Sunday, July 20, 2008

Caught in the Headlights

Caught in the Headlights: 10 Lessons Learned the Hard Way
By, Barry K. Phillips (Forward by, Glenn Beck)
Published by Cedar Fort, Inc.
104 pages, $11.99

It’s a funny thing, if you watch for life lessons; sometimes they’ll hit you like a Mac Truck. Take last night for example, I was in a kind of a sullen, dissatisfied mood, and so, naturally, I sat down to write this review. I should never do that in such a state of mind, because I hammered this book. Man, I’ll tell ya, I set that thing on top of some Kingsford and then “flicked my bic.” Thankfully, I have a loving wife who is… well to use the words of Barry Phillips… “my wife is a saint.” She made me realize that I was not being fair to Mr. Phillips, and that I was just simply taking my frustrations out on him and his book. So, I burned my last review, and in it’s place I give you this one, which is much more fair.

Here’s the thing, I’m not sure how to handle this book because I don’t read anything that can be found in the self-help, business, or the political sections… (a nazi named Ann Coulter cured me of that last one.) So how does a degree in English Lit help me here? Well let’s start with what the book is about… Shall we?

In his book, Caught in the Headlights, Barry Phillips, presents 10 things that he wanted to accomplish in his life, just to find that what he thought he wanted wasn’t necessarily the same as what he got or what he really, truly wanted in the first place, and then he tells us what it was he learned along the way. Throughout the book he questions his qualifications to give such advice to his readers, sometimes in very humorous ways. For example, he lists among his bona fides that he loves “to cook, draw, and play drums.” He also likes “long walks on the beach, and the smell after a rain storm.” Did I mention that he says his wife is saint… but aren’t they all?

I really did like the humor in his writing. He tends to write like I do, with a lot of pauses and sidebars. But unlike my writing, he quickly comes back to his point. Which is refreshing; since he doesn’t give you time to forget what his original point was.

The book is very structured around his 10 points or pursuits, (ie. Happiness, Self-Esteem, Pride, so on and so forth), then using that point he tells a story form his big bag of life experiences, be it from business, church, home or getting stared at by Bill Gates. Next he presents the lessons that he learned using a standard 3-point conclusion. Standard, meaning that he doesn’t deviate from that set pattern. Finally, and I don’t quite get this one, he concludes with a poem… of his own make… which kind of repeats his three point lesson. I must admit, I only read the first poem, while I was on the bus. And I must have had a very perplexed look on my face, because the guy sitting next to me got up and actually left the bus. Ok, it may have been his stop, but still… I don’t get the whole thing with the poems. I’m sorry… Poems should be reserved for Shakespeare, Chaucer, and the guys who write toothpaste jingles… I’m just sayin’.

Wow, it sounds like I really didn’t like this book, and I really kind of did. Mr. Philips does make some very good points and I did walk away from this book with some lessons learned. For example, in his 10th chapter, titled “The Perfect Body,” he states,

As with most things in life, it really is about balance. We all need to eat healthy. But to say you will never eat chocolate again is not realistic for most of us. I mean, even if you live longer without chocolate, what would be the point? Life with no chocolate at all? Please. Ding Dongs are the nectar of life. At least I’d like them to be.

How true is that? I totally believe that.
I did try to put some balance in my life once, but I fell down.

Glenn Beck, a hero to the LDS population of the great state of Utah, wrote the forward to the book, which is quite appropriate since, like this book, Glenn’s radio show is funny in parts, preachy in parts, but enlightening in all ways.

I was able to sit down with the author, in a virtual sense, to ask him a few questions.

Murph: Mr. Phillips, It is a pleasure, may I call you Barry?

Barry Phillips: Sure... but only because it's my name. I mean, if it wasn't my name, what would be the point of calling me that? Besides, Mr. Phillips is my father.

Murph: Thank you, Um… I gotta know, right off the bat… what was with the poetry?

Barry Phillips: Yeah, I gathered you weren't a big fan of that part. To my defense, you only read one, and on the bus with some smelly guy watching you. I wrote them because they can make a point like nothing else at times. Besides, I actually like them.

M: I know that this is not a book of fiction, but I find that most writers are also readers, so… who do you read? If I were to raid your bookshelf today, who would I find sitting there?

BP: Car and Driver, cover to cover - but just for the articles. It depends on my mood otherwise. I like C.S. Lewis, but I also read a variety of things. On my shelf right now is Glenn Beck's latest book, a business book on marketing, Newt Gingrich's book on Change, lot's of church books, and scriptures. I liked the Harry Potter stuff, and I'm and Dale Brown fan. I'm also a fan of good, funny cartoons - the Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes and the like.

M: What made you want to write this book?

BP: The idea just hit me and it percolated until I just had to do it. I wrote the book because I noticed that a lot of people struggle with the same issues I did, but don't have much luck at resolving them. Not that I'm perfect at them by any stretch, but I've learned what works if I just follow the lessons learned.

M: Looks to me like you’ve done a lot with your life, but are you and Eagle Scout?

BP: A proud Tenderfoot, actually. But my wife and I did drag my oldest son across the finish line to get his Eagle, so that out to count for something.

M: I want to read a quote from your book, and get your reaction. Would that be all right?

BP: Do I have a choice? Why don't you ask me about one of the poems, since you read so many of them.

M: Ya, my wife said that as well, but I just can’t read poetry, maybe it’s because the one Poetry professor I had was from San Francisco… but anyway… Okay, this is from page 10, and you’re talking about people with whom you need to maintain relationships… with me so far? Ok, you state: “…and those internet geeks. Let’s face it, you may not want to hang out with them, but every now and then you really need to have them in your life.” So, I’m taking a stab in the dark here… I’m guessing that you wouldn’t be keen on sitting down to a nice game of D&D?

BP: The fact that I know what D&D stands for scares me just a little. But I have a confession or two. My wife is the Guild Master of a long standing guild in WOW (yes, I know what that acronym means too) and I work in an IT department. Not too far from my office is a guy with "IMANERD" on his license plates. So I know how to speak the geek. But it takes a special breed to hang with nerd herds on your own time. I actually like them, but I'm more of an honorary member.

M: You do realize that the Mind of Murph Blog Site is a Geek site… I mean… not a “let me help you with your Internet” kind of geek. I’m talking, never dated in high school, 10th level mage, in love with Princess Leia, sitting on the couch watching old reruns of Starblazers… THAT kind of geek… are you good with that?

BP: That's cool… do you think the guys that do help you with your Internet are different from that somehow?

M: Umm… Ya. Two different breeds, but both having a common ancestor… let’s move on, shall we? In your book, you refer to Bill Gates and Donald Trump as huge successes that you don’t want to be anything like… so… who do you look up to?

BP: People that are great at what they do, but are not jerks. Chip Foose for example. He's the best car designer on the planet and still a really great person from what I understand.

M: Are you a fan of Joss Whedon?

BP: Liked Buffy pretty well, and LOVED Firefly. Serenity is still one of my favorite moves.

M: Shiny! Dude, you rock! Um… So if you could be anyone in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer… who would you be?

BP: Someone that gets a stake through the heart. I'm not much of an actor, but I could play dead pretty well.

M: What’s the number one problem with the country today?

BP: Political Correctness. It stops everyone from saying what they really feel and prevents us from solving real problems.

M: If you were the King of the US for one day… what would you do to fix that problem?

BP: It would take more than one day, but I'd start with removing the concept of a professional politician. Of course, if I were king, there'd be very little need for politicians. I'd appoint logical, down to earth people with souls to run things.

M: Who shot first, Han Solo or Greedo?

BP: Han's the man.

M: You have a chapter in the book… Chapter 6, “Tolerance” where you literally lay it on the line. You express your opinions on the subject, seemingly without shame or remorse. It’s a very bold chapter… were you nervous at all? Did you ever think that that chapter was going to get you into trouble?

BP: Yes, I did. I've been very surprise that most people like that chapter the best. I really thought the publisher would make me change the chapter drastically, but they didn't change it at all, other than a few typos.

M: Well Sir, Thank you for your time, I’ll let you get back to cleaning out your horse stalls.

BP: I'll save you pile!

For a full list of stops on his virtual book tour, go to Barry's website.


Candace E. Salima said...

Very interesting review and funny interview. It's piqued my interest, to say the least!

Michael - you are hysterical. This is the second of two reviews I've read on your blog. And you cracked me up with both of them. And sister likes to save the world in City of Heroes. I'm kinda with Barry though, don't much get it. But Hans does rock!

Barry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barry said...

Thanks Michael... I think. I actually like your review, but I'm not sure why. Maybe I'll write a peom about it, just for you! I'll stop by later to answer any questions that may pop up (assuming the pop up blocker is disabled - nerd humor)

Melissa said...

Is this a real conversation? Pretty funny! I am amazed at your writing ability....good stuff! YOU should write a book.

Murph said...

Yes it's a real (virtual)conversation with the author... but I don't think that he likes me very much.
Me... write a book? Hahhh! Yah... like that'll happen... Just so some blogger can make fun of me? Shaaa...

Barry said...

Actually, I do like you Murph. Even after you wanted to flick the bic on my book! The questions were fun and I had a good time answering them.

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