Monday, January 31, 2011

Annual Reads - Comments

In response to the post on Reading Traditions, some nominees from readers:

  • Anonymous said...
    Emerson's essays - especially Self Reliance - and Lord of the Rings.
  • Kurt Harden said...
    Every year since 1983, between Christmas and New Year, I read William F. Buckley's Overdrive.
  • DarkoV said...
    "Blood of The Lamb" by Peter DeVries.How precious, the child. How unforgiving, unpredictable, but not cruel, life can be.
  • Eclecticity said...
    I've never had a like tradition, but if I did, the first book that came to mind was The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.

Execupundit note: Another one that I may revive: "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole. I used to read it for career advice.

Hollywood and Egypt

Check out:

Here and here and here and, of course, here.

Citroen DS: Not Just for Spy Films

Wheeler Dealers tackles a classic Citroen DS. I recall riding in one in the Sixties. The hydraulic system was very impressive. Needless to say, the car was owned by an eccentric.

I saw a Citroen DS the other day while viewing "The Odessa File." It added to the atmosphere.

Brooklyn Days

It was a four story building – at least we lived on the fourth floor and I always went down the stairs, never up. Each floor had a small, gritty tile landing, yellowing brown walls, with an exposed flourescent lamp on the ceiling. I remembered bouncing a ball too hard and it rebounded up into the glass, shattering it with a pop. My mother came out, dragged me back into the apartment, and called my father who came home to put in a new bulb before the landlord found out.

Read the rest at View From the Ledge.

The Personal Representative

It was once said of Zero Mostel that he would rather eat a broom than go to a hospital. I feel the same way about most social events. The more upscale the occasion, the more I'm inclined to look for an exit.

The fancy invitations often have a "send a check if you cannot attend" option and yet that doesn't address those unduckable situations in which you feel and know you should be present but wish you could avoid it. Truth be known, you'd rather spend the evening watching a DVD of some Thirties film about a black tie event instead of being trapped at one.

So here's an alternative: Just as a film star who is on location in Kenya may send a representative to the Oscars ceremony, why can't we send personal representatives to business and community events? These mini-ambassadors may carry messages of good will. They may be briefed on which subjects to mention and which to avoid. They'll probably be better dancers.

In short, they would be a combo stand-in/diplomat/courier who would know all the latest stories and would be a great dinner companion. Unlike escorts, they would not be with you; they would be in place of you.

Hmm. A new position is born.

The Office versus the Hideaway

At Anderson Layman's Blog, some very interesting thoughts on when it is wise not to go to the office.

I have a "real" office and a home office and shift between the two depending upon the project and mood. There are times when I need an escape from one or from both. [With regard to the latter, many a Starbucks has become a branch office.]

Obviously, there are jobs that require "being there" and for those, not being at the office would be the equivalent of a plumber who doesn't make house calls. For many others, however, being at the office is an option and mere presence should not be the main requirement. Being effective is.

This practice coincides with jobs that can be handled in bursts and need not be done in a flow. You catch the right moment for accomplishment. It makes sense to put yourself in the right place for that moment to arrive.

Quote of the Day

Conscience is the perfect interpreter of life.

- Karl Barth

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Miscellaneous and Fast

President Calvin Coolidge on economy in government.

Michael J. Totten recommends the film "Eichmann."

Meg Whitman moves on.

Mark Steyn on culture, murder, and bystanders.

Oh, yeah, right: Bagpipes and blindness.


Seth Godin on texting while working:

You're competing against people in a state of flow, people who are truly committed, people who care deeply about the outcome. You can't merely wing it and expect to keep up with them.

Bias at DOJ

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has issued an interim report on the U.S. Department of Justice's handling of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case. An excerpt:

At this stage in this investigation, the very serious allegations raised by Mr. Coates and Mr. Adams have been partially corroborated. Former Department attorneys Karl Bowers, Hans von Spakovsky, Asheesh Agarwal, Mark Corallo and Robert Driscoll have all concurred that a generally hostile attitude toward race-neutral enforcement of civil rights laws exists among many career attorneys and some specific incidents of harassment have also been corroborated. Efforts to obtain evidence relating to the current administration's policies regarding race-neutral enforcement, however, have been met with extraordinary resistance by the Department.

Entertainment Break

A trailer for Blade Runner: The Final Cut.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Egyptian Story

Some takes on Egypt from:

Mona El-Ghobashy
Robert Dreyfuss
Max Boot
The Telegraph
Lee Smith
Claire Berlinski
Robert D. Kaplan

Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Western Civ Has Gotta Grow

Glenn Reynolds and some of the Instapundit readers on good sources for information about western civilization.

Reading Traditions

I recently heard of a teacher who reads "War and Peace" every year.

A friend of mine does the same with "Treasure Island." Until several years ago, my annual read was "The Wind in the Willows." I think I'll revive that habit.

Is there any book that is one of your traditions?

Quote of the Day

Let us go singing as far as we go; the road will be less tedious.

- Virgil

Friday, January 28, 2011

Banality of Evil: "Always Glad to Serve You."

"The company was not a place where people were tortured or murdered," memorial head Annegret Schüle told DPA. "Rather it is a place where people thought and calculated how to incinerate as quickly and effectively as possible."

Der Spiegel on an unusual memorial in Germany.

Chocolate Drought

Oil, schmoil. This is a real crisis.


Board Meeting: Note to Self

Clarify. Clarify. Clarify.

Don't try to win.

The Lincoln Revision

Ethics in the workplace: A Lincoln note and a history scandal.

[I think the postscript referring to a Marilyn Monroe film was also suspicious.]

[HT: Fred Stork]

Quote of the Day

Be bold - and mighty forces will come to your aid.

- Basil King

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Look at Old San Francisco

Extraordinary video: Market Street, San Francisco, 1906, shortly before the earthquake.


Cultural Offering: Where civilization curls up in a chair and listens to Mozart.

Here is one of the many treats to found on that site.

More Wolf, Less Sheep

Why Nicholas Bate is our early morning espresso.

Social Media's Impact: Malcolm Gladwell and Clay Shirky

While reading Clay Shirky's "The Political Power of Social Media" (January/February 2010), I was reminded of a trip I took just over ten years ago, during the dot-com bubble. I went to the catalog clothier Lands' End in Wisconsin, determined to write about how the rise of the Internet and e-commerce was transforming retail. What I learned was that it was not. Having a Web site, I was told, was definitely an improvement over being dependent entirely on a paper catalog and a phone bank. But it was not a life-changing event. After all, taking someone's order over the phone is not that much harder than taking it over the Internet. The innovations that companies such as Lands' End really cared about were bar codes and overnight delivery, which utterly revolutionized the back ends of their businesses and which had happened a good ten to 15 years previously.

Read the rest of Malcolm Gladwell's exchange with Clay Shirky in Foreign Affairs.

"It's Always Personal."

WaiterRant listens in at the cigar store.

TED Talks

John Cafiero: TED Talks Throughout History.

Quote of the Day

No plan survives contact with the enemy.

- Helmuth Carl Bernard von Moltke

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Noir Time: Red Wind

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

Read the rest of "Red Wind" by Raymond Chandler.

There's a New Thriller in Town

At Althouse, what some clever editing and an ominous soundtrack can do to some Seinfeld clips.

Beauty in Small Touches

Art Contrarian is wandering the streeets of Segovia.

The Dark Side of Human Nature

Dr. Helen Smith has a review of Michael Prell's book, "Underdogma":

The book is a fascinating look at why so many people admire the underdog and hate those who achieve or are successful. From a psychological standpoint, the chapter on "Personal Underdogma" really helped to understand the motives behind so many people's desire to tax and take money from the so-called "rich" even if it means that their own wealth will suffer.

Quote of the Day

There's a three-legged coyote who lives up the hill from me. All the garbage cans in the neighborhood belong to him. It's his territory. Every now and then some four-legged intruder tries to take over. They can't do it. On his home-turf, even a peg-leg critter is invincible.

- Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Little Gold Men

At Vanity Fair: John Lopez on the Oscar nominees.


A thought-provoking post by Tanmay Vora on the leader and ambiguity.

Some extraordinary leaders, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Charles de Gaulle come to mind, used ambiguity as a strategy to keep from being pinned down and to confuse adversaries. That strength, however, can also confuse allies and produce chaotic management. Its pragmatism can evolve into opportunism.

Although ambiguity can be a tool, who follows the leader who sounds an uncertain trumpet?

In Recovery

... from the dentist. Sleeping. Reading. I think the pain pills are kicking in. A giant woodchuck just delivered the mail.

The Copper Chopper

Part of Arizona's Centennial celebration is a raffle for The Copper Chopper.

I believe Geronimo had one.

Creativity and Theology

Back by popular demand: The trailer for "Wings of Desire."

"First, they changed our shower heads."

Shower heads. Toilets. Lightbulbs. Detergent.

More on the revolt at Cultural Offering.

Dental Appointment

Part of my morning will involve - to use a genteel term - dental surgery.

The learned specialist, borrowing descriptions from the Spanish Inquisition, has briefed me on the process. It is very impressive; in fact, I may be able to recite the procedure word-for-word.

May the days of Star Trek medicine come soon.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Quote of the Day

If pain were water, the world would drown.

- Dennis Prager

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why Your Dishwasher Doesn't Work

It so happens that in the last six months, a lot of people have suddenly discovered their dishwashers don’t work as well as they used to. The problem, though, isn’t the dishwashers. It’s the soap. Last July, acceding to pressure from environmentalists, America’s dishwasher detergent manufacturers decided to change their formulas. And the new detergents stink.

Read the rest of The Weekly Standard article here.

Motivation: The Young and The Restless

At Business Week, some thoughts on how to motivate people in their twenties:

Throw them into the deep end on their first day. Excellent managers of younger people give them decision-making authority on at least one mission immediately. One very successful Silicon Valley founder is reported to make everyone in his company "CEO" of something. That's the right idea. If they don't know how to do it, tell them to figure it out. The corollary here is that you can't tolerate learned helplessness. Even very talented younger employees; maybe especially the ones who have the peculiar disadvantages of hailing from privilege;may be tempted to ask you questions they can answer themselves. Make them sort it out for themselves. If you don't, they won't improve. And if letting them solve it on their own feels like too big a risk for you, reconsider assigning the project in the first place. There's always another mission that can be a better fit. As the necessary last step, once they have completed the objective, give clear feedback immediately. Post-mortems are critical accelerators of their learning process.

Viewsonic: Better Than iPad?

FutureLawyer really likes the Viewsonic GTablet.

Categorizing Worries

Little or nothing can be done about some worries. They will exist if we permit them to do so and the best we can do is to place them in our zone of indifference.

Worries that are transformed into threats quickly seize us by the throat and demand a response.

The most interesting worries, however, are those that we know how to remove and yet we permit them to linger and ruin our days. They lounge in the back of our mind. We know they should be resolved and yet we tinker with other things, hoping that when we turn around, they will be gone.

Perhaps our imagination and knowledge foil us and we are better served by the simplest approach. One person shivers in bed, watches the clock, and brilliantly calculates how long before the morning sun removes the chill. The other person jumps up, turns up the heat, and then goes back to sleep.

How many of your worries should be on the Can - and Will - Be Resolved Today list?

Quote of the Day

Ever notice how irons have a setting for 'permanent' press? I don't get it....

- Steven Wright

Sunday, January 23, 2011

McPherson on the American Civil War

...I think that comparing Grant and Lee is an interesting exercise. I think Grant had a better grasp of the overall strategic dimensions of this war, and when he was put in place as general-in-chief in 1864, he worked out a coordinated strategy for all of the Union armies to operate in such a way as to bring maximum pressure on the Confederacy at all points. Lee, until the very end of the war, never had that kind of authority over all of the Confederate armies, but, rather, was commander of the foremost army, the Army of Northern Virginia. He was probably the best tactical and perhaps theater strategic commander in the war. In some ways, Lee's superiority in that respect may have hurt the overall Confederate military effort because he was so good in his theater that many of the Confederate resources were poured into that theater in Virginia at the expense of other theaters of the war. So there is a kind of ironic dimension to Lee's superiority in that it may have come at the expense of other Confederate armies whose success was necessary if the Confederacy was to succeed.

Read the rest of the interview with historian James McPherson.

Gulag Escape: The Way Back

The film trailer.

From the book, "The Long Walk" by Slavomir Rawicz.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Good Stuff

Happy Anniversary to Anderson Layman's Blog.

It is creative and thoughtful and a daily read.

[There are some great bloggers in his area. Perhaps there's something in the water.]

Powell and Loy

Lines from "The Thin Man" series.

Magnet on Culture

Today’s political correctness movement makes explicit—and takes to a zany extreme—ideas that have long been central to the cultural revolution. PC makes clear that trashing the culture has been not an incidental feature of the new order, but a key intention. If the cultural revolution has been aiming at liberation, the thing we most need liberating from—according to PC orthodoxy—is the entire structure of Western culture, which adds up to nothing more than a farrago of racism, sexism, and classism aimed at oppressing the poor, black, and weak. So it needs to be deconstructed, devalued, and robbed of its authority if the dispossessed are ever really to be free. Traditional standards of ethics, merit, and achievement are arbitrary designations, designed to stigmatize and put down the poor, the nonwhite, and other victims.

This approach leaves the poor without the very values that point the way toward the mainstream. To solve the problems of the worst-off, we must not only stop doing what clearly doesn’t work; we must also rehabilitate the few powerful ideas that for two centuries succeeded in transforming huddled masses into free and prosperous American citizens: responsibility, freedom under the rule of law, equal rights for individuals, and the freedom to shape one’s own fate.

Witch Tax

A new labor law in Romania has expanded the ranks of the self-employed; along with car valets and astrologers, witches will now be required to pay a 16 percent income tax. Is this persecution by another name, or a step toward legitimization for a long-maligned occupation? Believing the former, one group of witches responded to the news by throwing mandrake into the Danube and concocting protest in the form of a cat-poop-and-dead-dog potion. But another self-identified witch reacted with enthusiasm: “Our magic skills, which are recognized and accepted worldwide, are now authorized in Romania, too.”

Read the rest at The New Republic.

MSNBC Decision

From Drudge:


THURS. JAN. 20, 2011




FOXNEWS SHEP 1,786,000

FOXNEWS BECK 1,780,000



CNN PIERS 1,025,000




CNN COOPER 740,000


Let's see now. MSNBC drops Olbermann and keeps Schultz? Go figure.

Anonymous 4: 11,000 Virgins

Great for stress reduction. Great background music as you work. Find it here.

Thrillers and Terror

Some quick additions:

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

Jaguar by Loup Durand

The Miernik Dossier by Charles McCarry
Update: Harry's Game and Field of Blood by Gerald Seymour

Early Entertainment Break

Quote of the Day

If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.

- Herbert Stein

Friday, January 21, 2011

Coalition Building in Italy

You know you're in political trouble when they start making comparisons with Caligula.

Bunga bunga?

Find Mexico

What if the largest countries had the biggest populations?

Check out the map at Political Calculations.

Indirect Learning

Instant nostalgia: Authors Playing Cards. A great way to teach children about writers.

Tiger Moms

Ann Althouse has some interesting takes on the Tiger Moms book.

From Ben Stein at The American Spectator:

I'll go even further. I don't believe the most successful people are the ones who got the best grades, got into the best schools, or made the most money. The most successful ones are those who find peace of mind. If they can do it with mothers who manufacture self-loathing the way Ms. Chua or Ms. Waldman do, it's despite those Moms and not because of them. This whole idea that there is something noble about browbeating your own children is just plain sick.

Telephone Tech

FutureLawyer on something to know when transferring your phone number to GoogleVoice.

Free Speech Goes Dutch

Thierry Baudet on the Geert Wilders trial. An excerpt:

The higher court’s decision that the lower court’s judges had appeared biased has damaged the reputation of the Dutch judiciary. There are no jury trials in Holland; and if judges were incapable of remaining fair-minded when, for the first time in history, the eyes of the world were upon them, what must they be like when no one is looking?

Board Meeting: Five Minutes

"I'm going to need more time."

"We've got a packed agenda and you're just giving an update. You've got five minutes."

"But I can't cover everything in five minutes!"

"I don't want you to cover everything. I just want you to give an update. I could give an update on nuclear disarmament in five minutes and even have a minute to spare. Five minutes."

"What about Cragmont?"

"He's got five minutes too."

"But his subject is much less important than mine."

"That's odd. He said the same thing about your update."

"What if I go a little over?"

"You will be hurt and punished. Perhaps not immediately but eventually. You will rue the day. I'd advise against it."

"You're serious."

"Five minutes. Do it in five minutes and people will love you. They'll name children after you."

"But there's so much more I could say."

"I know."

Quote of the Day

If you want to conquer fear, don't sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy.

- Dale Carnegie

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Civilized Messy

My home office needs civilization.

Not organization - although a little more would help - but civilization.

Right now, it resembles a cross between a war room and a loft shared by twelve members of a cult. Maps and notes are taped on the walls. Books and project boxes are scattered everywhere. A variety of briefcases divide some of the territory. This project is on this wall. That project is on another.

In short, it is functional, but not civilized.

By the time I'm done, there will be:
  • New paint on the walls;

  • Possibly some new carpeting;

  • A noir Paris telephone;

  • Appropriate artwork and photos;

  • Maps that are framed;

  • More project boxes;

  • Shutters instead of curtains; and

  • A comfortable chair that will be a sanctuary unto itself.

It will still be messy, but it will be "civilized messy."

Island Life

And here's another reason why I didn't buy that luxury home in Dubai.

One Degree of Separation

Althouse features a Nobel Peace Prize connection.

R U Tweeting 2 Much?

Blogs are totally 2009. They’ve gotten so wordy. For bloggers, it’s just scribble, scribble, scribble; for the rest of us, it’s just read, read, read. Sometimes blog posts go on for 200 or even 300 words. Imagine what you might be missing while you’re slogging through all that blah-blah. Worse, on a blog there’s a huge lag time—minutes often!—from the moment the blogger writes a post to the moment the reader can read it.

Read the rest of Andrew Ferguson in Commentary.

Projects: Details That Matter

One of the benefits of experience is the ability to spot the difference between details that can be worked out as the project progresses and ones that may become snares if they are not dealt with earlier.

Adolf Hitler equated the invasion of Russia with entering a darkened room. He quickly learned what was in that room.

On a far more micro-level, teams rush past the consideration of details because they are pressed by unrealistic deadlines or they are simply impatient and want to get the job done. Both causes are easily identifiable and should be discussed rather than accepted or ignored.

As Dwight Eisenhower used to tell his Cabinet, "Let's not be in a hurry to make our mistakes."

Quote of the Day

The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.

- G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An Odd Feeling

I still pound on the computer keyboard as if it's a Smith-Corona. Habits die hard but I've always preferred the feel of a keyboard to that of a typewriter.

And yet there's this sense of unease which comes from the suspicion that the best combination of thinking and writing takes place when a pen meets paper. There is something deeper in writing a sentence instead of typing it. The fraction of a second pause while one word is chosen over another, the sensual aspect of watching the pen glide across the page, and the closer connection to the word itself as its letters are crafted rather than produced - all result in a civilized ambiance that a computer cannot evoke.

While many of us like and appreciate computers, we love pens.

One is a servant. The other is a companion.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Cars: Honoring Classics

You know you want one. Art Contrarian on the challenge of honoring classic cars.

Critical Thinking

At Dr. Helen Smith's blog: Is college making people dumber?

The question raises a variety of issues. I've talked with college students who said they encountered many professors who discouraged any questions or comments that fell outside of the "party line." The environment they found was hardly an intellectual feast.

Quote of the Day

TV is not vulgar and prurient and dumb because the people who compose the audience are vulgar and dumb. Television is the way it is simply because people tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests.

- David Foster Wallace

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Scrub. Sweep. Polish.

Cultural Offering on the appeal of maintenance.

Writing and Real Life

From "Adaptation": The screenplay seminar scene. [Strong language warning.]

Immigrant Story

Laura Vanderkam, writing in City Journal, on how Korean greengrocers have moved up and out in New York City:

Despite Korea’s traditional attitude toward entrepreneurs, Korean immigrants, coming from a country torn apart by its battle against Communism, embraced the American dream. A survey that Min conducted in 1992 found Korean merchants far more likely than blacks or whites to agree strongly that “in this country, anyone, regardless of race, sex, or national origin, can make it if he or she works hard.” And work hard they did, scrubbing their produce and stacking cereal boxes into picture-perfect pyramids—perhaps as a bulwark against the chaotic neighborhoods around them. When Park did her fieldwork studying New York’s Korean community in the 1980s, she often had to interview people at 10 pm, the earliest they could get off work. And she still remembers babies crying inside trucks at Hunts Point Market at 4 am, when the parents (who couldn’t, of course, afford child care) were already at work again.

The Course of Human Events

History is -- or should be -- a lesson in appreciation. History helps us keep a sense of proportion.

History teaches that there is no such thing as a self-made man or woman, that we are all shaped by the influences of others, including so many we've never seen because they are back there in history.

History teaches that nothing happens in isolation, or without cause and effect, and that nothing ever had to happen as it did.

History teaches tolerance, and the value of common sense, and as Voltaire (and who knows how many others) observed, common sense is anything but common.

Read all of David McCullough's 2003 Jefferson Lecture.

Missing the News

Most days, you have the world's permission to miss much of the news.

The major stories are not the ones in the headlines. They are the incremental ones; the crises in the making that will clobber us in a few months or years as journalists breathlessly act as if the problem came out of nowhere. As for the "who's up and who's down" stories, they are like the soap operas that can be neglected for months because when you eventually tune in, Troy is still in a coma and Tiffany is still cheating on Alejandro.

That's why in general, when it comes to substance, books trump news articles and ideas trump personalities.

Alone Together

Teens may embrace the peculiar sociability that the wireless computer makes possible, Ms. Turkle says, but they do so with unease and ambivalence. To put it in theater terms, they are "on" all the time, expected to respond immediately to every text, every IM, every scribble on their Facebook walls. There is no escape from the pestering, nudging, hectoring, chattering demands of being connected. Many high-schoolers are more exhausted than exhilarated by their virtual lives. "I can't imagine doing this when I get older," says one student about the hours he devotes to meeting the demands of his online social life. "How long do I have to continue doing this?"

Read the rest of Eric Felten's review of Sherry Turkle's book.

Quote of the Day

Sit loosely in the saddle of life.

- Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, January 17, 2011

Rodeo Chic

True West magazine has a slide show on cowgirl fashion. Times have changed.

Another Television High

Robert Downey, Jr. describing the recent Golden Globe Awards ceremony:

"Aside from the fact that it's been hugely mean-spirited with mildly sinister undertones, I'd say the vibe of the show has been pretty good so far, wouldn't you?"

Miscellaneous and Fast

Anderson Layman's Blog: A nifty post on Gaping Void at work.

The Cranky Professor has just heard a knife grinder in Rome.

Stanley Fish on religion and True Grit.

Tanmay Vora discusses leadership, simplicity, and Gandhi.

The Happiness Project on help-rejecting complainers.

Eclecticity has a reminder from Kevin Kelly: Get creative.

FutureLawyer does not care for The Home Office Sand Box.

Fast Company: MIT prof Sherry Turkle wants us to unplug.

Origimi Table

If you have a small space and want to get four tables from one, here's a creative solution.

Don't Walk Away

I switched on The Turner Classic Movie channel last night and "In the Heat of the Night" was on. I'd missed about a quarter of it but watched the rest while juggling some computer work.

It is one of those films that I rarely walk away from. "Get Shorty" is another. Soo too are most of the Harry Potter films. "Friendly Persuasion," "High Noon," and "To Kill a Mockingbird" also qualify. If a portion is playing, they've got me. A certain magnetism is at work.

This is not directly linked to quality. In my book, "The Third Man" is the greatest film ever made, but I can walk away from it.

What is it about certain films that exerts this claim on our attention?.

Quote of the Day

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Update: Incorrect attribution. It should be Martin Luther.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Geoffrey Wolff lists five books of fury and terror on the high seas.

Readers of this blog know that I'm a major fan of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, a masterful work. Note the comments at the link. We are a loyal crew.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Music Break

Iris DeMent: "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."

True Grit

For what it's worth, I finally saw the new version of "True Grit" and highly recommend it.

This film is so much truer to the novel, which was extraordinary. John Wayne did a reasonably good job in the earlier version but Jeff Bridges is a far better Rooster Cogburn. [I recall being disappointed that Richard Boone wasn't given the role instead of Wayne but The Duke was clearly a bigger box office draw. That's a pity. Boone had the right amount of menace.]

The film is almost stolen by Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross. Some other good news: This time around, they didn't completely botch the casting of the Texas Ranger.

Not just a good film, but a great one.

Stalemates and Solutions

I've written before about solutions that are disguised as stalemates.

There are times when a matter has been pushed to a point which, although unsatisfactory to all parties, is as good as it will ever get. Moving beyond that point will create an even worse situation. Neither side deserves an outright victory and each may eventually suffer if their wishes were granted.

This is frustrating to those who like to see a nice, clean, solution wrapped up in a white box with a red bow. It is challenging even to those who accept the concept, but wonder when the magical point has been reached. The key question in determining the point is: If either side wins more, will it make matters worse?

If the answer is yes, you have probably arrived at the point.


A clip from the BBC series "Airport": A behind-the-scenes look at Heathrow.

Urban Wit

The Ikea room so overwhelmed her that she abdicated all possessions (save a woven basket) and embarked on a journey of suburban foraging.

I've become hooked on Unhappy Hipsters.


It enables me to manage my teams with ease, both remotely when we're traveling through a smart phone, as well as using my desktop computer. It's easier to use than competitor sites that I've seen and makes it very easy to coordinate your group of people. Even users that aren't very computer savvy have been able to use this product very easily.

Read the rest about this online team management product at Cool Tools.

Big Alex

Tom Holland reviews three books about Alexander the Great.

Quote of the Day

Follow the grain in your own wood.

- Howard Thurman

Friday, January 14, 2011

Haydn: "Surprise"

Something marvelous for Friday night: Haydn's Symphony No. 94, second movement.

Bing on Playing Hurt

Sunday, 8 a.m. Woke with the ever-so-tiniest trickle of something itchy in the back of my throat. "Oh, Lord," I said to my wife. "I don't want to be sick. Not with all that's going on this week. Please, God. Don't let me be sick." "Are you sick?" she asked me. "No," I said sharply. "What makes you think I'm sick? Do I look sick to you?" "I don't know," she replied. "You don't look not sick." Sunday afternoon I took a flight from San Francisco to New York. Sneezed six times.

Read the rest of the all-too-realistic tale here.

From "The Frost Report"

A description of class differences in Britain.

Go For It

Nicholas Bate (a.k.a. The Man Who Never Sleeps) gives 25 ways to get exactly what you want.

Ashleigh Brilliant

Years ago, I was in the Santa Barbara, California airport, searching for some reading material before my flight.

The small gift shop was well supplied with Ashleigh Brilliant postcards.

Time and money well spent.

Political Calculations: Best Posts of 2010

Political Calculations's "On the Moneyed Midways" has The Best Posts of 2010.

It has a lot of variety, including "I Went Homeless So You Don't Have To" by Soul Acrobats.

Book Lovers: A Simple Wow Will Do

Cultural Offering has two photographs that will captivate book lovers.

The picture of the card catalogue also brings, at least to me, some sadness. I have fond memories of great finds that were unexpectedly made while searching through the cards. There was a genteel aspect to the research process in those days.

Another memory: The stacks.

A slice of heaven.

Team of Rivals

I've read two other books while reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's book on Abraham Lincoln.

That is in no way a criticism of her book. I'm throughly enjoying it, but the lengthy and detailed account is like a rich dessert that occasionally must be put down. Having read a lot about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, I expected to find little that was new and yet the book is packed with absorbing anecdotes. It also provides a fascinating look at what the United States was like when a large segment of the country was devoted to preserving slavery. For example, a brief account of William H. Seward's trip from the free states into Virginia is both understated and powerful. [Seward's wife became so disturbed by what she saw that she persuaded him to cut short their journey and return to the North.]

It was a time of hope and madness.

Quote of the Day

Immortality is a long shot, I admit. But somebody has to be first.

- Bill Cosby

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Astrology: It's All Rock and Roll to Me

From law professor Jonathan Turley's site:

The Minnesota Planetarium Society’s Parke Kunkle has caused astrological mayhem by releasing this new chart:

Capricorn: Jan. 20-Feb. 16.

Aquarius: Feb. 16-March 11.
Pisces: March 11-April 18.
Aries: April 18-May 13.
Taurus: May 13-June 21.
Gemini: June 21-July 20.
Cancer: July 20-Aug. 10.
Leo: Aug. 10-Sept. 16.
Virgo: Sept. 16-Oct. 30.
Libra: Oct. 30-Nov. 23.
Scorpio: Nov. 23-29.
Ophiuchus: Nov. 29-Dec. 17.
Sagittarius: Dec. 17-Jan. 20.

Council Presentations Book Review

What a pleasant surprise!

There's a very nice review of my council presentations book at Dr. Helen's blog.

Half-Way House

Dismissing the idea that he sought a $400,000 bribe as ridiculous, he said: "If I were in a position to extort a spoiled kid who inherited $600 million, do you think I would ask for $400,000? I'd have hit him up for maybe $40 million."

Read the rest of the NPR report on the release of former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards.

Back By Popular Demand: Taxi

A classic from Taxi: The Reverend Jim selling vacuum cleaners.

Unconventional Questions - Update

Here's another interesting response on the previous post about unconventional interview questions. (I missed it because it was tucked in another category.)

DarkoV said...
Back in the day when DuPont was Wilmington,DE and Plastics was the magic word, H/R (or whatever it was called back it those days) @ DuPont wuld cull some of their work force from the loccal Catholic high schools. After interviewing the candidates, H/R would call the high school offices and ask one question.What was the student's attendance record.Not, what were their grades.Not, what extracurricular activities they were engaged in.Not, what were their science projects about.Simply, did they show up on time and did they stay all day.Seemed to work out fine for the DuPont Company back in their Big, Powerful, & Successful days.

Budget Gimmicks

Writing in City Journal, Steven Malanga looks at state budget games. An excerpt:

Not all of the state budget trickery involves borrowing; some of it simply betrays pledges to taxpayers. One common example is “sweeps,” a term that refers to shifting money from adequately funded accounts into depleted ones. In some cases, the revenues that get “swept” come from taxes and fees that politicians had promised would pay for specific tasks—maintaining roads, say, or improving emergency services, or even paying for unemployment insurance. With the transfers, however, the money gets used for something entirely different.

The Frustration of Systems

As an advisor to many American presidents, Bryce Harlow saw his share of politics. In an interview, he once observed that although people often complain of the partisan bickering in Congress, that is a sign that the system is working because it forces compromise and saves us from intemperate actions.

We see similar frustrations in organizations. The same irritating personnel procedures that make it a hard slog to get rid of the oaf or jerk also make it difficult to get rid of the good employee who just happened to cross an executive. Systems are trade-offs. Whenever wishing that one characteristic would be dominant, consider the negative effects that would accompany that power.

The Holders

Political Calculations: Who owns the U.S. national debt?

Sledding with the Dog

From Eclecticity. You will smile.


Michael P. Maslanka on the importance of conciliation in employment discrimination cases. An excerpt:

Before the EEOC sues an employer, it must seek to resolve what it sees as the employer's violation of the law through the statutorily mandated conciliation process. If the EEOC engages in good faith conciliation and then sues, a court can’t stay or dismiss the suit; if it does not, then the court can.

Quote of the Day

Hope for the best. Expect the worst. Life is a play. We're unrehearsed.

- Mel Brooks

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Celebrity Home Libraries

Because you want to see Diane Keaton's home library.

Entertainment Break: Fields

Just how good of a juggler was W.C. Fields? Pretty darned good.

Happiness's Reputation

[Execupundit note: Because if something is sad and serious, you just know it's got to be deep. Real deep.]

The Shootings and the Smears

Rarely in American political discourse has there been a charge so reckless, so scurrilous and so unsupported by evidence.

Read the rest of Krauthammer here.

Unconventional Interview Questions: Some Responses

Earlier, I posted an item on unconventional interview questions; the type that you think might be useful if you didn't have to worry about various legal restrictions.

So far, this has generated some very interesting responses:

Dan Richwine said...
Some of these articles on unconventional questions makes me remember Art Linkletter, who pulled the same trick to get kids to open up. His favorite was "What did mom and dad tell you not to talk about with me?" Can you imagine if he were writing these interview questions?Which reminds me also of my favorite Linkletter quote: “Each generation has been an education for us in different ways. The first child-with-bloody-nose was rushed to the emergency room. The fifth child-with-bloody-nose was told to go to the yard immediately and stop bleeding on the carpet.”

Jeff said...
Indirectly answering the question -Whenever I walk into a prospect's office, the first thing I do is look at his walls, desk, and sideboard, to see what photos he has, what inspriation he shows, what "touchstones" he collects. Gives me some insight into who this person is.Maybe then a question for the applicant could be, "what do you carry in your wallet?"Just a thought.- Jeff

Rick Knowles said...
I was once asked in an interview by an industrial psychologist for Jack in the Box: How are a fly and a tree similar?I'm not sure what conclusions they drew from my answer, but I did get the job.Just saw this post today on - top 25 Oddball interview questions:

Eclecticity said...
I liked to ask - What is your Achilles Heel? That is, something about you that I will just have to accept as your boss and will never be able to "counsel" you about because I knew it going in, and it really can't be fixed. This goes way beyond tell me about a "weakness." Presumably weaknesses can be worked on, AHs are here to stay. It's a challenging question for the asker and the teller. E.


FutureLawyer has an interesting take on the iPhone and Verizon:

I have a modest proposal. All current AT&T customers should stay with AT&T so that you will have more bandwidth for your iPhone calls. Verizon is not the network you are looking for. Hey, you have been telling us for some time that AT&T is a faster network, and that you can make iPhone calls and browse the web simultaneously, and that you cover more people. So, if AT&T is such a superior network, why leave it? Stay where you are. NOMN (Not On My Network).

Whose Rights are Favored?

Dr. Helen Smith on violence prevention:

My point is that as long as schools and society simultaneously place the rights of the mentally ill above other citizens while refusing the mentally ill the help that they may desperately need, we will continue to see mass killings like the one in Arizona. People will seemed dazed and ask "why?" until they forget and another horrible killing takes place. The media will give the whole thing a political spin and indeed, perhaps there is one, but usually only in some idiosyncratic bizarre way that only the killer (or maybe a good therapist) would understand.

Life After Monopoly

Cool Tools on modern board games:

Should you buy a copy of Catan? Nope, not right away. I suggest you do some research on the game***, ask around, find one to play. Maybe you’ll love it, maybe not. You might prefer Carcassonne, or Ticket To Ride, Power Grid, Pandemic, Hey! That’s My Fish,Niagara or Manhattan. There are hundreds upon hundreds of fascinating, easy, quick games you’ve never heard of. But at least you’ll discover there is life after Monopoly.