Friday, September 30, 2016

Miscellaneous and Fast

Wally Bock: Stories and strategies from real life.
Rich Lowry: Fear, loathing, and the press.
The trailer for "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children."
Politico: There's no such thing as a former KGB man.

Ryder Cup Heckler

The New York Times: An unusual moment at the Ryder Cup.

Art Break: Thrasher

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Leslie Thrasher.

Pack the Pillow

Jed would have packed his pillow.

Note to self: The next time you go on an town-of-town trip, take along your pillow.

Let me indulge in a minor rant. I'm back from a business trip. Tired. Possibly cranky. Mainly tired. Despite all of the stuff I packed, I omitted the one item that would save me from the standard issue Marquis de Sade hotel pillows; those decorative behemoths that are about as comfortable as a watermelon. As I stared at the ceiling at two in the morning, self-recriminations abounded.

Why the reluctance to pack a pillow? Is there a hidden fear that subverted sensible packing? Did my ego worry that I would appear a tad Jed Clampettesque? Would the alert staff at the hotel front desk have taken one glance at my suitcase and say, "He has a pillow in there?"

So be it.

Next time, the pillow will be the first thing that gets packed.

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

A man's best treasure is a thrifty tongue. 

- Hesiod

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Laugh Out Loud Authors - Continued

Several days ago, I requested the names of authors whose work was "laugh-out loud" funny.

Bobbo mentioned "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller as a classic and also noted "How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big" by Scott Adams.

Crusty HR Manager likes anything by Bill Bryson. "A Walk in the Woods" is a favorite.

Eclecticity cited "A Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving and "The Calvin Becker Trilogy" by Frank Schaeffer.

Wally Bock nominated anything by Carl Hiaasen.

To that august list I would add:
  • The Adrian Mole novels by Sue Townsend
  • "Porterhouse Blue" by Tom Sharpe
  • The Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser
  • "The Last Hurrah" By Edwin O'Connor
  • "I Was Dancing" by Edwin O'Connor
  • "The Joyous Season" by Patrick Dennis
  • "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole
  • The Dortmunder novels by Donald E. Westlake
Any other suggestions?

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve. 

- Albert Schweitzer

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ahead of Its Time

What car is this? Car Style Critic has the details.

Film Break

The trailers for:

The Silent

They didn't speak up because:

  • They had not had a chance to study the subject and so felt that their comments might be out of line.
  • They had studied the subject and liked the proposed action.
  • They had studied the subject and thought the proposed action was a mistake but they felt the timing was not right to surface their objections.
  • They thought the proposal was unwise but didn't think the matter was a battle worth fighting.
  • They thought the proposal was unwise but hoped to gain its proponents as allies on another project.
  • They thought the proposal would do no serious harm.
  • They thought that the points they would have made had already been made, possibly in a more eloquent manner.
  • They feared retaliation.
  • They feared that their reputation might be harmed.
  • They were willing to speak but they wanted to be called upon.
  • They simply didn't care.

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

Caring about others, running the risk of feeling, and leaving an impact on people, brings happiness. 

- Rabbi Harold Kushner

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Thunder in the distance. Thoughts swirl. A class went quite well but I'm planning some changes. I've jotted a concise written analysis that will simmer for a few days while my attention goes to other workshops and coaching projects.

There is no doubt that additional points will be noted. [Two small ones just came to mind and a macro one is seeking admittance.]

All three are now on a sheet.


A Waste Basket

Cultural Offering has sound advice from Peter The Druck.

Off The Grid

Bear with me. 

Will be back soon.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Best Debate Format

The best presidential debate format would have next to no format.

Put the two candidates on a stage. No moderator. No audience. 

Between them on a coffee table will be a stack of cards, face down. The cards can be shuffled just after the candidates are introduced. Each card will have an issue that the candidates have agreed is important.

They take turns drawing a card and then discuss the issue for as long as they choose. Discussion done: on to the next card.

When they are done, each can make a six-minute summary statement. They can toss a coin in advance as to the order.

It would be far more revealing than the heavily-structured format.

Presidential Debate Preview

"This is beyond our present knowledge or understanding."

First Paragraph

In tears as he speaks, Aeneas loosens sail
And gives the whole fleet its head, so now at last
They ride ashore on the waves at Euboean Cumae.
There they turn round the ships to face out to sea,
Anchors bite deep, craft are held fast, curved
Sterns cushion on sand, prows frill the beach.
Now a band of young hotbloods vaults quickly out
On to the shore of Italia, some after flint
For the seedling fire it hides in its veins,
Some crashing through woodland thickets, the haunts
Of wild beasts, pointing amazed at new rivers.

- From Aeneid Book VI translated by Seamus Heaney

Mixed Audience, Missed Audience

Use the following and you may lose a sizable portion of a mixed-age audience:
  • Alger Hiss
  • Record album
  • Tet
  • TV test pattern
  • Pong
  • Bay Rum
  • Justin Timberlake
  • The Cloud
  • Boy George
  • Hank Williams
  • Diana Rigg
  • Mosh pit
  • Saturday Evening Post
  • Toll call
  • Christine Keeler
  • Slide rule
  • Party lines
  • Wallace Beery
  • Bruno Mars
  • Fabian
  • Marshal Dillon
  • Iggy Azalea
  • The Rat Pack
  • Duck and cover drill
  • Ed Sullivan
  • Ryan Seacrest
  • Tie bar
  • Church key
  • Ashton Kutcher
  • Jade East
  • Deposit bottles
  • Nicki Minaj
  • The Hit Parade
  • The $64,000 Question
  • 77 Sunset Strip
  • Soda jerk
  • Lena Horne
  • Blogger
  • Will Rogers
  • Mood rings
  • "The Blue Screen of Death"
  • Watergate
  • Drake
  • Ice box
  • Sgt. Joe Friday
  • "The Honeymooners"
  • Munich Agreement
  • Rin Tin Tin
  • Phone booth
  • Milk man
  • Elevator operator
  • Rube Goldberg

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

There's no off-season anymore 

- Nolan Ryan

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Bear Hugs

A video from Smithsonian magazine on the days when park rangers encouraged the public to feed the bears.

Just think: Someone in authority made that decision.


Taking a moment each day to attempt to achieve absolute calm and total relaxation is a good way to discover just how far you normally are from that state.

From that point, act with deliberation to stretch out the feeling. Savor the act, even if it has contradictions, such as slowly sipping an espresso.

The process itself becomes the reward.

First Paragraph

On March 1, 1781, three and a half years after they were endorsed by the Continental Congress, the Articles of Confederation were officially ratified when the last state, Maryland, gave its approval. The unseemly delay could be explained by the conspicuous fact that a war was going on, which inevitably deflected attention from all other business, but the specific reason was that the landless states, like Maryland, refused to ratify until all states with extensive western claims - Virginia most prominently - agreed to cede their claims to Congress. The president of the Continental Congress, Samuel Huntington, declared the creation of a new political entity, called the Confederation Congress, which established "a perpetual Union between the thirteen United States." To mark the occasion, thirteen cannons were fired on the hill overlooking the Philadelphia harbor, and that salvo was answered by thirteen cannons from the frigate John Paul Jones. In the evening "a grand exhibition of fireworks was staged at the State House, and all the Vessels in the Harbor were decorated and illuminated." 

- From The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 by Joseph J. Ellis

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

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

- Steven Wright

Friday, September 23, 2016

News You Can Use

Some tips for guys from "Napoleon Dynamite."

Laugh Out Loud Authors

Let's say you are planning a trip and would like a book or two that will cause you to laugh out loud. A quiet smile would be nice but you want novels that are likely to produce a full laugh.

Which authors (and books) would be contenders?

You first. I'll add my choices later.

First Paragraph

My first impression was that the stranger's eyes were of an unusually light blue. They met mine for several blank seconds, vacant, unmistakably scared. Startled and innocently naughty, they half reminded me of an incident I couldn't quite place; something which had happened a long time ago, to do with the upper fourth form classroom. They were the eyes of a schoolboy surprised in the act of breaking one of the rules. Not that I had caught him, apparently, at anything except his own thoughts: perhaps he imagined I could read them. At any rate, he seemed not to have heard or seen me cross the compartment from my corner to his own, for he started violently at the sound of my voice; so violently, indeed, that his nervous recoil hit me like repercussion. Instinctively I took a pace backwards

- From Mr. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

Predicting the future is easy. It's trying to figure out what's going on now that's hard. 

- Fritz R. S. Dressler

Thursday, September 22, 2016

First Paragraph

On a crisp morning in late January, the boy tended his stock as he watched the dust cloud rising to the south, at the far end of the narrow timbered valley. Felix was almost twelve, but short and scrawny for his age, with a mop of red hair and fair skin. When the boy saw riders emerging one by one from the cloud of dust, their ponies splashing across the shallow creek, he ran to the little grove of peach trees some three hundred yards from the ranch buildings where his mother and sister were. He knew this area was contested ground, in the heart of what the Mexicans, and the Spanish before them, had named Apacheria. The Mexicans had failed to settle the valley, driven out by the fearsome Apaches who lived in the mountains to the east and north. 

- From The Apache Wars: The Hunt for Geronimo, The Apache Kid, and the Captive Boy Who Started the Longest War in American History by Paul Andrew Hutton

December 1, 1941

Any large organization needs to have at least one person of power who is perceptive enough to know when it is December 1, 1941 and who is powerful enough to make a positive difference.

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

Sometimes I think the world has gone completely mad. And then I think, "Aw, who cares?" And then I think, "Hey, what's for supper?" 

- Jack Handey

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Marlene Dietrich in "Touch of Evil."

The Udalls and the Goldwaters

A memorable excerpt from This Land, These Voices by Abe Chanin with Mildred Chanin:

"An interesting little story that Mo Udall and I tell about his grandfather, David King Udall, who was a polygamist, and, of course, the polygamists settled at St. Johns and other faraway places for the purpose of keeping away from the federal officers, in a nation that never accepted the Mormons' idea of pluralistic marriage. Well, one weekend David King Udall had to go to Prescott on business, and as he rode into town the federals arrested him and put him in jail. That's when my grandfather was the mayor. That night he got a horse, got a key to the jail, went down and opened the jail. Told David King Udall to get on that horse 'and get your ass out of town and stay out.' So he never came back, and the Udalls and Goldwaters have been good friends ever since." 

- Barry Goldwater

The Anti-Cookie Monster

The Anti-Cookie Monster has been located and he's in Britain.

A question for you: What is your favorite cookie?

Added treat: George Burns gets down with Mitch Miller and the gang

[Note to younger readers: In those days, people didn't flip out because Mitch had a cigarette in his hand and George Burns had a cigar.]

Gap in the Tape

You may have encountered people who have a gap in their tape. They sound perfectly reasonable and normal and then - gap! - there is a sentence or observation that seems irrational or bizarre.

These may be highly accomplished and, at least most of the time, very nice people and yet the gap reveals another, less logical or attractive, component. 

Now here are more difficult questions for each of us: Is there a gap in our tape? Is there some area that could become a gap?

First Paragraph

If you could see adrenaline, then you'd see a great green greasy river of it oozing off the beach at San Diego tonight. You'd see it flowing one hundred miles out toward the stern of the boat - that's what the pilots call it, a boat, despite the fact that it displaces 95,000 tons of water, has a minimum of six thousand people living on board at all times, and is as long as the Empire State Building is tall. 

- From Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies. 

- Groucho Marx

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Miscellaneous and Fast

The trailer for "Into Great Silence."
Stephen F. Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn on the plan to release terrorists from Gitmo.
The trailer for "The Tree of Life."
Rich Lowry: Are we on the verge of a Black Swan event?
The trailer for "Pepe Le Moko."
The trailer for "Hillsong: Let Hope Rise."
Classic: "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis

Much More

The incomparable Nicholas Bate provides much more sound advice and then more beyond that.

Ask Mr. Bronson

The Hop Bird

From 2005: Jonah Goldberg's eulogy of his father. An excerpt:

But one of my earliest memories is of us walking to Murray’s–I couldn’t have been much older than 7 or 8–when he stopped, and suddenly tightened his grip on my little hand and said to me, “Jonah, if you are ever pulled over by a policeman in a South American country, you must tell him ‘I’m sorry officer. I didn’t realize my mistake. Is there any way I can pay the fine right here rather than go down to the station house?’”

For the Pleasure of Writing

The Cramped is a pleasure and it is filled with great ideas.

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

When the tide goes out, you discover who's been swimming naked. 

- Warren Buffett

Monday, September 19, 2016

First Paragraph

I first came to know Sophia Leonides in Egypt towards the end of the war. She held a fairly high administrative post in one of the Foreign Office departments out there. I knew her first in an official capacity, and I soon appreciated the efficiency that had brought her to the position he held, in spite of her youth (she was at that time just twenty-two). 

- From Crooked House by Agatha Christie

"I Used to Be a Human Being"

Am I exaggerating? A small but detailed 2015 study of young adults found that participants were using their phones five hours a day, at 85 separate times. Most of these interactions were for less than 30 seconds, but they add up. Just as revealing: The users weren’t fully aware of how addicted they were. They thought they picked up their phones half as much as they actually did. But whether they were aware of it or not, a new technology had seized control of around one-third of these young adults’ waking hours.

Writing in New York magazine, Andrew Sullivan on the effects of our daily digital bombardment.

Put down that smartphone.

[HT: Althouse]

Art Break: Maurer

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Alfred Maurer.

Press Bias is Not Limited to the USA

Spiegel interviews Bavarian Governor Horst Seehofer about immigration and inadvertently reveals why so many modern journalists are loathed.

New Day

New day. Fresh challenges and fresh answers and sometimes a lot of old ones.

Progress (or regression) can be found in the process and/or the results.

Don't forget to dissect.

Highly Recommended

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Excerpt: "Sir Eric Findlay died on good terms with his family, having lived long enough to earn the reputation of an eccentric rather than a nut."

Quote of the Day

Those who know do not tell,
Those who tell do not know ....

- Lao Tzu

Saturday, September 17, 2016

George C. Scott Moment

From "Dr. Strangelove."

First Paragraph

One may paraphrase the famous words of Karl Marx and say that a specter is haunting the modern mind, the specter of insecurity. Surely the outstanding characteristic of contemporary thought on man and society is the preoccupation with personal alienation and cultural disintegration. The fears of the nineteenth-century conservatives in Western Europe, expressed against a background of increasing individualism, secularism, and social dislocation, have become, to an extraordinary degree, the insights and hypotheses of present-day students of man in society. The widening concern with insecurity and disintegration is accompanied by a profound regard for the values of status, membership, and community. 

- From The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order & Freedom by Robert Nisbet

Short Story Saturday

Richard Connell's adventure classic: "The Most Dangerous Game."

In the Background

The soundtrack to "Lawrence of Arabia" is in the background.

I just had some espresso and read part of the newspaper. More coffee is needed. A chunk of the day will be devoted to preparing a briefing and reviewing some coaching notes for a client. 

Also working on another book: a collection of the Random Thoughts that are occasionally posted on this blog. It will also include some thoughts that have not been posted.  

Scribble, scribble.

Have a great day.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

You have been given a special assignment: to choose a film/show or a song that will be played on a running loop in the cell of a vile person who is in the lowest ring of Hell.

The goal? To punish.

Your choices?

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

Early morning snow falling in the desert - the bright vast land - coffee and hotcakes on the stove - all around, golden silence spangled with bird cries - the feeling of something splendid about to occur - a setting for visions, pageants, dreams, cavalry battles - Balanced Rock at Arches, snow-covered mountains beyond and me squatting on sandstone in the clear clear chill air, coffee cup in hand, sun blazing down on snow already beginning to melt from juniper, cliffrose, dead pine, pinnacle, ramada - brief bliss.

- Edward Abbey, Confessions of a Barbarian

Friday, September 16, 2016

Creative Destruction

At Political Calculations, you will find the story of a Japanese company that developed a new technology which removes buildings in an incremental manner, causing the building to shrink, one floor at a time. 

Very interesting.

Pip and Friend

The opening scene from David Lean's film version of "Great Expectations."

Dickens + Lean = Great drama.

The Neo-Generalist

Thanks, Tanmay. 

You write an interesting review and now there's another book for my stack!

How to Become a Selfish Toad

Go to social events and think only of putting yourself at ease and not about doing so for others. Postpone writing thank-you notes until their effect is lost. Either wander down a path of self-recrimination that worships your perfection or quickly forgive yourself for any transgression. Fall so passionately in love with your work that you fail to see areas of possible improvement. Keep careful score on what you have done for others but only roughly recall what they have done for you. Don't give to charity and rationalize that lapse by asserting that the government should do more. Never apologize. Rarely listen. Identify solely with the strong and successful. Pay no attention to the unspoken. Be able to cite, in detail, life's unfairness. Relish the role of victim. Expect large rewards with minimal effort. 

Reminder for Writers

Just tell the story. Don't make it complicated. 

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

Unless a person takes charge of them, both work and free time are likely to be disappointing. 

- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi