Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Series: Great Movie Posters

Image result for lawrence of arabia movie poster amazon

Keeping Your Distance

A middle-aged man in a suit crossing a street in the financial district

[Photo by Matthew Henry at Unsplash]

There is a level of professional detachment and objectivity that is a significant component of some jobs even if everyone is working for the same employer.

Make that especially if everyone is working for the same employer.

Another Film on the Charms of Rural Life?

The trailer for "Goodland."

A Chill

Art Contrarian features the automobile illustrations of Walter Gotschke. The one below is from the opening of the autobahn and it brings a chill.

Finding Common Ground to Defend Free Speech

It is heartening to see the range of support for free speech in the trailer for the film "No Safe Spaces."

First Paragraph

On Monday, May 31, 1982, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sat behind the mahogany desk in her cream and gold office at 10 Downing Street when an aide entered the room. Ronald Reagan was on the telephone.

- From Thatcher by Jacob Bannister

Drone City

The trailer for "Hover."

The Reverse Connections Twist

A businessman opening a business newspaper

[Photo by Olu Eletu at Unsplash]

I've frequently seen a twist on the famed benefit of having connections. Call it "reverse connections" or the benefit of not having connections.

For example, a relative of an influential executive wanted a job with the organization. The executive made it clear that no preference was to be shown and the staff took him at his word. In fact, they were so careful in doing so that the process was actually slanted against the young man. 

Here's another example: a good friend of a board member was mentioned as a possible candidate for a position on the board. When the board member heard that, he firmly opposed the idea, saying, "The last thing I want is the perception that I'm slipping my friends into board slots."

I realize that these are exceptions to the "connections" rule but it is surprising how often a "reverse connections" advantage kicks in. "We don't know this person" can translate into "We don't have any built-in reservations about the individual."

All the Small Things

[Photo by Nathan Lemon at Unsplash]

You've got to think about big things while you're doing small things so that all the small things go in the right direction.

- Alvin Toffler

Fellini Time

The trailer for "8 1/2."

Quote of the Day

If you want to know who actually has the power in our society and who is actually marginalized, ask which ideas get you sponsorships from Google and Pepsi and which get you fired.

- Kevin D. Williamson

Monday, April 23, 2018

Something to Ponder

Black and white shot of street musician performing with cello in doorway in Riga

[Photo by Aruna Naujokas at Unsplash]

There is at bottom only one problem in the world and this is its name. How does one break through? How does one get into the open? How does one burst the cocoon and become a butterfly?

- Thomas Mann

Quick Look

The trailer for "Mary Shelley."

Scene Sparking Immediate Curiosity

People browsing vinyl records at a stall on the street

[Photo by Clem Onojeghuo at Unsplash]

Which albums are on that table?

The Fatigue Factor

Ruffled gray covers and sheets with two pillows and a large window with blinds above it

[Photo by Quin Stevenson at Unsplash]

A question that should arise whenever watching a lengthy process that produces a major decision: did that decision come about as the result of careful analysis or was it simply reached because of fatigue? 

Long-time followers of this blog know that I regard fatigue as a sadly-neglected subject. This post was inspired by reading Winston Churchill's account of the diplomatic intricacies that followed the end of the First World War. It is likely that time after time key decisions were being made by extremely tired people. [It is an even safer bet that their staffs were worn out.] 

If such decisions sometimes seem to be baffling, the political considerations are not the only factors to explore. 

Lack of sleep may also have played a role.

As You Stare at the Screen for Three Hours

Eclecticity Light has a video (via Buster Keaton) of your workday.

Don't Mix Dinosaurs with Oaths

Although I failed to provide a specific analysis of the use of dinosaur sock puppets in re-enlistment oaths, the general subject is addressed.

Now available in paperback and Kindle format at Amazon

Read it. Learn it. Live it.

First Paragraph

The date is 480 B.C.E. The place is Abydos, the town on the Asian side of the Hellespont where it narrows to just over a mile in width. The scene is worthy of Hollywood in its heyday. Xerxes, Persia's King of Kings, ascends a throne on a promontory from which he can see armies assembled, the historian Herodotus tells us, of over a million and a half men. Had the number been only a tenth of that, as is more likely, it would still have approximated the size of Eisenhower's forces on D-Day in 1944. The Hellespont has no bridge now, but Xerxes had two then: one rested on 360 boats lashed together, the other on 314, both curved to accommodate winds and currents. For after an earlier bridge had broken apart in a storm, the furious king beheaded the builders and ordered the waters themselves whipped and branded. Somewhere on the bottom there presumably lie, to this day, the iron fetters he had thrown in for good measure.

- From On Grand Strategy by John Lewis Gaddis

Quick Look

The trailer for "Final Portrait."

The July 23, 2012 Solar Storm

Extreme Tech from 2014: The July 23, 2012 solar storm that could have zonked the world's electrical grid and sent us back to the bad old days.

It's Monday: Get Your Act Together

[Photo by seabass creatives at Unsplash]

Quote of the Day

Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.

- Peter Thiel

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Saturday Thought

Churchill's post-Pearl Harbor address to Congress was a work of political genius. Its structure was artistic, with four sections that could be titled:




Us Against Them

- From Churchill & Orwell: The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks

Friday, April 20, 2018

Miscellaneous and Fast

Bock's Assignments

Wally Bock has some weekend leadership reading assignments for us. 

[I am especially interested in the self-employed article.]

Quick Look

The trailer for "Casanova."

First Paragraph

In the midst of World War I, in February-March 1917, the tsarist regime which had ruled Russia since the fourteenth century collapsed with startling speed and finality. The causes of its breakdown were many and reached deep into history, but the most immediate of them was public dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war. Russian armies did not acquit themselves well in the campaigns of 1914-16, being repeatedly beaten by the Germans and forced to abandon to them vast and rich territories, including Poland. There were widespread rumors of treason in high places which alienated conservative elements. The inhabitants of cities were angered by inflation and shortages of food and fuel. The spark that ignited the revolutionary conflagration was a mutiny of the Petrograd military garrison, manned by superannuated peasant conscripts. Once the mutiny erupted, public order broke down in no time, the process being encouraged by liberal and radical politicians eager to take over power. With the abdication of Nicholas II on March 2, the entire bureaucratic machinery of the state dissolved.

- From Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime by Richard Pipes

The End of Anything is a Danger Zone

[Photo by Brooke Lark at Unsplash]

I've heard that one of the most dangerous stages of any road trip is when you are returning home and are close to your house. You may be tired and thus let down your guard. Perhaps you are less attentive because you have - at least in your mind - already returned.

A similar danger faces novelists. Consider how often you have been impressed by a novel until you near the ending. One wonders if fatigue and the desire to finish the damned thing cause many writers to cut corners. They just get sloppy. Either way, the danger zone for any novel is in the last chapter or two.

You can find similar dangers with meetings, conversations, dates and other areas. Parting is not sweet sorrow. Often it is simply sorrow. 

May your internal alarm bell ring whenever you near the end of anything. That is where the goblins lurk. 

Quick Look

The trailer for "Giant."

Writing in The Weekly Standard, John Podhoretz reviews a new book on the making of the film.

GQ's PC Reading List

[Photo by Morgan Basham at Unsplash]

The editors of GQ list "21 books you don't have to read."

Understatement alert: They don't make their case.

This excerpt provides a glimpse at their mindset:

"I actually love Lonesome Dove, but I'm convinced that the cowboy mythos, with its rigid masculine emotional landscape, glorification of guns and destruction, and misogynistic gender roles, is a major factor in the degradation of America."

Wait until they get to Hemingway and Twain. 

Did I somehow miss that the list is a clever attempt at satire?

Seeking Silence

The Hammock Papers has Thomas Merton's thoughts on silence.

I find myself seeking silence far more than in the past: turning off the radio while in the car, pausing in my work for brief moments of meditation, and settling into a quiet place where I can simply consider what is being overlooked.

The maxim "Silence is golden" is frequently true and yet silence is not always silent. It has an eloquence that connects us even more intensely to the world.

On Order

Image result for gaddis on grand strategy amazon

First Paragraph

"What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," teases the city's risqué advertising slogan as it invites visitors to lose their inhibitions, violate their moral principles, forget about their spouses, and ignore their credit card balances. A metropolitan area of 1.8 million people in the Mojave Desert, Sin City encourages irresponsible behavior about everything from sex to water.

- From Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What to Do About It by Robert Glennon

Quick Look

The trailer for "Charlie Wilson's War."

Quote of the Day

Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility. In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility.

- Michael Korda

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Discover the System

A group of people brainstorming over a laptop and sheets of paper

[Photo by Stefan Stefancik at Unsplash]

Most of us are familiar with the management maxim: That which is rewarded gets done.

What is often missed is a serious review of just what gets rewarded. [Note: not who gets rewarded, but what.] 

I emphasize that because of the common tendency to focus on the conduct of people instead of the underlying operation of systems.

Watch for the slant and nudging of the system that rewards or encourages the conduct. In many cases, that is where the true source of the action is found.

White Coat Syndrome

Instapundit has info on why it is wise to have your blood pressure taken twice at the doctor's office.

I routinely do so. Mine is always much lower the second time. Of course, the initial test is right after the scariest part of the doctor's office visit: the scale.

Quick Look

The trailer for "The Ipcress File."

The Dirty and Dangerous Streets of San Francisco

San Francisco Chronicle: A tourism leader calls for a clean-up.

That is long overdue. It is truly sad what years of poor decisions have done to a once-charming city.

First Paragraph

When I was a boy, there were days when I was outrageously, deliriously happy, even while I knew such happiness to be a mistake. Perhaps it is merely the way memory works, but over the decade that followed. I came to believe that the day of my greatest happiness was also the last time I knew of any happiness at all.

- From The Day of Atonement by David Liss

A Glimpse of 1911

Fascinating: A brief film of New York City in 1911.

Who is filming your city today? Who is preserving that film?

Quick Look

The trailer for "A Lonely Place to Die."

"Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history"

Image result for lincoln portrait eugene ormandy amazon

The competition is fierce but I believe that Adlai Stevenson's narration of Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" remains the best.

Because a Developer's Day is Never Done

Anderson Layman's Blog has on-going posts on the work involved with a development project.

Great stuff.

Merit Unless

[Photo by Pete Bellis at Unsplash]

"We hire on merit unless. . .

  • it's a close relative of a friend or business associate."
  • we need to get the feds off our back in which case we'll use quotas and deny that we ever did so."
  • we hear otherwise from the boss."
  • the person just looks the part."
  • we find a clone of ourselves."
  • Human Resources is off at a conference."
  • it requires a lot of work."
  • we are really in a hurry and don't have time to interview a bunch of people."
  • we got to talking at a business conference and, over a few drinks, made a job offer. On a cocktail napkin."
  • we think 'merit' is a racist concept meant to perpetuate white privilege."

In the Background

Image result for greatest hits bach amazon

Quote of the Day

I've never really allowed anyone else to tell me whether I'm good or not.

- Kelsey Grammer