Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sometimes that shark he looks right into ya ... he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes.

I've been bouncing back and forth between Jaws and West Side Story and it's kind of surreal. They're two of my favorite movies. They both involve sharks. Only one involves jets. The better songs are in WSS (but the jams on Quint's boat aren't bad, and Quint has a way with the sea shanties). I give the nod to Jaws because of Quint:
  • "I'm not talkin' 'bout pleasure boatin' or day sailin'. I'm talkin' 'bout workin' for a livin'. I'm talkin' 'bout sharkin'!"
  • "Cage goes in the water, you go in the water. Shark's in the water. Our shark. [sings] Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies..."
  • "Y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin' bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', an' down you go ... Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."
When you're a jet you're a jet all the way - but I'm talkin 'bout workin' for a livin' - I'm talkin' about sharkin'

The rain falls down on last year's man

I see Vince of "ShamWow!" Infomercial fame is now hawking a new product, the "Slap Chop". On the surface he looks the same here - better certainly than he looked in his mug shot in March after getting busted for beating up a hooker in South Beach, FLA. But wait just a second. Turn up the sound a bit. Inch closer to the screen. Is there just a hint of a plaintive cry in his obnoxious cackle? Is there just a shadow of a tear rolling down his weasel-like cheekbone? Does he maybe look like he'd rather just curl up in a snuggie and have a good sob?

It could just be the onion that Vince is slap-chopping up but I think it's somehow more than that. He lost a couple of brother shit-slingers after all: pure-play pitchman Billy Mays and part time shills Ed McMahon and Karl Malden (apologies here to Karl, Oscar-winning actor of such classics as On The Water Front and Streetcar Named Desire, but the Amex ads overshadowed his earlier work).

Vince is only human and I'm sure there is a hole in his black heart right now.

Chin up, Vince!

The world needs pitchmen more than ever now to fill that void at 3 in the morning for those that don't have satellite or cable or DVDs or VHS or books or a life or a drug habit.

Put. That. Coffee. Down. Coffee's for closers only.

The 'motivational pep-talk' Alex Baldwin's character Blake gives to the sad sack realty sales office in Glengarry Glen Ross has been on my mind of late. It's a great performance, Baldwin's only scene in the movie (character and scene don't even exist in the original David Mamet stage play). The words are even better. Mamet, who wrote the screenplay as well, is one of my literary heroes (one of the few who ply their trade in the world of screen and stage plays rather than books). But I digress. The reason that the speech has been resonating with me lately is because despite the vitriol tone, it is a motivational speech and I've been attempting to try and understand all of the ways that individuals can be and are motivated.

"We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired."

Now that's motivation.

Keeping your job might be a very primal motivation, but it's not a very uplifting one. Still, variations on Blake's talk likely took place in offices the world over this past week and sometimes for good reasons. Blake hammered home the overriding priorities in case there was confusion ("Always Be Closing" because "it's 'fuck' or 'walk'"). Sometimes it takes a punch in the stomach to wake a person up. God knows there are people where I work that I'd like to stick in a room with Blake and let him loose.

I'm looking more for the empowering, want-to-take-ownership kinds of motivation and how to instill that at the grass-roots level in an organization.

Time to look beyond Blake. I've poured through most of the "motivation" and "leadership" literature out there (Jack Walsh, Fearless Change, and 20 others not worth mentioning). Like most things in life, no silver bullet. Also like most things in life, I think it boils down to something much more simple: just find out what motivates you and then go to the employee directory and find out the same for each one of them. Probably the best thing I've read in this area is Andy Hunt's Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: he' talks about the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition and what motivates an Expert in a particular skill is not the same thing in general that motivates a Novice.

Quick, favorite "one scene" movie characters:
  1. Winston Wolfe, Pulp Fiction
  2. Captain Koons, Pulp Fiction
  3. Blake, Glengarry Glen Ross
  4. Vincenzo Cocotti, True Romance
  5. Drexl Spivey, True Romance
  6. Bunny Lebowski, The Big Lebowski
  7. Harry Lime, The Third Man