Random things I think about
It was a moment that will live on in the memories of Super Bowl watchers for decades. Just after a historic kickoff return by Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones, the electrical system at the Superdome decided to make some history of its own. The 34 minute delay in the action served to highlight just how much can go wrong even when we’ve planned extensively to be sure that everything goes right.
Eventually, the stories will come out of what went on behind the scenes in those first few minutes of darkness. What was happening in the production trucks or among the staff in the bowels of the dome? What protocols were enacted on the national security front? Who was panicking and who wasn’t.
There’s a lot left to learn about that night, but there’s one group that we know was prepared for that moment: the folks at Nabisco and their ad agency, 360i. Mere minutes after the outage, Nabisco tweeted the picture and caption below.
How in the world did they make it happen so fast? Conspiracy theorists started pontificating almost immediately. The real answer, however, was simple. They were prepared for it.
No, they didn’t know the power was going to go out, but what they did know is that it’s hard to have half a day of live television, complete with portable set pieces, pyrotechnics and countless open mics, without having something go wrong. Something memorable and unscripted was going to happen that night, and Oreo was going to be ready.
How ready? Well, according to reports, the offices of 360i became Oreo’s social media central on February 3rd. In the room were brand managers, ad executives, agency creatives and anyone else it would take to brainstorm, create, approve and launch an ad campaign faster than you can say “creamy delicious center.”
Yes, you read that correctly, a process that would typically take months in a large organization like Nabisco was arranged on that evening to take just minutes. The results speak for themselves: 16,000 retweets and over 21,000 Facebook Likes for an ad that cost nothing to run and very little to create. Compare that to the $4 million fees for a televised 30 second spot and it’s clear that Oreo got the most bang for their buck on Sunday night.
But remember, they did so not because they were incredibly creative or witty – in fact, if you read the ad copy outside of the Super Sunday context, just about anybody could have written it – but because they were ready. If real estate is all about location, location, location, then social media is all about timing, timing, timing and the only way to respond to real-time events quickly is to have made the preparations and gotten the right people in the room ahead of time.
Today, I’m sure there are a lot of businesses looking at their social media teams (or the intern they put on that because they didn’t think it was all that important) and asking why they couldn’t capitalize on the situation like Oreo did. In the same offices, there are ad agencies explaining to their clients that, for a small fee, they, too, can set up a social media command center and be ready to respond to the next big unexpected event.
But here’s my guess. I’m guessing that at next year’s Super Bowl, when all the other brands are frantically trying to find something to tweet about, the folks at Nabisco will have already hatched up the next ad innovation that will keep them one step ahead of their competition. After all, that’s what innovators do.
With a classic story by Victor Hugo, music and lyrics by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil respectively, direction by Tom Hooper and a star-studded cast headed by Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, and Amanda Seyfried, the film version of Les Misérables is a blockbuster hit that is being hailed as a masterpiece by critics and audiences alike.
I saw the film and I have to say that I agree, although there were some shortcomings. Now, first, I must warn you that I was a musical theater guy in high school and college and even spent some time in theatre conservatory (you know it’s serious when the word is spelled t-h-e-a-t-r-e), so I know the story and music of “Les Mis” like the back of my hand. This, of course, serves to both inform and bias my opinion of the film. With that confession, here is my quick take before getting to the heart of this post.
The story is as compelling as ever (more on that momentarily) and the music brilliant as always. The direction and cinematography are well-done and add depth and intimacy to the story that simply can’t be captured on stage. The cast is hit-and-miss, with Hathaway being surprisingly good, Jackman holding his own, but not great, and Seyfried sounding OK, but a little like a modern-day fluttery Cinderella. Then there’s Russell Crowe – far out-classed by his co-stars and outmatched by the vocal score, the guy just isn’t up to the task. It’s not just bad. It’s really bad – embarrassingly bad.
The standouts are some of the unknowns of the film. Little Isabelle Allen as young Cosette, Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche and Natalya Angel Wallace as the grown-up Éponine all shine in their roles as do Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thénardiers. Eddie Redmayne as Marius is ho-hum.
With all of that taken into consideration, what I walked away from the film with was this: the story of Les Misérables is a story of redemption and forgiveness. It is a story of a cynical man being undeservedly forgiven and living the rest of his life trying to reconcile himself to that forgiveness. A single act, carried out without hesitation by a priest, pivots Jean Valjean’s life and opens up something in him that can never be resealed.
This, to me, is the story of the Kingdom of God. A single act of forgiveness that brings redemption to us all and (if recognized for what it truly is) affects us to our core for the rest of our existence. If we understand the forgiveness we’ve received, then we can give forgiveness when it seems the least warranted. If we understand the death from which we were spared, then we can spare others who deserve a similar fate. If we understand the brokenness of our own humanity, then we can see more clearly the humanity of even the most broken people.
The story of Les Misérables is the story of us. We are the miserable ones who, without the redemptive person of Jesus are “standing in our graves” here on earth. He rescues us – from prison, from the gutter, from being orphaned and, ultimately, from death. He died as one accused so that we could make a clean getaway.
If you venture out to see Les Misérables in the coming days, consider for yourself just how much forgiveness one man had to offer in order for you to live the life you’re living. Then, resolve to offer the same forgiveness to others that you have received for yourself.
The summer is off to a great start! You’ve already gotten burned to a crisp by the sun, swam in nice clean pools and disgusting lakes or oceans and generally allowed yourself at least a few moments of relaxation. You’ve grilled meat, worn flip-flops and weeded the flower beds. Yes, everything is going great…until you make a grave mistake.
You see, summertime is that time of year when people actually venture outside – you know, into that green carpet-looking stuff around your house. And, inevitably, one day you’ll be out in your green stuff and your neighbor will also be out in his/her green stuff and you’ll make eye contact. Now, the sensible thing to do would be to close your eyes, run inside, pull all the shades and pretend you’re not home. But you’re not a sensible sort of person, so you acknowledge the guy who lives 10 feet from you and ease your way into a conversation.
You know the kind of conversation I’m talking about: “Hey.” “Hey.” “Hot out!” “Yeah.” If you’re lucky, the interaction doesn’t stray far beyond the known facts of temperature and season, but for those less fortunate, you might find yourself with a “talker” on your hands. The problem with the talker is that they tend to draw stuff out of you that you would never share voluntarily. You find yourself talking about your kids, your spouse, your 3rd job out of high school. And then, out of sheer desperation (perhaps to make them go away or to find some excuse for jumping in your car and speeding off) you mention “your church.”
Your church. Not “a church” or “the church down the street,” but your church – a phrase that indicates that you go there on a regular basis. You’ve let the cat out of the bag. This person who, despite your geographical nearness, knows almost nothing about you suddenly knows that you go to church! Now, everything has changed. Suddenly, you think back to that nasty letter you wrote to the home owner’s association about your property line. You think about the trash that sticks out of your trash can and what it says about the activities of your weekend. You think about some of the things you’ve yelled out the back door to get your dog stop eating his own poop.
Yes, all of those somewhat trivial matters come flooding into your brain now that you have identified yourself as one of “those church people.” So, what are you to do? You’ve told your neighbor you go to church…now what?
Well, for those of us who believe that you don’t have to be perfect in order for God to love you, the answer is simple. You be yourself. You see, though we need to hold ourselves to a high moral standard, when we lose the artificial expectations of what “church people” are supposed to be, we allow ourselves considerable freedom to be what followers of Jesus are supposed to be. Suddenly, we can open up our lives in ways that we may not have ever done before. Our love of people and our authenticity begin to shine through. In short, we become “real.”
In doing so, we find that our neighbor has an annoying, poop-eating dog, too. We also find out that he has an affinity for craft beers, can’t stand the home owners association and, by the way, always thought church was full of goodie-goodie, finger waggers. “Nah, if my church will take me, they’ll take anybody,” you find yourself saying, followed by nervous laughter. And maybe the conversation ends there. Maybe you never talk to that neighbor again, or maybe you become lifelong friends. Whatever the case, you’ve told him you go to church and he’s watching you – not for what you’re doing wrong (the other “believers” on your street will take care of that) but for what you’re doing that makes you and your family like him and his family.
He may even say to you one day, “You seem like a pretty normal guy, but you go to church, right?” Or, even better, “I don’t know too many church people like you.” Great! That is, if you’re here to rewrite the landscape of what it means to follow Jesus. You see, we’ve got centuries of erasing to do before we can get anywhere close to restoring the vision of Jesus for the Church. And so, if my neighbor thinks I seem different from his perception of other church people, we’re moving in the right direction. And, if I’m enough like him that he could see himself checking out my church one day, even better.
Opportunities for service are around every turn, but so often, we fail to simply open our eyes and see them. Today, as the incredible people of Trinity Vineyard Church (OK, I’m biased, but I LOVE these folks!) threw a party for the residents of a local community, one such opportunity presented itself.
We were about an hour into our party, complete with carnival games, great food, pumping music and lots of laughter. The place was jumping and the kids were having a blast. Then, around the corner, I noticed some people who weren’t enjoying the festivities. Instead, they were engaged in the dreaded task of moving furniture into an apartment. Having moved somewhere around 15 times in my adult life, I know that this probably wasn’t their best day.
As I walked up to the truck, I could see that they were just beginning to unload and already looked tired. Since there were only three of them (and one had an injured hand) they had a long afternoon of work ahead of them. That’s where open eyes come in handy. I asked a simple question, “Do you guys want a hand?” When they said yes, I ran off and grabbed some other guys to help.
10 minutes later, we had the truck unloaded. 5 minutes after that, our new friends were over at our party grabbing food and drinks with big smiles on their faces. A simple gesture, a helping hand and some nourishment. I’m sure it made their day better, and it was pretty rewarding for us as well!
Remember, those opportunities are right in front of you. Just keep your eyes open!
Ever have one of those nights when your brain refuses to shut down? (Now that I’ve got that old Soul Asylum song, “Runaway Train” stuck in my head, my night may have just gotten even longer.) I have them often. My runaway brain nights are typically A.) when I am thinking about the past, B.) when I am dreaming about the future, or C.) when a creative writing or songwriting bug hits and I can’t shake it. Tonight, it’s kind of all three.
As I sit here about to embark on some new adventures in my life, I can’t help but think through all of the details and all of the possibilities that come with each new thing. What will come of this initial trip to Kenya? How is the first course of my new college career going to go? How in the world are we ever going to pay for this new adoption? What about Lucy’s adoption? (I must admit, there is still a lot of anxiety in that one and there will be until the day it’s finalized.)
And yet, even as I look forward, I’m also looking back. At the encouragement of a friend, I am writing out the complete story of how Melody and I got to where we are now. I will be posting it in a series of blog posts on our new adoption blog. And, what reflection I’ve done up to this point (I’m up to 2001) has brought back a flood of incredible memories and set my mind to wondering about some of the people we encountered along the way.
All of this, the looking forward and looking back (and now I have a Paul Abdul song in my head…great) has spawned a little creative monster in me. He creeps up now and again and REALLY doesn’t want me to sleep! But sleep I must, because I have a 14 month old who will wake up early tomorrow whether I want to sleep or not. So, I’m hoping that a little bit of writing here will calm that little monster down. Here goes:
Journeys longed for; adventures sought
Joy experienced, but pain brought forth
Forged by skilled hands, I stand alone
Unique among creation, just like everyone else
My story, not so unusual as to be remembered
Not so drab as to be left untold
Seemingly enjoyed by my Father
As he reminds me of its arc
Yet, once again, my particulars,
Not singularly spectacular,
Amass in strange ways
Which seem, somehow, to matter
Matter, at the very least
At most, perhaps, to shape
The course of another’s destiny
A story not my own
Would that one day a great he or she
Would put pen to paper and write
Not of my life or deed
But of that which by some divine plan
I have imparted