What Should I Do with My Life? : The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question – By Po Bronson

I have to say I like Po Bronson. Not so much his writing, which I think is very readable but not exactly Stegner, but more his obvious zeal for being a writer. He is also a thinker and someone genuinely concerned with examining and understanding not only his life but the lives of the people around him. In “The Nudist at the Late Shift,” he looked Silicon Valley in the eye, during its frothiest, and managed to capture that surreal energy that feels now like a fading dream or nightmare.

But with “What Should I Do,” he takes a great premise (speak to hundreds of people caught in that struggle to find a career that they can love) and isn’t able to find much in the way of a universal truth, or aggregated and implementable wisdom. Instead he seems to travel the country hanging out with some quasi-interesting people and productively and therapeutically guising his own professional writers block. And although the writing is serviceable, Po feels compelled to add his own 2 cents after each story, as if he is some kind of hipster Dr. Phil. Maybe it is my own jealousy shining through, I sure wish I could make a living writing topical popular books about my peers, but alas I am just like one of the characters in his stories who hasn’t yet found the way to professional Nirvana. I am, however, also realistic or cynical enough to have accepted both the nature of capitalism and the realities of funding a lifestyle that might create a more enduring happiness than ephemeral professional bliss.

I think the real hidden answers to the question of “What Should I Do?” are: “Get Lucky,” “Get Connected,” “Try To Be Among The First 200 Employees at Google” or “Don’t Confuse Your Satisfaction With Work, With Satisfaction In Life.” These are the answers that he should have at least acknowledged are common experiences shared by those rare folks that are in fact satisfied professionally. The subjects in the book seemed less genuinely content with their new career decisions, than they did ultimately more realistic than they were before about the nature of “work.”

It has been a tough few years, and the reality is economic prosperity like that Americans have experienced over the last 20 years may never return. But at the end of the day I believe that whether it was Po’s intention or not, the book will serve to act as either 1) proof of the universal nature of professional frustration or 2) hope for the future management of expectations, which will ultimately help ease the pain.

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Good bye, Lenin! – Director: Wolfgang Becker

Directed by: Wolfgang Becker
With: Danirl Bruhl, Katrin Sab, Chulpan Khamatova

I would have thought a film set within the context of the final symbolic erosion of communism in Germany in 1989, the tumbling of the Berlin wall and the liberation of the East, would be about as interesting as a bowl of borscht. In fact had the film not been that special bonus feature on the backside of a double dip at the local art house, this would easily have been relegated to the mental note status which, if lucky, involves my running across it randomly on TiVo years from now. But I’m glad it didn’t. Although the foundation of “Goodbye, Berlin!” is shrouded in a rather drab political veil, it’s actually a very stylized film (in a cold war, hipster, Eastern European kind of way) about a family caught in the netherworld that existed just before and after the wall.

At a protest just days before the wall fell, young twentysomething Daniel is taken away by the police while his Party-loyal mother watches from the streets and suffers a heart attack. When she awakens from a coma months later, the wall has fallen, and the Western world has taken hold. Daniel and his sister decide that rather than risk further shock on their mother’s weak heart they will hide the truth of the unfamiliar democratic world that exists outside the window of their bedridden mother. This involves everything from making fake news broadcasts to recycling old East European food containers and filling them with the contents of the new Western brands that now dominate the supermarkets.

Despite the rather heavy theme, the film is surprisingly light and predictably clever, casting stones at the almost laughable Western institutions (the Red communist banners are replaced with glowing Coke billboards) that take hold within days of “liberation.” But mostly it is the unanimously charming performances filled with fresh new faces, kind of like German versions of the hipsters “The O.C.,” drifting through a world in flux.

Elling – Directed by: Petter Noss

Directed By: Petter Noss
With: Per Christian Ellefsen, Sven Nordin

Long live the Scandinavian filmmakers! After Bergman there seemed to be a bit of a lull on the Nordic screen before von Trier and the Dogma collective rewrote the rules and started a minor revolution. “Elling,” a perfect little Norwegian movie, is not technically a Dogma film, but belongs to that same odd and wonderful family.

The film tells the story of two lovable mental patients people who meet as roommates in an institution. Elling, a small middle-aged man who looks a little like Rowan Atkinson, is sent there after his mother dies, where he meets Kjell an oversized, hormonally charged virgin with a heart of gold. The two are offered a small apartment in Oslo as an experiment in integrating them back into society. Like an old married couple the two begin to live the lives that they had been denied since childhood. One of them falls in love and while the other even begins to write poetry. But for the most part it is almost like watching two adults go off to college, stumbling into a world of responsibility and consequence.

In the fictitious American remake we’ll see some super celeb (Penn, Williams, Ribisi, etc.) looking for an Oscar and seeking out one of these roles playing a mentally and emotionally challenged adult struggling to live a normal life. What makes this film such a gem is that we have never seen these people before, and as such the film feels real, and the story natural and unscripted.

It would be hard to imagine not finding something to love in “Elling,” with the rhythm and cozy gray skies of Norway a kind of watchful babysitter.

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Hero – Directed By: Zhang Yimou

Directed By: Zhang Yimou
With: Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, Donnie Yen

I was at the movie theater last week and I saw a trailer for Hero indicating to me that the laggards at Miramax were finally getting off their asses and releasing one of their stockpiled foreign gems. So in a nutshell i am going to use this piece to both praise one of the most visually lush movies i’ve seen in a long time, and then lambaste Miramax and all of the other movie studios that buy up foreign movies only to sit on them because they are too hapless to know how to release and market these movies.

Let’s get to it, Hero is a gorgeous dazzling martial arts epic, period. however saying it is a martial arts movie is not doing it justice whatsoever. When Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon came out, it was an epiphany for those who had never been exposed to a martial arts epic, a relief for those who want more Hong Kong movies to cross over and be released her, and validation for the movie industry because it won awards and made a mint at the box office. That being said, Ang Lee opened the door for Zhang Yimou, whom you might remember from 1994’s amazing To Live, to step in and go to town; and that’s precisely what he did.
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For All of You Potential Bloggers…

Needless to say the resurrection of snoozebutton has taught me quite a bit about the blogging world both in terms of technology, protocols, and etiquette; sorry but I just can’t bring myself to use the word netiquette ;)

First there is the whole technology component: How does one set up a system that fulfills what appear to be mutally exclusive requirements: that it’s easy enough to use so that we end up using it, and that is flexible and extensible enough to do some fun things with? Thankfully after exhaustive research and trial and error installs i discovered the wonder that is WordPress.

Then there is the question of content. Since snoozebutton isn’t a content aggregator our content situation can be summed up with three words: write, write and write. Well, ok, i can expand on that a bit: read/watch/listen/eat/experience, write, write, write…

Finally, what I’ve learned much about and am continuing to learn about is the whole “being validated” phenomenon. Basically this is a two-tiered system: first we all have a relationship with Google, that is we all seek validation for our voices if not our existences by what is currently the single most important tastemaker (i’d like to meet one person out there who publishes anything and doesn’t go look at their google ranking); and second there is the interaction between people who maintain their own online voices: how can we spread our words to as many people as possible? Why else write if not to be heard right? So i had a conversation with my old friend Jonathan about this and he has written a nice piece on the interaction between those of us that choose to have an online presence called maintaining the dialogue that explains some of the mechanisms that are in place to better our interactions…

There are a variety of ways for blogs to communicate and even publish information with simple protocols in semi-automated as well as manual ways. The great thing is that they all offer ways to let the original author/poster know you thought what was said was worthwhile. As I am sure I’ve mentioned previously I am not a developer so the definitions and interpretations are purely from a user perspective. I am far from an expert on these topics, but was thinking about how it all works and truly find it intriguing. One of the more fascinating things about maintaining a blog is checking your traffic patterns and discovering how people are finding you – and then what they might be saying about you.
( atmaspheric | endeavors )