Friday, February 10, 2006

A small saying for big wisdom

By amending our mistakes, we get wisdom.
By defending our faults, we betray an unsound mind.

The Sutra of Hui Neng
From "365 Buddha: Daily Meditations," edited by Jeff Schmidt. Tarcher/Putnam, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Pay Me to Show Up

"Eighty percent of success is just showing up." Woody Allen

I just read a headline in the NY Times that there are some schools rewarding perfect attendance with iPods and even cars.

Just when did THIS happen? When is "showing up" consider a rewardable activity?
If that's the case, then I would like a car because I've had perfect attendance at work. Where does this rewarded behavior that was once taken as a given - "supposed to do behavior" - where does it end?

I propose the following:
Let's give a President 500K a year upon retirement if he doesn't invade another country and cause the deaths of many civilians and Americans.
Let's give the president of a company a golden parachute ONLY if he moves that company forward AND rewards his hard-working employees - and it's all done legally.
Let's give a husband the million dollars from his wife's life insurance if he DOESN'T kill her.
Oh, hell - let's go all the way:
Let's give every drug dealer 10K for every other drug dealer they DON'T shoot.

When did good behavior, acceptable behavior become the exception (to be rewarded) and not the rule (to be expected)?

Man - that mountain top cabin and hermit-like existence is looking better and better.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


I just finished listening to Stephen King’s “Cell.” I was on the road most of this week and it was not a good work week to begin with. Then I put this book in the Cruiser’s CD player. Can you say, “Let’s go live in the woods – preferably where there are none of those darn towers?”

Let me say first – if you haven’t already deduced from some of my other posts – I am a fan – a huge fan. Remember, in 100 years (if we’re not done in by technology as in “Cell”), when King is being taught in every high school English class as Poe and Dickens are today – remember that it was Mitzi who told you it would happen. Forty years ago, I was the champion of a silly looking boy band from England. People thought I was crazy then – uh-huh. I have a good track record.

I’ve devoured King’s books since “’Salem’s Lot.” I carried “The Stand” around with (not a small feat since it’s a big book), extolling people to read it. Suffice it to say, I adore the man and his work – the ending of “It” notwithstanding. King’s story of addiction and redemption has a lot more validity to it than James Frey’s.

So this is not a review – could never be a review – could never be impartial. Not to the King. This is just an observation.

“Cell” could be “The Stand-light” – or could be judged that by the literati who have rarely had a good thing to say about King’s work. (Note: These are the same literati who swooned over Frey – yes, I’m STILL ranting about that).

“Cell” is an end of the world vision. But it is not as epically sweeping as “The Stand.” In this book King does what he is so good at doing – taking a minute part of the world as we know it and stand it on its mini-ear. He once again takes a thing so banal and so pervasive in our lives and twists it to something evil. And in this new world gone mad (or “Crazy”), he sets normal, everyday people trying to live their normal everyday lives and moves them along a quest towards greatness. The end of the quest can be as simple as finding safety or finding a loved one. The tasks along the way are the makings of the greatness.

During a long and dangerous three-week walk from Boston to Maine for the book’s core characters, King takes the time to rile against modern society, from Michael Bolton to George Bush. The observations are done subtlety through the eyes of his characters, of course. But it’s there. The analogy of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath is also there – again with subtle clarity that the reader cannot miss – nor afford to miss. The image of a prep school soccer field filled with the mutated people known as “phone crazies” is not that far from New Orleans’ Superdome after the worse disaster in our history. King weaves all of those very current threads throughout the book, giving it a sense of urgency – not necessarily needed but making it even more relevant.

And in the end King shows that he is a master storyteller by bringing the story and the reader fully back around to the beginning. The source of the change is also the redemption. Much like the story that although knowledge banned us from Eden, knowledge can save us. We must make sure we pick the right “knowledge” and use it for the right reasons.

As for me, I will never answer my cell phone again, without wondering who or what is on the other end. And for that, I have only The King to thank.