Friday, February 20, 2009

Identity Shift

Right then, well ... this might offend some of you. Say, if you're at all defensive about the U.S. reputation abroad - or if you think the French still haven't thanked you enough for our grandparents' sacrifices ... but so be it. This is my little soapbox.

I've spent the last several years operating in global teams. Of course, I was based in the U.S. for most of those years. But now I'm based over here and my job is European Leader of blah blah blah. So I often find myself representing Europe in a team that includes, and is often led by, Americans. And I'll tell you what (read that in a Hank Hill voice) ... it's been eye-opening and educational.

There is definitely a "vibe" that comes from U.S. colleagues -- kind of a 1-sided sort of a thing. And this might very well have been true of me when I was the U.S. based team leader, but it's kind of an assumption that because a person is an American, he/she has the best knowledge and insight. And all non-Americans on the call have the burden of proof to show otherwise. And it often takes on a certain belligerence from the U.S. side. Of course, there's nothing wrong with a challenge or tough questions. But shutting down free 2-way communication is problematic.

I asked around a little among European colleagues and I think it's a generally understood phenomenon. Anywho, to quote my favorite moralists from Southpark: "I think I learned something today ..."

Friday, February 6, 2009

So Basic

So basic ... make up 40 straightforward questions and send a bunch film crews around the world to tape ordinary people answering them. Brilliant.

That's basically the premise of the exposition I saw at Le Grande Palais this evening: 6 millliards d'Autres (6 billion others) by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. They set up dozens of flatscreens in the pavilion, segmented into themes like Fears, Childhood Memories, Love Stories, War, etc. and play back peoples' answers to the 40 questions. "What is your first memory?" "Do you believe in God?" "Do you have enemies? Why?"

It's stretching on so many levels. These are non-celebrities from all over: Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, New Guinea, Rwanda, UK, US, etc. They aren't crisp, polished, or brief. But they're honest and compelling.

I don't know if it's a travelling expo. But if it comes to your town ... go, watch, and listen. And be patient.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Next Day

I got to La Défense this morning just in time to watch the sun rise over the Arc de Triomphe (the French know a thing or two about urban lines of sight). It was an important pause in an otherwise busy day.

A pause was an important start to today because yesterday was hard. Most CBIP readers will know that our friend, David Kaplowitz, died yesterday. We knew it was coming. But it was hard news and it totally kicked my ass yesterday. To the point where I had to excuse myself from a conversation because I couldn't talk.

David and I hadn't spoken in over a year. And before that, we hadn't spoken in several years. But those two silences had completely different causes. He and I were close friends back in the late 80's and early 90's - coleading a worship band. We had a falling out over a church decision. I sided with the church over him. In fact, I took on the role of church spokesman to give him the bad news.

Over time I realized that I was wrong. I prioritized an institution over a friendship. Fortunately, David forgave me when we saw each other last year. But then there was distance and an international move and a grandbaby and ... we didn't speak again.

And so, I feel profound loss.

Goodbye David.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

Yeah, that was quite a little quiet period, eh?

Well let's see ... there was a crazy "little" work thing that consumed all of my waking and many of my sleeping hours. But I delivered it last week in London and now all is well in the land. Travers and Jean were here for a few days and then another few days -- and that was cool.

So today was penciled in on the calendar as the day for returning to life as usual in Paris. Then, I stepped out the street door this morning and into 3 inches of snow. Totally unexpected. I snapped this shot when I came back upstairs for my umbrella:

Some of you have sat in that very chair and so you will recognize it as the best seat in the house here at Chez Burnett. When you sit there, you face West and look down Boulevard du Montparnasse directly at La Tour Eiffel. It doesn't suck. Anyway, here is a picture of it ... um, you know ... covered in snow.

Moving on ... I took this one yesterday before the snow started falling. It's one of the fountains at La Place de la Concorde. This spot sits in between Les Jardins des Tuileries and Avenue des Champs-Elysées ... very central. Just a few short days ago there were either 1M or 2.5M protestors here (depending on whose statistics you believe). But I just thought the light was cool there yesterday: