“Focus on the problem, people”

After watching our elected officials, yet again, wait to the last minute to do something, I was not surprised things fell apart. That is one of the easiest predictions that could be made. I am certain they will regather and do something, but it will be a lesser result. I also learned the Biden transition team and Department of Defense are having a spitting contest over who said what about getting together on transition issues. Really, folks?

Quoting a classic line from Gene Kranz, the mission control director for NASA, who was played by Ed Harris in the movie “Apollo 13,” “focus on the problem, people.” Apollo 13 was a successful failure. The NASA team had to pull out all the stops to get their three astronauts home from an aborted mission due to an explosion when the reserve oxygen tanks were started.

Witnessing a state of mayhem when the news came down, Kranz quieted every one with these words. Focus on the problem, people. He added he wanted answers not blame. He insisted we are not going to lose these men on my watch. Work the problem. That was the recurring theme as challenge after challenge surfaced.

I think of this when groups of people begin yelling at each other rather than solving the problem at hand. The real problem, not some made up one used to get elected or postured because it sounded good or made them look smart. Organizations are infested with people who have ideas, even good ones, but don’t get up out of their chair to go do them. They fear backlash for saying or doing something stupid.

The movie had two segments that were said to have really happened. First, they needed to vent air from one exhaust hole that was round from the spacecraft to another that was square in the lunar module. It was a square peg in a round hole exercise. The team on the ground had to figure this out with the parts on board and communicate with the three on board.

Second, the spacecraft had to come back to earth without exceeding 22 amps (I think that was the number). So, the reserve astronaut, Ken Mattingly, was gotten out of bed to help them figure this out in the working model craft. Mattingly was shelved because they thought he had the measles. Things had to be switched on in the right order or the amps would be exceeded and the electronics would shut down. When handed a flashlight, he said only give me things they have on board.

Focus on the problem, people. I do not care whose fault it is. Work the problem. That is what you are paid to do and what we need you to do.

Note: Per Wikipedia, Eugene Francis “Gene” Kranz is an American aerospace engineer, a former fighter pilot, and a retired NASA Flight Director and manager. Kranz served as NASA’s second Chief Flight Director, directing missions of the Gemini and Apollo programs, including the first lunar landing mission, Apollo 11. He is best known for directing the successful efforts by the Mission Control team to save the crew of Apollo 13, and was later portrayed in the major motion picture of the same name by actor Ed Harris. He is also noted for his close-cut flattop hairstyle and the dapper “mission” vests of different styles and materials made by his wife, Marta Kranz, for his Flight Director missions.

Movies I cannot get enough of

My wife will walk through the room where I am watching television, observe and ask “how many times have you seen that?” The correct response is “not enough.” I have always enjoyed movies, but not all movies. I like plot and dialogue above all, but like action as well as conflict. I tend to shy away from the movies where the actors are dwarfed by these computer generated things, but that does not necessarily mean those movies are bad.

There are some movies I have seen over ten times. And, if it is on, unless there is a better option elsewhere, I will take a peek. The nice thing about movies you have seen is you can leave them at any time. Sometimes, I have seen the final two-thirds of a movie more than the start, so I will watch the starting one third and then stop. Yes, I know I am weird.

Top of mind, a few that fall into this category include:

  • The Dirty Dozen, a great movie with great actors like Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland, Clint Walker, John Cassavettes, et al.
  • Casablanca, a movie that was not supposed to do well, but stands the test of time. It also has the most movie quotes in the top 100 list with six.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, is a must see anytime, and is one of the few I own. Atticus Finch is such a hero to many and the father-children talks are wonderful.
  • Apollo 13, the tense movie about a successful failure with Tom Hanks, Ed Harris, and, of course, six degrees of Kevin Bacon, who is in many ensemble movies.
  • Diner, about young adults finding themselves in Baltimore, with Mickey Rourke, that Kevin guy again, Ellen Barkin, Daniel Stern and others.
  • The Last of the Mohicans, whose scenery, plot and action are matched by one of the best soundtracks ever made. Daniel-Day Lewis and Madelaine Stowe star, the latter of whom is breathtaking to me.
  • Witness for the Prosecution, a terrific English court movie with Charles Laughton playing the crusty old defense lawyer, also with Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power, where Dietrich steals the show.
  • Ben Hur, the best biblical based movie, starring Charleton Heston and some of the best actions scenes, that are well filmed and play a key role.
  • True Grit, the one with John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall and Kim Darby. Wayne is a crusty old drunk of a marshall, but the movie is about his relationship with the Darby who has as much grit.
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral, I love this movie about good friends as the movie tracks them through these five events. Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell star, but the movie is more about all of the friends.

I have left off many from my list, but would love to hear your thoughts and movies that you must see over and over again. I tried to pick a eclectic mix of movies to start some conversation.