Not wanting a white Christmas

I didn’t notice any big British desire for a white Christmas this year. Probably because the bad weather last year brought home the reality of the Christmas card snow. It did make me wonder where this cliche came from. I watched a lot of TV over the holidays (guilt free – because I took to the couch with a horrible cold) and it is a recurring theme. From ‘Lapland’ where snow was missing for a large part of the time to ‘Fast Freddy, the Widow and Me’ where it was artificially created to make the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Maybe it is because when Christmas became a tradition as it is today (I’m guessing Victorian times), December was colder so snow was what you got. A virtue of a necessity? Or am I creating my own myth?!

Does what it says on the packet…

.. “Room for Improvement” – the notice outside an empty meeting room.

A genius idea

An interesting idea – telling the story of the demise of a silent movie star through a silent movie. ‘The Artist’ was a little gem – a truly touching love story. Funny and sad with a happy ending that also managed to send itself up. I came out smiling.

I think I might read the book…

I was settling in for what looked like a bit like a police procedural – more suited to the small screen than the big. Then, about half an hour into ‘Headhunters’ it all went mental. You were at the protagonist’s side as he tried to figure out what was going on and were complicit in his mistakes. This lasted until the final twist, when the audience were only half in on the plot. A very satisfying film. I haven’t read the Jo Nesbo book it is based on but if it is as immersive as the film, I might just add it to my ‘must read’ list.

The tables are turned…

Many years ago, I went to see ‘Life if Brian’ in France. It was rather unsettling to be one of the few people laughing at certain points in the film – national humour doesn’t always completely travel. Watching ‘The Fairy’ – a French film – I wondered whether I was having the experience in reverse. It was a quirky film and, at some points, I laughed out loud. But at others, I just didn’t get it. It felt like a series of sketches, some of which worked and some of which failed. At the end, I was left with the question “If Fiona wasn’t a fairy, how did the man fly?” Sometimes it is better just to suspend belief and go with the flow. Good fun, but patchy.

50/50 = 100%

So it’s London Film Festival time and I’m indulging in my annual orgy of good, bad and just plain weird films. The biggest surprise so far – 50/50, a beautifully judge piece about friendship, family and cancer. It turned out to be more about what wasn’t said than what was – most clearly shown when the cancer sufferer’s crass best friend’s brash personna was betrayed by the heavily highlighted cancer book in his bathroom. Nothing was said, but his actions were put into a whole new context. The most difficult thing around cancer is being yourself.

This was a very funny tearjerker – I recommend it.

Why would we use this? ….

.. a question that comes up frequently when I demonstrate technology new to people. When I ask this question, it is generally a prelude to an extensive bout of using a product, trying to find out what it can do and how I can use it to make my life easier. When my audience ask it, more often than not it means that they don’t see the point of it – and aren’t going to spend time trying to work it out. The difference in perspective is a key one, and should be considered when IT professionals communicate with the people who use their products. You can’t expect a business user to immediately see the many different ways they might use a new technology. You should always have some good, relevant examples in your back pocket of how others have used it, or how they themselves might use it. I think you also need to give them permission to play with it – or not! Much as I hate to admit it, sometimes my business colleagues don’t actually need the lastest whizzy gadget right now – but I can at least make them aware of it so that when they do need it, they know where to go.

A poor tagline

The tagline for Final Destination 5 “It’s not if, it’s when” is surely on of the worst yet. One assumes they are talking about dying (unless the franchise has taken a radical new direction) – but surely this applies to everyone – unless the Miracle Day of Torchwood becomes a reality.

Battleship Potemkin – finally…

The great thing about is that I can catch up on the classics and I finally watched Battleship Potemkin – prepared to be disappointed – and was amazed at how well it has stood the test of time. The famous Odessa steps sequence was as powerful as advertised, but there were lesser gems – the sailors claustrophobically swinging in hammocks below decks, the rejected bowls of disgusting soup swaying gently on hanging tables – gradually building the picture of bad treatment leading to revolution. It was manipulative and simplistic-and you absolutely knew what was coming and yet… when the soliers shot the mother carrying her injured child towards them to get help, I felt genuine anger.

Another silent classic, Pandora’s Box, unsettled me because it challenged what I expected to see in a film of that era. I was expecting simplistic and actually got a much more sophisticated take on love and lust. I guess there’s a reason they are classics – but not always the same reason.

Optimism as a tool for change

Sunday’s Irish Independent had an interesting front page article about Enda Kenny, the Irish Prime Minister – who has been critical of the way in which the Catholic church has handled (or mishandled) child abuse by priests. His speech, essentially telling the Vatican that they are not above Irish law, has been widely praised – which in itself is a major sea change in the Irish attitude to the church. Up until not that many years ago, it would have been unthinkable to speak out like this and even now, there is a certain surprise that a politician has done so.

However, the part of the article that I found most interesting was the reflection on Kenny’s optimistic approach. The conclusion reached was that he isn’t the cleverest or wittiest of men, but that his ‘upbeat temperament’ meant that life comes to meet him and is maybe exactly what the Irish need at the moment.

Many years ago, I had a boss for whom the glass was always half empty – with the result that what he expected usually happened. A nice guy, but it was very difficult to work for him. My colleague and I were getting so worn down by this that we decided to do something about it and came up with a variation of the Pollyanna ‘Glad Game’. Every time our boss said something pessimistic, we would turn it round into something positive. It took a couple of weeks, but he got the message and, being a nice guy, did something about it. He was easier to work with after this and projects went much more smoothly. I’ve carried that lesson with me ever since and have developed a learned optimism that stands me in good stead today. Looks like Enda Kelly uses positivity to get results on a much larger canvas – we turned around one person, he is looking to turn around a country. Just goes to show that optimism is a tool that can be used on any scale.