Getting motivated all up in this piece

October 31, 2008

Man, I think I dodged a bullet at work on this deal. Somebody decided that everyone in our office should (voluntarily) attend the all-day Get Motivated Seminar in Kansas City on November 12. So I looked it up to check it out, right after I opted not to attend. This link will give you all the details.

And here is a quote from an article in the National Review by someone who attended one of these about a year ago:

It seems that motivational speaking is largely a Red State phenomenon that rakes in billions while the cultural elite remain happily oblivious, like NASCAR or Branson, Mo. Prior to showing up at Get Motivated! I had no idea that this was so. But from the beginning of the seminar there are two overwhelming themes–patriotism and religion, and Get Motivated! is coy about neither.

He goes on to say:

And while some attendees are undoubtedly surprised by the seminar’s religious tone (during his speech, Peter Lowe cries out, “Lord Jesus, I need you…. Make me into the person you want me to be!”), nobody I see is outwardly upset by the repeated and explicit acknowledgment that faith and Judeo-Christian ethics are key components of success. Get Motivated!’s own success is testament to the fact that thousands of Americans yearn to have this message affirmed.

I wish I could report that Get Motivated! argues its main theme–values are integral to success–with consistent integrity. But there are pitfalls in blurring the line between faith and marketing. Too much of Get Motivated! exploits the lowest common denominator of success: materialism. Not every speaker resorts to that tactic, but, in the more garish displays, Phil Town points to a picture of a luxury Mercedes on the jumbotron, and Bill Bartmann flaunts photos of his McMansion. Both prompt “ooh”s and “ah”s from the crowd.

I honestly cannot think of a more unpleasant way to spend a day, and the idea that I could be getting paid for sitting through it would be no comfort at all.

It would have been interesting, though, to see how an event like this plays out after the likely outcome of the election.


When you go to vote, remember to bring your head

October 27, 2008 reminds us that we haven’t picked a new president—YET. And he goes on to lay out …

The 30 minute prep for picking a good president

Here it is. In 30 minutes you too can have a solid grounding on what makes for a good president, and have everything necessary to make a choice truly in the best interest of the United States.

  1. Read the Constitution (10 minutes). It’s probably been years since you have, if you ever did. This is the engine the president helps run – how can you pick a president if you don’t understand what they’re running? Essential reading. Should be included in every ballot.
  2. Skim the Bill of Rights + Amendments (5 minutes). These are the rules the President and government are obligated to play by and protect. Also essential.
  3. Read the job specs for the Presidency (5 minutes). Written by former editor and chief of Time Magazine, outlines 30 attributes we should be looking for.
  4. Study the qualities that bear on presidential performance. Princeton professor Greenstein’s short, and excellent, essay.(5 minutes)
  5. Make a position and issue list. Half the list should include your top issues and concerns for the next year, and half should include issues and concerns you imagine over the next ten years.
  6. Make a scorecard. With the above, you’re now informed about the history of good presidency. Make your own list of ten attributes, and use it to score the candidates.

You’re now prepared to watch debates, listen to the news, and provide historic context and bullshit detection upon what’s said by both pundits and candidates alike.

One other important point he makes is that a big public election is exactly the kind of situation where voting your own (unenlightened) self-interest just doesn’t work.

Advance Voting

October 23, 2008

I must be getting worried about the election.  Rumblings are starting about a big turn-out at the polls, and even possible chaos on election day.  (What kind of chaos?  Nobody knows, obviously — that’s why they call it chaos.)  People are pushing advance voting as more convenient, and as a way to increase the chance that your vote will actually be counted.

I didn’t reach my tipping point on this until I noticed that our polling place, a nearby church, is doing some kind of remodeling and most of the parking lot is torn up.  Suddenly it seemed like, by waiting until 11/4 to vote, I was risking a little more than the chance of bursting into flames I always take whenever I walk into a church.

So yesterday I went to the county courthouse and voted.  No fuss, no waiting, plenty of parking.  I saw one other voter while I was there.  Since voting only took a couple of minutes, I wasn’t there long, and it was during a regular work day, so I can’t tell anything about the popularity of advance voting in  my county.  I still didn’t like using a touch screen voting machine that gives no printed record of my ballot, but that’s a separate issue, one that our Republican county clerk evidently doesn’t take seriously.

At any rate, I feel like I accomplished a couple of worthwhile things.  I gave the system every possible opportunity to receive and count my vote.  And I insulated myself from the inevitable unpleasantness of late-campaign political ads.  Already I got one campaign phone call, from a live person asking for my vote, and was able to tell him I’d already voted — for his candidate, as it happens.  I admit it would have been, and may yet be, more satisfying to get a call for a candidate I don’t like and tell them sorry, you’re too late, voted already, thanks very much, kindly drop dead.

After the way the last eight years have gone, what happens next may shock me but nothing would truly surprise me, so at least I’m prepared to take shelter on election day if unrest breaks out and the teargas starts flying.

I could do that job

October 16, 2008

Roger Ebert sacrifices a tiny shred of journalistic diligence for the sake of his own sanity:

Q. How can you give a one-star rating to a movie you didn’t sit through?

A. The rating only applies to the first eight minutes. After that, you’re on your own.

I still hold a grudge against the New York Times critic who walked out of Dawn of the Dead in 1978 after only ten minutes.  It seemed to me that just sitting through the damn movie was the only part of being a movie critic that I was sure I could do as well as anybody.

For what it’s worth, conventional moviemaking wisdom gives a typical movie three acts, with the first act taking twenty or thirty minutes.  I’d consider that the bare minimum to form an opinion.  But some of my favorite movies are ones that somehow subvert in an interesting way the expectations set up by the first act.

Anyway, although I grant Ebert permission to save himself from needless suffering at his own discretion, I know I spend at least a couple of hours in every work day doing less pleasant things than watching bad movies.  So I’d like to sympathize, but I don’t.

I hate being made hopeful

October 16, 2008

Kevin Drum makes an interesting point:

Here’s a remarkable thought: John McCain was almost certainly the Republican Party’s strongest candidate this year. Any of the others would be doing even worse right now. If Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani had won the nomination we’d be heading toward the biggest landslide in half a century.

We’ve heard a lot of people second-guessing the Obama nomination, and the same with both sides choices for running mate. There’s been nothing much said about someone else being a better choice than McCain — apparently there’s a general agreement that he was the best they could do.

It looked to me like the Repubs were thrown off their playbook when they found out they weren’t running against Hillary.  And they never did regain their stride, mainly because Obama didn’t allow it to happen.  If you’re a conservative commentator, and your guy just lost the election, you’re going to have a challenge coming up with the Monday-morning-quarterback line about what they could have done to save themselves.

Don’t tell me, I can’t look

October 15, 2008

I dread this election.  I look forward to the prospect of change, but history has shown that anything that can change can change for the worse.  After the last couple of go-rounds, it’ll be interesting to find out if this country is still capable of having a legitimate election.

I’m really at a loss to express many of the jumbled buzz of thoughts I carry around in my head these days.  So it’s fortunate that Tim Kreider has articulated some of them for me:

With less than a month now to go before election Day and the country in a shambles, Obama is ahead in all the polls and even I am cautiously, against my better judgment, starting to hope that maybe, just this once, the shitheads will not win. Of course I’ve hoped this several times before, only to be sucker-punched and laughed at by the Shithead Nation. Which could well happen again if enough people secretly turn out to be racists behind the electoral booth curtain. Even if Obama does win, it still feels like a depressing confirmation of one’s most cynical and misanthropic suspicions that things finally had to get this bad—the country in ruin, mired in two losing wars and on the brink of a global Great Depression–before people would grudgingly consent to vote for someone intelligent for a change. It’s hard to believe we might actually have someone smart running the country again; as my friend Megan said, “It seems almost bizarre.” No doubt as soon as we’re at peace and running a surplus again the shitheads will vote for another hawkish, tax-cutting demagogue, like an alcoholic with a few months’ sobriety under his belt who decides that things are going so well that a coupla beers aren’t going to hurt anything.

Billy Mays, why hast thou forsaken me?

October 8, 2008

All the political ads on TV are getting annoying, and with the election less than four weeks away nobody is holding back any more.

Just this morning during the local TV news, I saw a commercial break filled with nothing but politicians begging for votes — okay, in some cases demanding them.  Nobody telling us what air freshener to use, what breakfast to eat, what car to drive, what beer to drink.  How are we supposed to get through the day?

No wonder the economy is slowing down.  Without commercials to tell us what to spend our time and money on, we’re paralyzed.  If we had the benefit of our TV’s advice, we could spend our money on all sorts of things, if we had any money.