Quirky and Irreverent

Creating backstories you never even knew existed!!!

The Genius of Michael Scott

Posted by Chris on October 5, 2009

Michael Scott is a creative genius who will not be appreciated until long after he is gone.  Any Office watchers out there?  Thursday nights?  NBC?  I love it.  I know, there are many of you out there who are a big fan of the BBC version and won’t give the US version a fair shake.  I know who you are.  Let me just go ahead and say, you are infinitely cooler than the rest of us.  You listen to obscure pop music that no one has ever heard of outside of eclectic circles.  You drink Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and wear John Deere hats because it is ironic to you.  We know… you are cooler than the rest of us.

Back to my original statement though.  Michael Scott is a creative soul trapped in a corporate environment.  So what if he hit an employee with his car in the parking lot… so what if he “outed” one of his employees… so what if he likes to hold mock firings, bringing an employee to tears, and then says “gotcha”… Does any of that make him a bad manager?  Yep.  It does.

However… Michael understands that sometimes you need to go big or go home.  The corporate office tells Michael that he needs to hold diversity training.  To Michael, this does not mean file the cattle into the conference room, read from a corporate manual on what diversity means, and then have them sign a slip stating they received diversity training.  No, to him, this is an opportunity to make a film… you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you just might come to the conclusion that Michael Scott is a creative genius.

Only Michael Scott could go to a BORING corporate picnic and see it as an opportunity to spoof Slumdog Millionaire.  You didn’t think that was creative?  OK, so he broke confidential news to the whole company that the Buffalo branch was closing and they would lose their jobs.  Big deal.  Did it ever occur to you at your last corporate retreat to put on a skit?

Although often misdirected, Michael looks at situations and doesn’t see it the same way you and I do.  He sees it as an opportunity to reach greatness through creativity and expression.  Has he ever reached greatness?  No, probably not.  It doesn’t mean he never will though.  Who the hell ever reached greatness through following the rules and speaking when spoken to?  Give me a historical figure… I’ll wait.

I’m still waiting…

I’ve got nothin’.  My list is blank.  How does yours look?  Yours is blank too, huh?  Whether Jesus of Nazareth – Carpenter, or Albert Einstein – Patent Clerk, the great leaders and innovators found their greatness by breaking the rules and finding opportunities in situations where others just sit quietly and do as they are told.

I went to a job fair today.  I guess you could say curiosity got the best of me.  The job fair was for positions with the IRS.  A call center is opening up in Des Moines next spring and they are hiring 200 people to staff it.  I spent the morning putting together the laundry list of things they wanted you to have, updated my resume, and printed everything off.  Now I have applied for a lot of jobs lately, but this takes the cake.  The posting was online, but you couldn’t apply online.  “OK,” i thought. “I’ll print everything out and take it to the job fair.  They will just take it and I’ll get to talk to someone about the job and my qualifications.”  Nope.  The guy hands me a pamphlet with the same info I found online and told me to submit my information online.  When I told him there was no way to submit it online, he said “Yeah, you’re not the first person to tell me that today.”  Seriously?  This is your job fair?  This tool is the representative you sent?  It was a room with a few tables and men in suits handing out pamphlets with the website and job descriptions on it.  All this I can get online.  You have just wasted my time.  One things for sure… Michael Scott wouldn’t have done it that way.

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Who am I?

Posted by Chris on October 2, 2009

I am daydreaming… watching it rain.  This morning my network grew exponentially by visiting the Central Iowa Blogger’s monthly meeting.  Since I am vehemently opposed to phrases like “shout out” I will just say “hello” to all of those I met this morning.  I look forward to our continued networking and collaboration.

There I was this morning surrounded by bloggers and twit-o-philes who have been doing this for years.  Their brand is established and I certainly get the impression that they know who they are and what they are doing.  I on the other hand, do not.  People would ask me what I “do” and I didn’t have a good answer.  What do I do?  What is my blog about?  How clearly defined is my brand?  OK, sorry for that last one… I was thinking like an MBA.  I hate that stuff.  I am daydreaming about my list.

I am a blogger.  I may not have been doing it for long, but one thing is for sure, I am a blogger.  It reminds me of the 90 lb kid in the gym who tells people he is a bodybuilder.  They look at him with a mix of humor, pitty, and disdain.  “It’s my first day,” he explains.  I am a blogger… it’s just my first week.

I am a musician.  They can’t take that one away from me.  I haven’t been a professionally performing musician since the end of the 2002 symphony season, but damnit, I am a musician.  I perform weekly for my students when I play an example for them and I perform for my wife from the other room when I practice at home.  I am a musician.  20 years experience.  Incomplete sentences.

As I alluded, I am a teacher.  My studio hovers around 15 students who see me on a weekly basis and expect me to inspire, instruct, and guide in the art of violin and viola performance.  I am a teacher.

I am a writer.  That goes along with the whole blogging thing though.

I am an actor.  Have I been in anything you would recognize?  Hell, I haven’t been in anything… I am the 90 lb bodybuilder.

So what if I don’t have it figured out yet?  My “brand” may not be as defined as yours.  So what if that laser focus the world wants you to have looks more like a strobe light?  You be a laser.  I want to be a raging forest fire they can’t contain.

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Prying Eyes… How They Offend

Posted by Chris on October 1, 2009

So I’m feeling much better about where I am today.  Sitting at Java Joe’s downtown is a much more agreeable locale than in the ‘burbs or stripmallville.  Let’s face it… the only thing separating me from the The Royal Mile is an alley.  Bangers and mash with a pint or an 18 year old scotch at 2:00 on a Thursday… it’s just enough to know the option is there.  Dddouble espresso will suffice.

I can’t figure it out.  Perhaps one of three options.

1. I stink.

2. I look like a sexy ex boyfriend she simply can’t stand to be near… the memory is too much…

3. She has mistaken me for a spy from a former eastern block nation who wants nothing more than to get the information off of her laptop with the hidden camera in my glasses.

I sat down with my coffee and laptop bag at a table diagonal behind a woman working studiously on her laptop.  Yes, if I tried, her screen would have been within my view.  She got up without even a glance my way and then moved to a table across the room by the door.  You, my lady, just became the subject of today’s backstory.

Thin, with straight blond hair, appears to be in her mid-late 20’s.  The shoulder length hair curls under just before it meets her stylish red scarf which pops from the contrast of her snug fitting black knit top.  Hey, when I pick a subject, I pick a subject.  High cheekbones show a jagged edge to her face which is further emphasized by the fact that her thin tightly pressed lips have yet to crack a smile in the last 30 minutes.

She is a multitasker.  Switching freely from her laptop to her blackberry to her notepad and pencil.  What is she working on?  With whom is she communicating?  Canadian state secrets?  One thing is for sure, I dare not let her catch me looking.  That’s the kind of woman who has secrets hidden in her black and white checkered purse.  I’ve already stirred enough suspicion.

The blackberry is a secure communication link to some satellite beaming messages to a coffee field in Venezuela.  Oh yeah, the whole thing is a front.  She isn’t directly involved in moving anything.  Someone like her would never get caught with her hands dirty.  She is a consultant… a facilitator.

So why is she here?  Believe me, she never intended to still be.  No one like that intends to be in Des Moines, Iowa any longer than they have to.  Des Moines just happens to be at the crossroads.  I35 and I80.  Mexico to Canada… New York to San Francisco.  A woman like that speaks fluent English, French, Russian, and Spanish.  German doesn’t really phase her either, come to think about it.

Then, like a flash, she was gone.  Finally heard from her liason.  It is tough doing business with the Russians.  Seriously, who is still sobering up at a quarter to three… PM?  I’m fairly certain I heard obscure French pop music coming from her Lotus as she drove away… even that though was just a medium for the Russian Mafia to pass her a coded message through American satellite radio.

Ever seen the movie The Man With One Red Shoe?  I watched it for the first time this weekend.  I know… 24 years too late… the last horse just crossed the finish line.  What is it that makes some actors/musicians/public figures able to overcome bad performances while others cannot?  I am fairly certain Tom Hanks’s name wasn’t mentioned in any Oscar chatter back in 1985.  It’s not like it’s his only flop, either.  Turner and Hooch?  Joe vs. the Volcano?  Not exactly Philadelphia or Saving Private Ryan.  He overcomes though.  Bono opens his mouth or announces a concert tour for U2, and millions of people around the world listen and/or buy tickets.  They went through a phase in the 90’s though, where it looked like they had completely lost touch.

I don’t have an answer.  I guess for the truly creative, the public must allow them their failures as well as their much more prominent successes.  I know one thing… I am glad my failures are not as prominent as Tom Hanks’s or Bono’s.

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Fun With Cameras

Posted by Chris on October 1, 2009

I gotta say, I think this guy has a lot going for him.  Something tells me that for the right position, he would be willing to be relocated about anywhere in the country.

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My Creative Space

Posted by Chris on September 30, 2009

I can’t work here.  Too many soccer moms and SUV’s.  I am sitting at a coffee shop a mile from home in the ‘burbs.  This isn’t what a coffee shop should look like.  First off, I’m pretty sure this place closes at 6:00 PM.  The really good places are always open past midnight… catch the drunks before they go home… stop in, have a cup of coffee, sober up enough to know you should call a cab.  A good coffee shop should make certain people uncomfortable (children, Sara Palin supporters, anyone who equates Olive Garden with fine dining).    A good coffee shop makes even non smokers want to light up and discuss the finer points of Bob Dylan’s music.  Wait, you’re not even allowed to smoke in your car anymore.  Wherever there is a 4 year institution or a vibrant downtown renewal going on, good coffee shops can be found.

Oh well… at least I’m not in a Starbucks.

A couple of posts ago, I stated that I did not play nice in the sandbox.  I always end up questioning “why?” too much.  I read Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit: Learn How to Use it for Life back in 2006 and I am rereading it this week.  Turns out, I was paraphrasing a concept of hers.  She states:

Creativity is an act of defiance.  You’re challenging the status quo.  You’re questioning accepted truths and principles.  You’re asking three universal questions that mock conventional wisdom:

“Why do I have to obey the rules?”

“Why can’t I be different?”

Why can’t I do it my way?”

At least I am in good company with Twyla Tharp.  I did some soul searching today as I was rereading her book though.  I am great at brainstorming ideas.  I am great at being creative.  I am not so great at creating though.  It’s that whole follow through that eludes me.  Finished products?  I have a whole warehouse of beginnings.  See, being creative is fun.  Creating is hard work.

I live in an imaginary world.  The active fantasy part of my brain is constantly in overdrive.  I can sit in a coffee shop such as this and have back stories written for half of the characters in this place.  I must say though, give me the oils and watercolors of the veteran conspiracy theorist, the strung out folk musician, and the hippie chick giving me a contact high in a good coffee shop any day over Myrtle’s garden club meeting in the corner of this joint.

Really, that cappuccino doesn’t taste anything like the one at the gas station?  Maybe you would like some whipped cream and sprinkles?  Perhaps if there were a clown out front handing out coupons you would feel more at home…

Don’t mistake me for some coffee snob though.  I am not one of these guys that orders the double non fat sugar free half caf soy mocha.  I want coffee.  Black.  Don’t serve it to me in a paper cup.  You have tables and a Smiths LP on… why would I want to leave?  I’ll take a real cup please.

I think I am done here.  Tomorrow I shall write from downtown.  Maybe I’ll feel more inspired and less angry.

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Field Trip!

Posted by Chris on September 29, 2009

The new outdoor sculpture garden opened downtown on Sunday.   While I didn’t make it to the grand opening ceremony, I did stop by yesterday afternoon to meander through and take some pictures.  For those of you not from Des Moines, a local philanthropist donated millions of dollars in sculptures to beautify a new downtown park.  Let me say, I am quite impressed with the final product!  When I first moved to Iowa seven years ago, this area was a dump.  Now there is a park, restaurants, coffee shops, artistic outlets, you name it.

Let’s take a look at some of the pictures I took and see if we can draw some inspiration…

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OK, so this one is just creepy.

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The eyes on this one… also a little strange.  However, I think this one just needs a hug.

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If this one reminds you of diversity, you are unimaginative, bland, and you need to shake things up!  OK, obviously it made me think of diversity a little, because I brought it up.  I’m not bashing diversity!  I love diversity… it is just such an obvious go-to in this case though.  What else can it be?  Let’s go deeper…  what if they are twin blobs and one of them is depressed?  What if they were both depressed, and the white one is on Prozac and the black one is part of the control group?  What if the white one is showing up at a Halloween party as the black one, but didn’t have any black paint?  What if the black one is a colon who had her head shrunk by a witch doctor and the white one is it’s mirror image in a parallel universe?  What if we are dealing with a pale skinned goth and a Johnny Cash fan?  What if 30 seconds ago they looked the exact same, but one was scared sh*tless by the head sculpture two pictures ago and became white as a ghost?  Come to think of it, that is probably what happened to that tree.

So I was enjoying my stroll through the sculpture garden when the explorer in me found a Des Moines indigenous species…

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Crikey!!! It’s the White Bread Cubicle Dweller! Notice the red plumage on their bellies… that’s how a White Bread Cubicle Dweller expresses and differentiates themselves from the pack.  Presence of this red plumage leads one to believe they may be some sort of alpha male in their tribe.  Alpha male White Bread Cubicle Dwellers often have bigger cubicles than other tribe members who often have to share cubicles with each other.  They seem to be content to converse with each other right now, but one must be on the constant lookout when WBCD’s are near.  Listen for repeated usage of words like synergy, win-win situation, cost analysis, and ROI.  I still can’t figure out who Roi is though.  These particular WBCD’s were seen earlier in the day at a Starbucks speaking loudly into a blue tooth headset while trying to order coffee at the same time.  Their preferred method of transportation is an oversized SUV which gets 10 miles to the gallon.  While not in their cubicle, they can be seen in their cookie cutter new construction suburban homes.  They prefer to eat at chain restaurants and drink domestic light beer.  Their sworn enemies are self expression, the arts, and doing things differently than they have always been done.

Just when I thought I had seen it all…

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I guess you could say I am still absorbing this one…

So I enjoyed my sculpture garden visit.  Check it out if you are in the area… well worth the time.

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The Inaugural Post

Posted by Chris on September 26, 2009

OK, so here we go.  My first Working Irreverence blog post, and you’re here to join me.  I guess the first question I should answer is, “Why Working Irreverence?”  Truth be told, I don’t play nice in the sandbox.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a nice person, I just have this personality flaw that makes me ask the question “why?” and it often can drive the people I work with NUTS!  I hate the rules.  I hate to have the rules imposed upon me.  Who wrote those rules?  Why did they write those rules?  What gives them the authority to write those rules?  I don’t hold those sacred cows to be revered above all other things.  I, ladies and gentlemen, am irreverent.

I also have this tendency to be hyper-critical of those things which are ugly and uninspired.  I have a feeling that will be the topic of many a blog post going forward.  What the heck… we’re all guilty of being ugly and uninspired from time to time, we just need a quick kick in the pants.  It is my hope that maybe, just maybe, this blog can serve as that kick for someone.

Check back often, folks, as there will be multiple posts every week on topics ranging from aardvarks to zoroastrianism.  Don’t hesitate to leave a comment and let me know what you think.  Until we meet again…

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