Tag Archives: lost

Hey, Soul Sister

I’m pretty sure that I am Abraham Lincoln reincarnated.

Stick with me on this.  First, let’s talk about reincarnation.   I grew up in a “spiritual-but-not-religious” household, which I say only because “atheist” makes me sound like I have neck tattoos and “agnostic” is just religion’s version of a total cop-out (like “libertarian” for politics). So, within my “spiritual” upbringing, I was exposed to several different belief systems: we had a children’s bible on the bookshelf, a fat bald man on the mantle (fine, a bronzed Buddha statue), and an Indiana Hoosiers jersey in the basement (because sports is religion and, growing up, Calbert Cheaney was God).

Anyway, back to reincarnation.  My parents were actually loose Buddhists.  Reincarnation is a Buddhist idea, and so my parents would teach me all about reincarnation as they saw it: you die, but you don’t really die, which is great, and then your soul floats up in the air, and then it finds a new body to inhabit, and thus you end up looking like someone else.  It’s like the whole Man-in-Black debacle in Lost.

Naturally, I was skeptical.  Believing in soul transfer is sort of like believing in ghosts or unicorns.  Plus, empirically it didn’t make sense: if we started out with just two souls (Adam and Eve), does this mean that  all but two of us were born soulless?  My mom convinced me that this wasn’t the case, that everyone is either given a new soul or a recycled one.  So, in my adolescent need to latch onto irrefutable truths, I believed her and bought into this whole reincarnation business.*

How does reincarnation work?  I’ve always imagined that it’s like going through customs at the airport.  The customs officials are the arbiters of soul, where they examine your soul and make sure it’s passable into the next life.  They scratch you, they sniff you, and they make sure you’re not carrying any illegal fruits or vegetables.  Tangerines hidden in your rectum?  Rejected!  Bad souls are dumped down the chute; good souls keep on rolling.  After a full-body violation, your customs official gives you the ticket to your next destination.  You’re whisked away to take a shower, getting rid of all the airplane/past-life smell.  And then, finally, you’re off to explore your new life in Tokyo/Brazil/Zimbabwe.

I like to think that the reincarnation airport is run by reality TV producers: they want all souls to have good stories, so they jumble them up a bit.  If you were a man in one life, you’ll be a woman in the next.  If you were J.P. Morgan in one life, you’ll be a German pauper in the next.  Just imagine: in a past life, 6’8″ millionaire basketball star LeBron James could have been 5’3″ communist leader Ho Chi Minh.  The E! True Hollywood Story would be fascinating.

The best part about reincarnation is that there is a limitless family tree: anyone could be your past-life dad.  In trying to figure out my soul ancestry, I worked backwards, based on my own predispositions.  Here is where I believe I came from:

Abraham Lincoln (Feb 1809 – April 1865): Honest Abe was probably a new soul, since he was born in an era of extensive population growth.  He wore a beard.  I love his beard.  We’re kindred spirits.

Beatrix Potter (July 1866 – Dec 1943): (I assume it took customs a while to sort through all the souls coming from the Civil War) Beatrix Potter, the author of children’s books like Peter Rabbit, could write and draw… I would love to be her one day, except for the whole British thing. (See picture: she’s doing the 19th century version of sexy posing… again, kindred spirits).

(Here is where my soul falls off the map a bit.  I blame it on WWII.)

Dennis Wilson (Dec 1944 – Dec 1983): Dennis Wilson, the founder of the Beach Boys and Charles Manson enabler, drowned in a boating accident in Marina del Rey.  I came to the conclusion that Wilson was my past-life daddy when I lost my phone in Marina del Rey (wait for it)… on a boat.  As T-Pain/KG says, “Anything is possible.”

So, there it is: my reincarnated family tree.  Yes, my past-life selves have all been famous celebrities/literary geniuses/presidents; every once in a while, I may drop a little Peter Rabbit, Surfin’ USA, or Hip-Hop Emance-Proc on you.  But don’t be intimidated.  Because you never know — deep down, you could have the recycled soul of John D. Rockefeller… and if so, get ready for a life of peasanthood.  It’ll be great TV.

* At one point, I had convinced myself that the reason for Buddha’s girth was because he held all the new souls in his stomach.  However, once I realized what he would need to do to retrieve the souls, I dumped this idea…  Pun intended …Yes, I’m twelve.

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Breaking Down the Professional Learning Curve

When you start a new job, you’ll always have a learning curve. For the  most part, regardless of where you work and what you do, these curves take on the same trajectory:

This is HR.

This is HR.

Orientation: On Day One, you’ll fill out paperwork, watch a company slideshow, and get welcomed by smiling, amiable HR representatives.  Orientation is always full of enlightenment surrounding arcane company policies and sexual harassment no-nos.  Example: Hugs and kisses in the office are generally discouraged, although exceptions can be made for foreign clients and the CEO’s hot secretary.  Handshakes and man-on-man butt slapping are OK.  Catcalling and outright groping are cause for termination, except when it happens during sales meeting at Flash Dancers (then it’s just good business practice).

High on acronyms, integrity speeches, and excitement/nervousness for starting a new job… Low on actual learning

monkey

This may be you.

The Grace Period: In the first few weeks on the job, you’re allowed a certain grace period to become acclimated with what your role actually entails.  This may involve learning about VLOOKUPS in Excel, copying and pasting charts in Powerpoint, or working the coffee machine in the kitchen.  In some cases, you may think a trained monkey can do your work.  In other cases, perhaps a fifth grader with terrific Powerpoint skills would suffice.  Either way, by now you’ll be able to tell whether you’ll like your job, or if you’re going to hate your life.

High on Microsoft Excel/Powerpoint/Outlook, subtle recognition of official company colors and fonts, becoming acquainted with IT, and finding where the best lunch place is… Low on actual thinking

Settling In: It’s been a few months now, so you’ve become supremely aware of what your company actually does.  You’ve learned the acronyms, discovered the fastest way to the office, and categorized your co-workers: who is good at their job, who is bad at their job, and who will likely become the new sexual harassment case study for HR.  You’re working hard and hustling: it’s about getting noticed, getting praised, and getting paid.

High on productivity, systems and processes, boss’ personal history… Low on time spent with family and friends

buttslapSettling Down: By now, you’ve slogged through the 100-hour weeks, impressed your boss several times, and likely violated an HR policy during a company party gone bad.  You’re accustomed to all the random nuances of your day-to-day activities, allowing you to spend more time thinking about networking, promotions, and your next career move.  Or, for the less-ambitious types, this time affords you greater opportunity to procrastinate, go to happy hour, and talk about what happened on Lost.

High on drinking, Hulu, and visits with HR… Low on excitement

Once you’ve reached this stage, some might be content to stay in their current role, stake out a comfortable seat on the company org chart, and tuck in for the next 35 years.  Others may want to get a new job, get a new challenge, and go through this whole cycle all over again.  Personally, with my career schizophrenia and general aversion to settling down, I’m more inclined towards the latter right now.  I’d like to play the field, because I want to keep learning, keep hustling, and keep getting butt-slapped.  After all, it’s good business practice.

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Diversity in TV Shows Today… Do We Still Need a Color Television?

Update 4/7/09: Well, there goes another one.  Goodbye to Kal Penn’s Dr. Kutner.  He’s moving on to another House, one of far greater prominence.

Update 2/18/09: Yesterday’s article in the LA Times reports on the diversity phenomenon in television… While the Times may have a different definition of “lead character” than I do, the message is still the same: Diverse characters just aren’t found in scripted programming these days.

On my way to work on Monday, I told a co-worker that I had seen He’s Just Not That Into You over the weekend. “It looks cute,” my co-worker said, “But I don’t want to see it on principle… it’s too white. Where are all the minorities?”

Let’s see: in the movie, all the primary characters were… white. All the couplings… white. All the love connections… white. There were a few gay men who were minorities, and Justin Long did make out with a black girl, but other than that, the movie was one long, bad, whitewashed chick flick.

Strangely, even as a minority myself, I didn’t notice that the cast was all white before I went to the theater. However, my co-worker’s stand resounded with me (she, by the way, is white). Our country is supposed to be a “melting pot” — our minority populations are growing — and oh, our President is black. So why is Hollywood so white?

Entertainment Weekly ran a story a few months ago about diversity in entetainment: “Why is TV so white?”

There was a time when diversity seemed to come naturally to prime time. The social consciousness of the ’70s spawned successful sitcoms like The Jeffersons, Good Times, and Sanford and Son; the ’80s brought living-in-harmony comedy Diff’rent Strokes and the ultimate breakthrough TV family on The Cosby Show

After nearly 10 years of working with diversity reps and outreach programs, the networks still primarily solve the problem by sprinkling nonwhite actors into white-led shows — often as a comedic sidekick or in guy-who-helps-the-main-guy-solve-a-crime roles.

So I decided to take a look at the current TV lineup to see just how white it actually is. I went through all the network shows in primetime, excluding all reality/news programming. For the shows that I didn’t personally watch, the litmus test was whether the show’s website included pictures of diverse characters on their main page.

From there, I color-coded all the shows that featured the following:(1)

minorityreport

Based on thorough scouring of show websites, and operating under the assumption that some cartoon characters were meant to be white, what I found confirmed the EW report and my co-worker’s concerns.(2) (Of course, I don’t have 90 hours a week to carefully watch each show for its contribution to diversity, so feel free to email me with anything I’ve missed or gotten wrong.)

Out of 90 hours of primetime programming per week, there are 32.5 hours dedicated to reality TV, news, or Sunday night movies. Of the remaining 57.5 hours of scripted series:

  • Shows with ANY minority primary characters: 13.5 hours (Heroes, Scrubs, 90210, Law & Order, Lost, 30 Rock, ER, Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, My Name is Earl, Friday Night Lights, Everybody Hates Chris, The Game, Desperate Housewives, The Unit, The Simpsons)
  • Shows with MULTIPLE minority primary characters or leads: 6.5 hours (Heroes, Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, ER, Private Practice… and this is counting ABC’s double-airing of Lost on Wednesdays)
  • Shows with a LEAD minority character: 3 hours (Ugly Betty, The Unit, Everybody Hates Chris, The Game)

tvmatrix1

So, out of the 57.5 hours of scripted programming, 76% of this programming features all-white leading casts. Only 4 shows have minority lead characters, and two of them air on Friday nights on the CW.

Finally, just some parting thoughts on diversity in entertainment:

  • Derek and Meredith, Jim and Pam, Kate and Jack/Sawyer… We’ve seen interracial couples flow seamlessly through the Grey’s Anatomy plotlines, but how many other shows have done it? Even in the diverse ensemble casts, why does the main love story/central relationship in the show always feature only one race? I’m not talking about flings, I’m talking about the Ross and Rachels… makes me wonder.
  • The lack of diversity isn’t limited to network TV either… some of the hottest shows on cable (Burn Notice, Damages, The Closer) and pay TV (Entourage, Californication, Big Love) are lily white.
  • A show featuring a minority family has not earned broad mass appeal in more than a decade. Has something systemically changed in our audience today? Are we more or less racially polarized? How would the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or The Cosby Show do today? How would The George Lopez Show or The Bernie Mac Show have done then?
  • Will we ever see a show with an Asian lead on network TV?

(1) Lead character(s): The main storylines are centered around this/these character(s). They serve as the face of the show, and are featured in every episode. With a show like House, the lead character would obviously be Hugh Laurie’s Dr. House. In Grey’s Anatomy, the lead would be Meredith Grey. Even though it is an ensemble cast, she provides the voice-over and has the sickeningly cute doctor-boyfriend. Similarly, in The Office, it would be Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott… in 30 Rock, Tina Fey… etc.
Primary character(s): Not every show has primary characters who are not leads. Primary characters are mostly part of an ensemble cast where their characters also have a backstory that is shared with the viewer. Examples: Jenny in Gossip Girl, Hurley in Lost, Jim and Pam on The Office… etc.
(2) In this exercise, I did not look for minority secondary characters because I figured that most shows did have diversity in this sense, per the EW quote above.

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Peaking Along the Career Parabola

A few weeks ago, I was writing an email when I caught myself mixing up “their” and “there”. Not only that, but I’d also misspelled two other words and left one sentence incomplete.

Well, this is it, I thought. I’ve finally hit the wall. Burned out. Peaked.

This past week, a college friend and I reminisced about our school days: working hard, playing hard, going out every night, and still finding a way to pass our finals. “We were so smart back then,” she sighed. And so energetic. I went home that evening and crawled into bed by eleven, the new default bedtime for my elderly, depreciating self.

workgraphSo, yes… two years out of college, at the ripe old age of 23, I am now officially over the hill. In the parabolic chronology of life, I’ve already surpassed the tangent point, the point of no return. Just a few years ago, I was juggling five classes, two extracurriculars, a term-time job, and an active social life. Now, I have one job, no classes, and a schedule interspersed with lengthy midday naps. Gone are the days when I could forgo the spell check and formulate coherent sentences on the first try. I can’t quite remember the quadratic formula and I definitely don’t know how to graph parabolas anymore. All I know is that I’ve passed the peak. Pretty soon I’ll be forgetting my own name and calling people “loosers”.

Sadly, we all must go the way of old geezers a la John Madden. (A gem from last night’s Super Bowl: “If you can become a head coach at any age, you can coach when you’re young.” Thanks, John.) A friend recently sent me an email about “Kitchenheimer’s“, the phenomenon “when you’re in the kitchen going around in circles because you can’t remember what you were doing there.” In the email, he wrote, “I bet this happens to you all the time.”

It does. In my defense, I’ll pull an anti-Benjamin Button and blame it on accelerated aging. But for everyone else, I hope you fare better than me. Here’s a roadmap to what the future holds from a work perspective, as you traverse across the x-axis through the parabola of your long and storied career.

workgraph1

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(1) Hustlin’: Young, eager, energetic, and bright… full of vitality, ambition, and grandiose ideas.

You are still in this phase if you can do any of the following:

  • Make it through a week of work without drinking coffee
  • Get really excited about networking, company dinners, and conversations about “synergy”
  • Need less than 6 hours of sleep to function
  • Start a foundation to save polar bears in your free time

(2) Peaking: Slowing down, spacing out, and taking more bathroom breaks… The only hope is to hover around the top before the rapid freefall.

You may be peaking if you do any of the following:

  • Consider work with a combination of bemusement and utter apathy
  • Spend at least 15% of your time at work on fantasy football/eBay/Perez Hilton
  • Take more than 20 seconds to remember the work you did yesterday

(3) All Downhill From Here: Lethargy, complacency, and embracing monotony… Work has become as exciting as pressing a button every 108 minutes. Boop.

You may be on your way to sloth-ville if you do any of the following:

  • Volunteer to be laid off even though no one asked you
  • Think daily about pulling a Milton from Office Space
  • Derive your greatest joy by stealing something from the office every day

Now, this same graph can be applied to other aspects of life as well: for example, that loving feeling. Just like productivity, acuity, and energy, our loving aptitude should decline as we age. Then again, with technology these days, a trip to the pharmacy can extend the hustler stage and keep you at your peak for much longer… (pun intended).

So, will there ever be such a development for our work lives as well? Can I come back from futility and rid myself of spell check dependence once again? Will the Type-A ambition return? Will quadratics be superseded by cubics? (If you get the last reference, then be assured that you are definitely still hustlin’.)

I’m hoping yes. Forget about Kitchenheimer’s… If John Madden can make it work, then I should at least be able to save some polar bears before it all goes downhill for good.

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The Best Shows on Television

My favorite TV shows (current):

#1: Friday Night Lights: One of the best shows of all time…that no one watches. This show has actually made me want to visit Texas in search of Tim Riggins. Gritty, real, heart-wrenching… any show that prominently features Applebees has to be high on one’s list. FNL is currently airing its 3rd (and likely last) season on DirecTV, although it will be re-aired on NBC in the spring.

#2: 30 Rock: With the emergence of Tina Palin’s new uber-celebrity, hopefully people will start watching it now. One of my favorite clips below… Coming back Oct. 30 on NBC Thursdays.

#3: Grey’s Anatomy: Our protagonist, Meredith, is whiny, neurotic, and somehow still likable. Add in floods, flesh-eating bacteria, and McDreamy, and this makes it a can’t-miss.

#4: The Office: The show that has made “that’s what she said” into an automatic, kneejerk reaction whenever you hear something like, “It [the test] was pretty hard,” or, “It [the shirt] was a little too long.”

#5: Lost: It’s kind of been out-of-sight, out-of-mind… When it comes back in January, it may catapult up this list.

Honorable Mentions: Gossip Girl (needs a longer track record to make this list), Damages (same as GG; needs a second good year to build off its first amazing season), Heroes (I’ve stopped watching this season… should try to pick it back up again), Project Runway (this cast has been kind of blah though), The Biggest Loser (always fun to watch other people work out while struggling to reach the remote from my place on the couch), So You Think You Can Dance (…dance, dance, dance)

Other shows I enjoy: Bones, Monk, Samantha Who, Jon & Kate Plus 8, The Amazing Race, Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Designers Challenge, and most everything on the Food Network

Favorite TV shows (no longer airing):

#5: Dawson’s Creek

#4: Alias

#3: Frasier

#2: Will & Grace

#1: Friends

Honorable Mentions: Saved by the Bell, The Cosby Show, Fresh Price of Bel-Air, Cheers, Golden Girls, Mad About You

Shows I’ve never seen (or only saw a few episodes), but are on the to-watch list:

#5: Flight of the Conchords

#4: Brothers and Sisters

#3: 24

#2: The Wire

#1: Arrested Development (on DVD, I suppose)

Shows that make me sad for America: (ironically, all reality shows)

#5: The Moment of Truth

#4: The Real Housewives of Orange County

#3: A Shot of Love with Tila Tequila

#2: Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader

#1: My Super Sweet Sixteen

Honorable Mentions: Paris Hilton’s My New BFF, My Super Sweet Sixteen presents: Exiled, I Survived a Japanese Game Show

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