Sunday, December 30, 2007

A World-Class Comb-Over

Transcript of internal dialogue of a comb-over wearer:

"Yeah, I'll just swoop this hair over a little bit an nobody will ever notice!"

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


To: All Staff
From: Kyle
Re: Dallas Franks Car Wreck

As most of you have heard by now, our V.P. of Client Services, Dallas Franks, was seriously injured in an automobile accident last evening.

The details are still sketchy, but I'll share with you what we know:

Dallas and I were discussing pressing matters with the "Wacky Beef Strips" account when I heard a loud crash on the other end of the line. Our connection severed, I repeatedly tried calling him back. When he didn't answer, I attempted to contact him on his BlackBerry 8800; unfortunately, there was no immediate response. This became quite unsettling.

I took quick action, first contacting our agency cellular provider ComZone Pinnacle. They were able to trace the wreckage of his car, and dispatched Lehigh Police to the scene.

Police investigators believe Dallas slid down an icy embankment while swerving to avoid a small brown paper bag on the road. Many of you know of Dallas' fondness for animals; both I and his ex-wife Tracey suspect he swerved fearing he was about to strike either a squirrel or an unusually small tan dog.

Dallas remains in critical condition at Lehigh Regional. Initially, he was totally unresponsive from the neck down, but doctors report he is now reacting violently to bright lights shone upon his face. This is a very hopeful sign, and the team at Lehigh Reg are cautiously optimistic that he'll regain at least partial use of his limbs by the end of 2009.

I intend to visit Dallas in the hospital by end of day tomorrow, after we wrap up the "Lil' Baby Boppers" R.F.P. I urge each of you to do likewise, after normal agency business hours, of course.

While Dallas recuperates from his accident, I would like to announce that I've appointed Wally Chang to be our Acting V.P. of Client Services. Wally brings a broad skill-set to the position, which will serve the agency well during Dallas' long and arduous recovery. Congratulations, Wally!

Stephen Covey once noted that "organizations set adrift by tumult must quickly pull together." His words have never rang truer, and they give us rich insight into the difficult days that lie ahead for this agency.

Please keep Dallas and his family in your prayers.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Review: No Country For Old Men

Though tightly-wound, the newest film from the Coen Brothers, No Country For Old Men, is magnificent.

The plot, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, is conventional: man finds cash, man takes cash, man is hunted by someone who wants the cash. It's the quality of filmmaking that sets this movie apart.

The Coens consistently produce works that play to the unique strengths of cinema, and "No Country" is no different. They frame shots that quickly explain what might take a novelist several paragraphs to describe. They insert subtle sound effects to amplify the narrative. They use music judiciously. They let scenes unfold unrushed, almost organically.

Though "No Country" features a couple of intense chase sequences, it's essentially a very cerebral suspense thriller. Several scenes are so incredibly tense that they're almost unbearable to watch. You've seen scenes like this before, just not as well-executed.

But in the end, it's the fact that the Coen Brothers are so good that leaves me wanting more. Their films are so well-planned, so rigidly mapped-out in advance, that they lack that mysterious spark of invention of a director like David Lynch or Martin Scorsese. If Quentin Tarantino's work feels like a cat falling from a tree and landing on its feet, the Coens remind you of a spider weaving a meticulous web.

For No Country, the Coens hire a cast of actors to play roles they've already proven they can play. Is anyone surprised that Texas native Tommy Lee Jones, (who won an Oscar playing a lawman in The Fugitive) shines as a Texas lawman? Or that Josh Brolin, who played a western hunter in Into The West, can play a western hunter? Or that Javier Bardem, who played a Mexican underworld figure in Collateral, can portray an ominous Mexican hitman? Barry Corbin playing a smart good 'ole boy? Present. Stephen Root as the boss? Accounted-for. The only notable casting oversight? They didn't hire Sam Elliott.

[An interesting casting note: Woody Harrelson, cast as a Texas hitman, is the son of real-life convicted Texas hitman, Charles Harrison, who died in prison for murdering a Texas judge. Ironically, McCarthy mentions that actual crime in his novel "No Country."]

Even with their "no surprises on set" approach, the Coens have crafted yet another wonderful film, rich with regional quirks, effective acting, beautiful shots, and a deep affection for both the history and possibilities of cinema.

Why Is This Man Smiling, Part Deux?

Eager to win back older male voters, Mitt Romney delights the crowd with free prostate exams.

"Oh, and on your way out, please take along some free fudge. It's sitting over there on the silver tray... no, wait, it's on the white tray... No? Just a sec, let me double-check that..."

Why Is This Man Smiling?

Dennis Kucinich with his much taller, much younger, and much lovelier wife, Elizabeth.

Now that'll energize your caucus!

Saturday, December 15, 2007


To: All Staff
From: Kyle
Re: How To Contact Me

Because of my importance at the agency, I want to share my personal contact information with each of you.

• The best way to reach me is by calling my personal cell phone. Many of you have my old cell number, but because of the merger between Pinnacle Cellular and ComZone, this number has changed. My new personal cell number is XXX-XXX-XXXX.

(An easy way to remember my cell: it's the same number as my birthday, but with a "1" at the end.)

• If you should fail to reach me at my personal cell, you may page me at XXX-XXX-XXXX. Sometimes I don't have my pager with me, however, so it would be a good idea for you to try reaching me on my BlackBerry 8800. That number is XXX-XXX-XXXX.

• If I don't pick up, keep in mind that I check my e-mail on my BlackBerry 8800 at 15-minute intervals. My email address is

• If I'm on the road, my Tahoe is outfitted with a dedicated, hands-free Voice Hub. You may reach that number at XXX-XXX-XXXX. I truly love to talk while driving.

• If, for some reason, I miss your call while driving, don't hesitate to take advantage of our nation's Amber Alert system. As you know, most major highways are now outfitted with electronic signboards designed to aid in the retrieval of missing children. If I'm unreachable while on the road, simply contact Lehigh Police with the following message:

"4 Year Old Blonde Girl, "Kyleigh" Is Missing," (along with your contact number).

By using this code, I'll know to immediately contact you.

• From September to November, I attend each of my son's home football games. These games take place on Friday evenings, roughly between 7:00 - 10:30. Because of crowd noise, I may not hear your call. Feel free to contact the Lehigh North stadium press box at XXX-XXX-XXXX. The public address announcer, Larry Kiswacki, will page me during the first break in the action. If you cannot reach Larry, it's best if you contact the scoreboard operator, Steve Sanibel. His number in the press box is XXX-XXX-XXXX and his personal cell number is XXX-XXX-XXXX. Just ask him to input your message (and contact information) and I'll see your message appear on the stadium scoreboard.

• On the second Sunday morning of each month, I make love to my wife. Typically, I don't answer any of the numbers I've listed above, but if you're faced with an emergency (or just want to kick around some ideas), I can be reached on our nightstand phone at XXX-XXX-XXXX. If I don't pick up right away, leave a short message and I'll call you back immediately.

I've instructed our human resources girl, Sharon Cake, to create a wallet-sized laminated card with all of my contact information. She will distribute this handy card with your next paycheck. However, I recommend that each of you take some time (after normal work hours) to update your mobile devices with each of my contact numbers.

I believe Jack Welch once said, "The importance of communication in any organization can be neither overstated, nor underestimated." Similarly, Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton famously mused, "The squirrel what don't find his nuts, don't eat." With good communication, I believe we will each be able to "find our nuts."

As we reflect upon their insightful words, I hope each of you will take advantage of my accessibility to empower yourselves to be the best employee you can be. And please remember: each employee's dedication to effective communication is an important factor during annual performance reviews.

Together, we can grow this agency beyond all my wildest dreams!


Weekend To-Do List

1. Begin to consider the value of making a to-do list.
2. Vaguely think about potentially important tasks to include on such a list.
3. After thinking about things to include on this list, roughly prioritize, by level of importance, these yet-undecided tasks that might be included on my to-do list.
4. Make a first-draft list of prioritized tasks.
5. Take a nap.
6. Go for a walk and review first-draft of prioritized tasks.
7. Decide what action(s) to take next.
8. Play with my kitten, Pebbles.
9. Re-visit items 2 — 4.
10. Resolve not to rush into anything.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Available For Your Next Corporate Retreat

It's Jimmy Reagan!!

According to his web site, Mr. Reagan is "known for his excellence as a Producer, Singer and Songwriter," and he has "established his own style and brand of Music..."

(He should call it "Reaganomix." Get it? "Mix?" As in "mix" of musical styles?)

Hurry and book him now! Wedding Season is filling up!

Pay 50% down, and he'll unfasten two more shirt buttons, ladies!

Psst... Rumor Has It...

...all of us on "The Street" are getting fat bonus checks this Christmas!

We really didn't have a stellar year. In fact, my firm had to write-down close to a quarter-billion dollars (thanks to all those mortgage-stiffs). But we still hit our revised performance targets, per the compensation committee (those are some great guys, b.t.w). My bonus won't be as fat as last year's, but it's still going to be pretty sweet, at least according to Mukesh on the 58th Floor! Chew on that, Dad!

Mood: Pumped!!!!!!

I'm not sure what to buy first:

(a) that Porsche Boxster I've had my eye on;
(b) An original Nagel print of a naked lady;
(c) A pool for our house in Connecticut. The wife (what's her name?) and my sons, "Me," Junior and The Runt would really groove on some splash!
(d) a completely-refurbished, arcade-original "Galaga" for the rec room in Boca.

And, don't worry, I'll also give a couple of Hamiltons to the Missing and Abused Something-or-other Fund!


Steroids: The Breakfast of Champions

Is anyone surprised by the Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball?

Barry Bonds suddenly has a moral leg to stand on: why should he be expected to face a juiced pitcher without a lil' bit of the ol' H.G.H.* himself?

I'm not sure the 'roids help a pitcher throw that much harder; I do suspect they help a 45-year-old like Roger Clemens recover from a start much faster than a drug-free pitcher.

One would think this an easy problem to fix. Why won't the players union agree to aggressive mandatory drug testing? It would be beneficial to their health, after all. What athelete wants a set of tiny, shriveled-up cojones, anyway?

* Human Growth Hormone

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bach & Brian

Stuff I'm reading about, and vaguely understand: in music theory, counterpoint is roughly defined as two or more distinct melodies performed simultaneously.

This technique, widely used during the Baroque period, is considered unique to Western music. J.S. Bach is thought by most to be it's greatest practitioner; his music was dense and complex, yet light on it's feet. By Bach's time, though, counterpoint was becoming passé. Serious composers moved on to other things.

Not surprisingly, very little modern pop or rock music (say, post-Beatles) incorporates counterpoint. Maybe it's because both thrive on immediacy and directness; when a song starts to sound too complex and fussed-over, it loses it's rawness.

A few rock composers managed to figure it out, though. Probably the best "contrapuntal" composer was Brian Wilson.

Listen to "Good Vibrations:" forty seconds into the song, and Wilson is effortlessly playing at least 3 distinct melody lines against one another. After the second verse, he gives us some nice counterpoint at the bridge/interlude (complete with harpsichord -- right back 'atcha, Bach) before introducing a brand-new, ebullient counterpoint around the 3:15 mark. And then he finishes with a cello and a theremin. Whew! (By the way, Wilson was around 24 years old when this was composed.)

Despite all this complexity, "Vibrations" still sounds like a happy rock song written by the same guy who did "Fun, Fun, Fun."

I'm having a hard time thinking of other great examples of rock/pop counterpoint. Focusing solely on vocal counterpoint, here are a few that might qualify:

• "God Only Knows" - The Beach Boys - Great stuff starting around 1:15, and again at the 2:00 mark.
• "Happy Together" - The Turtles - features a pretty nice contrapuntal chorus at the end; bonus points for an end-of-song resolve!
"Monday, Monday" - The Mamas & The Papas - Nice contrapuntal bridge at 1:23
• "California Dreamin'" - The Mamas & The Papas - The entire 40 second intro before the first verse
• "A Rose For Emily" - The Zombies - Pretty stuff at :30 and 1:18
• "Chimacum Rain" & "Parallelograms" - Linda Perhacs - Experimental 70's folk by a dental assistant; nothing here had a chance at the top 40, though.
• "She's Leaving Home" - The Beatles - :50 in, at the chorus. Not the best example of counterpoint, but a beautifully written and clever combination of voices. The intro for "Paperback Writer" is a better example, but very brief!
• "Scarborough Fair" - Simon & Garfunkel - Textbook counterpoint starting with the second verse.
• "Cybele's Reverie" - Stereolab - Starting around 1:45, some simplistic, yet charming counterpoint, in French, no less.

Help me add to the list, music freaks!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Name That Skyline

This is a tough one.

Answer in comments.

How Much Do We Love This Stuff?

Despite all our outrage at the Omaha Mall Massacre, Americans really love these kinds of stories!

Witness the bugaboo on the internets. To satisfy our morbid curiousity, suddenly we've got security cam pix of the shooter to drool over.

While considering that fact, remember the on-going media blackout on images of the caskets of American troops arriving in Dover, Delaware. The Pentagon strictly forbids these images because they understand public support for that war thing will erode even further if we actually see evidence of American casualities.

By the same token, shouldn't the government black-out coverage of the mall shooter? Wasn't fame one of his motives? Won't budding young surburban terrorists become enamored with these images of a troubled loner carrying out his business?

While we're expressing sadnesss at yet another shooting, is anyone asking why the step-father of a deeply violent and disturbed young man stores an AK-47 assault rifle in his house? Does he need to guard against the large groups of armed marauders threatening Omaha? Or, does ownership of a big gun make him feel strong and manly?

And then the next issue: why is anyone allowed to own a weapon designed to quickly kill large numbers of people in a war setting?

Don't expect much debate on that particular issue -- the N.R.A. has their jackboot pressed firmly on the throat of any politician that dares suggest a ban on assault weapons.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Music to Recommend

That new Robert Plant/Alison Krauss long-player, Raising Sand, is pretty impressive!

I thought the poor guy's voice was totally roached, but wait a minute -- he's still got it!

The harmonies between these two are exquisite. Who'd-a thunk?

My favorite song? "Please Read The Letter." Sure, it lasts a minute or two too long, but it sounds completely fresh, yet as old as a can of rusty nails.

Maybe he can't shriek and wail like he used to, but he's matured into a great song stylist.

And what's with Alison Krauss these days? She's transformed herself from looking like the shy girl you might throw up on at Church Camp into a bluegrass pin-up girl! Va-va-voom!! Twenty-three skidoo!!

Antiques Roadshow

A few years ago, as Cami and I were wrapping up an antiquing Saturday in Oklahoma City, I spotted this book out of the corner of my eye.

It was about my favorite architect, Bruce Goff. The public library had a copy, but it was for reference only. You couldn't borrow it. I once spent the better part of a day xeroxing pages from this book.

I was thrilled to find it! The dealer was only asking for $10. I snapped it up.

Turns out, it was a steal!

I've got another Goff book, also out of print. It's a softcover, and it's also starting to skyrocket in price.

Okay, enough self-congratulation.

Target Christmas Catalog Cover

The new Target Christmas catalog arrived over the weekend...

The cover is absolutely stunning. Elegant and simple, it's amazing that a big box retailer agreed to print something so lovely.

Wal-Mart executives would never green-light such a design. They'd insist on smiley faces, corporate slogans, and lots of garish typography. That's why shopping at Wal-Mart makes you feel dirty, and shopping at Target makes you feel hip.

Amy Ruppel did this year's design, and a quick trip to her website shows that it's basically a re-work of something she'd already done. Oh well, as John Fogerty would tell you, there's no harm in copying yourself if people like what you do!

A Slightly Above-Average Tip

Donald Trump was apparently quite pleased with his service recently.

He left his waiter a 10K tip!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

What Do College Football and Figure Skating Have In Common?

Answer: both determine their champions from the whims of "qualified judges."

Macho football-dudes love to gush about "walking the walk" and "letting your game rise to the occasion" and how"champions are made on the field." But in reality, their beloved game's champions are determined by judges and computer scoring, just like that girliest of girl sports, figure skating.

Witness last night's machinations on the various college gridirons across the nation. The number one team in the land, Missouri, was beaten handily by the number 9 team, Oklahoma, for the second time this season. How did Missouri become #1 in the first place?

Now we're told that L.S.U. and Ohio State will play for the mythical National Championship. Oklahoma, despite beating the "number one" team in the nation, will probably have settle for a Fiesta Bowl invite.

It's not unlike Oksana Baiul versus Nancy Kerrigan, is it not?

Blasphemy, Theology and Teddy Bears

The current Teddy Bear Blasphemy case in the Sudan raises some interesting questions.

While we're outraged at calls for British teacher Gillian Gibbons' death by angry mobs of Muslims, doesn't Christian theology promise eternal death for the same offense?

(Matt.12.31: Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.)

Back to the Sudan's Sharia law: if you think "nothing like this could ever happen in the United States," than say hello to Christian Reconstructionism. Many of these pious individuals would love to see our government turn into a theocracy, complete with Old Testament style punishments for "sins" not even considered crimes under U.S. law.

Ultimately, religious folk must ask each other for a simple favor: "Let us treat one another with more mercy than our God."

Why Is Charlie Brown So Depressed?

Watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in 2007 shows just how ahead-of-the-curve Charles Schulz was when he developed his depressive Charlie Brown character in the 1950s. With a growing number of us taking anti-depressants (and speaking openly about it), it seems we've finally caught up with ol' Chuck.

A sense of melancholy and sadness permeates this 40-plus year old Christmas animation, from Charlie Brown's frank admissions of depression, his visit to money-grubbing Lucy's psychiatrist's office, to Vince Guaraldi's almost crushingly wistful jazz score. CBS network executives were apprehensive about the script, but the debut episode proved a smashing success (50% of American homes tuned in for the premiere).

It asked Americans a fundamental step-back-and-think question: if we live in such a priveleged, wealthy nation, then why are so many of us depressed?

Perhaps "A Charlie Brown Christmas" answered it best. Though we claim to be a Christian nation, we're really not. We worship a different trinity: capitalism, consumerism and credit, and disguise it with the sanctimonious "outrage" at secularism displayed by Fox News personalities this time each year. Before Christmas was Christmas, it was a pagan winter holiday. And you know what? It still is.