don’t want to do something, and no amount of explaining, or making people listen, will convince them to change their mind on the matter.


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