Monday, August 25, 2014

That’s not Good for Anyone

ISIS is a mobile payment service that allows users to pay with their mobile phones at retail locations across the US on machines that look like the one below. Oh, it’s also the name of an Islamic terrorist group based in Iraq and Syria. 
Alright team, thanks for huddling up on such short notice but as you might have heard on the news, we currently share our company name with the largest, most well organized terrorist organization in the world.

I know, I know. We’re in a tight spot.

Are we pioneers in the mobile payment sector allowing customers to make in-store purchases quickly and securely using their mobile devices? Yes. Do we also share our name with an organization that recently released a video of the decapitation of an innocent American journalist? Also yes.

Clearly, we’ve got some challenges.

Are retailers around the country hungry for smart solutions in the mobile payment sector, solutions that we’ve worked tirelessly to develop, finance and bring to market? You know it. Is ISIS hungry for the death of infidels everywhere including all Americans? You better believe it.

They don’t teach this stuff in business school.

The good news is no one provides smarter technology for seamless transactions at the point of sale than we do. The bad news is when prospective clients search for us a terrorist organization that mercilessly kills innocent people in their quest to form an Islamic state currently tops the results.

That’s not good for business.

So we need a new name. So come on, let’s spitball some ideas. Just hit me with the first thing that pops in your head.

“Knot Z Payment Systems. The final solution.”

Ok. It’s a start. What else?

“Jonestown. Pay like the Kool kids.”

Alright, no wrong answers here. A little cult-y though.

“Al Kyda Tech. Paying is a blast!”

Let’s stay focused now. Think hi-tech. And not terrorist.

“Heaven’s Payments. Ride the comet.”

Getting really cult-y again but keep ‘em coming.

“Manson Mobile. Payment worth Sharin’.”

Maybe there are some wrong answers. What else?

“Tally Ban. Pay our way or else.”

Ok, not my favorite but keep spitting ‘em out.

“Gee Hod. Death to paying any other way.”

Ok, you know what, let’s just stop there for the day. I think we might need to just sleep on this.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Bench is Warm

It’s the bottom of the ninth and the concession stand is empty. On the field the lowly Cobras stare down a potential win against the dominant Trojans. The Cobras look like normal nine-year olds but the Trojans look like a team full of Dominican prospects that faked their birth certificates. Despite all this, the Cobras are somehow up 3-2.  No one is more shocked than medical sales rep/head coach of the Cobras, Trevor Evans.
The atmosphere in the stadium, if not electric, has a light static charge to it. But then the Coke machine’s syrup mix has been a little off all day.
Of the 16 players on the Cobras roster, only 12 have contributed to this narrowest of leads. There in the Cobras dugout sit Tyler Stanton, Chris Steely, Jordan Horowitz and Ricky Eaton. They watch as the Trojan’s Mason Treadwell, easily a half foot taller than any of the Cougars, strides to the plate with the hopes of driving in the winning run. The four boys hope their teammates on the field pull out the win but right now they’re happy to warm the bench. There’s honor in it. After all, not everyone gets to be the lead singer. Someone’s got to play bass. And these boys play it better than anyone.
Young Tyler Stanton’s mother signed him up three seasons ago after fearing his interest in piano wasn’t fostering a proper boyhood. Unsure if he was even right or left handed, it was safe to say Tyler was not a natural. As such, his .000 average and miserable arm had yet to land him in the starting lineup.
Chris Steely, on the other hand, had showed early promise. The product of an overbearing father, he’d been groomed to succeed. However, with intense preparation came intense pressure and Chris did not respond well. His father’s incessant shouts of “get your head in the game!”, “pull your head out of your ass!” and “damn it Chris, swing the bat!” had taken their toll on the young outfielder. Not only had his bat gone cold his glove had gone missing somewhere in the dugout. But it didn’t matter.
 Jordan Horowitz was Jewish. But he was good at sitting and enjoyed the trips to the ice cream shop after wins.
Ricky Eaton was simply terrified of the ball. He’d never actually been hit by the ball but he imagined it to be so painful it was worth not playing. At the plate he routinely fled the batter’s box as if he’d slept with the pitcher’s wife. In the field he avoided the ball like an ex-girlfriend at a high school reunion. He was a natural. A natural disaster.  
There they sat, the MVBW’s. Perhaps the best in the entire North Hills Little League. If they retired jerseys for bench warming, theirs would surely be adorning the right field wall. If there were a Copperstown for bench warming, they would be first round inductees.
The Cougars ended up losing the game 4-3 but Coach Evans rewarded the team’s near victory with a trip to the ice cream shop anyway. There in a back both sat Tyler, Chris, Jordan and Ricky, their faces sticky with rocky road, their uniforms as clean as if they’d just left the house. They quietly smiled at one another before Jordan offered, “We’d have won if they’d put us in.” They lifted their cones in a celebratory toast. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain

When I was growing up I spent all of my summers up in the mountains west of Boulder, Colorado. One of my favorite things to do every year was drive by the old Victorian house that served as the exterior for one of my favorite TV shows, Mork and Mindy. It’s on Pine Street, just a few blocks away from the Pearl Street Mall where so much of the show took place. The opening credits even saw them driving up in the canyon above Boulder that leads to my family’s cabin. It was the first time I’d ever really seen something I knew from my life be broadcast on TV.
But Mork and Mindy ran deeper than that for me. Or at least Mork did because as a weird kid myself, I related to him. I just thought of myself as funny but the kids and girls at school called me weird. But when you think about it, everyone’s so normal early on that if you’re different at all of course you’re weird. But I never really wanted to be normal. The excitement is on the edges. Seeing things differently and making jokes about it all to me was always a much better view. So yeah, I imitated the funny people I saw on TV and to me no one was funnier than Robin Williams.
I think even early on I saw a lot of myself in him. Or at least I began to see how I didn’t have to just be one thing, I could be different things all at once. He was weird and funny but he was also sweet and vulnerable. He was smarter than you but he was sensitive and never mean. And he was a goofball and a bit of a screw up and often ruined her plans but Mindy loved him and cared about him. Even if he did have to live in the attic.
We both grew up of course. We all have to. His roles grew up too. There was Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poet’s Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting and One Hour Photo. But even as he took on often more serious (and usually bearded) roles there was still comedy in there. Like that scene from Good Will Hunting where he tells the story of his wife used to fart in her sleep and wake herself up. But then he’d balance it with the painting scene or the park bench scene or his admission that "I didn't know Pudge was gonna hit a homerun" at the end of talking about missing game six because he'd met his future wife. He could be hilariously funny and then just as darkly sad. Something tells me his life was a bit like that, too. 
But these are two of my favorite scenes of his.
First is the amazing “what will your verse be” scene in Dead Poet’s Society. I never went to some snooty boarding school but I’ve always loved the idea of defying convention. And I like to think the fact that I work in a creative role today is largely thanks to Mr. Keating. 

And this is the “I gotta go see about a girl” scene one from Good Will Hunting. To me, it doesn’t get much better than that.

It’s terribly sad to hear of his passing and worse still that it came at his own hands. He’ll be missed as I’m sure he would have been funny as hell as an old guy.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”