Lost in Translation

Nine years after its release, I watched Lost in Translation on HBO. When it was over, I convinced Kim to watch it with me, and I enjoyed it as much the second time. I even noticed a few detailed I missed the first time such as when Charlotte stubbed her toe.

The idea I take from the film is that connections can change the trajectory of your life. But they aren’t guaranteed nor do they occur often. When they do happen, they are the source of so much joy that the rest of life’s complexities fade into the background.


I recently wrote about a friend I meet for Pho a few times each year. We chat for hours, and he’s my only guy friend that I hug when we meet or say goodbye. I don’t know why other than I share a bond with him that’s strengthened over time.

Last spring I sat down at a hamburger joint in Salt Lake City with my father. I’d recently lost my job and my career was in flux. I listened to him describe what it’s like to see your spouse become very ill, and how his plans for retirement had changed because of that. I’d never thought about it from his perspective, but there is was in all its emotional rawness.

It’s not easy for my father to say, “I have no idea how this turns out”, yet when he said that I felt a connection to him that I hadn’t felt before. He’s dedicated and controlled in his actions. But he was vulnerable in that moment, and it brought us closer together.

I told my father that I have no clue what I’m going to do to support my young family. I’d recently started a small business with a friend to escape having to take another mindless corporate job. I wondered if he’d question my work ethic. Instead he placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “You’ll figure it out. You always have.”

When the movie ended I told Kim that I could relate to much of it because I’d felt that instant bond when I first met her in Las Vegas. I didn’t feel the need to be someone I wasn’t because she was happy with the imperfect me. 

That so few of these connections have taken place in my life has me wondering if they are naturally rare or if I’m not perceptive or skilled enough to create more of them. But I know that I’m happiest when they are occur regularly.


“How can you not be romantic about baseball?” – Billy Beane

Moneyball was the best movie I saw this year. I read the Michael Lewis book a few years ago and liked it, but didn’t think much of it. When I heard Brad Pitt was playing the role of A’s general manager, Billy Beane, I shrugged it off and didn’t plan to see the film.

But Ebert gave it a good review and I decided to see it. So glad I did because I really enjoyed the performances from Pitt and Jonah Hill who plays an understated statistic whiz kid who understand that the goal of teams should be to buy  wins instead of players.

Basically, invest your money in players who get on base. It doesn’t matter how. A walk or hit by pitch is as good as a hit.

Not only are the performances good, but the music and cinematography are excellent. We’ve seen the ball sail over the fence for the winning home run dozens of times. You’ll find it in Moneyball as well but it’s done with such a deft touch that it feels authentic.

I highly recommend Moneyball even if you’re not into baseball. In fact, it’s as much about business and mathematics as it is about the game of baseball.


So many awkward moments leading up to that first kiss make those early teen years unforgettable. Every tiny detail came back to life as I watched the movie, “Flipped” tonight.

There’s a scene in the movie where the girl chasing the boy sits behind him in class and inches closer so she can smell his hair which she says has the scent of fresh watermelon.

Who can’t relate with this? One moment I’m supposed to act like girls don’t exist and the next I’m dancing with one I don’t know very well, but dang, she sure smells good I wish the song would never end. But I can’t enjoy it too much because I wonder if I smell as good to her over the three layers of my dad’s Right Guard?

An older brother would have come in handy around this time. Although I don’t remember telling mine how to act around girls. I probably did, and he did well to ignore my advice.

And that’s the problem. Nobody pulls you aside and tells you what you’re supposed to do. Adults only tell you what NOT to do. My bedroom was in the basement away from my parents and sisters. I lay in my bed many a night sorting out my feelings such as, “Why didn’t I have the guts to ask that girl to dance?” My Panasonic digital clock radio provided the soundtrack. So many plans were made at that time and yet so few were carried out due to my lack of confidence.

Do you remember dancing with someone you cared for and the song immediately moved to the top of your favorites? Without the internet, I relied on the soft hits station to play it and hopefully not talk over the beginning or end of the song. Even 25 years later, if I hear songs from Toto or Chicago it’s as if I’m transported back to a time when I felt cool wearing penny loafers and pastel Izod shirts.

I have a few more years before my children enter the age of awkwardness. I wish I could pull each of them aside and dispense wisdom I’m supposed to possess as their parent. I’m sure my parents tried this, and I brushed them off. I suspect my children will do the same.

And I’m fine with that.

127 Hours

It’s difficult to describe the sound. I’ve tried. It’s more than a loud snap. But I know it when I hear it.

There’s no mistaking the sound a bone makes when broken.

And this was the most cringe-worthy scene that came from watching the movie, 127 Hours. This is the film staring James Franco as the hiker from Utah who cut off a section of his arm to escape from a boulder that trapped him deep in the canyons of Utah for 127 hours.

127 Hours Trailer

I read reports of movie goers passing out in theaters due to the amount of blood in the film. It wasn’t the amount of blood that bothered me, but how voyeuristic I felt knowing this happened to a man who survived to tell his story. We know he lived,  and that fact gives the story ample substance.

But it’s not the blood or the slicing of skin I’ve been thinking about since I left the theater. It’s that sound I can’t adequately describe. Of course, Ralston couldn’t just cut through his arm. He had to break it first, and that’s the part of the movie I had a difficult time watching. I closed my eyes but not my ears, and when I heard it, my stomach hit the floor.

The sound brought me back to a day in June many years ago. I was two days from finishing 7th grade. Baseball practice was winding down. I decided to stand on a bench and rock back and forth. When I lost my balance, I tried to brace my fall with my left arm still clenching my Wilson glove.  When my arm hit the long grass, it stopped while my body slid forward.

For months, I could not get the sound of my arm breaking out of my mind. Even today the thought of that fall still makes me shudder.

You may think I didn’t like the movie, but I loved it. It’s not depressing nor does it attempt to make a hero out of a man who had two choices: die in a rock crevice or take action, no matter how drastic.

He chose to act. Would you have done the same?

How Much Does Your Life Weigh

George Clooney’s character in the film, Up the Air, gives a memorable speech where he asks, “How much does your life weigh?”

I’ve seen the movie twice now, and both times I’ve got lost in thought each time I’ve watched this scene.

How much does my life weigh?

Currently it weighs a lot. I’m responsible for providing life’s basics for six people and one dog. When I write that I can feel the weight. Yet that’s how I set it up. That’s what I was taught. I go to school. Get married. Buy a home and have some children.

Isn’t that how we define success in America? The size of our home and the emblem on our cars. The instruments our children play and the camps and schools they attend. The blueprint for success has already been created. All we have to do is follow it. Yet nobody forced me to follow the blueprint. It was my own doing.

I’m starting to rethink how I define success.

I used to place a lot of value on not only my job title but the prestige that came working for a well-known and respected company. I used to think we had to raise our children in a certain neighborhood among people of our education and economic levels. At times I’ve felt the need to spend more time at work and church taking on more projects. Whoever can complete the largest to-do list was the winner. The busier the better.

But the older I get I see that this way of thinking does not lead to happiness. It focuses on the quantity instead of the quality of life. More is less. A lot less.

I recently came across an interview with former CNN host, Lou Dobbs. He worked at CNN for nearly 30 years and served as the host of Moneyline as well as a corporate executive at CNN. This is a man who graduated from Harvard and earned tens of millions of dollars as a news personality.

Yet when asked to complete the phrase, “I wish…, Dobbs replied “I spent more time with the kids”.

Here’s a guy who had the means to do whatever he wanted. Certainly he could find time to spend with his four children if he so desired. Yet our culture doesn’t place a lot of importance on how much time fathers spend with their children. That’s mom’s job or, more often, the nanny or child care provider’s responsibility.

I hope I never look back on my life and answer that question the same way Dobbs did. That would be a nightmare scenario. Dobbs lives on a 300 acre farm. He has whatever money can buy. Yet what he wishes for something which can’t be bought. No amount of money will bring back the years he could have spent with his children. Who cares how big your house is if it’s empty.

I’m slowly starting to remove things from my life that take away from time I can spend with my children. I’m going to commit myself to fewer projects. I’m going to watch less TV and more time reading or telling stories with my kids. I’m going to call my parents and siblings instead of goofing around on the internet so much. I’m going to look for opportunities to give service. I worked on a friend’s computer for a few hours this month, and I felt great afterwards.

I want more of that in my life.

This past week I did something I wish I had done months before. I turned off email on my iPhone so I would not be tempted to read or reply to it. I had over 30 unread emails when I sat down at my desk this morning. And you know what? I survived. No email is so important that it should pull me away from my family on the weekend.

I’m hoping that as I strip away distractions and activities that the next time I hear Clooney give his speech, I’ll say to myself, “My life weighs less than it did it a month ago”.

Stripes and Solids

The only rule we followed was never play anyone who brought their own cue stick. Otherwise, we had no problem taking money from students at Weber State College. All winnings went straight into the jukebox or the Space Invaders pinball machine. You know, the one with 4 flippers and extra wide lanes. Back when games were a quarter, 500k secured a position on the High Scores board and free games were easy to come by. 2221804368_b46e238063

My next door neighbor was cool. He even had a cool name: Guy.

Guy had his own paper route. I filled in for him one week and he gave me five bucks and a Guinness Book of World Records paperback. I would have done it for the book. Who can forget the guy with the longest fingernails? I thumbed through the book until the pages fell out.

Guy was going to be an architect. So, of course, I wanted to be an architect although I had no idea what one did.

I don’t recall how we got started hustling students, but I remember Guy telling me it was easier than landing papers on porches from the sidewalk on his Schwinn Stingray. The key was to select the right hits, and jocks were an easy target. They couldn’t back down from an 8-ball challenge. And we certainly didn’t look like a couple of pool sharks. The tables were located near the bowling alley. The perfect hit was a jock who could bowl a 225 or better.  Then we knew he had little time between studies and bowling for a little “stripes and solids”.


That was our brilliant line of reasoning.

We didn’t lose very often. I’m surprised we were able to find students willing to play us through the summer. I suspect many were embarrassed they got hustled by a couple of teenagers and decided it was best to keep it on the low.

No more than few dollar changed hands, but that was enough to keep the jukebox going. Any 6 songs for a buck. If we had a few quarters left over for pinball even better.

We couldn’t play pool without queuing up tunes on the jukebox. Bennie and the Jets was always part of the mix. Those first few piano bars Elton laid down were magical. We had no idea what the lyrics meant. It was the music that grabbed us. It was impossible to listen to and not imagine myself pounding the keys while the crowd clapped and whistled.

When the jukebox stopped, it was time to jump on our bikes and race each other home. As we crossed Harrison Boulevard it was all I could do to keep up with Guy. Occasionally I’d catch him along the curve bordering the hospital parking lot. Nearing the home stretch, we’d be neck and neck until I slammed on my breaks at the stop sign just yards from my house. Guy never stopped. He celebrated each win by doing a wheelie in front of my house.

He wasn’t just cool. He was lucky.

Photo 1 by Sean Wakefield
Photo 2 by Thomas Hawk