Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Great Moments in Listening

William F. Buckley, Jr. remembering the ailing David Niven:

David thought that funny, but then he thought almost everything funny, only now he had to guard against abandoned laughter, because it convulsed him. The last time, again while painting, he could not control himself. "Ran into someone I hadn't seen for years, in Gstaad, and he shouted out from his car, 'Niven, how the hell are you?' And I shouted back as best I could: 'Well, Sam, you see, I got this blood disease-ease--' and he interrupted and said, 'Oh, well, I've got a bloody new car myself!'" Paintbrushes in hand, he doubled over laughing.

Music Break

Leonard Bernstein. Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. Crank it up.

Back in Town

I have returned from my training trip and am doing the usual "back in town" chores. My morning was fueled by Starbucks Double Shot Espresso so I feel like Hercules unchained. 

Will do some one-armed push-ups and then return to answering emails.

Avoiding Literature

Check out Gary Saul Morson's excellent essay in Commentary on why college kids are avoiding the study of literature. An excerpt:

I once delivered a paper in Norway on Anna Karenina, and a prominent scholar replied: “All my career I have been telling students not to do what you have done, that is, treat characters as real people with real problems and real human psychology. Characters in a novel are nothing more than words on a page. It is primitive to treat fictional people as real, as primitive as the spectator who rushed on stage to save Jesus from crucifixion.” Here is the crux of it: Characters in a novel are neither words on a page nor real people. Characters in a novel are possible people. When we think of their ethical dilemmas, we do not need to imagine that such people actually exist, only that such people and such dilemmas could exist.

Brando and Murray: Their Take on Fame

Althouse points to a story giving Marlon Brando's view of fame.

And consider Bill Murray's view:

I always want to say to people who want to be rich and famous: 'try being rich first'. See if that doesn't cover most of it. There's not much downside to being rich, other than paying taxes and having your relatives ask you for money. But when you become famous, you end up with a 24-hour job.

Good News

You don't need to do it this way or that way or the way prescribed in that best seller. You don't need to be a guru on a mountain top or the boss who is everywhere all the time and who knows everything and everybody. You don't need to be eloquent or charismatic and every day need not be a success.

You only need to have honesty and integrity and be effective.

Quote of the Day

I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn't just one aspect of the game; it is the game. 

- Lou Gerstner

Monday, July 27, 2015

And Yet Another Music Break

Lorrie Morgan: "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?"

Music Break

Mark and Maggie O'Connor playing "Appalachia Waltz."

Booster Shot

Tomorrow I will be teaching "How to Make Presentations to Councils and Boards." That is unusual. Most of my recent classes have been on supervision although communication skills are a close second.

It can be difficult to predict the popularity of topics. Supervision may become a mainstay subject since new supervisors are always in the pipeline and even the senior ones need refreshers. I've had people in class who last attended a workshop on supervision around 30 years ago. Many, of course, were never formally trained. One day they were told, "Congratulations! You're a supervisor."

That's why it is not rare to hear a senior supervisor exclaim, "I wish I'd had this class when I started in this job."

All of which causes me to wonder about how much time they spent fretting over, and trying to craft a solution for, some problem which could have been prevented or quickly resolved.

Which leads to another observation: 

The best organizations train

The worst organizations neglect.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Art Break: Valadon

Art Contrarian looks at the Paris apartment of artist/model Suzanne Valadon.

First Paragraph

The client status of Mr. Y. K. Deng of Hong Kong became a prime topic of discussion near the end of the quarterly management review of the New York law firm of Needham & Lewis, a meeting that till then had been all gloom and acrimony. 

- From China White by Peter Maas


Nicholas Bate has just added to my reading list

Looks fascinating.

Tinker Tailor Guinness Oldman

From 2011: The Vanity Fair interview with Gary Oldman about his role as George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Good film - the Alec Guinness film series is hard to beat - and Oldman has an interesting perspective on his work.

Failure's Formula

Bad companions. Debt. Loose morals. Drinking. Drugs. Little self-discipline. Laziness. Sloppiness. Coarseness. Pettiness. Cynicism. Lack of focus. Lack of accountability. Ignorance. Conceit. Self-pity. Greed. Instant gratification. No specific goals.

And a strong belief that most problems are caused by the unfairness and prejudice of the world.

Quote of the Day

For it is mutual trust, even more than mutual interest, that holds human associations together. Our friends seldom profit us but they make us feel secure. 

- H. L. Mencken

Sunday, July 26, 2015


A little something before the work week begins: a conversation between Sydney Greenstreet and Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon.

Great dialogue and great camera angles.


She asked me to do a chore and I agreed to do so. But I cannot do it immediately because that would be servile and so I must wait until I can get up at my own urging and do it in my own time.

So I wait.

The magic moment is approaching. It has almost arrived. In less than 30 seconds I will arise and get to work.

Uh, oh. She asked me again.

Excess and Negatives

A strength taken to an extreme can become a weakness. The highly analytical person becomes indecisive. The hard worker takes on too much. The kind person becomes weak. The candid person becomes abrasive.

There is a related problem. An action taken to excess becomes a negative. The executive who, due to full confidence in an operation, stays away, may cause the team to feel neglected or even slighted. The supervisor who gives an employee a large amount of running room may be seen as indifferent or - if trust is not present - setting a trap. 

Check your excesses, even those which you feel are good. In most cases, balance is needed. So too is a certain amount of "poetry." If you are using cold logic in dealing with others, you are missing much of what drives the world.

Butter Scraped Over Too Much Bread

Gretchen Rubin has that feeling we've all had and gets some insight from Lord of the Rings.

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Film Break

The trailers for:

First Paragraph

We were sitting in the blind that Wanderobo hunters had built of twigs and branches at the edge of the salt-lick when we heard the truck coming. At first it was far away and no one could tell what the noise was. Then it was stopped and we hoped it had been nothing or perhaps only the wind. Then it moved slowly nearer, unmistakable now, louder and louder until, agonizing in a clank of loud irregular explosions, it passed close behind us to go on up the road. The theatrical one of the two trackers stood up.

"It is finished," he said.

- From Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway

Art Break: Low

Illustration Art looks at David Low's depiction of tyrants during World War II.


Distractions subvert achievement, focus, deep thought, communication, relationships, and courtesy. They are one of the most destructive forces of our time. In many instances, we pay for them. If they are not at hand, we search for them.

They are our daily adversary.

Whither NIcknames?

Cultural Offering explores the issue.

My life has been filled with nicknames for friends and relatives: Bull, Mort, Rigg, Luz, Barboo, Ziffle, Aardvark, Derf, etc. It's been like a Damon Runyon story.

By college, it was common to use last names although I can recall Toad, The Ma, and Jack Whose Real Name is Pat. I remember one girl in college who was stunningly beautiful but had such a formal demeanor that she was known as Charles Laughton. ["Hey, Charles Laughton is at the library."]

My work life had fewer nicknames: "GGTDM" is the only one that quickly comes to mind. It borrowed from The Gong Show and stood for Gene Gene The Dancing Machine

My own nickname? I believe it was "Excellency" but my memory may be hazy.

The Animals

A rule/tip from Eclecticity Light.

It's true. They were an under-appreciated group, possibly due to their name.

I think I'll get one of their CDs.

An Ethics Issue at the Ball Park

Althouse passes along a story filled with ethical issues including, I would add, whether it is ethical to read a stranger's phone messages.

Setting that aside, here are some items to consider:

  • If you knew of the wife's messages, would you tell the husband?
  • Would it make a difference if you knew the couple?
  • Can you think of a scenario in which the most ethical course of action is to keep quiet?
  • Can you think of one where there is no hesitation to speak up?

Miscellaneous and Fast

Anderson Layman's Blog is a daily treat.
Seth Godin has an alternative to believing in yourself.
Kirsten Powers on the Planned Parenthood scandal
Matthew Lang is considering the Kaweco Liliput Fountain Pen
Political Calculations has video of the Catzooka.
FutureLawyer on how to make an ottoman from a tire.
The trailer for "The Horse's Mouth."
Mark Twain: "About Barbers."

First Paragraph

There was always fame. As long as there have been human beings, there has always been fame. It's a human weakness. No other kind of living creature knows anything about fame, not even the peacock, who certainly craves attention but lacks the brain to know why. In every human group of any size, someone becomes famous, and it's a fair bet this has always been true. When prehistory turned to history, famous people became, almost by definition, the first kind of people posterity got to hear about. Indeed it wasn't until recent times that the writing of history began to concern itself with anyone except famous people and the things they did. Far into the nineteenth century, the famous were remembered and everybody else was forgotten. That was what fame was. It was a classification rather than a force in itself. 

- From Fame in the 20th Century by Clive James

Bock: On Leadership

Wally Bock on:

Quote of the Day

The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to . . . and the most important thing is - it must be something you cannot possibly do! 

- Henry Moore

Friday, July 24, 2015

Train vs Stretch Limo

Althouse has the video.

I recall talking to a limo driver in San Francisco about the difficulty of driving an unusually long vehicle in that city. He said it required very careful planning and some streets simply could not be used.

Of course, Lombard Street immediately came to mind.

Charnwood's Lincoln

From 2014: Joseph Epstein on Lord Charnwood's excellent biography of Abraham Lincoln.

If I had to pick just one book on Lincoln, this would be the one.

First Paragraph

I came to the philosophic life as a thirty-eight-year-old naval pilot in grad school at Stanford University. I had been in the navy for twenty years and scarcely ever out of a cockpit. In 1962, I began my second year of studying international relations so I could become a strategic planner in the Pentagon. But my heart wasn't in it. I had yet to be inspired at Stanford and saw myself as just processing tedious material about how nations organized and governed themselves. I was too old for that. I knew how political systems operated; I had been beating systems for years. 

- From Courage Under Fire: Testing Epictetus's Doctrines in a Laboratory of Human Behavior by James Bond Stockdale

Looking Good, Papa

Time to revisit The Dollar Shave Club site with its memorable video.

Capitalism in action.

Discuss the Swamps

The experienced leader knows how orders can be easily misunderstood and how plans can quickly go wrong. The excuse of "I told them" is completely unpersuasive. Leaders are not writing poems to be parsed in first-year English classes. 

Skilled communicators anticipate questions and likely areas of misinterpretation. They discuss what should be emphasized and what should be avoided. They note the swamps and the quicksand as well as the highways. 

I've seen good and bad examples of this in organizations and in academia. When I taught business law, it was not uncommon to encounter students who were "sparse communicators." If you held their papers up to the light and carefully weighed certain words you might see - provided you were also merciful - that they'd given the right answer but they certainly didn't help you on that journey. They held onto words as tightly as a miser grasps a coin. Perhaps they wanted to avoid the wordiness of the shallow but their technique harmed clarity.

Leaders need to recognize that what is obvious to their eyes is not so to others. They need to explain in a manner which reaches the skeptical and the inexperienced. Failing to do so is asking for trouble.

Quote of the Day

Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity. 

- Lao-Tzu

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Art Break: Overshadowed

Art Contrarian looks at artists who had one work which overshadowed their other paintings..

Great Moments in Police Work

The arrest scene in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Images of the Ocean Blue

The Atlantic has extraordinary photographs of ocean life. 

Be sure to scroll all of the way down.

American Voices: Gelernter

Cultural Offering: David Gelernter on American life.

Commentary: David Gelernter on "The Closing of the Scientific Mind."

Books and Writers

Cass R. Sunstein finds humanity in Gone with the Wind.
Stephen Breyer on reading Proust.
Laura Marsh on Joan Didion's celebrity. [HT: Arts & Letters Daily]

The Value You Bring

A Simple, Village Undertaker, who was once a runaway train, has a very important reminder for those of us who have had some rough times.

At Any Given Time

At any given time:

  • A sales person who never sent you an email is wondering why you haven't responded. [How do you know? Because they tell you.]
  • Someone, somewhere, is seething over an offense which no reasonable person, anywhere, would perceive as offensive.
  • Executives are making a decision with the assumption that all of the relevant information has been considered but all of the relevant information won't be revealed until the decision is executed.
  • A lawyer is killing a good idea instead of explaining how it could be made to work.
  • An academic is gaining tenure based on scholarly research which few have read and no one can understand. 
  • An excellent employee is looking for another job simply because no one acknowledges that the person is an excellent employee.
  • A mission is creeping.
  • A journalist is writing a news story which will seem accurate and plausible to all of the readers with the exception of those who know the subject.

Chap Olympiad

“Ladies and gentlemen,” cries the master of ceremonies, “where else can you find a man on a bicycle pouring tea, wearing a suit of armour?”

Read the rest of the BBC report on this unusual event.

But We'll See

He was very persuasive and did not hesitate to lay on the flattery. By the time he was finished I was tempted to try a stroll across a pond.

But my default answer was no. "Please think it over," he said. I agreed to do so. 

He thinks that means "Perhaps." I think it means "No."

Quote of the Day

Thunder is good, thunder is impressive, but it is the lightning that does the work. 

- Mark Twain

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

360 degree Star Wars video

Check out the short video at Guy Kawasaki's site.


What is Read

Reka [a.k.a. Dispenser of Wisdom in Australia] has a quote by David Ogilvy that we should read and re-read whenever writing anything related to advertising.

Tanned, Rested, and Ready?

Aside from the 16,000 Republican candidates for president, could a surprise be lurking on the Democratic side? 

Althouse relays the speculation.


Bloomberg on the top 20 cities Americans are ditching.

Way Up Yonder in the Wherever

FutureLawyer discusses cloud computing. An excerpt:

Computing in the cloud is what used to be called SaaS, or Software as a Service. Computer programs and data are stored in a remote location on servers located in bunches at server farms, and the user interacts over the Internet with the programs and data stored elsewhere. The servers are protected and managed by third parties, hopefully with state of the art security and safety. Major hacks of servers owned by corporations and others have made the news in a way similar to the newsworthiness of a plane crash. They tend to be spectacular. However, statistics show that airplane travel is the safest form of travel, so why are lawyers afraid of cloud computing?

[Execupundit note: I think part of the fear stems from the name. "Cloud" does not sound secure. "Rock" would have been more reassuring.]



From 1937: The trailer for "La Grande Illusion."

Ode to an Index Card

Image result for index card

Memory-Saver, Tooth-Picker, Proper-Upper of Wobbly Chairs! 

Book-Marker, Tab-Maker, Recipe-Hog, and Foot-Note Lair!

Student-Helper, Note-Passer, and the Posted Bold "Alert!"

Direction-Giver, Knowledge River, and the Name of That Dessert!

We honor thee.

They Are What?

One day, it dawns on you:

They are not mad at you. They are not plotting against you. They are not wondering what you are doing. They are not laughing at you behind your back. 

They are not thinking about you at all.

Another Time, Another Place

You know you want one: 1980s mobile phone ad.
When kids were kids: The Roy Rogers Quick Shooter Hat.
Ronald Reagan selling Boraxo soap.
Paging Gloria Steinem: This is too strange for work or home.
A commercial for the Mattel Fanner 50.
More from the Mattel arsenal: The Mattel Winchester rifle.
Edie Adams for Muriel Cigars.
The trailer for "Lost Continent."

Quote of the Day

The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is insincerity. 

- Anne Morrow Lindbergh