Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Firing Line Broadcasts

The extraordinary talk show is available at The Hoover Institution.

Sometimes It's the Best??? Picture

Look back over the Best Picture Awards and you are sure to find some years when you wonder what people were smoking.
  • 1956: Was Around the World in 80 Days really a better film than The King and I?
  • 1961: Was West Side Story really a better film than Judgment at Nuremberg?
  • 1968: Was Oliver! really a better film than The Lion in Winter?
  • 1979: Was Kramer vs. Kramer really a better film than Being There?
  • 1996: Was The English Patient really a better film than Fargo?
  • 1997: Was Titanic really a better film than L.A. Confidential?
  • 2002: Was Chicago really a better film than The Pianist?
  • 2012: Was Argo really a better film than Life of Pi?

The Man in the Back

I am attending - not conducting - some workshops today.

Rather than being "on," I can be "off."

Rather than holding the attention of a group, I just need to hold my own.

I can sit in the last row and shuffle back to the coffee and sweet rolls whenever the mood strikes.

And the mood will strike.

I can be indifferent to the clock and to eye contact and pacing. I won't need to take questions or re-word various points or cite examples to bolster generalizations.

During the breaks, I can hobnob with my fellow wizards.

It will be a holiday.

But I will need to listen.


Don't Bother the Old Man

I was thinking the other day about my grandfather on my dad's side of the family. He grew up in the South shortly after the end of the Civil War, rode freight trains throughout the South and the West, worked in San Francisco right after the earthquake, and arrived in Arizona before statehood. Once there, he peddled vegetables and delivered mail before starting a cotton farm which he kept during the Great Depression and beyond.

It's fortunate that none of his grandchildren ever pestered him for stories about his life.

After all, we wouldn't have wanted to be impolite.

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I do not entertain much hope that you will deign to examine ideas not formally solicited by you, although they come from a fellow countryman of a rare kind - one who does not stand on a ladder subordinate to your command, who can be neither dismissed from his post, nor demoted, nor promoted, nor rewarded by you, and from whom therefore you are almost certain to hear an opinion sincerely voiced, without any careerist calculations, such as you are unlikely to hear from even the finest experts in your bureaucracy. I do not hold out much hope, but I shall try to say what is most important in a short space - namely, to set forth what I hold to be for the good and salvation of our people, to which all of you - and I myself - belong.

- From Letter to the Soviet Leaders by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Quote of the Day

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.

- Joseph Campbell

Monday, February 27, 2017

Art Break

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Edgar Maxence.

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If there were one key to the Southwest's history and culture, it might well be the river systems of the region. Man goes where water flows, up and down the river trails and back and forth along the river arteries. River banks and valleys are ancient places of human habitation. Rivers are history's circulatory system. 

- From Where Water Flows: The Rivers of Arizona by Lawrence Clark Powell

Music Lover

Cultural Offering has the Essential Mixes for John Waite.


Clive James on Brexit and Europe.

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It goes by many names: "The Crisis," "The Dark Years," "The Walking Plague," as well as newer and more "hip" titles such as "World War Z" or "Z War One." I personally dislike this last moniker as it implies an inevitable "Z War Two." For me, it will always be "The Zombie War," and while many may protest the scientific accuracy of the word zombie, they will be hard-pressed to discover a more globally accepted term for the creatures that almost caused our extinction. Zombie remains a devastating word, unrivaled in its power to conjure up so many memories or emotions, and it is these memories, and emotions, that are the subject of this book

- From World War Z: An Oral History of The Zombie War by Max Brooks

Highly Recommended

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Big Government on the Sly

In his 2014 book "Bring Back the Bureaucrats," [John J. Di Iulio]  argued that because the public is, at least philosophically, against "big government," government has prudently become stealthy about how it becomes ever bigger. In a new Brookings paper, he demonstrates that government expands by indirection, using three kinds of "administrative proxies" -- state and local government, for-profit businesses, and nonprofit organizations.

Read the rest of George Will's column here.

A Major and Memorable Termination Blunder

When radio and television personality Arthur Godfrey fired a performer on-air.

Quote of the Day

The young person who has not wept is a savage, and the old one who will not laugh is a fool.

- George Santayana

Saturday, February 25, 2017

An Earful of Patsy Cline

This item at Anderson Layman's Blog will cause many of us to remember this classic Jimmy Buffett song.

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I used to love this season. The wood stacked by the door, the tang of its sap still speaking of forest. The hay made, all golden in the low afternoon light. The rumble of the apples tumbling into the cellar bins. Smells and sights and sounds that said this year it would be all right: there'd be food and warmth for the babies by the time the snows came. I used to love to walk in the apple orchard at this time of the year, to feel the soft give underfoot when I trod on a fallen fruit. Thick, sweet scents of rotting apple and wet wood. This year, the hay stocks are few and the woodpile scant, and neither matters much to me.

- From Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

First Impressions

A client recently called with a question about an organizational problem. The subject was sensitive and there was a desire for decisive action. There were, however, two likely approaches. [Doing nothing was not an option.]

Each approach had possible complications but, as we discussed the matter, it was evident that one carried far more risk than the other.

Here's the interesting part: the risky option initially seemed to be modest and subdued.  

Gilbert and Sullivan ["H.M.S. Pinafore"]: "Things are seldom what they seem. Skim milk masquerades as cream." 

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

There is a great difference between knowing a thing and understanding it.

- Charles Kettering

Friday, February 24, 2017

Music Break

2013 BBC Proms: The theme from "Ben-Hur."

Cadillac's Dare Greatly Ad

The Cadillac advertisement that will be aired during the Oscars.

Some additional commentary is at Althouse.

Bock Reviews "Messy"

Wally Bock gives an intriguing review of Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford.

Once again, he has added to my reading list.


Yesterday in Flagstaff

There was snow on the San Francisco Peaks and the city below had cold and strong winds. Even the locals thought it was cold. The desert rat who was teaching ethical decision-making had to scurry from car to training room.

As with most of my classes on ethics, attendance was mandatory. Make it optional and you'll find that few people will tell their boss, "I'd like to take a class on ethics," much less "I think I need a class on ethics."

But they do.  All of us do. And when it is cold outside, a cozy training room can look very nice.


When you are young, sleep is a rival because there is so much to do.

When you are older, sleep is an ally because there is so much to do.

[Update: Last word corrected. Not enough sleep.]

Quote of the Day

The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.

- Daniel J. Boorstin

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Greater Appreciation

As I get older, I have a greater appreciation of:
  • The talent of Frank Sinatra.
  • A quiet Saturday night.
  • The sweetness of dogs.
  • Alfred Hitchcock films.
  • Walks.
  • Bach's genius.
  • A well-written sentence.
  • The insight of Abraham Lincoln.
  • Vincent van Gogh.
  • Comfortable clothes.

Film Break

The trailers for:

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It was only toward the middle of the twentieth century that the inhabitants of many European countries came, in general unpleasantly, to the realization that their fate could be influenced directly by intricate and abstruse books of philosophy. Their bread, their work, their private lives began to depend on this or that decision in disputes on principles to which, until then, they had never paid any attention. In their eyes, the philosopher had always been a sort of dreamer whose divagations had no effect on reality. The average human being, even if he had once been exposed to it, wrote philosophy off as utterly impractical and useless. Therefore the great intellectual work of the Marxists could easily pass as just one more variation on a sterile pastime. Only a few individuals understood the causes and probable consequences of this general indifference.

- From The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz

Quote of the Day

When you receive a kindness, remember it; when you do a kindness, forget it.

- Greek proverb

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Poetry Break

Emily Dickinson: "Surgeons Must Be Very Careful."

Short and sharp.

Highly Recommended

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Small Wins

Nicholas Bate has the list

My favorite involves reading four pages of a classic novel every day.

HP's Attack on Equal Employment Opportunity

Center for Equal Opportunity: "Diversity Mandate to Partner Law Firms."

ABA Journal has a related story.

Evidence that truly vile policies can be dressed up in fine language. I wonder how many law firms will meekly comply. 

Plain Language

Whenever I hear a speaker use language that is unduly complicated, it sparks several reactions:

  1. "This person is blowing smoke to hide a lack of expertise."
  2. "This person confuses complexity with depth and is seeking to impress us."
  3. "This person may not be trying to deceive or impress anyone but simply doesn't know the subject well enough to put it in plain language."
  4. "This person may know the subject, but doesn't care enough about the audience to put it in terms that are easier to understand."
I realize that there are other possible interpretations but my usual conclusion is the third. I've met executives and managers who sincerely believe that they know a subject but, when pressed to describe it in plain language, they are stymied.

I've mentioned this idea before but a very wise Human Resources Director of my acquaintance writes a clear description of key HR issues on large note cards. When she finishes a management book, she jots what she learned on those note cards. It is a simple and brilliant habit because translating the complex into the simple is one of the surest ways to learn a subject.

If you can't put it in plain language, perhaps you don't know it.

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Through all the years of my sad youth Huysmans remained a companion, a faithful friend; never once did I doubt him, never once was I tempted to drop him or take up another subject; then, one afternoon in June 2007, after waiting and putting it off as long as I could, even slightly longer than was allowed, I defended my dissertation, "Joris-Karl Huysmans: Out of the Tunnel," before the jury of the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne. The next morning (or maybe that evening, I don't remember: I spent the night of my defense alone and very drunk) I realized that part of my life, probably the best part, was behind me.

- From Submission by Michel Houellebecq

Quote of the Day

A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

- Winston Churchill

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Study in Leadership: McMaster

From 2006: George Packer in The New Yorker on the man who was just appointed National Security Adviser.

Update: McMaster speaking on strategy.

Think "System"

In general, an intent will beat a wish, a goal will beat an intent, and a plan will beat a goal, But a clear goal, a solid plan, and a well-matched system will be formidable.

Start with a Good Cup of Coffee

And then read several posts at Cultural Offering.

A great way to ease into the morning.

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The early-morning, late-November sun began to come in low and slow and pale over the railroad bridge at the Dockett Street commuter-train stop on the Dedham-West Roxbury line, cheap-glittering the dirty windows on the southerly side of the yellow cinderblock auto-body shop - the sign on the roof in tall, hollow, red-plastic letters read: BUDDYS' YOUR BRUISED CAR'S BEST BUDDY -and Dell'Appa writhed in the passenger bucket of the blue-and-white Chevy Blazer. He exhaled loudly.

- From Bomber's Law by George V. Higgins

Quote of the Day

To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.

- George Orwell

Monday, February 20, 2017

White House Tour

From 1962: A tour of The White House with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Eclecticity Light

Where does he find this stuff?

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The Sixty-Seventh Combat Support Hospital, located 250 miles northwest of Baghdad, was not like most hospitals. For starters, the doctors carried guns. As officers in the U.S. Army, the physicians were required to wear sidearms, which were deposited in a lockbox before every shift. The hospital often treated Iraqi insurgents, who were known to spit in attending physicians' faces as they received treatment. If they (or a disoriented U.S. soldier) got their hands on a weapon, a firefight could break out in the operating room.

- From Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World by Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt

Highly Recommended

Sherlock: Season 4.

But only if you're seen the previous seasons.

Do your homework.

Washington or Lincoln?

Since today is Presidents' Day in the United States, let's consider a classic question that can spark no small amount of debate. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are commonly regarded as the two greatest presidents.

Which one would you say was the greatest? 

Presidents' Day

Quote of the Day

Never go out to meet trouble. If you just sit still, nine cases out of ten, someone will intercept it before it reaches you.

- Calvin Coolidge

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Always a Pleasant Visit

Garbo Break

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It was a mystery in those parts for years what had happened to the old white ghost man, the barbarian with his huge shoulder bag. There were some who supposed him to have been murdered, and, later, they dug up the floor of Old Gao's little shack high on the hillside, looking for treasure, but they found nothing but ash and fire-blackened tin trays.

- From "The Case of Death and Honey" in Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Attention Learners!

If you are on Amazon Prime, you can take the Great Courses Signature Collection for $7.99 a month.

That is a smoking deal.

A Legion of Scribblers

While searching through a mountain of scholarly articles on history, I found it hard not to be impressed by the dedication of so many people writing on such obscure topics. 

Obscure, that is, until you need information on it and then the subject is front-page-worthy stuff that should have never been neglected.

Gratitude for their dedication is increased by the knowledge that most of them wrote simply out of love for the subject. They didn't make a cent. There may be a slight ego boost but that is more than outweighed by the knowledge that you'll go down in family lore as the eccentric uncle or aunt who wrote about Chinese grocery stores in Bisbee or about the reason why a particular color was used in a state flag.

We need people and preservation like that. As I've written before on this blog, history doesn't wait to be discovered. It can be lost. That unknown legion of scribblers helps to preserve its lessons.

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. 

- Mother Teresa

Friday, February 17, 2017

How to Answer the Phone

Jason Robards demonstrates the proper technique in "A Thousand Clowns."

Michael Novak, RIP

Always interesting. Always thought-provoking.

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In 1805, England had a problem. Napoleon had conquered big chunks of Europe and planned the invasion of England. But to cross the Channel, he needed to wrest control of the sea away from the English. Off the southwest coast of Spain, the French and Spanish combined fleet of thirty-three ships met the smaller British fleet of twenty-seven ships. The well-developed tactics of the day were for the two opposing fleets to each stay in line, firing broadsides at each other. But British admiral Lord Nelson had a strategic insight. He broke the British fleet into two columns and drive them at the Franco-Spanish fleet, hitting their line perpendicularly. The lead British ships took a great risk, but Nelson judged that the less-trained Franco-Spanish gunners would not be able to compensate for the heavy swell that day. At the end of the Battle of Trafalgar, the French and Spanish lost twenty-two ships, two-thirds of their fleet. The British lost none. Nelson was mortally wounded, becoming, in death, Britain's greatest naval hero. Britain's naval dominance was ensured and remained unsurpassed for a century and a half.

From Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard P. Rumelt

Remembering Gene Pitney

Gene Pitney, like the great Roy Orbison, deserves to be better known by the young. 

Anderson Layman's Blog has one of his hit songs.

Political Hypocrisy

Jonathan Bethune: Why Both The Left and The Right Are Political Hypocrites.


Let us sit somewhere comfortable and question why the police officer who entered a strange apartment behaved properly when there was the chance that a maniac with a shotgun might suddenly emerge from a backroom.

Let us sip some wine and shake our heads at the combat leader's decision to call in an artillery strike.

Let us scoff at the political leader's failure to get a perfect picture of a cloudy situation even though a perfect picture seldom and perhaps never exists. If that same leader fails to act in time? Well, we can excoriate the delay as a sign of indecisiveness.

Ours is a popular profession. There are no risks.

Pulp Break

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Quote of the Day

Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation.

- Andre Gide

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Art Break: Beltran Masses

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Federico Beltran Masses.

Nazis and Secretaries

The Daily Beast in 2011: Andrew Roberts with the secrets of Nazi secretaries.

Bock: Leadership

Wally Bock: "Leaders and Strategies in Real Life."

Also check out Wally's latest book: "Become a Better Boss One Tip at a Time."

Highly Recommended

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Like all men in Babylon I have been a proconsul; like all, a slave; I have also known omnipotence, opprobrium, jail. Look: the index finger of my right hand is missing. Look again: through this rent in my cape you can see a ruddy tattoo on my belly. It is the second symbol, Beth. This letter, on nights of full moon, gives me power over men whose mark is Ghimel; but it also subordinates me to those marked Aleph, who on moonless nights owe obedience to those marked Ghimel. In a cellar at dawn, I have severed the jugular vein of sacred bulls against a black rock. During one lunar year, I have been declared invisible: I shrieked and was not heard, I stole my bread and was not decapitated. I have known what the Greeks did not: uncertainty. In a bronze chamber, faced with the silent handkerchief of a strangler, hope has been faithful to me; in the river of delights, panic has not failed me. Heraclitus of Pontica admiringly relates that Pythagoras recalled having been Pyrrho, and before that Euphorbus, and before that some other mortal. In order to recall analogous vicissitudes I do not need to have recourse to death, nor even to imposture.

- From "The Babylon Lottery." a short story in Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

Prime Thinking

Fast Company on why Amazon is the world's most innovative company of 2017. 

The description of Prime membership benefits alone is rather startling.

An American Life

Cultural Offering, a daily read, has been on a roll. Check it out.

The Circle

Because he did not trust them, he did not delegate, and because he did not delegate, he did not develop others, and because he did not develop others, they remained dependent upon him and lacked skills, and because they were dependent and lacked skills, he did not trust them.

Quote of the Day

A little integrity is better than any career.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Crime and Punishment

The trailers for:

Pulp Break

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Global Refugee Crisis: Two Sides

Reprise: The Munk Debate on the Global Refugee Crisis features Mark Steyn and Nigel Farage versus Louise Arbour and Simon Schama.

Well worth the time.

Knowing's Restrictions

  • Knowing is fine, but we should also try to know what we do not know. 
  • Knowing is important, but it can also spark the temptation to control or micromanage.
  • Knowing is insatiable, but the feast should eventually end so action can be taken.

More Dewey Crowe, Please

Wired in 2015 assembled some gifs from Justified.

If you've never seen that series, you should quickly remedy that.

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Blinded by the bomb-flash and numbed by the narcotic injection, he could not estimate the extent of his injuries, but he knew that he was dying. Around him, in the darkness, voices sounded as through a thick wall.

- from Time and Time Again by H. Beam Piper

Quote of the Day

Public funders - and eventually private funders as well - will migrate away from organizations with stirring stories alone toward well-managed organizations that can also demonstrate meaningful, lasting impact.

- Mario Morino

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Late Night Reading Mode

Business book? No, I'll wind up taking notes.

Thriller? No, it will keep me up.

Intricate spy novel? Perhaps, but it will need to be a tad boring.

Horror novel? No way.

History book? Perhaps.

Classic novel? Perhaps.

Contenders: Raise Your Voice: A Cause Manifesto by Brian Sooy; The Mindful Board: Mastering the Art of Conscious Governance by Charlotte M. Roberts and Martha W. Summerville; A Brief History of France by Cecil Jenkins; and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Winner for this evening? Brave New World.

Very Nicely Done

Unorganized Hancock, a band from the wilds of Maine, made this video in 2016.

It is timeless, well performed, and the movie clips are fun.

Future Research Project for Business Marketing Class

The New York Times: Nudity is returning to Playboy.

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Penrod sat morosely upon the back fence and gazed with envy at Duke, his wistful dog.

- From Penrod by Booth Tarkington

Music Break

Michael Chapdelaine: "Somebody That I Used to Know."

The Valentine State

Image result for arizona statehood

Arizona went from a territory to a state on February 14, 1912. As a result, its nickname for many years was The Valentine State.

I'm glad that got shucked. Now its nickname is The Grand Canyon State; a wise tourism magnet to counter the belief of some that the Grand Canyon is in Nevada.

Anyway, when you think about it, 1912 wasn't really that long ago. [My grandfather voted for statehood and I'm still remarkably youthful, in thought if not in body.] The state lingered in territorial status for an unusual amount of time possibly because of its sparse, pre-air conditioned, population and the fact that visits from local characters such as Geronimo tended to discourage development. Not too many years before statehood, there were times when walking twenty paces outside of Tombstone was a risky endeavor.

In other words, Arizona territory had a wild reputation.

The dedication of Roosevelt Dam in 1911 was a major turning point in the territory's growth. While other parts of the country worried about getting water off the land, the Phoenix area had the opposite concern. There was also another: along with its dependence on irrigation came occasional floods from a river that could not be controlled. Roosevelt Dam provided a predictable source of water and power to the area. It was a foundation for enormous growth.

By 1912, the territory was more than ready for statehood.

Testing Your List

First assignment: Quickly make a list of what you want to get done today.

Don't read the fine print until after you've made your list.

Second assignment: Take a couple of minutes and see if anything important is missing from that list.

If so, consider how an item that important could have missed your first review. Are you avoiding it?

Happy Valentine's Day

A day for quoting Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

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This time, there would be no witnesses.

- From Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

Quote of the Day

Many people have trouble supporting a decision with which they do not agree, but that they need to do so is simply inevitable. Even when we all have the same facts and we all have the interests of an organization in mind, we tend to have honest, strongly felt, real differences of opinion. No matter how much time we may spend trying to forge agreement, we just won't be able to get it on many issues. But an organization does not live by its members agreeing with one another at all times about everything. It lives instead by people committing to support the decisions and the moves of the business. All a manager can expect is that the commitment to support is honestly present, and this is something he can and must get from everyone.

- Andrew S. Grove, High Output Management