We talked a little bit about this before, but I was reminded yet again this past weekend of the power and the fun of family. A weekened in Las Vegas can do that to you, especially when you are there celebrating a birthday with your wife and daughter, your mom and dad, your twin and his wife, and your grandmother. Four generations partying in Sin City; not specifically there to gamble, not to drink, not to sight-see, just to be together.
And while we were there, I did get a little bit of work done, specifically coordinating deposition dates in a trust litigation matter I am handling. It was at that point that I was struck with a marked dichotomy. I was in Vegas with my family celebrating while I was scheduling depositions in a matter brought by three children against their very own father. Now, before you begin taking sides, I will not tell you who I represent. In all fairness, it doesn’t really matter for our purposes. What does matter is the realization, yet again, that not all families are like mine. Dysfunctional seems to be the norm these days.
Any chance things will change? Probably not. I have no solutions for the dysfunctional families (and I am sure my family law attorney friends would wish that if I did have suggestions I keep them to myself) but nevertheless it is something that is prevalent these days and will hopefully keep me in business for a long time. Sure I complain about it, but it does provide a source for so much more business. Dysfunctional families do not get better when the parents die. In fact, they frequently get worse. And mind you, these dysfunctional families are not a result of broken marriages. My case involves a husband and wife married for over 40 years.
I have no answers, I have no advice. In fact, I am not sure that I even have much of a point this week. I was just thinking this weekend of how things turn out the way they do. Why do some families succeed famously while others fail so tragically? If you have thoughts I am interested and I am sure a publisher out there could turn it into a million-copy selling book. But for me, I won’t ask questions and I won’t make recommendations… this week. I will just live. Some things are better unexplained and unquestioned.
Have a great week.
Many of you have heard the words “social networking” and have been bombarded with the accolades showered on networking websites as LinkedIn.com and Facebook.com. And yes, I am sure that they are all that they seem to be and more, that all of you have doubled or even tripled your business because you set up a profile on a website and have begun connecting.
But friends, are you aware of the hidden dangers? Are you aware that you may come face to face with… yourself?
On these social networking sites you provide certain information so that people may find you. Whether it be your name, your hometown, your occupation, the idea is that people who are both trying to find you and people who don’t know they are trying to find you can do so.
But let’s take Facebook for instance. A lot of people use Facebook for networking but they also use it for reconnecting with friends, keeping up with family members, and maintaining relationships they wouldn’t otherwise have the time to maintain. But it also can force you to face your inner demons, to own up to who you were when you were young.
(The following is fabrication and in no way is intended to refer to or describe any person, living or dead.)
My name is, um, Philip Cohen and I graduated from, um, Grenada Hills High School in 1993. I wonder who else of my fellow graduates are on Facebook and what they are up to. So I take a look and I see familiar faces and not so familiar faces… and I see faces that remind me of times even earlier than high school. Say, elementary school? That time when we as children didn’t know better? Calling someone names was part of the school-yard code and there was always that one kid who was picked last for everything… and he has just sent me a Facebook Friend Request. PANIC!!
What does he want? Do you think he remembers what I called him way back when or that he was always picked last? Does he harbor any ill-feelings towards me? Ok, so if I don’t respond to his friend request, then what? Will he be upset, maybe check out my friends list and send them emails that I was a bully when I was 5? Or do I respond with a “Hey man, how’s it going? Man it has been a long time, huh, what have you been up to?” And act like I don’t remember the past? What was I thinking when I was in 2nd grade?
Ok, so I responded to his friend request and sent him a note that it was good to hear from him and what has he been up to… and he hasn’t responded. I wrote that note to him 5 minutes ago and he hasn’t responded!? I accepted his friend request and he won’t write back and now I have given him access to all of my friends, some psycho now has all of my pictures and friends and favorite books and groups I am in… WHAT’S HE DOING? What’s his angle? What was I thinking back then? Why didn’t I know better? What kind of a person was I? Was I that bad that this guy won’t even write back?
So, this guy doesn’t want to write back huh? Well, let’s just see how he likes it… you, my friend, are no longer my friend. There was a reason why you were picked last for kickball and now I don’t want you to be my friend anymore.
But that isn’t fair… I am now sinking to his level. I am better than that. I am going to act as if nothing happened, the past is what it was and it is in the past. I have moved on. I have grown. Hey man, can’t we just shake hands and get along? Let’s end this feud once and for all. There is no reason for people to be fighting for 25 years. Bygones, ok?
Still no response????
It is at this point that I am cursing Facebook, the internet, the Highlander Marching Band, the Chess Club, and the 5th Grade Luau committee… It is your fault, all of you. You created this, not me. I throw my computer against the wall, I tear up my old yearbooks, and I refuse to acknowledge that I grew up anywhere near here.
My name is Bob and I am from a little town you have never heard of called Jefferson, Ohio, nice to meet you.
And then I catch my breath, sign back on to Facebook because, hey, my next client could be just around the web site…
Ahhh, the fun of social networking.
So, my goal for this week is to discuss with my daughter how important it is to be nice to everyone. You never know what they might grow up to be and what ill-feelings they might harbor. She might not know Facebook when she grows up, but there will be some other way that some upset kid can psychologically torture her the way Facebook has psychologically tortured me. Then I am going to crawl into a corner in the fetal position and suck my thumb for awhile.
As the son of an accountant, I have a little bit of a numbers vein in me. I can remember all kinds of numbers: my brother’s social security number, my mom’s and dad’s driver’s license numbers, clients’ file numbers, addresses, telephone numbers, and my batting average in high school (.346). But, I also have failings when it comes to numbers. I don’t remember what time my daughter was born and I don’t remember how long it takes to cook microwave pancakes (despite the fact that I do it every morning, I still have to look at the package).
But there is one number that I will never forget: 4:31. When I wake up in the middle of the night and see the clock at or even near that time, I think of that one event. The early morning wake-up call on January 17, 1994.
Can you believe it was 16 years ago this week that Northridge became front page news with the shaking, shuddering, thundering, and crashing that began at 4:31am? I don’t even remember what the quake registered on the Richter Scale, but I remember, to the minute, what time it started: 4:31am.
And when I wake up in the middle of the night and see the clock approaching or near 4:31, I think of the fragility, I think of the massive buildings that virtually imploded, the freeway that broke in two, the lives lost. And I think of the humanity, the community, the friendship. This wasn’t an event that affected one family, it affected an entire city. We were all hiding under the sheets as aftershock after aftershock came through… was this an aftershock or a new quake? When would it end? I can still smell the alcohol that fell off of the shelves and crashed to the ground in a mixture of colored glass. The pictures askew on the walls (if they stayed on the walls) and the books all in the middle of the floor, our West Highland Terrier sitting in the middle of the mess, shaking and whimpering.
Many people remember where they were when Kennedy died or when the Challenger exploded or when Kirk Gibson hit his home run (sitting on the coffee table in the family room of the house in Northridge biting my nails). But do they remember what happened next? I remember the aftermath of the quake and everyone who went through it does also. The stores that were closed, the buildings that never re-opened, the plumbing that took forever to come back on, the questions of how our friends and loved ones were faring while the phone lines were down.
Which brings me to this: Reacting to crisis without a plan is a plan for failure. We weren’t good, I will confess that we were not good. A major catastrophe in sunny Southern California? Nah… Wait, yes, it could happen… it DID happen.
It isn’t my place to tell you to store your water, have an earthquake kit and an evacuation plan. Those are all good ideas and are highly recommended. But what good is that if you don’t have a plan to deal with crises that may come up in everyday life? Accidents, illnesses, changes in wealth, changes in family… You need to have plans in place for those too, the events of daily life that are unpredictable but life-changing, especially if you aren’t prepared.
Take a look around you. Are you safe? Is your family safe? Is your business safe? Are your loved ones safe? What could go wrong? Anything, everything, nothing. Do you want to stake it all that nothing will happen?
All of these thoughts go through my mind when I wake up at 4:31am. And then, of course, I can’t get back to sleep…
Beginning of the year, another anniversary of that natural disaster, another chance to review our plans and make sure we are ready for life’s curveballs. They are out there. You may dispute that a baseball actually curves, but if you are focusing on if it curves, it’s gonna fly right by you for a called Strike 3. Or, you can just hit it as hard as you can because you planned for it to come and weren’t surprised when it did.
Be prepared. Be prepared. Be prepared…
Dear American Broadcasting Company (ABC):
Please please please… cancel “Scrubs.” It has officially jumped the shark and it is time for it to peacefeully ride off into the sunset, and quickly.
I am not the “biggest fan.” In fact, I never say stuff like that. I am not the biggest Everclear fan or the biggest Michael Connelly fan, nor am I the biggest Scrubs fan. I don’t believe in those monikers. Instead, I am a loyal fan. I buy the new Everclear CD when it comes out, I read the new Michael Connelly when it comes out, and I loyally watch every episode of Scrubs when it airs. And I am telling you that it is time to end it, despite how much it pains me to say it.
It has jumped the shark, and you at ABC know what that means. (For those of you who don’t know, it is a reference to an episode of Happy Days when Fonzie, in leather jacket and swimsuit, on waterskis, jumped over a shark to prove his bravery. Many people point to that episode as the beginning of the end for the show, when it irrevocable spun off course.)
In case you at ABC do not see it coming, then may I please offer you some examples of other shows that horribly jumped the shark:
1) Laverne & Shirley: It just was not the same when the girls moved to Los Angeles; they should have stayed at the brewery, where madcap hilarity ensued (even to this day, when I have shampoo in my hair I think that if the water turned off I would just stick my head in the oven, because isnt’ that what Shirley did?)
2) LA Law: The show took a turn for the worse when it brought on the female partner, Rosalind Shays, in the show’s 4th season. The producers tried to rectify the mistake when it dropped her down an elevator shaft two years later, but the show was far off the rails by then and limped towards a finale three years later.
3) Saved By The Bell: Can anyone explain to me what happened to Jesse and Kelly in season 4 and why they felt it was necessary to bring on Tori, Saved By The Bell’s imitation of Leather Tuscadero from Happy Days? Well, after 7 episodes, that experiment expired and Jesse and Kelly were back at Bayside. Phew! Catastrophe averted, until such time as graduation came along and they thought Saved By The Bell The College Years was a good idea… (A show that jumped the shark twice? Further examples of that phenomenon to follow…)
4) Beverly Hills 90210: First, they let Scott shoot himself. Then they had Dylan and Steve talking about steroids and shrinking gonads. Neither of those were enough to sink the show. So, they had the kids graduate and go to college. So far so good. The downfall of the show, though? When Brandon and Brenda’s parents, Jim and Cindy, mysteriously left the show. In my opinion I had no reason to watch any longer once Jim the accountant was off. Where was the parental supervision? Not even bringing Kelly Kapowski on could save it for me or the viewing public; only a few excruciating years remained.
5) Full House: Did we really need to hear little Michelle Tanner speak? It was bad enough when she was mouthing gibberish and some voice over artist mimicked a baby’s speaking voice. But when she started speaking for real, it was all over me. More speaking parts for Michelle meant less speaking parts for Kimmy Gibler and I was having none of that!
6) Married With Children/Happy Days/The Love Boat: I group these three into one entry because they all suffered the same downfall. Don’t remember? His name is Ted McGinley and he was virtually single-handedly responsible for the downfall of all three of these shows. (Married with Children jumped the shark a second time, see below.)
7) Gilligan’s Island and Scooby Doo: These shows also suffered the same downfall. Why oh why would you think it was a good idea to put the Harlem Globetrotters on either of these shows? (Congratulations to CBS by the way, The Amazing Race this season with the 2 Globetrotters on it was excellent.)
8) ER: (No Rob, don’t go there, ER is untouchable!) I beg to differ. George Clooney is the coolest guy in the world and when ER let him go to pursue a small acting career (who has seen him since?) the show lost it for me and I did not watch it anymore. But, to refer back to #3 above, the show jumped the shark a second time when it sent Dr. Carter to Africa. Really? Come on…
9) Friends: When Monica and Chandler got married, the show about fun-loving thirty-somethings in New York acatually became ThirtySomething, a show none of us wanted to admit hit close to home. They should have instead had Ross and Marcel elope to Africa or something. That would have been fun, huh? (Of course, after Marcel infected all of those people with that disease and Dustin Hoffman and Cuba Gooding, Jr. had to come up with an antidote, I was off the Marcel bandwagon.) (Friends jumped the shark a second time, see below.)
10) Wheel of Fortune: Game shows are not exempt! When Pat and Vanna stopped allowing the contestants to shop for their own prizes, they certainly jumped the shark. Next thing you know Vanna will stop turn the letters and it will all be computerized… what? It has already happened?? (Just tell me that your answer still has to be in the form of a question and Alex Trebek still has that rockin’ stache…)
11) Family Feud: This one jumped the shark so many times it isn’t even funny. Richard Dawson is and always will be the host of Family Feud. He was so cool because he got to make out with all of those chicks! But he left and then Ray Combs came on. He was ok, until he hung himself… (RIP) Then Louie Anderson (umm, no). Then Richard Karn from Home Improvement (yeah, no). And then John O’Hurley from Seinfeld (ouch, no). I will start watching again when the Geico Gecko hosts.
12) Scrubs (sniff): I would like to say that the show jumped the shark this season with the addition of the new cast of medical students. In fact, however, it jumped the shark last season when JD became a father. It slowed the story down somewhat and he was absent for many shows, but it just put a damper on things. Of course, the show did redeem itself with the best show finale ever (I could not stop crying it was so awesome), but then here we go again. Just when I am out, they pull me back in!
13) Any time kids are introduced, the show hits the fan. Without going into details, I offer these shows that all jumped the shark when new children come on: Family Ties, Growing Pains, Married With Children, and Friends, just to name a few.
ABC: Scrubs is my favorite TV show of all time. All of the characters were lovable, idiosyncratic, but dynamic in their own way. And more importantly, they had heart and sensitivity. I was just as apt to cry during an epsiode as I was to laugh. But all of that changed this season with the addition of new characters, all of whom are one-dimensional (that one dimension being annoying) and the dumbing down of the main characters, many of whom are slowly leaving the fold. This is not the way I want to remember my favorite show and while it pains me grievously to say it, I support youth in Asia… It is time to let it go.
To use a medical metaphor in tribute to Scrubs: Just rip off the band-aid, don’t slowly peel it away, it only makes it hurt more.
Scrubs’ Most Loyal Watcher:
Rob Cohen, MD