Monday, April 22, 2013

Finance Is for Cowards

I'm sitting here in the Tanner Building (the building which houses the business school here at BYU) polishing and revising a couple of essays that I wrote for my creative writing class. I'm sitting on a couch just outside of a classroom, typing away on my laptop. Every few minutes a different group of dressed-in-their-Sunday-best business students meets up on the couches around me, goes over the final presentation that they're about to give, and, when called, enter the classroom to present what I've gathered is their semester project for a supply chain business class.

It would seem that this is a senior course of sorts, because their conversations before entering the classroom, when not guided by the particulars of their presentations, invariably turn to the fact that most of them are graduating this week, and how excited they are to finally get out of school so that they can go out and make real money in the real world. You might think I'm exaggerating, but I've literally heard at least 6 different people say some variation of that phrase, all of them emphasizing the money they're going to be making. Mostly I'm envisioning this as their future:

They are a very self-assured, confident, and well-coiffed bunch.

One of these groups (the most recent one to enter the classroom to present their project) has apparently done some work with the Blue Line Deli here in the Tanner Building, and they have brought an employee of the Blue Line to testify as to the positive effects of the project. As they were waiting to go into the classroom, one of the students, looking rather like he'd taken Joseph Gordon-Levitt as his fashion icon of choice (i.e. he looked pretty sharp), was particularly effusive in his happiness that school was almost over and that he was going to go make good money with his finance degree. "Four days," he kept saying, "four days and I'll graduate and be done with school."

After talking about the job he had landed and other glorious aspects of the post-college future, the conversation turned, and the finance major asked the Blue Line employee (also a student, and conspicuously dressed in jeans, sneakers and a polo) what he was studying.

"I'm an animation major."

The finance major paused before responding.

This whole time I had been staring at fixedly at my computer, though I was paying much more attention to the conversation than I was my essay. As the conversation lulled briefly, waiting for some kind of response about the Blue Line worker's animation major, I glanced up at the finance major. As he began to speak, a hint of wistful regret washed over his face as he said, "That's such a cool major. I wish I'd had the guts to study something like that."

The other business students nodded in agreement. My guess is they were probably agreeing more with the sentiment that animation is cool and not the part about not having any guts, but who knows.

Unfortunately, before the conversation could really gain any traction exploring this new confession/admission/revelation of character, the group was called away to give their presentation. And now they've left me wondering about questions of motivation, happiness, and courage in choosing a career path.

They also left me wondering if that half-eaten bag of pretzels they left on the couch is fair game.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Play Ball

"It is played everywhere: in parks and playgrounds, prison yards, in back alleys and farmers’ fields; by small boys and old men, raw amateurs and millionaire professionals. It is a leisurely game that demands blinding speed; the only game in which the defense has the ball. It follows the seasons, beginning each year with the fond expectancy of springtime and ending with the hard facts of autumn.

Americans have played baseball for more than 200 years; while they conquered a continent, warred with each other and with enemies abroad, struggled over labor and civil rights, and with the meaning of freedom.

At its heart lie mythic contradictions: a pastoral game born in crowded cities, an exhilarating democratic sport that tolerates cheating, and has excluded as many as it has included. A profoundly conservative game that often manages to be years ahead of its time. It is an American Odyssey that links sons and daughters to fathers and grandfathers, and it reflects a host of age-old American tensions; between workers and owners, scandal and reform, the individual and the collective.

It is a haunted game in which every player is measured with the ghosts of those who have gone before. Most of all it is about time and timelessness, speed and grace, failure and loss, imperishable hope, and coming home."

--Geoffrey C. Ward, from Ken Burns' Baseball