Thursday, June 28, 2007

Turn up the Heat

The last few days in Maryland have been downright scorchers - I think the temperatures were trying to push over 100 degrees farenheit yesterday afternoon before the rapid-fire storms tried to cool down the agitated air. I hear that storms more potent will roll in this afternoon and bring along a cold front that brings the temperatures back down into the low 80's, but I will wait until I hear the rumbling and see the light flashes before I believe it.

In the meantime, I noticed a slight tingling sensation crawling up my back on my walk through the parking lot and into the office. It was strange until I looked up and saw that hot sun taunting me from above. Go ahead and turn up the heat - I'll sneak into the comfy air conditioning of the office building.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Catching up Midstream

A couple of weeks pass before the dust settles - and only a moment before that proverbial dust gets kicked up again. In that moment, I find myself jotting myself a blog reminder note that my creativity is channeling into more mundane work instead of fantasy worlds and character arcs. Oh bother.

Still, there is something vigorous and life-affirming about being busy. Maybe it is the fact that life validates itself when one is in motion; if there is not much save listlessness and inactivity, the concept of living loses its luster. Not to mention the way that time passes when activities fill the day. Finding balance between industry and creativity would be better, but I'm not going to complain with the vibrancy of the past couple of weeks.

Errands related to weddings. A work trip to San Diego. Visits with some old friends around southern California. A whole bunch of gardening (imagine me the lumberjack!). Dinner parties, phone calls, and a precious few hours of sleep. These are the things that make up the weeks. So there you go, absence briefly encapsulated before the next business meeting, catching up midstream.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mr. Michael Putnam and the US Open

At 7am, Michael Putnam hit the first golf shot of this year's United States Golf Championship, better known as the US Open. For many golfers, their ultimate dream is to hoist the championship trophy as the greatest golfer of the land. For most, this will be a mere impossibility as they would never be able to place at the top of the PGA Tour rankings or win any of the major US amateur golf tournaments that award an automatic spot in the tournament. Still, there are dreams.

I'll take Mr. Michael Putnam as an example. Thanks to the internet, I found out a few things about this upstanding gentleman that will certainly be lost in the grandness of this week's event:
  • Michael graduated from Pepperdine in 2005 as one of its most decorated players
  • He was a two-time All-American and Academic All-American in college golf
  • He is originally from Washington state and attended Christian academies
  • He qualified for the PGA Tour this year after finishing 17th on the money list on the Nationwide Tour last year
  • He is currently ranked 238th in the world, according to the Official World Golf Ranking
  • He also happened to be an all-state basketball player in Washington in his senior year of high school
As you can see from his background and resume, Mr. Michael Putnam is an outstanding individual who has achieved more than most can ever dream about achieving - and he likely will never come close to winning the US Open. That is no matter, though, because he represents the best that many of us can aspire to be, and he is living the dream as a PGA Tour golfer. And before we feel too bad for him, let's remember that even at 131st on the PGA Tour money list, he has already made nearly $280,000 this year in prize money this year.

Anyway, I hope to follow Mr. Michael Putnam and the other 155 players in their quests for fulfilling the ultimate dream. Good luck to all as they tee off at Oakmont Country Club outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the 107th playing of the US Open.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Revival of a Hidden Art

I used to write a bit more than I do today. During my 20's, I used the jet-setting consulting lifestyle to explore major cities within the US and a few European and Asian countries outside as well; along the way, I did some journaling which fills a few volumes on the bookshelf at home. Upon my 25th birthday, I committed myself to further uncovering the inner voice - that is to say, reveal the writer swathed in business suits. I ended up completing a few mini-pieces during that time on topics ranging from a visit to the New York Stock Exchange, a film review of Farenheit 911, other reviews on some movies screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival, and a series of poems capturing impromptu moments from time spent in New York City, San Francisco, Australia, Seattle, and Russia. Five years on from that goal, I find myself mortgaged and careered to death, with an upcoming big day swathed in groomsman gear.

Fast forward five years from now, and who knows what the years in between will bring. Children? A new car? A new job? A new home? New friends? New countries visited? And what becomes of the inner voice? I think that we all struggle with this march against time, letting our dreams wander yet getting pulled back into the realities of the path we have really followed. I fear without constant refresh of these lingering dreams, they slowly fade away into the aether, never to return again.

A sad thought, but then again not so sad when one considers the possibilities that are still (and always) there in the everyday. When I come back in mind to my place in life today, I am absolutely charmed and happy to find myself in this moment. In other words, no regrets. But I refer to some words from Kurt Vonnegut's last interview before his passing (in US Airways Magazine, of all places - read the interview here) that the best works of the most famed writers are completed by the age of 45. That leaves me another 15 years if I just happen to have the Next Great American Novel lurking within. Perhaps now is as good time as any to rediscover the internal writer that is buried under career and homeowner responsibilities, the revival of a hidden art.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Culture Conflict

Times are changing for families in China - at least that is what The Washington Post suggests in its recently-published series of articles on the subject (link to the articles). From sexuality to literacy, a transformation emerges that divides generations along simple conventional lines. The older generation has lived through the Cultural Revolution of the mid-1960's. The younger generation has grown up in a China where "to get rich is glorious" and to brim with Western sensibilities is the ultimate benefit of a social capitalist society. To say the two are extremes is not particularly groundbreaking, but I find the dichotomy fascinating when compared to the US.

Where the Chinese practice a certain form of Confucianism in terms of collective family mores, the Americans are a bit more individualistic and self-focused. This is particularly insightful when considered against the backdrop of a United States that is growing its Baby Boomer ranks at a healthy clip, those children of the Long, Hot Summer who want many things - including the personal and financial freedoms to do as they wish. Interesting to note that these are exactly the sort of freedoms that are frowned upon with youth, but that is another topic altogether (read this editorial comment in the Financial Times for a thought-provoker on the Baby Boomer-Gen X/Y perspective divide).

Fundamentally, though, the generational divide is the same across countries, with the distinction being parental values orientation. The Baby Boomers are well-understood in their freedoms and entitlement, but those that lived through the Chinese Cultural Revolution have a completely different sensibility. To be different for this generation is to be outright excluded from society. To achieve for the benefit of society is all-encompassing and worthy of all energies. To fall into line is not just expedient but also potentially life-saving. And to promote these messages to the upcoming generations is important and vital.

In either case, the point is that a culture conflict looms beneath the surface. But even more telling is that although the conflict plays out with a different generational context, the younger generations have begun to exhibit similar sensibilities of technology savvy and self-expression. What might be more troubling is that the Baby Boomer/Cultural Revolution generations have less of an understanding of the uniting factors that bring the global Gen X/Y generations together. The culture conflict looming transcends borders in ways we do not yet fully understand.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Up The Hill

Monday has arrived. Ring out the cobwebs and get chained back to the desk. Another week is upon us, and the countdown starts from the base of the steps. By the end of the week, I hope to assail the great impediments that stand in my way - namely, projects, presentations, forecasts, action items, crazy business requests, and email galore. By that time, I'll feel that I survived another ascent, just in time to take a breath of weekend and start climbing again.
I only have a moment for the onslaught has already started; I need to start scaling some heights. Up the hill I must go, to whatever heights I can reach by Friday.

Friday, June 01, 2007

June to June

Google can waste your time. Case in point: I was noodling in my mind the idea of writing a short blog entry to encapsulate the feeling I have here on a Friday morning - pithy, oh so pithy - and I searched for an image to describe this feeling. Voila' - I'm transported into a blog that chronicled the trials and tribulations of last year's World Cup from the perspective of a couple of fans who witnessed the spectacle from the comfort of well-established UK media channels (BBC, who provided the image here of the Italy-Australia match last year, ITV, etc.).

Instantly, I am transported back to last June. Newly arrived in DC (well, almost, but stay with me here), I was settling in to an apartment near my "soon-to-be-but-never-fully-realized-that-I-would-be-so-lucky-that-she-might-later-become-my-wife" girlfriend. I was settling in to a job that started to make sense after 6 months (I'm not quite there yet - and now another year on! - but that is another topic), and I was preparing for some big upcoming events: my first trip to China and the wildly anticipated World Cup. June to June, I'm engaged (my dreams came true!), I bought a townhouse with my fiancee' (the bills take my breath away!), I'm in a new position in the company (same thing with a different title!), and I'm generally realizing that I have become a full-fledged adult.

Stay with me, my mind keeps wandering. It seems that adult life is relatively more boring. Gardening! Laundry! Running errands! Falling asleep on the couch! (exclamation points added for effect). But in the grand scheme of life and events, the rhythm feels just about right. And of course, there are always the memories, in this case captured sparsely in the blog archive from June 2006. Bouncing back and forth from past to present, I'm enjoying a moment of revelry that wanders between and around moments of joy and exasperation; taking the philosophy of enjoying life and the wonders of this world before life moves on to the next big thing has given me this luxury. And now that I have wasted enough time, I'll snap back to the task at hand by answering the ringing phone on my desk.