On Two Wheels

I’ve been watching and listening to videos on YouTube since Wong Fu Productions first started uploading content there in the early 2000s.  I remember those days of cat videos, dog videos, wildlife videos, stupid human tricks, fishing videos, and other miscellanea before brands of every industry started posting their content too.  As time went by, I developed a taste for vlogging and comedy channels, independent artists, educational videos (DIY, history, cultural criticism, language lessons).  In more recent years, food challenges, pet-solider reunions, trying new coffee shops, and motovlogging have become my favorite non-guilty pleasure videos on YouTube.

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© Tim Cook, unsplash

I’m pretty sure I discovered the world of motovlogging after I did a search of “deer vs. biker” because I was curious about how a motorcyclist might react in such a scenario; and later YT recommended a compilation video of bikers helping people/being awesome.  I soon became hooked on the momentum and first-person POV that these hobbyist cinematographers were capturing.  Many of these content creators used GoPro cameras.  According to Tom Foster in an article for Inc.com, the camera “really started to take off in the early years of [the 2010s]. Point-of-view videos shot by GoPro cameras attached to surfboards, ski helmets, bike frames, and pets suddenly became ubiquitous on YouTube. Nobody had ever seen footage like this; it was a new, dizzyingly personal, and mesmerizing art form.”

And it certainly was mesmerizing to me.  What I relished the most about the motovlogs I had seen was the glimpse into the lives of people I’d previously never knew existed.  As they rode for the sake of making the video or while they were on their way to work, to run errands, or to a meetup (sometimes riding solo, other times in group), I got an ideal vantage point in what they saw on a daily basis.  It didn’t matter that many of them didn’t show their faces (ever or until they’d reached a specific number of subscribers).  On occasion, I’d fall into a rabbit hole of watching accident videos, road rage videos, and running from the police videos featuring bikers all over the world.  Motovlogging for fun or professional YouTubing had become so popular that there are thorough instructional guides on how to do it.

I learned about the existence of this channel called Stories of Bike today via this video:

Even with all of the motorcycle videos I’ve watched on YT over the years, their video recommendation algorithm never suggested this channel, which was started in 2013.  I’m baffled but happy that I know about it now.  There are different series of videos.  The Riders type are not vlogs — they are audiovisual portraits, combining still imagery, ambient noise, and voice-overs to introduce a particular biker to the audience.  They’re pithy, profound, and all the more memorable because you don’t see the subjects of the videos ride.  Their voices are paired with images of their bikes, of themselves, and of the objects of their life.

There’s a Short Films type as well.

If you’re into bikes as a participant or a voyeur (or both), definitely check out their channel.

Impressions of Bull Durham

Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) worships at the church of baseball. When she isn’t teaching English 101 and Beginning Composition part-time at Alamance Junior College, she’s mentoring a chosen minor league player with the Durham Bulls via the recitation of poetry and the exchange of bedchamber intimacy.  She also carries an enormous handbag that must be filled with hair and makeup tools and quite possibly started that fashion trend in the late 80s and early 90s of women wearing a bazillion dangly bracelets (which calls to mind the Brighton Jewelry version of the Desperately Seeking Susan look).

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In Ron Shelton‘s 1988 part-drama, part-comedy Bull Durham, Annie takes pitcher Ebby Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) under her tutelage.  He has a great throwing arm but not enough game-smarts to really shine, so catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) is assigned essentially “technical adviser” duties (such as telling him not to let his shower shoes get moldy).  Even though it’s clear that Annie and Crash have chemistry, she sticks by her rule of mentoring one player per season.

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I remember watching Bull Durham on television when I was a kid but all I could recall of it was Susan Sarandon and Kevin Costner.  It received the Criterion treatment in 2018 and I recently picked it up on DVD on impulse when I was at Barnes & Noble (50% off Criterion sale).  One of the reasons I really like Bull Durham is that it’s about baseball — actually about baseball.  It’s not a generic sports film.  Yes, it follows three characters heavily invested in minor league baseball and incorporates some cliches (pre-game rituals, unintelligible play-calling/pep-talking by the coach, insecurity, what happens once you make it to the majors), but the sport itself is not a stand-in for something else.  In a more traditional sports film that’s executed well thematically and narratively, the sport depicted could be switched with a different one (keeping the solo sport or team sport factor the same) and the film wouldn’t change that much.

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The cover art for the Criterion edition speaks to its baseball-at-the-core quality.  It’s nearly all sports paraphernalia…and one wrist tied to a bedpost, hinting at some of the plot points that will unfold.

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Another reason why Bull Durham may be one of my favorite sports films is Susan Sarandon name-dropping Susan Sontag while hitting balls in a cage, Tim Robbins’s heavy metal t-shirts, and the bit about William Blake:

Crash: Wait a second.  Who dresses you?
Annie: What?
Crash: Who dresses you?  I mean, don’t you think this is a little excessive for the Carolina League?
Annie: ‘The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.’ — William Blake.
Crash: William Blake?
Annie: William Blake.
Crash: William Blake?
Annie: William Blake!
Crash: What do you mean, William Blake?
Annie: I mean William Blake!

The special features on the Criterion edition of Bull Durham are fantastic.  Apparently, Ron Shelton used to play baseball in the minor leagues and he’s felt that most sports films are made from the POV of the fan and not the player.  Maybe that’s why I liked this one so much.

Here’s one such gem:

 

Pic creds: imdb and Criterion Collection

Seeing Double in A Stolen Life The Pretty One

When there’s someone else who looks like you and sounds like you to the untrained eyes and ears, it might not take much for the world to believe there’s only one of you.  But, when everyone knows there are two of you, persuading anyone (including yourself) that you are who you say you are necessitates mastering the art and craft of playing twins.  Cinema has an expansive track record in this department.

Behold:

The Dark Mirror (Robert Siodmak, 1946)
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Dead Ringer (Paul Henreid, 1964)
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The Parent Trap (David Swift, 1961)
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The Parent Trap (Nancy Meyers, 1998)
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Along with all the films on this list.

It’s easy to play twins when each one has a different hairstyle, fashion sense, food preferences, and body language.  It’s easier for the viewer to distinguish between the two as well, such as the twins in the story of The Pretty One (Jenee LaMarque, 2013).

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But when the twins have very similar hair and clothing choices, the demarcation lines lie
in much more subtle factors like facial expressions and demeanor.  If one twin were to pretend to be the other, while still displaying their own personality traits occasionally, she can’t forget own her identity.  Bette Davis nails it in A Stolen Life (Curtis Bernhardt), 1946).  Zoe Kazan does it pretty well in The Pretty One.

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The audience sees so much more of both sisters in A Stolen Life, therefore it highlights more of Bette’s skill in portraying two different people in and between scenes.

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The Pretty One focuses mostly on one sister and explores the journey that she embarks on to figure out who she is without her twin…while everyone else thinks she is her twin.

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Zoe Kazan as Audrey and Laurel in The Pretty One

The corollaries between the films:
~ The good-natured sister is a painter.
~ There’s an accident and the rebellious sister dies.
~ Complications arise with the incidental/deliberate mistaken identity.
~ When to reveal the charade of being someone you’re not.

Beyond those plot points, the two films delve into different aspects of self-identity and second chances.  A Stolen Life follows Katie Bosworth (Davis), a woman with fine arts aspirations, who falls in love with a lighthouse keeper (Glenn Ford) but loses her chance at his romantic affections when her twin sister Pat charms him away.

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Bette Davis as Pat Bosworth and Glenn Ford as Bill Emerson in A Stolen Life

 

When a sailing accident claims Pat’s life, Katie pretends to be her so she can have a chance at a life with Bill.  Little does she know, though, that Pat did not try hard enough to deserve his love in the year they were married.  Katie must decide how and if she can move on with her life.

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Glenn Ford as Bill Emerson and Bette Davis as Kate Bosworth in A Stolen Life

 

The Pretty One centers on Laurel (Kazan), a painter who helps her dad make copies of famous paintings while her twin sister, Audrey, lives a more exciting life as a real estate agent.  When a traffic accident claims Audrey’s life, Laurel doesn’t correct people’s assumption that she was the one who died.  Laurel may not be going into the name-switch with a concrete goal like Katie, but what she experiences and accomplishes in the end is definitely worth the medium-sized con.

 

Watch Bette Davis in action:

Trailer for The Pretty One:

Pic creds: imdb

Spaces Beneath Holy Healing Melodies

They aren’t always that healing if they don’t welcome everyone, including their lifestyle choices.  A person is the culmination of every facet of their thoughts, words, and actions…for chaos or disorder, for better or for worse.  One can reprimand and reward based on one’s own value system, but to pretend it’s fine for the ecosystem underpinning the monetizing of this kind of non-mainstream music to reject the full potential of spiritual artistry….c’est dommage.

I’ve written about contemporary Christian music a few times over the years from Jars of Clay to Royal Tailor and Third Day to Chris Tomlin (not once, but twice).  In some ways, I considered this genre to be a guilty pleasure so I didn’t think about it too critically, not the songs themselves and certainly not the industry.

This Refinery29 piece opened my mind to issues I wish I had already considered.  Props to Dan Haseltine for asking the questions that many people didn’t want to entertain.

 

Consider this video as well.

Let Me Lead You

You can lead me to water
but you can’t make me drink,
You can lead me to higher earnings
but you can’t make me believe
I have what it takes
to turn your paper crane
into a 3-D printed one
or the solution
to your predecessor’s mistakes.

You can teach me to fish
but you can’t make me eat,
You can teach me the virtues
of patience and reverence,
but you can’t make me believe
I have what you think it takes
to turn my playbook sketches
into a game-saving use case
or the antidote to my predecessor’s biases.

Let me lead you to water
I won’t force you to drink,
unless you’re thirsty
Let me lead you to higher earnings
I won’t force you to believe,
in your own potential.

Let me teach you to fish
I won’t force you to eat,
unless you’re hungry
Let me teach you the virtues
of slowing-down and kindness,
I won’t force you to believe
if you’re not ready.

Let me lead you,
if you’re willing
to try something new.

— yiqi 23 July 2020 3:44 pm

Chevaux

© Soledad Lorieto

The above poem was inspired by a musing on transferable skills and leadership that I read the other day.   The post begins by noting that “the problem with hiring (not recruiting) is this: Those who tend to get hired are those with the most direct experience…’Those who have will get even more while those without will have even less.  [Therein] lies the reason for lack of representation and diversity.“*

It makes sense.  If considering resume criteria alone, a violin player with five years’ experience in the city symphony will likely be chosen to play for a film score over the violin player with one year of high school experience.  The latter will likely be chosen over the music enthusiast with some childhood piano lesson memories but zero violin time.  If budget is a concern, however, the high school violinist probably has the best shot because not only will they be the least expensive, but they already have basic violin-playing skills.  (Whether or not they still remember how to sight read is a whole other issue).

The post then addresses the idea of transferable skills and that “it is still a seemingly far fetched [one] as hiring managers want people who can do the job on day 1.”  The pace at and the way in which technology, consumer/client habits, and marketing trends change across industries necessitate potential new hires to possess the knowledge and skills to enter a new organization with minimal instruction AKA “we’ll show you how to reserve a meeting room, how to navigate the employee resources portal, and someone will probably tell you which bathrooms and parking spaces to avoid**, but we’d prefer you already know how to use all of the productivity tools, relevant software and web applications, and social media platforms ever made because time is money and we have very little time and just enough money to justify hiring someone who can do everything we require.”  Consequently, companies find themselves in “the recycling of talent” or “hiring from the same pool over and over again.”

Sticking with our stringed instrument hypothetical scenario, the recycling of talent would consist of the same half-dozen violinists hired for any number of jobs where the employer does not want or cannot afford to (or both) teach anyone how to play said instrument.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with making hiring decisions based on time and money constraints, and yet, as more employers keep maintaining this type of status quo, the breadth of talent and skill potential serving those employers stagnates.

The post ends with a suggestion for the implementation of “development programs,” “[taking] a home-grown approach,” for “[leaders…to become teachers,” “[and for] companies… to transform and become learning institutions.”  The follow-up comments touch on examples of when transferable skills work (made by yours truly), how to diversify potential employee pools and re-evaluating job descriptions, and what good leadership entails.

Boats

© KOBU Agency, Faro, Portugal

What does effective leadership entail? Even if a company were eager to go beyond its modus operandi comfort zones and take a risk in hiring someone who doesn’t check off all of its “must have” boxes, how should it hire?

Perhaps one can begin by knowing who not to consider?

Rethink company priorities, thereby allowing for a wider range of leadership styles and dispositions? ***

Effective leaders should trust employees and not tell them how to work (within reason) or make unfounded assumptions about their motivations (or lack thereof)?

At the very minimum, balance the ratio of extrovert-to-introvert leaders or consider more ambiverts? ****

The consensus among these videos is that effective leaders are good listeners and mentors.  They don’t pretend to know everything and don’t belittle nor patronize their staff.  When the companies they own, the departments they oversee, or the teams they manage reach or exceed business objectives, are they automatically congratulated with such achievements or do they acknowledge credit where credit is due?  Likewise, when the companies they own, the departments they oversee, or the teams they manage not only fail to reach those goals but also bring external negative publicity or internal criticism and shame, are these leaders unequivocally held accountable for whatever happened to incur the wrath of public opinion or workplace disappointment?

In thinking about these matters, I was reminded of an entry I wrote a few years ago where a friend and I discussed the role of football coaches and the degree to which the numbers on a scoreboard is more or less attributed to the coach rather than the players.  Spectator sports are greatly affected financially by the number of wins and losses incurred over a season or series of seasons (depending on a team’s reputation).  As often as the roster changes to reflect a dire need for better athletic skills, better chemistry between teammates, or simply to put backup players on the active list to compensate for injured starters, coaches come and go with comparable levels of frustration and hope on the part of athletic departments, booster clubs, fans, and team owners.

Whether it’s the college game or the professional game, a lot of people have invested money and faith in a particular team’s ability to win.  Coaches are entrusted with the expertise to break out of losing streaks and maintain winning streaks.  They do their best with what the players and assistant coaches offer, nevertheless, the best data available is no guarantee of victory.  And as more reported stories of student-athletes or professional athletes misbehaving on or off the field circulate through media outlets and social media platforms, coaches may be unfairly blamed.  Furthermore, when a head coach is new to a team and isn’t experiencing a real-life redemption narrative, he can apply the same strategies from his last coaching job and not be sure that the players will perform as expected.  What brought accolades before won’t necessarily bring accolades again, but as long as they are good listeners and mentors, and don’t pretend to know everything, they’ll have more chances to prove themselves.

Hiring the right coach to turn a losing team around certainly involves a unique set of criteria that isn’t immediately analogous to finding an effective Senior Director, Team Lead, or CEO.  No combination of characteristics fits all, and for a company to make the correct hiring decision, it has to know both its end goals and the idiosyncrasies of the journey.  If Company A needs a charismatic leader in its sales or employee engagement departments, why shouldn’t it hire one?  If Company B has a global presence and needs guidance on making eleventh-hour decisions without resorting to rousing people from deep sleep, why not hire a centrally located night-owl or two (one near the Prime Meridian, the other on the west coast of the continental United States)?

~!~

* “Lack of representation and diversity” doesn’t have to be limited to visual differences between people (skin color, wardrobe choices, hairstyles, mode of transportation, body language, gait, et al) and protected classes (religious affiliation [or lack thereof], physical or cognitive disabilities, gender identification, sexual orientation).  Differences between people and their life experiences also involve pop-cultural tastes, dietary choices, philosophical beliefs, coping mechanisms, vices, sources of joy, sources of duress, and all the other characteristics that make no two people alike.

** In a pre-coronavirus world certainly, but in the current state of the world, the equivalent would probably be a note about which types of backgrounds to avoid using in virtual video conference calls.

*** As idealistic as this proposition might be that prioritizing kindness and treating employees well positively correlates to business success and a happy sales/finance department, if a company can monetarily afford to try it, why not then?

**** Is it “extravert” or “extrovert” and what is an “ambivert?”

I came across this article about financial scandals in pro sports.  Fascinating stuff.

 

Pic creds: Unsplash