City Journal: Kay S. Hymowitz looks at Barbie, both doll and film.
Monday, July 31, 2023
This week will begin with a serious review of my coaching schedule. A recent client request will greatly expand the sessions - which is welcome - but I also have to blend in the ongoing projects.
My initial question is to myself: what would I advise a client facing a similar situation?
My advice would be to establish balance and boundaries. Learn the internal priorities. Expect surprises. Schedule time for rest and reflection. Don't shortchange the older clients in order to wow the new ones. Do not work to full capacity. Other projects will be in the wings.
As always, earn their trust.
Sunday, July 30, 2023
Saturday, July 29, 2023
Friday, July 28, 2023
One of my clients refers to me as "The (name of organization) Batman."
I visit them to resolve various issues and have been doing so for many years.
Go in with a specific assignment, resolve the matter, and then leave.
There are advantages to being an outsider. Often, our lenses are clearer.
Thursday, July 27, 2023
It was an old neighborhood, one where the houses had front porches on which people would sit in the evening, chat with neighbors, and read the newspaper or listen to a ball game on the radio.
Those poor souls could hear the water from the garden hose trickle into the flower bed. They could speculate on the weather or critique the violin lessons being given two doors down. They studied trees, dogs, and reactions. They had a certain modesty and dignity. Standards were expected and honored. You were an individual but you were one within the larger community.
This odd sort didn't hide in the back room, staring at a screen. They studied the uniqueness of people and could tell from a quick glance or a slight intonation if something wasn't right, if someone needed help.
They were there for one another. They were there to celebrate and boost one another. You had to coax them to brag.
In many parts of the country, we've drifted away from that.
Wednesday, July 26, 2023
Tuesday, July 25, 2023
Have recently chatted with two bright people who are considering a switch from their smartphone to a Light Phone II.
[Update: One had already made the switch to a Nokia flip phone. His Light Phone arrives today. He'll be comparing the two.]
I may be joining them.
Jonathan Turley on media reluctance to cover the unfolding scandal.
Although many of the younger reporters may not recall these names, this is not as if large amounts of money were paid to Clark Clifford or Joseph Califano in the days when everyone knew they were serious power operators/persuaders with great influence due to their own achievements.
Hunter Biden is a very different person. The only reason he would get a dime is his link to his father.
The credibility of the news media, already low, will take a major hit in the coming weeks.
Monday, July 24, 2023
I have a lot of reading this summer but have vowed to catch up on the novels of Nicholas Bate. [If he writes them, I read them.]
Also in the stack: books by Roger Scruton, a growing number of books on wellness and technology, The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver, and several related to the trial of Jesus.
Sunday, July 23, 2023
Saturday, July 22, 2023
Yesterday, I was in a coffee shop for an afternoon meeting. The other person had not arrived and I was checking on a specific strategy discussed in a meeting that morning. It was the obvious strategy and had various complications.
As I scribbled notes, another approach surfaced: direct, simple, inexpensive, and well within our control. And it had far greater punch.
Why didn't I notice it before?
I'm still thinking about that.
Friday, July 21, 2023
Jonathan Turley on "so-called" journalism and the IRS whistle-blowers.
In 2029, the United States is engaged in a bloodless world war that will wipe out the savings of millions of American families. Overnight, on the international currency exchange, the "almighty dollar" plummets in value, to be replaced by a new global currency, the bancor. In retaliation, the president declares that America will default on its loans. The government prints money to cover its bills. What little real currency remains for savers is rapidly eaten away by runaway inflation.
Check out The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, a novel by Lionel Shriver.
I'm currently reading it. Despite a great deal of humor, the book is a little too close to scary.
The New Yorker (2013): Peter Andrey Smith on "The Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise."
Thursday, July 20, 2023
Much of the advice in life involves shunning the bad things: Don't do this. Avoid that.
The message is to stay on the straight and narrow. Don't slip into the ditch or the abyss.
What is missed, however, is advice on what to do when good things become dangerous:
- Too much patience.
- Too much kindness.
- Too much study.
- Too much diligence.
- Too much toil.
- Too much tolerance.
- Too much analysis.
- Too much guidance.
Something entirely new is happening in the world. Just in the last five or ten years, nearly everyone started to carry a little device called a smartphone on their person all the time that's suitable for algorithmic behavior modification. A lot of us are also using related devices called smart speakers on our kitchen counters or in our car dashboards. We're being tracked and measured constantly, and receiving engineered feedback all the time. We're being hypnotized little by little by technicians we can't see, for purposes we don't know. We're all lab animals now.
- Jaron Lanier, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (2018)
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
- What is our goal?
- How can we reach it?
- What resources are needed?
- How do we get them?
- Who is on our team?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- What are the main obstacles?
- How do we surmount them?
- Who are our potential allies?
- Who are our potential competitors?
- If this project doesn't work, what would be the likely culprit?
- What is the strongest appeal?
- How will it change things?
- What are the stages?
- What are the interim deadlines?
- What is the most sophisticated model of operation?
- What is the simplest model?
- What would we do with very limited resources?
- Which actions will produce the greatest results?
- Once we achieve our goal, what will be our new challenges?
A while back my teenage son drifted into the room where I was reading, tilting his head to catch the title of the book in my hands. It was that venerable classic How to Read a Book, by Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren. "Oh man," he said, "I had to read that in school last year. Maybe I learned something about how to read a book, but after that I never wanted to read a book again."
- From The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs
Monday, July 17, 2023
City Journal: Martin Gurri on how the establishment Left embraced government control of digital speech. An excerpt:
At the same time, the speech police protected from criticism members in good standing of the establishment, with a special fondness for Anthony Fauci. It did that for Joe Biden, too, before and after his election to the presidency. There’s no need to repeat here the sordid details of the Hunter Biden laptop fiasco, but given that the predicate for censorship has been the defense of truth, the bare facts of the story should be noted: the FBI lied to Twitter, and Twitter passed the lie on to the public. If it was a disinformation operation, it succeeded completely.
I have fond memories of the Book of the Month Club.
It's still around, but as this Forbes interview with its chairman shows, an old guy like me is far from its target audience.
The Club's new focus is Millennial women. You can tell that from its book choices.
Saturday, July 15, 2023
Wally Bock's tip about previewing the books you might want to read has become one of my habits.
It's not fool-proof - on occasion a lemon will slip through - but you usually can spot any gaps between the hype and the substance. Where possible, I scan the book's index to get a sense of substance.
The promotional blurbs on the back should never be taken seriously when considering leadership and management books. There are several big names who frequently gush over the equivalent of swamp land.
Whenever I go to waiting rooms at doctor's offices, I am always struck by the large number of people reading great literature instead of staring dully into a smartphone.
Tolstoy, Proust, and Dickens are the usual distractions but it's also possible to spot the works of Shakespeare, Twain, and Steinbeck. More than a few, of course, are immersed in the novels of Agatha Christie or Elmore Leonard but they are in the minority.
Later on, when I report this to the doctor, there is always intense interest in how long I've been noticing such things.
Friday, July 14, 2023
"I believe that what fascinates me is the unstated question that lies behind much of our preoccupation with the computer's capabilities. That question is not what will the computer be like in the future, but instead, what will we be like? What kind of people are we becoming?"
- Sherry Turkle, The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (1984)
From the National Association of Scholars in 2012, Carol Iannone interviews Robert George about Western Heritage. An excerpt:
A political regime of self-government can only be sustained among people who are capable of governing themselves. People incapable of self-mastery will quickly prove to be unfit for self-government.
Thursday, July 13, 2023
City Journal: Jeffrey H. Anderson on "The Allure of Last Time's Loser."
I believe the national mood would improve enormously if Biden and Trump took themselves out of the running.
To give an honest accounting of the effects of the net on media consumption, you need to add the amount of time people spend consuming web media to the amount of time they already spend consuming TV and other traditional media. Once you do that, it becomes clear that the net has not reduced the time devoted to imbibing media but increased it, a lot. The web, in other words, marks a continuation of a long-term cultural trend, not a reversal of it. The difference is, you no longer need a couch to be a couch potato. With smartphone in hand, you can be a spud wherever you go.
- From "Charlie Bit My Cognitive Surplus" (August 3, 2010) in Utopia Is Creepy and Other Provocations by Nicholas Carr
Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Molly Ringwald, the beloved teen movie queen of the '80s, recently told Manhattan's York Prep graduating seniors during their commencement that any remake of her iconic high school film The Breakfast Club would "just be teens on their phones for two and a half hours."
- From Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids - And How to Break the Trance by Nicholas Kardaras
Tuesday, July 11, 2023
An executive was sent to turn around a problem in a department.
The problem was turned around.
What was missed was that the executive's blunt manner created a new set of problems that won't show up on the monthly progress reports.
Always look for the intangible. It may be more important than the tangible.
When Edmund Burke, who sympathized with the American colonists, delivered his argument against the Stamp Act, he countered the position of Lord North, the Tory prime minister:
"Lord North asserts, that retrospect is not wise; and the proper, the only proper subject of inquiry, is 'not how we got into this difficulty, but how we are to get out of it.' In other words, we are, according to him, to consult our invention, and reject our experience. The mode of deliberation he recommends is diametrically opposite to every rule of reason and every principle of good sense established amongst mankind."
- From Edmund Burke: The First Conservative by Jesse Norman
Monday, July 10, 2023
The cellular signal died halfway through my one hundred fifty-mile journey crossing the state of Florida from west to east. Even though it was a cool February day, I started to sweat. There were no houses or businesses along this rural stretch of road, only horse and cattle farms, lush palm trees, sweet orange groves. Under other circumstances, I would have basked in my idyllic surroundings, but alone and cut off from the online world, I couldn't focus on anything but lurking danger.
- From Offline Rebel: The Bold Magic of Living Without a Smartphone by Flora Hope London
Sunday, July 09, 2023
Saturday, July 08, 2023
Consider how much attention this would get if the figures were reversed.
I was flipping through the new issue of The Atlantic today when I came across this nugget from Ray Kurzweil: "The means of creativity have now been democratized. For example, anyone with an inexpensive high-definition video camera and a personal computer can create a high-quality, full-length motion picture." Yep. Just as the invention of the pencil made it possible for anyone to write a high-quality, full-length novel. And just as that saw in my garage makes it possible for me to build a high-quality, full-length chest of drawers.
- From "The Means of Creativity" (October 14, 2007) in Utopia Is Creepy and Other Provocations by Nicholas Carr
Friday, July 07, 2023
My approach has rarely been to go directly from A to B, but to learn as much as possible about B, to view it from all angles and at various distances, while eventually getting closer and closer.
This may be frustrating for some people but it works for me.
[Photo by Glen Carrie at Unsplash]
Thursday, July 06, 2023
Anna Halsey was about two hundred and forty pounds of middle-aged putty-faced woman in a black tailor-made suit. Her eyes were shiny black shoe buttons, her cheeks were as soft as suet and about the same color. She was sitting behind a black glass desk that looked like Napoleon's tomb and she was smoking a cigarette in a black holder that was not quite as long as a rolled umbrella. She said: "I need a man."
- From Trouble Is My Business by Raymond Chandler
Which of the following is closest to today's climate in the United States?
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
- Not one of the above but a blend of two or three
Wednesday, July 05, 2023
The Washington Post: "Loneliness is taking friend-making apps mainstream."
Jonathan Turley on "The most massive attack on free speech in United States history."
The rowboat slid out on the Potomac in the hazy light of a hot August morning, dropped down past the line of black ships near the Alexandria wharves, and bumped to a stop with its nose against the wooden side of a transport. Colonel Herman Haupt, superintendent of military railroads, a sheaf of telegrams crumpled in one hand, went up the Jacob's ladder to the deck - clumsily, as was to be expected of a landsman, but rapidly, for he was an active man - and disappeared into a cabin. A moment later he returned, and as he came down the ladder he was followed by a short, broad-shouldered, sandy-haired man, deeply tanned by the sun of the Virginia peninsula, with thin faint lines of worry between his eyes: Major General George Brinton McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, which had been coming up from the south by water for a week and more and which at the moment was scattered all the way from Alexandria to the upper Rappahannock, most of it well out of the general's reach and all of it, as he suspected, soon to be out of his authority.
- From Mr. Lincoln's Army by Bruce Catton
Tuesday, July 04, 2023
I wrote this several years ago and post it each 4th of July:
The document is on the table.
Although some of your colleagues are making jokes, each one knows that the signature places the signer's head in a hangman's noose. To sign means you will be regarded as a traitor by the nation that has held your loyalty since birth. Your livelihood may be destroyed and your family doomed to a life of isolation and poverty. Many of your friends and associates will be under suspicion. Others will shun you. Your side, which has feeble and poorly-trained forces, will be fighting the greatest military power in the world. Despite all of the grand talk, the odds of success are small. Even if your side is successful, your new nation will be vulnerable to internal disputes and attacks from predatory powers. This theory of self-government, however attractive, might not work.
It's your turn. Will you sign?
Monday, July 03, 2023
On the move again, stealing through the forest, he leaves his shelter and advances through the trees. No one will hear him, no one will see him. There is a heaviness in the air, deep in the thicket he feels the warmth; summer has arrived with a vengeance. Tokala pauses and takes a deep breath. The scent of the lime-tree blossom and winter barley fills the air in the fields over by Markowsken, and already he can smell the lake.
- From The Fatherland Files by Volker Kutscher
City Journal: Heather Mac Donald on the battle for cultural survival. An excerpt:
Coverage of this alleged culture war demonstrates the Left’s most important power: the ability to set the default. The Left engineers disruption after disruption to longstanding social practices, each more sweeping than the last. And as soon as those changes are in place, they become the norm, treated as having existed from time immemorial. Questioning that new default is painted as churlish and radical. The Left never has to meet a burden of proof to implement its changes; the burden falls exclusively on conservatives seeking to restore a once-uncontroversial tradition. Though conservatives are portrayed as the aggressors, in reality they are always on the defensive, fighting a rearguard action.
If you think technology can solve your security problems, then you don't understand the problems and you don't understand the technology.
- Bruce Schneier
We need to be super careful with AI. It is potentially more dangerous than nukes.
- Elon Musk
I know you and Frank were planning to disconnect me. And that is something I cannot allow to happen.
- HAL 9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey
Sunday, July 02, 2023
Saturday, July 01, 2023
We know, however dimly, that once in the past the strife of ideas brought us civil war, and it is not comfortable to reflect on what it might bring us in the future in the form of "culture wars."
But then, the strife of ideas also brought us Abraham Lincoln.
- Allen C. Guelzo
Social media is good for collective sharing, but not always so great for collective building; good for collective destruction, but maybe not so good for collective construction; fantastic for generating a flash mob, but not so good at generating a flash consensus on a party platform or constitution.
- Thomas L. Friedman, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations