Tag Archives: control

Labor Day, 1955: Raining on the Picnic, Not the Film

TrainDuet800documnt 48bit dust152Not a drop of rain falls. Even though the river rolling through the peaceful town is muddy, nothing deters the community from celebrating their beloved Labor Day picnic.

This idyllic community celebration is the primary setting of “Picnic,” the 1955 film starring William Holden and Kim Novak, the story of one day in the life of a rural gathering of middle-class folk in mid-America during the mid-twentieth century. The sunny day shines happiness on everyone during the all American holiday, from toddler to great-grandmother.

Enter the drifter, fresh off hitching the rails, and the day begins.

After sowing wild oats for years, the drifter, Hal (William Holden), one-time football player and big shot, says he’s ready to settle down, and this place is it – Small Town America, USA.

Looking for work, he befriends a family and boarders who live in their house. By noon, the entire household has headed down to the huge picnic at river’s edge.

What fun: the 3-Legged Walking Contest, the Pie Eating Contest, the Girl Carrying Contest. A Talent Show, too, not to mention music from Ernie Higgins and the Happiness Boys.

So what’s making young, pretty Madge (Kim Novak) so moody? She has the handsome drifter’s eye, that’s for sure. Better yet, the town’s richest, most eligible bachelor, is after her.

What about her sister, Millie (Susan Strasberg), who’s edginess is obvious with every move? She has a foolish tomboy look no one really pays attention to, but she’s going to college – not Madge.

Is Rosemary (Rosalind Russell), one of the house boarders, angry because she’s an aging, single, schoolteacher when in reality she’s got more life and spunk than twenty others her age?

And why has Hal started to turn after tasting the sweet allure of peaceful small town life?

After all, their Labor Day picnic has everything. The Trained Seal Game, a sort of ring toss contest where women toss rings at the stems of Tootsie Roll Pops protruding from mouths of men on bended knees with hands tied behind their back.

The Needle in a Haystack Contest: boys diving willy-nilly into a huge stack of dusty, dirty hay for nickels, dimes and quarters the older men have thrown in.

The Talent Show, complete with stifled teens singing corny standards and barbershop quartet numbers. Nearby, a cute baby grimaces. Or is it a scoff?

The Balloon Bursting Contest: Which contestant can blow up a balloon to pop first? The long, nerve-wracking tension is broken with a ka-boom, and another baby cries.

But, of course, there’s always the constant upbeat sound of Ernie Higgins and the Happiness Boys lingering in the background.

How could this picnic go so sour?

The entire town bowed to Madge’s beauty. But, from her seat on a rowboat sailing slowly upon the dark water, Madge seemed ashamed by the throng’s gushing, repulsed she’d just been crowned Labor Day Queen of Neewolah (Halloween spelled backward).

The big picnic dance seems transcendent. The handsome, muscular drifter danced so sexually, so comfortably with Madge. Was that what made Rosemary uneasy enough to break up the festivities all by herself?

Even Hal and Madge’s secret, moonlit rendezvous down by the river later is less than romantic, more a moment to exorcise personal fears, flaws and demons to each other. Her pose suggests yearning, yet she changes course, looks off, and says, “But we’ve got to get back to the picnic.”

“Do we?” Hal replies, as a train rambles slowly out of town behind them.

In their own separate ways, in this instant of time, Hal and Madge have realized something. And with it, the dare is on. The train, a vehicle for change, beckons each to go. By stepping up on it, riding the rails, is there life and hope beyond this town?

No, not if they if they’re looking for a better version of it, because there is no town like this. It doesn’t exist. If it did, it would surely be composed of hollow, blind followers.

“Picnic” author William Inge deliberately injects scenes into his story to beg scrutiny about this American utopia. Those boys in the haystack, America’s youth, diving blindly after money. Other youth, bottled up into singing safe and soulless music that won’t offend the elders in control. Men, like trained seals, begging for love as if some game. The gluttony of gorging on food – pie – the all American dessert. Libido should be scorned, pushed out of sight, out of mind. Everyone, everything is under control. When will the balloon finally burst?

Inge saw what many in America couldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t back in 1955. It makes you wonder what we’re not seeing beneath our very noses today, exactly sixty years later.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/k1A1vqmkftw“>http://

For more film articles I’ve written, click the following.

“The Graduate:” https://mikeandberg.com/2014/12/21/graduate-film-college-parents/
“To Kill A Mockingbird:” https://mikeandberg.com/2014/11/02/nostalgia-film-mockingbird/
“American Beauty:” https://mikeandberg.com/2014/09/09/role-models-american-beauty/
The 2015 Oscars (including “Hollywood Express,” my own documentary on Hollywood):
https://mikeandberg.com/2015/02/21/hollywood-oscars-identity/

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under The Daily Thought

Delete My Computer, Please. Confessions of an Administrative Aide

RailTrail morning (MikeAndbergdeskplaque) 005 B&WIt’s the first day of my new job. I stroll the clean, quiet halls en route to my office. It’s a long walk. On the way, I see workers in their offices, sitting at desks, bodies visible, but heads obscured by the back of their computer, almost as if the computers were their heads. Well, this isn’t right. I’ll never learn the names and faces of my new work associates doing this, will I?

My own room is cute, although windowless, about ten by ten feet. My boss greets me there, glad to finally meet the person who’s filling the long-vacated position.

“Hit Control-Alt-Delete,” she says, standing over my shoulder by my desk.

That’s funny, I never have to do this at home, and I can’t find Delete anywhere on the gigantic, trumped-up keyboard I apparently have to use here. I find Delete, but try to press all three Control, Alt, and Delete keys simultaneously with one hand and, like failing to play an octave on piano, I hit a sour note on my first job responsibility.

As the day goes on, it’s difficult to accomplish any work. Short of my bathroom break, everything  here is done through a computer. Everything. Any file I’m looking for is in a file within a file within a file within a file, sandwiched between Excel spreadsheets, distribution lists, PDFs, Word documents, technology files, room reservations, timelines and countless other folders. My search for a sense of Control has already been filed under Lost, no doubt sub-filed under Technology.

Anything this computer can do, I can do better. Example: my PC’s office calendar system that magically links everyone’s schedule in my department with each other. I’m not impressed. First of all, by the time I get to the computer calendar with new dates to add, I’ve either forgotten the date, the subject, or both. Worse yet, the computer’s design makes each week’s grid and each person’s calendar look the same. It’s only a matter of time before my doctor visits will be plastered all over the boss’s agenda. I sketch my own calendar on a scrap of paper and hide it in my desk drawer. Far more effective. Confidential. At my fingertips. Surge proof.

Meanwhile, unresolved office emails and phone tag games go on all week. If I merely walked across the hall, couldn’t I personally answer all these people in about five minutes? But no, that’s not the way it’s done anymore. If I had a window in my office, I’m sure I’d be tempted to jump through it about every hour.

I make calls from my office to other companies to update files: No one who was working at these companies a year ago is working there now. Where have they all gone? Were their jobs like mine? Did they leave from job dissatisfaction? I don’t get it.

To keep my job, the handiest survival tip I’ve used has been to write down all tasks that require three steps or more. As sure as the photocopier will go down when we need it most, I will not remember directions beyond three steps. Period. I secure an old Rolodex from the mailroom to organize the fifty index cards upon which I’ve scribbled instructions of three steps or more. They’ve been real ass-savers.

My boss is out sick today, and I’m asked to review all her email for important correspondence she may need. There’s a hundred emails. What madness. And some are personal, and I sure as hell don’t want to discover what I don’t want to know about her or anyone by snooping through their email! After all, isn’t there’s some confidentiality agreement in my job description?

I’m proud of the way I’ve learned to prioritize office duties. The most important thing in my job is knowing passwords, usernames and codes. Actually, they’re the most annoying part of my job, but taping passwords to the wall is handy and I’m far less aggravated by them in doing this. I refer to passwords, usernames and codes an average of twenty-eight times a day. Sure, they’re visible for everyone to see on the wall, but it’s less important strangers see them than I do not. Without my passwords, I might as well go home. Otherwise I can’t do a thing on either my PC, desk phone, company website, Facebook, and a zillion other things.

For some reason, I’m getting really behind. So, the last thing I want to do is spend time on the tutorials I’ve been encouraged to view. The first was on Excel spreadsheets. Then Abobe Creative Suite. Then In Design, whatever that is. But I did see the tutorial about our operating system. So confusing, the company kindly hired out a technology consultant to get me straight. That was back in the beginning before anyone knew I’d need a computer personal trainer.

Yeah, I do get a little sloppy sometimes. There’s no telling what keys my fingers just slid across by accident. I’m somewhere between a loose cannon and someone who can’t get out of his own way. Because of this, I’m paranoid about clicking Forward by mistake when replying to someone by email. Or clicking Select All. Or Reply All. Click the wrong button, and X might see a string of correspondences attached to my reply where Y and Z had been cc’d and X doesn’t like Y and Z said something bad about X last month. I make phones calls whenever possible, being sure to talk very carefully and very slowly.

It’s only natural I look for any physical duty there might be to do around the office now. I volunteer to tack flyers to the bulletin board. Photocopy documents. Staple handouts. Hole punch binders. File folders. Pick up mail. Open the new water jug. Walk receipts up to Finance. And, on the way, walk around and personally respond to everyone’s stalled email and phone messages!

An optional staff development invite pops into my email. I jump on it. Anything to get out of the office. But the seminar, “Decreasing Job Dissatisfaction and Improving Workplace Productivity,” could help me, too. Is there something I could change to make my job easier? Modify about my attitude? Wouldn’t it be nice to be so efficient that I alternate one good habit with another all day long?

The job dissatisfaction seminar leader begins the two-hour discussion with, “First off, I strongly recommend you get rest on weekends.” Come on. What else ya got?

“All that work on your desk? Remember. It’ll still be there tomorrow.” Right. It wasn’t done yesterday because it wasn’t done the day before that either. And, yes, it’ll still be there tomorrow. Help.

“To assist in organizing your day, start with the end first.” Apparently, there is no end to my job, so to backtrack from something that doesn’t exist is insane.

“Despite what we’ve all heard, there is no such thing as multi-tasking!” Oh, right. My job is predicated on the multi-task principle, and everyone else’s, too. I feel no more relaxed or productive now than when I walked into this room.

It all comes down to this. Your boss emails you something to be done. You do it. You email it on. That person sends it to someone else who does something with it, mostly to get it off his back, then on to someone else. She sends it to her boss who looks at it and sends it to someone else because she has rank. Somehow, someway, it may eventually come back to you, at which point you place it in your “To Do” file. I’m aware of this pattern, yet I am still ranked only as an Administrative Aide.

Confounded by yet another day of computer curve balls, I summon the IT Department. They send me a student-level tech person. In less than one hour, he teaches me things I’d never dreamed were possible on a computer! A genius, and only nineteen. It’s obvious to me he could do my job, and in half the time. What’s he doing in IT? What am I doing here?

The best thing this young tech has taught me as an Office Administrative Aide? When to hit Delete.

It’s nice to have gained control again. No passwords required either.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Blog, The Daily Thought

“Shuffle Songs” As Metaphor for Personal Change

Quote of the day: Each loss has its compensation. — H. Butterworth

010

For years, I’ve created playlist after playlist of songs on my iPod based on consistent mood and sound level so I might experience a  c-o-n-t-r-o-l-l-e-d  and  p-r-e-d-i-c-t-a-b-l-e  g-r-o-o-v-e  when listening to music while driving. Suddenly, however, I seem to have lost that desire – I’ve been programming the iPod to play whatever it wants from the 850 songs on my music catalogue by hitting “Shuffle Songs.”

Wow. I’m on the edge of my seat now, wondering what song will be played next. What was wrong with this concept in the first place?

Shuffle songs. Shuffle events. Shuffle expectations. And enjoy not knowing what comes next.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog, The Daily Thought