One of the great things about Toastmaster is that it allows you to build a ready-made catalog of speeches for any occasion. This can be especially handy if you have a corporate event and your keynote speaker decides not to show. Keeping one of these babies in your head or even on cue cards or an iphone could make you a hero if you’re ever faced with an empty podium. The first of these that I wrote was the icebreaker. It was very well received when I gave it, and I think I might turn it into my new about page. I had to fill seven minutes, so it’s a bit long. You’ll find it under the “Read More” link. Let me know what you think!
My name is James Strocel. I have been a card-carrying Transformers fan ever since Generation 1 in the 1980’s. I say the following of my own free will. I will not be spending any money to see “Transformers 2: Revenge of The Fallen” this Summer. If I do so, I would be positively reinforcing actions that are a detriment to the world economy and my enjoyment of giant fighting robots. I would like to present the following as evidence in support of this stance.
While I did pay money to see the first transformers movie, I came away with a number of caveats. First of all, the story seemed to revolve around the human sidekicks more than it did the Transformers who I actually paid to see. Don’t get me wrong, history is full of examples where robots play prominently in a human-centred story-arc. The anime serials Gundam and Macross come to mind. However, the human story in this case surrounded Shia Lebeouf getting to first and a half base with Megan Fox. It seemed as though the writers felt that people would have trouble relating to the titular robots of Transformers, so they added all this extraneous filler to entice people who had already paid their ticket to watch a movie about robots. I was hoping that for the sequel, the good folks at Paramount would get their act together and give the Transformers the screen time they deserve. This will not be the case. The trailer at screened at the Showest film festival spent over one and a half minutes of a two and a half trailer explaining how Shia wanted to leave his transforming corvette at home so he can go off to college and be “normal”. Words cannot begin to describe what’s wrong with that statement.
The first Transformers film grossed over 700 million dollars worldwide. Anyone poke holes in my rationale by saying that Michael Bay is just giving the fans what they want. He doesn’t have to listen to me, an actual fan, because he has the numbers to tell anyone who doesn’t like his human interest stories to go to hell. If that’s the case, then I have some numbers of my own to show.
The Dow Jones has lost 50% of its value over the past year. The cascading effects of bank insolvency and freezing on lending has led to over $14 trillion dollars worth of companies being shut down. How did we get to this point? By pleasing two sets of people, prospective homebuyers unable to pay their mortgages, and investors looking for high risk and high return investments. Banks made billions by giving sub-prime mortgages to the first group and selling to the latter. People got what they wanted, but did they get what they need? Not by a long shot.
Designing our entertainment or any other product around “giving people what they want” is killing industries left and right. Pontiac finds out that people “want” extra plastic and spoilers on their cars, so they make a car like the Aztec. Papers make more money from advertising than from actual paper sales, so the pages are stuffed to foie-gras goose proportions with ads. If you run a business and are just “giving people what they want” you are abdicating your responsibility as an entrepreneur. When you try to engage all this marketing mumbo-jumbo by testing random samples with no vested interest your business, you are only fooling yourself. Entrepreneurs have a duty to make their products the best they can be, no matter what the polls say. People’s needs have remained the same for thousands of years, but what an entrepreneur does is take a small piece of the universe, be it coffee, toothpicks or even the laws of physics that allows your iPod to work and fashions it into a new frontier to satisfy those age-old needs. It’s like being in a tribe of hunter-gatherers and knowing which ridge leads to the best wild game. It would put you on the fast track to becoming chief hunter-gatherer. The very best entrepreneurs educate people. They know how to get the most benefit out of their products and they pass that knowledge on for a nominal fee.
I realize the philosophy of “giving people what they want” is not going to die over night. My absence at the theatre will be bearly noticed, and I have little hope of getting others to join me. However, we keep saying over and over that we need leadership to get us out of this crisis. We think that the leadership is going to come from our elected officials. I think that we’ll find that leadership in a decent cup of coffee, a well-made camera, or movies that don’t insult our intelligence. If we support decent leadership where we find it by our simple consumer choices, we support the very ideas and strategies that will get us out of any economic crisis.
James Strocel here. I’ve just spent the last week compiling the myriad of contact information I’ve gathered over the years. This message is to make sure all of it works. This list is a combination of my family, friends, co-workers at the various jobs I’ve had, and classmates at the various schools that I’ve attended. That being said…
Wow. Look at you all.
There are almost 300 of you in this contact list. I can’t believe I’ve had the privilege of associating with such extraordinary people. You’ve been all over the world, all six populated continents. If any of you out there has done a jaunt to Antarctica, let me know. Some of you have been to Africa to help out. A couple of you are bringing kids home from there. Some of you are at sea. Some of you have served, will serve, are serving in the Military. Some of you are scientists, trying to figure out what’s happening to this planet. Some of you are selling houses, others are protecting them through the fire department. There’s at least one of you in every branch of the media, be it print, film, music, cartoons or video games. There are mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and even a few grandparents. Some of you I haven’t always seen eye to eye with. Some of you may even be wondering why I bothered with this e-mail at all. But I guarantee you this: Each and every one of you in some small way has made me who I am. Even the people I have known only a short time. There is nothing without meaning, and so much meaning is yet to come.
Now that the obvious facts are out of the way, let’s get down to business. As you may know, I got married last month to the sweetest, most beautiful girl in the whole wide world. I want to thank again everyone who showed up. The pictures can be seen at
It may be old news for some people out there, but I’ve received some requests for them after I first posted them on the website, so I’m covering those of you who I may have missed. I have assumed the duties of managing our yearly Christmas letter. If you’re reading this message, you are going to get one in your e-mail. If you don’t want one, please let me know! Don’t just set up your spam filters and think I won’t notice! I’m also trying to set up a mailing list for my blog, so if you actually enjoy hearing me shoot my mouth off please let me know as well. The blog will also contain any important family announcements I may have. I hope all of you are enjoying the weather, wherever you are.Call me up and tell me your life story some time!
As promised, I have posted photos of our wedding and our Honeymoon to Victoria on the website. Check them out at this link or click “photos” on the website sidebar.
March 22, 2008 is the day that I, in no uncertain terms, got married to the most beautiful girl in the world. I raised my voice and spoke from the diaphragm so she would know that I was serious. I still have a hard time convincing her how beautiful she is, but then again that may be to my advantage, as she has decided to stick around with a guy like me. I was told that the ceremony was beautiful, and the reception was a blast. I’ve gotten a lot of requests for the slideshow I prepared for the reception as well as my speech, which are above and below this post respectively. More pictures will be posted as soon they get back from the photographer.
Welcome to the Happiest day of my life. It may be cliche for me to say that, but I’ve found that cliches have a basis in a very unique truth. It took me over a year to muster the courage to talk to Sara after I first saw her in my Beat Poetry class in University. I had no idea it would take me this far. Now, not only am I married to the woman of my dreams, I can celebrate with people I care about. I want to thank all the guests for taking the time to share in our special day. If we can impart just a fraction of the joy Sara and I are feeling right now, our day is just that much better.
Thanks also goes to the wedding party those of you who helped us stay organized and some of you who have come hundreds of miles just to participate.
I also want to thank Dan and Doug for keeping us entertained, as well as Auntie Colleen who baked us such a wonderful, wonderful wedding cake.
Finally I want to thank both sets of parents. My own for making sure I had a clean shirt and good manners in order to get me to this point. And to Sara’s for raising such a beautiful, intelligent and caring daughter, whom I thank God for every day I am with her. If a man’s gratitude is the measure of his blessings, then I am truly blessed today. I love you all, God bless.