Quotes from Mad Men (Season Five)

S5/E01 (26:49): “‘Stable’ is that step backwards between successful and failing.” (Pete Campbell)

S5/E01 (40:38): “As a wise man once said: the only thing worse than not getting what you want is someone else getting it.” (Roger Sterling)

S5/E03 (16:48): “Listen, my stuff is good. You can see advertising ain’t my day job. Look, you’re a fair woman. I insulted you because I’m honest, and I apologized because I’m brave. I didn’t pick this profession; it picked me. I didn’t have any control over it. Turns out it’s the only thing I can do.” (Michael Ginsberg)

S5/E03 (21:01): “I had drinks with Mohawk. I sat down with two of them and I swear, by the end there were three.” (Roger Sterling)

S5/E05 (21:55): “No one grows up wanting to be in advertising.” (Don Draper)

S5/E05 (24:14): “I’m gonna close my eyes, and when I open them I wanna see skyscrapers.” (Don Draper)

S5/E05 (26:21): “You wouldn’t wanna hit a golf ball off the tee when you can hit it from the green.” (Roger Sterling)

S5/E05 (43:51): “There were phrases of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony that still made Coe cry. He always thought it had to do with the circumstances of the composition itself. He imagined Beethoven, deaf and soul sick, his heart broken, scribbling furiously while death stood in the doorway, clipping his nails. Still, Coe thought, it might have been living in the country that was making him cry. It was killing him with his silence and loneliness, making everything ordinary too beautiful to bear.” (Ken Cosgrove)

S5/E06 (05:21): “[...] your words are always ‘I don’t like it’. And I think you’re right: we don’t understand you. Because you do like it. I think you just like fighting. [...] Do you know how often people come in here and look at work and feel something? Almost never. You have to run with this. It’s young, and it’s beautiful. And no one else is gonna figure out how to say that about beans.”

S5/E06 (16:33): “Even if the truth is what you would call ‘relative’, good and bad are not relative. Your mistake is that you’re assuming that because something is true that it’s good.” (Professor)

S5/E06 (23:46): “How can a few numbers contain all of time?” (Jane Sterling)

S5/E07 (04:10): “I’ve been wondering lately if she was just an excuse to blow up my life.” (Roger Sterling)

S5/E07 (15:45): “Men don’t take the time to end things. They ignore you. Until you insist on a declaration of hate.” (Joan Harris)

S5/E08 (28:58): “Come on, reality got her! You work your ass off for months, bite your nails, for what? Heinz Baked Beans.” (Stan Rizzo)

S5/E08 (30:10): “Why do they give you a glimmer of hope in the midst of rejection? A little thread to hang on to, a misplaced word, a suggestion of the future…- Under a court of law, it would look like an accident, but it’s not.” (Pete Campbell)

S5/E09 (17:01): “Well Michael, when a man hates another man very very much, sometimes he wants to know that something is his. Even if in the end, he has to give it up.” (Roger Sterling)

S5/E10 (30:17): “You know what this woman said to me once? ‘I like being bad, and going home being good.'” (Don Draper)

S5/E10 (43:51): “Prepare to take a great leap forward. Prepare to swim the English Channel and then drown in champagne.” (Don Draper)

S5/E11 (29:08): “You must get tired of hearing what a beautiful thing this car is. But I’ve met a lot of beautiful women in my life and, despite their protestations, they never tire of hearing it. But when deep beauty is encountered, it arouses deep emotions. Because it creates a desire. Because it is, by nature, unattainable. [...] We’re taught to think that function is all that matters. But we have a natural longing for this other thing. [...] When I was driving the E-Type, I passed a ten year old boy in the back window of a station wagon and I watched his eyes follow. He’d just seen something he would want for the rest of his life. [...] He’d just seen that unattainable object speed by, just out of reach. Because they do that, don’t they? Beautiful things? [...] Then I thought about a men with sun beams reading Playboy or Esquire, and flipping passed the flesh, to the shiny painted curves of this car. There’s no effort to stop his eye. The difference is: he can have a Jaguar. [...] Oh, this car. This thing, gentlemen. What price would we pay? What behavior would we forgive? If they weren’t pretty? If they weren’t temperamental? If they weren’t beyond our reach and a little out of our control? Would we love them like we do? Jaguar. At last. Something beautiful you can truly own.” (Don Draper)

S5/E12 (33:23): “Are you? You’re happy with 50%? You’re on top and you don’t have enough. You’re happy, because you’re successful – for now. But what is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness. I won’t settle for 50% of anything, I want a hundred percent. You’re happy with your agency? You’re not happy with anything. You don’t want most of it, you want all of it. And I won’t stop until you get all of it.” (Don Draper)

S5/E13 (34:55): “When it went away, he was heart-broken. And then he realized everything he already had was not right either. And that was why it had happened at all. And that his life with his family was some temporary bandage on a permanent wound.” (Pete Campbell)

Gone Till November…

Wyclef Jean – Gone Till November – Acoustic from barrelhousesf on Vimeo.

Everybody knows that all the good things come to an end at some point – and so does my time here in New York. By the end of October, I will be moving back across the pond to my hometown Zurich. With me: experiences gained during eight of the most intense and beneficial months of my life. Kicking it off as a spontaneous adventure in the wake of a surprising Green Card Lottery win, I have achieved more than I could have ever expected within the craziness of this city. The challenges I had to face, the opportunities I got offered, and all the new friendships I could establish are invaluable.

For the past two months, I have been working for a company that will forever make me feel obliged: Morpheus Media, a world-class digital marketing agency in the heart of New York. They taught me more than I thought was possible about the professional field I have always been interested in the most. Letting this opportunity go feels like a big loss from a personal perspective. If it was only for the job, I would have stayed without batting an eyelash. However, after mastering all the main hurdles related to making a living in the Big Apple, things became easy, and everything that let the city appear magical in the beginning started to become part of the daily routine little by little. New York City is still mind-blowing and can never be compared to any other city around the globe. I will always consider it a home in a way. However, I was aware from the very beginning that sooner or later the moment will come when I make the tough but obvious decision to return to the familiar surroundings. The influencing factors are certainly not only related to my elaborations from earlier this year, such as quality of life, but have also to do with being around old friends and family back home.

In this thorough trade-off between growing within the most exciting industry in the world (digital marketing in NYC is freaking dazzling!) and spending the future in an environment that feels more real, it was important for me to know that everybody I have recently dealt with understands and respects my decision. Integrity is the key to success and happiness. If anybody who is about to undertake a similar step asked me to put in my two cents, I would come up with a reminder to always act sincerely and respectfully in dealing with everybody around. With regard to my professional growth I consider it less important to have learnt so many technical details about Web Analytics and SEO. What matters more is that the people valued my contribution. Having so many co-workers coming out to the bar to “send me off in style” was amazing. These relationships are more valuable than any bullet point in the resume.

Before I got here, I had no idea whether I would stay for a couple of weeks or even over a year. It was a leap in the dark and nothing was defined. The resulting time period will stretch over 8 months in the end. It feels ideal, and in hindsight I couldn’t have outlined this experience any better. After one more month of enjoying the city in its entirety, it will be extremely tough to leave. In November I will find myself back where everything feels like home again – with a major difference to last year: I will have a deeper connection with the Big Apple and its people than ever before.

iNtEgRiTy!

“The earth turns. But we don’t feel it move. And one night you look up. One spark. And the sky is on fire”.

While sitting here in my room and reflecting on all the happenings of the past few months, this quote from an awesome Scorsese movie crossed my mind. The Armenian vodka within my bloodstream (my roommate got back from his 2-month vacation in his home country – having welcome drinks: obvious) might have something to do with it, but it does not change the absurdity of the fact that time has been passing by with the speed of light. It has been almost seven weeks since I contributed to this website. In two and a half days, it will be exactly half a year since I got to New York City. It has been one year since my graduation. (OMG, and it has been already one week since last week!) All these facts are hard to believe from a personal perspective. Taking a step back at this point to realize what has been going on is mind-blowing.

One month ago, I started to work for a digital marketing agency in the heart of Manhattan. It is the final chapter of a long series of efforts to get into the very specific field I have always been the most interested in as a recent graduate: Web Analytics. I could not have found a better opportunity to learn everything about it. Getting to this point was tough, not least because it was linked to some difficult personal decisions and agonizing waits for decisions from other instances. In retrospect, I often tend to believe that I made a couple of great decisions that were accompanied by a good deal of luck. This theory is misleading though. After some thorough thinking, I came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as right and wrong decisions. And the influence of luck can be reduced to a certain degree (taking the short-term view out of consideration).

In my opinion, there is only one single construct that leads to perceived success and personal satisfaction at the end of the day: integrity. Being honest and sincere with all the people I have dealt with so far had the greatest impact on my personal experiences and professional achievements, which are just a result that cannot be influenced directly. This applies to all areas of life. Integrity makes the assessment of every decision worthless, because that decision is based on a genuine ground. Having the ability to look into everybody’s eyes and having things straightened out with oneself is the basic element of long-term success and happiness. This is my opinion and I wish more people would follow a similar philosophy. Luck is confined to short-term success and circumstances that cannot be influenced (i.e. health or the Mega Millions jackpot). Integrity is the answer to the entire rest. I feel that this is the most valuable advice I will ever be able to share.

Swiss University to NY’s AdLand: a Personal Recap of the Transition

This article was originally published at thisisdiversity.com

Becoming a part of New York’s ad game is certainly not an occurrence that could have ever been considered viable or even desirable from a personal perspective. Not only because of the US-specific administrative and procedural issues that every potential immigrant has to face in this country, but especially due to some usual assumptions and stereotypes regarding the New York advertising industry itself — quirky young professionals, obnoxious supervisors, and allegedly inspiring colorful expressions in the office environment. Another set of preconceptions, albeit significantly less daunting, stemmed from such TV shows as Mad Men, depicting the ‘old school’ realities when marketing executives focused on boozy lunches, classy dinners, attractive secretaries, and unlimited expense accounts.

I was born and raised in Switzerland, the very opposite of New York with regards to the pace of life and everyday dynamics. Working and living in the Big Apple was, at most, an exciting topic to fantasize about. As almost always in life, things turned out differently than expected. I hit the jackpot in the Green Card Lottery and found myself, just a few months later, in the Business Development department of an established multicultural marketing agency in Lower Manhattan. I got here as a recent graduate with some work experience that I acquired within the marketing department of a large, international consulting firm in Zurich. The company is known for its work-hard-play-hard culture. The successful accomplishment of their challenging internship gave me a certain feeling that nothing in my future career can surprise me anymore.

The actual naiveté of this attitude became obvious on my first day of work in New York City. Before I stepped in the office, I remembered the first week at my previous company back in Switzerland. It was characterized by individual meetings with the company’s directors who gave me detailed presentations about their scope of responsibilities and main challenges. During the first couple of days, I did not provide any operative work, but learned about the company’s rules & regulations, marketing guidelines, and organizational charts. My start in the American business was slightly different. This shall be understood as a non-judgmental understatement.

Reality hit me in the face immediately. The introduction consisted of a non-disclosure signature, a 10-minute walk-through, a 5-minute setup of my cubicle (that thing I had only known from Hollywood blockbusters before), and a five-second photo-session for my access card. My first thought included the impression of how efficiently advertising executives must be doing their job here. Subsequently, I was briefed on my scope of work and given the signal for getting started with my assignments. The phase of “becoming acquainted with the company” came to a surprisingly abrupt ending.

In the first three working days, I assessed the new situation with one positive and one negative attribute: fast-paced and impersonal. A few friends of mine who are familiar with both the European and the U.S. business environment confirmed that this might be an accurate observation. At that moment, I dropped every doubt that New York is exactly what I had described before I got here: one of the world’s most profitable marketing and media hubs, influencing business practices and management structures all around the globe. The knowledge and experience of the people I have worked with and their determination and rationality when it comes to making decisions is more than impressive. Even today, I consider this type of drive the ultimate cultural difference from what I had been exposed before.

On an interpersonal level, I made two general observations. Personal biographies do not play any significant role among colleagues. It is not about who you are and where you come from, but what you are capable of and what you are interested in. On the other hand, small talk, something that Swiss people have always been extremely bad at, is much more omnipresent. Personally, I have always admired people with the gift of being able to respond to every single topic somebody comes up with, regardless of the sense of such a discussion. These differences may base on the availability of corresponding fields of application. An example: if a meeting is set for 2pm, attendees in Switzerland would appear between 1:59 and 2:01 and the official part would begin immediately. There is no small-talk-window. In the U.S., this window is given naturally, because the team would assemble in a more random way, say between 1:55 and 2:05. And yet, interestingly enough, they would usually conduct more effective meetings nevertheless. The direct and straightforward communication style is a major strength of the American business culture. Many leaders and executives from all over the world will have to apply it more extensively in order to improve their overall efficiency.

As explained in the beginning of this article, I came to “the city that never sleeps” with mixed feelings, justified and unjustified fears, positive and negative expectations. Global Advertising Strategies is my first employer in this new world, and it provided me with an insight that I will take along with me no matter what direction my professional career might take in the future: nothing depends on expectations. It is all about the people one connects with and the quality of relationships one is lucky enough to establish. It does not matter how different two work cultures are if the involved individuals share a common understanding of the goals that are being pursued within the organization. Once an effort is made to understand the people, it becomes incomparably easier to overcome cultural differences. Chance brought it about that this philosophy is also one of the pillars of Global’s business model and a distinctive part of their expertise. Alongside such an expert, it is no wonder that I perceived my transition to the craziness of NYC’s ad game as much smoother than originally expected.

Thoughts during the EURO and Happy Birthday to Croatia

One of my friends was more than right when she advised me to keep enjoying the city in the first few weeks of my arrival: “Because once you start working, you won’t have much time.” How true. It feels as somebody has been shortening the hours within a day since I decided to contribute to the gross domestic product of the United States of America. The last time I contributed to this “blog” was over a month ago. And this is not attributable to laziness. New York City is a demanding host.

The past weeks have been characterized to a large extent by the Euro 2012. It did not take me by surprise that Americans, and even many foreigners who have been living in the States for several years, do not care about soccer in general, not to mention the European Championships in particular. There has never been a serious chance to outstrip traditional U.S. media sports, such as baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. Interestingly enough, all these sports offer significantly better advertising environments by nature, which big media corporations have not been shy of leveraging. 45 minutes of uninterrupted live content must be a major inconvenience from their perspective. Anyway, this is a separate topic. There have been plenty options to watch the games.

Major international soccer tournaments (i.e. World Cup and Euro) have been an essential part of my life ever since Sweden 1992. At the age of five and a half, I followed the event that ended in one of the biggest surprises in sports history. Former Yugoslavia was disqualified with good reason and got replaced by Denmark, the underdog that finally won the title. Ever since, soccer has been among the very top personal highlights within all even-numbered years – and will continue to be so.

For Croatian people, the national team has always been more than just an assembly of players running after a ball in order to win games. It played a crucial role in the establishment of Croatia’s independence and served as a symbol of unity between Croatian people all over the world. Today, the country is celebrating its 21st birthday. Those who are a few years older than me remember the early nineties even more clearly and know everything about the dramatic circumstances under which the independence was proclaimed. It took guts to do it. There were hardly any military resources around, while the powerful aggressor had everything. Croatia had to go through the most miserable years since its people arrived to the territory back in the seventh century. But in the end, there was justice and the war was won. Croatia’s first president, Dr. Franjo Tudjman, once said that soccer shapes the national identity just as much as wars do. It might be a radical comparison, but I am sure that most Croatian natives can comprehend it to some extent.

I have always found it difficult to understand those who are completely indifferent to their country of origin. In discussions with people from all over the world it becomes clear that many young men and women see themselves as cosmopolitans with no specific emotional bond with their homeland. In such situations, I am never sure whether to empathize with them or to feel sorry. Maybe it all depends on current affairs during specific periods within one’s personal development. Maybe it depends on other factors as well. However, it is certainly not a personal decision, but a natural sentiment. Patriotism can neither be learned nor given up.

The Euro 2012 has been tough to watch from this point of view. Even objectively, Croatia’s elimination in the group stage was not deserved. With a big heart and a strong desire they proved that there should have been a place for them in the quarter-finals (not to mention the disastrous referee failures throughout the match against oh-so-almighty Spain). They had all the chances, but in the end, they did not take any of them. And still, there is good reason to be proud of the team, because they demonstrated real unity, iron will, and an excellent playing ability.

This weekend, four countries celebrated their advancement to the semi-finals: Portugal, Germany, Spain, and Italy. Congratulations! Croatia missed their brilliant opportunities to make it there, but instead, the nation is celebrating its independence today. It is a day when we proudly think of the heroes who enabled the Croatian people freedom and democracy. Sretan rodjendan, zivjela vjecno!

Generation Maybe and the Value of Passion

It has been almost three months since I took the daunting leap in the dark and decided to gain some work experience in the Big Apple. Things fell into places sooner than I would have expected, and after a few weeks of thoroughly evaluating companies and systematically applying for appropriate positions, I finally managed to overcome the most critical obstacle: getting a chance to become active within an industry I am highly interested in. In the meantime, I have been interning with an ad agency in Lower Manhattan for one month. Opportunities like this should not be taken for granted. I am well informed about the U.S. labor market conditions, especially for recent graduates. We are living in times when jobs do not grow on trees, even if classified as internships. A New Yorker friend of mine has always had encouraging words left for me, but she recently also pointed out that looking for a job in NYC, especially now (and especially for someone coming from abroad), is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

A report on the CBS Evening News confirmed this impression to some extent and aired the story of two young forward thinkers from California who created their own jobs. Originally, they planned on conventional careers in finance, but as they couldn’t find work once graduated from university, they tried their luck as urban mushroom farmers. Today, people call them the mushroom kings of California, as they became successful entrepreneurs making money with growing mushrooms in used coffee grounds. The success story began two years ago as an experiment in a frat house kitchen, without any substantial knowledge about mushrooms or agriculture. This year, they projected to do five million in sales. One of the guys’ comment: “It gets me up every single morning and keeps me here entertained, excited and pumped to make this a reality.”

Not the simple fact that they run a business on their own is particularly worth mentioning, but the fact that such people inspire a whole generation to wake up, take a different course, and, as CBS put it, find meaning in an age of austerity. Only a few weeks ago, Welt Online, the internet version of Germany’s renowned daily newspaper Die Welt, published a comment on today’s educated 20-to-30-year-olds: Generation Maybe, a generation with neither plans nor courage – socialized in the digital age and paralyzed by the endless variety of possibilities. I am part of this generation and I was able to relate to the presented issue instantly. Many of us have forgotten how to make decisions and have developed a strong aversion for change and progress. Among all the graduates with valuable university diplomas and a broad knowledge of languages, only very few are determined to pursue concrete goals and take corresponding steps. I comprehend this reproach very well, because I also struggle sometimes when confronted with similar questions, for instance, at job interviews. The author managed to put this circumstance in very precise words: “We are insecure. And we are afraid. We mark time and force ourselves upon a self-imposed immaturity.”

But what are we really insecure about and afraid of? I guess pursuing the stuff we really dig. Call it passion. I have always considered it a critical factor for success and satisfaction. Filmmaker Dan Perez, who indirectly initiated my decision to finally set up this website, features a guy called Kirk Nugent in his award-winning documentary film “P.A.T.H.”. Kirk is a motivational speaker who wrote a piece called “Pursue Your Passion”. It is poetry with a lot of pathos. To be honest, I was born with a way too rational mindset to succeed in identifying myself in such work completely (I know people who can though). Nevertheless, I appreciate the artistic value and I agree with the general idea – albeit with reservations. This is how he puts it [it is worth watching the video version though]:

I came to shine light into the dark.
Alike a dog against a hydrant,
I am leaving my mark.
We were not sent here to investigate someone else’s idea for what we should be.
The complacent life does not stimulate me.
So forgive me for feel no compassion for those poor souls who live to follow the fashion.
Because if you want to live a life that’s neither limited nor ration,
Then, by God, you must pursue your passion.
They will tell you that it can’t be done,
as though you were delivered onto this world for your song to go unsung.
Let the world scream that unattainable theme,
but for you, there is no such thing as an impossible dream.
Pursue your passion.
Steven Spielberg was kicked out of the University of Southern California Film School,
because his grades weren’t good enough.
Pursue your passion.
Michael Jordan was benched on his basketball team in high school.
Pursue your passion.
Larry Bird had problems making his team in high school,
and was benched his entire freshman year of college.
Now here is proof that greatness is born out of zero doubt.
In 1962, Decca Records dismissed four young musicians,
told them that groups with guitars were on their way out.
They left without a contract, but refused to walk on pins and needles.
Months later they released their first album and called themselves “The Beatles”.
Pursue your passion.
Colonel Sanders was 65 when he fried his first piece of chicken,
made millions after he told you it was finger-lickin.
Pursue your passion.
Lauryn Hill was booed at the Apollo.
Pursue your passion.
Luther Vandross was booed off the Apollo,
not once, not twice, but three times.
You gotta keep coming back, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Forget the limitations set by your fellow men,
because when you pursue your passion, provisions will be provided for your plans.
Let others lead small lives, but not you.
Let others sit around and settle for the crums, but not you.
Let other be volunteered victims, but not you.
Let others use their race, their gender, their sexual orientation as a crutch, but not you.
Let others be concerned about what the neighbors might think, say, or do,
but this is not for you.
This is about a lifestyle that uniquely fits.
Life is God’s gift to you, style is what you make out of it.
So whatever you are passionate about, the perfection of that craft can be learned.
So with obstacles of this world be not concerned,
because when you set yourself on fire, the world would come watch you burn.
So what are you gonna do?
What are you gonna do, now that you know that impossible is a word found in a dictionary, folks.
What are you gonna do with the rest of your life?
What two things do you wanna be said about you when you die?
Personally, I never listen to what the pessimists are telling me,
because I know that the richest place on the planet is the cemetery.
There you’ll find books that were never written,
loved ones that were never forgiven,
ideas that were smitten and dreams that were forbidden,
soil that was never tilled,
cathedrals that were never build,
restaurants that were never opened,
chefs who never knew that they were smoking,
paintings that were neither drawn nor hung,
songs, neither composed nor sung,
souls that left without doing what they really wanted to do.
So don’t you dare die with your greatness buried within you.
So today, declare that you refuse to lose,
because you can either live your dreams or you can live your excuse.
So even when I’m old and grey, I will still be commanding the stage,
my words will still be smoking off the page.
So understand, this ain’t no phase,
because every day I learn a new lesson.
And my best poem is yet to be written.
I’m not leaving till what I came to give has been given.
I’ll be 99 on the mic, still be ripping, still be spitting, still be giving, still be driven.
So let my tombstone read “Here lies Kirk and he died living”.
Pursue your passion.

I agree very much with Kirk’s underlying idea that a strong persistence in the pursuit of a personal passion can lead to results that one would had never expected before, but I disagree with his radical interpretation and his consistency with regards to people’s aspirations. I admire his positivity and I agree with a significant share of the content he comes up with, but I see crucial restrictions when it comes to three particular aspects: the absence of talent as a factor, the nothing-is-impossible-mentality, and the ignorance of pessimism.

People should not only consider what they are passionate about, but also what they are talented at. Not everybody can learn the perfection of the craft he is highly enthusiastic about. I find it very sad observing people who desperately try to pursue their passion, especially in the arts and entertainment business, although it is obvious that they have not gotten the relevant gift at the very beginning. People should consider both their passion and their abilities. Every profession requires this type of sound evaluation. There is nothing more self-destructive than ignoring the obstacles of this world by marching blindly towards unrealistic goals. Understanding every single obstacle out there is the first step though. The mental delusion that nothing is impossible makes people lose energy on things that cannot pay off. Furthermore, Kirk recommends not listening to pessimists in general. I do not agree. People should listen to optimists because they can motivate them, but they should listen to pessimists in order to be prepared for critical issues. Today’s globalized world offers a lot indeed, but it certainly has not turned into a place where everything can be accomplished by trotting up with the anything-goes-mentality. It makes people stand still.

Personally, I think that a better balance between all these aspects has become invaluable in this system. In my opinion, a larger portion of rational thinking, which is related to hard work by the way, is key within this mix. In spite of all the possibilities, we will never be able to participate everywhere. This is why we have to listen to many different opinions and then learn how to make clever decisions taking account of all the pros and cons. This process can become tedious and the corresponding decisions might be hard to make, but I am convinced that they lead to more beneficial experiences in the long run.

Music from Mad Men’s Closing Credits

Undoubtedly, the soundtrack is one of the best parts of the Mad Men series. Some of the period classics became absolutely essential ingredients of the show. Everybody who has a heart for the fifties’ and sixties’ Jazz, Swing, Soul and Country genres is certainly going to enjoy these songs, which are – unfortunately – too rarely heard nowadays:

S1/E01: Vic Damone – On The Street Where You Live
S1/E02: The Cardigans – Great Divide
S1/E03: Bobby Vinton – P.S. I Love You
S1/E04: Ella Fitzgerald & The Buddy Bregman Orchestra – Manhattan
S1/E06: Rosemary Clooney – Botch-A-Me (2004 Digital Remaster)
S1/E08: (Unknown) – (Give Me That) Old-Time Religion
S1/E09: Bobby Helms – My Special Angel
S1/E11: Julie London – Fly Me To The Moon
S1/E13: Bob Dylan – Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright
S2/E02: George McGregor & The Bronzettes – Temptation Is Hard to Fight
S2/E03: Jack Jones – Lollipops and Roses
S2/E07: Brenda Lee – Break it to Me Gently
S2/E08: Peter, Paul & Mary – Early in the Morning
S2/E09: Marilyn Monroe – I’m Through with Love
S2/E10: The Tornadoes – Telstar
S2/E11: Johnny Mathis – What’ll I Do?
S2/E12: George Jones – Cup Of Loneliness
S3/E03: Ben Webster – Memories Of You
S3/E06: Bob Dylan – Song To Woody
S3/E07: Ernie Ford – Sixteen Tons
S3/E08: Bobby Van & Kay Coulter – There’s A Small Hotel
S3/E09: Nnenna Freelon – Prelude To A Kiss
S3/E11: Oliver! – Where Is Love?
S3/E12: Skeeter Davis – The End Of The World
S3/E13: Roy Orbison – Shahdaroba
S4/E01: The Nashville Teens – Tobacco Road
S4/E02: Teresa Brewer – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
S4/E05: Doris Day – I Enjoy Being a Girl
S4/E06: Skeeter Davis – The Ladder of Success
S4/E07: Simon & Garfunkel – Bleecker Street
S4/E10: Santo & Johnny – Do You Want To Know A Secret
S4/E11: Jim Reeves – Welcome to My World
S4/E12: Etta James – Trust In Me
S4/E13: Sonny and Cher – I Got You Babe
S5/E02: Dusty Springfield – You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
S5/E03: (Sound of Music) – Sixteen Going on Seventeen
S5/E04: The Crystals – He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)
S5/E05: Ludwig van Beethoven – Symphony No. 9 in D Minor
S5/E08: The Beatles – Tomorrow Never Knows
S5/E09: Maurice Chevalier – “Sweepin’ The Clouds Away”
S5/E10: Nellie McKay – Christmas Waltz
S5/E11: The Kinks – You Really Got Me
S5/E12: The Lovin’ Spoonful – Butchie’s Tune
S5/E13: Nancy Sinatra – You Only Live Twice

An Unforeseen Dinner for One

MTA subways tend to be packed in the morning and evening rushes, conditions a Swiss guy with some China experience lumps in with those in Shanghai and Beijing. Commuting seems to be a highly individual and personal thing here in New York, little short of a private occasion. People, albeit permanently compelled to fight for space shoulder to shoulder, seem to use this timeframe as a slack to recover from the energy killers on its both ends: work and family. The faces look tired, but relieved. It is not uncommon to find oneself in a completely crowded, but amazingly quiet subway car.

On one of those Friday evenings, riding the 7-train back home, I was standing there, tired, groggy, lost in thought, holding on to the pole. After a while, two students standing right next to me asked me something. Silence. I didn’t pay attention, so they repeated their question whether I would consider it weird if somebody offered me two packs of cupcakes, right now, just like that. They came across as if they worked on a psychology project at their institute, so I tried to give them an honest answer to this short description of a rather hypothetical situation: “Yes, that would be somewhat creepy.”

Next thing I held in my hand was a plastic bag with – guess what – packaged cupcakes. Although my new friends (reading from their faces) expected a more enthusiastic response, they apparently decided to complete their planned mission. The explanation was that they had eaten half of the stuff in the afternoon and that they were about to throw it away anyway. I overacted my confusion, had a quick chat, thanked, and decided to give the cupcakes a shot. Back home, I began with a thorough examination.

Being approached by strangers in the Big Apple is anything but unusual. It happens all the time out in the streets and public squares, which is a big difference to my home country. It was the first time though I experienced it in that unique sphere of MTA subway cars. Having the common-sense-mode on, I see such encounters as a positive thing, – especially in times that are characterized by a black eye, a hopefully-not-broken-but-certainly-sprained toe, and other minor and major personal worries. It was a night I just chilled and then passed out, but I will remember it as an evening I had a fine dinner consisting of four high-calorie cupcakes coming out of nowhere.

What people can learn from an underrated Zurich hockey team

The allegedly impossible happened a week ago: Tuesday evening, April 17th, 2012. Steve McCarthy, defender of the ZSC Lions took the decisive shot for a goal that would make his team the Swiss hockey champion two seconds before the end of the regular game time and the logical announcement of a subsequent overtime. He scored. The game was over. The Lions from Zurich were declared champions in Europe’s largest hockey arena, home of their competitors SC Bern. Why is the happening worth mentioning? Because it is one of the most fascinating and impressive stories in the history of Swiss hockey. And because it offers a simple recipe of life.
Looking back at the regular season, the Lions had been struggling hard for long periods. Not only didn’t they find any effective ways to compete against formally stronger teams, but they also indulged themselves in too many mistakes against real underdogs. Throughout the year, they collected 77 points out of 50 games, which put them at risk of not even qualifying for the playoffs, the crucial knock-out stage where several teams play for the actual championship title. Nobody would have been surprised if the Lions dropped out at that point, but they managed to qualify just barely. The playoffs began. And this is when the underdog from Zurich started to shock their opponents one by one.

After eliminating the reigning champion (Davos) in the first round and the winner of the regular season (Zug) in the second round, they had to face Bern in the finals. Experts were in agreement that the Bears from the capital city had the league’s best roster at their disposal, which became evident once the two teams started to play against each other. The first team with four victories would win the championship. Bern led with 3-1. At that point of the series, nobody would have even put one penny on the Lions. Too many factors suggested an easy win by their mighty and forceful opponent. But everything came out differently. Zurich managed to turn the tables and decide the series with a strong morale, an iron will, continuous persistence, and three consecutive victories. Such a rise, from an abortive season to the most unexpected champion in decades, wasn’t even expected by some of the most optimistic and enthusiastic Lions supporters.

Here is what Bob Hartley, the winning trainer, had to say after the already mentioned final game: “That’s the image of our season. We win it in the last two seconds. What a crazy team, but that’s who we were. They battled hard all year and they believed that we could do it. And I challenged them that we would shock the Swiss hockey world, and we did. I’m very proud of my boys. The ones who believed were in our organization and that’s where it matters. Hopefully we showed people a great lesson of life: do never quit, do always persevere. And you know what, two point some seconds left, that’s unreal.”

The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. The young team from Zurich understood the performance culture Bob Hartley has been known for in a long time. A friend of mine told me recently that some of the best things are found from tempered persistence and level-headed practicality. The Lions demonstrated this thought in an impressive way. I have never been an enthusiast for idealistic quotes and overdoses of optimism, but this example shows that Winston Churchill used to share a good amount of truth with the world:  “The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.” He can’t be too wrong about that.