Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Don't Get It, But Know Better Than To Mess With The Forces of Nature

I'm not close to retirement age myself, even though my wife repeatedly jokes about me being old. I still have a lot of years left to do things, and I'm not planning on slowing down anytime soon. I am enjoying my writing projects, we just started a home remodeling project that will transform our living area (ok, we have professionals doing the work, but we still have to choose colors, organize the house, keep the cats in line), and there's plenty of time to travel and see other parts of the world. My dad recently told me that after 67 years of being alive, he's decided to retire because he just doesn't want to work anymore. I can appreciate the sentiment, although I'm not even close to making that same call. Granted, work used to be something that was more to me than just a job, but now having other distractions to focus upon has kept me from the land of workaholics. I work to allow me the time and money to do the other things I want to do, or as it's often put, I work to live, not live to work.
I can't relate to the situation that affects many careers in the public eye where people suddenly need to retire, like athletes or actors. Everything that I do right now I'm able to do now and in the future, mostly because I keep up with technology and current events, I enjoy what I do, and it's also about keeping busy while doing a good job. I can imagine, though, when it's time for me to quit doing all of this, I'll be ready because I'll be tired of working and want to do things on my own terms. But at the same token, everyone of us reaches a point in our lives where we're forced to admit that retiring is the best for us because we may not be able to do what we once did. I know that my dad loves his job quite a bit, and would be perfectly happy doing it as long as possible, but he's tired and he's ready to avoid the toil of the rat race.
Taking the analogy to the point where I was going was we've all seen examples of athletes that have probably overstayed their welcome professionally rather than hang them up on top. For every John Elway, there's a Jerry Rice who while he's one of the greatest receivers in football ever, he should have hung up the shoes before going to Denver. People hang on as long as possible at points because they don't want to admit they can't do what they used to do anymore, which would mean admitting they've aged. I've heard the analogies of the wily veteran and experienced player, but for many a career, there's that pinnacle moment where they are faced with the reality of having to deal with their own mortality.
I didn't want this to be a heavy depressing topic, but at the same point, I see some parallels between this and the situation at NBC, which is moving from a relatively dumb decision to a complete meltdown of epic proportions. To recap what is happening high level, Jay Leno decided to retire from the Tonight Show about 6 years ago, giving Conan O'Brien the job once he was done. As the date of transition occurred, Leno changed his mind about retiring and NBC gave him a show at 10 PM to do each night to keep him with the network. The show has been an unmitigated disaster, and now NBC wants to move Leno back to 11:35 to do a nightly show while bumping the rest of the late night lineup later to accommodate him.
I grew up watching Letterman on NBC after Carson, the Letterman who was completely insane with his absurdest brand of humor and colorful stable of secondary characters. He was targeted to replace Carson on the Tonight Show, but in a move that caught a lot of folks off guard, Leno ended up replacing Carson at NBC and Letterman left to CBS to do his show. Letterman doesn't do nearly the same type of humor from his NBC days, but he's got a "what's stuck in my craw" approach that provides some quality amusement from time to time. O'Brien, meanwhile, I've gotten to know recently after seeing his very late night show a few times, and he followed the Letterman vein of wackiness. His Tonight Show is a bit more restrained, but at points, he's still doing the same goofy humor, the same "look at me being silly looks", and the same random sketches. He's played the hand he's been dealt and doing a good job.
Leno, meanwhile, is doing what he wants to do by returning to late night TV, and I'll admit, I'm not a fan of his work. I find it tiring, predictable, and just plain not funny, and I tried to give him a shot after Carson left. He's just not my speed, but I realize that there are those that appreciate his sense of humor. It's restrained, bland, a bit more vanilla, it's just not for me. Instead of handling this situation with tact and civility, Leno doesn't want to retire into the sunset but rather get his way, regardless of the results. O'Brien remains defiant that he wants to keep doing the show he wants to honor the legacy of the show that has been on the air for 60 plus years, so the whole thing has morphed into this extremely messy stalemate.
I'm all for people following contracts, and I understand that sometimes circumstances change and a decision made years ago might not apply anymore, but that still doesn't mean you don't honor your word. O'Brien has done nothing wrong more than just trying to entertain under some rather unusual circumstances, and instead of getting his time in the limelight, the guy who had it doesn't want to give it up anymore. Leno hasn't reached the point where he doesn't want to do it anymore, even though that's what he said way back when. I would hope he'd do the honorable thing and realize that walking into the sunset doesn't mean there's not things to do, it's just the classy thing to do here, but then again, it doesn't sound like he gets it. The only real beneficiaries from this mess are Letterman, who has rather enjoyed the turmoil, and Craig Ferguson, who continues to amaze me with his absolutely marvelous talent of being funny while walking on the edge of insanity. I can never figure out where he's going with some of his stuff, but it's always funny and scary, which good comedy often is.
I've also begun to notice more about the forces of nature rearing their heads, with the crazy weather in Britain and the eastern US while Haiti is ravaged by an earthquake after dealing with some many hurricanes. With a large world that we live in, disasters happen and they are always tragic as people suddenly lose everything in a split second. It never makes seeing those things easy, even if there's a detachment we can all take because the events are often far away. I don't mean detachment in a bad way, but at the same point, it's easier to process bad news if it's not happening directly to you or someone you know, that's human nature.
The reason I'm noticing all of this is because of the movie 2012, which talked about the supposed end of the world according to the Mayan calendar by virtue of catastrophic events. I didn't see the movie myself, but apparently it's in the same line as Armageddon - loud explosions and lots of destruction. It's hard not to see what's happening and wonder if there's any correlation. I do believe that there are powerful forces out there that influence how things work, and while I'm not ready to admit these things are a sign of unrest, it's also hard to sit back and not notice what's going on and wonder if there isn't a connection.
At the very least, it should remind us that our time on the planet is finite, and it's up to us to do what we can to leave things in good shape for future generations, whether it's drive less, walk more, recycle when you can, or just be conscious of how your actions affect the planet as a whole. We can't just sit back and think what we do doesn't affect others, unlike a certain goofy chinned, snively talk show host who seems to be interested in one thing and one thing alone.

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