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Showing posts from 2013

Mark Twain and Early Rising

“Give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep 'til noon.” ―  Mark Twain Mark Twain lived in an era of self help books and ambitious go-getters. In protest, he wrote Early Rising, As Regards Excursions to the Cliff House , all about the perils and madness of early rising. The writer of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn , is of course, an authority on all aspects of life and work. I wonder though if Mr. Twain too easily surrendered early morning to those hyper-productive worker bees who are annoying at the best of times, but unbearable in the early morning hours? I used to be one of these. In my younger days, I remember occasionally calling a few wealthy investors with urgent news in the early morning hours. I would ask, "did I wake you?" Without fail, they would say "no" and sometimes, "no, I was looking forward to your call." Back then, the guys with the expensive houses and cars would never admit that they slept. 

Detroit is bankrupt?

From time to time, I cross the border into the United States through Detroit. To the stranger, t he city is not a place to stop for gas, take a meal, or visit after dark.  The stranger thinks that this is a bad place to live, work, or start a business.  For the stranger, Detroit is a place to leave. The stranger sees a Detroit that is v iolent, impoverished, on the river, and across from Canada. A sprawling, empty, former boomtown with a scattered remnant. A city separated by race, black and white, and many others. Hundreds of thousands of poor people, surrounded by better-off suburban citizens.  Right-wingers hate its unions. Left-wingers hate its history of rapacious capitalists and corrupt governments. The few rich fear the poor and the many poor resent the rich. Its abandoned public buildings, factories, and burned out houses are emotionally devastating and yet, for the indifferent observer, romantic in their tragedy. But then there are those who love Detroit, have r

Peter Ackroyd's, Life of Thomas More

Peter Ackroyd's Life of Thomas More is long and intimidating for a busy person who must squeeze reading into the early morning or late evening hours of a busy schedule. It is not a new book, but like so many of Ackroyd's works,  the quality of the writing and storytelling are of very high quality.  Thomas More lived between 1478 and 1535 and was an important figure in the time of Henry VIII , King of England, and the Protestant Reformation that swept Europe.  With wit and clarity, Ackroyd paints a word portrait of a brilliant and pious Christian man who excels in the practical affairs of life as a lawyer, a politician, and in the high office of Lord Chancellor.  There are important distinctions between the life that Ackroyd tells and how Thomas More was presented in Robert Bolt's, A Man For All Seasons that is still a staple of Canadian high school classrooms. I will leave these for the more scholarly of you to discern. The final pages of the book are dee

The Lesson for Leaders from the classic film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid is a dark and anti-corporate film that dances with joy.  It was made in 1969, after all. Butch and Sundance are individuals and friends who are beset by modern life with its corporatism.  One 'corporate team' after another, attack and eventually destroy our gentle and charming anti-heroes. The film couldn't be more emphatic that Butch and Sundance are  not an effective team. First, their own gang rebels against them. The gang is then obliterated by a corporate team of unstoppable super-policemen. Butch and Sundance survive, but are relentlessly pursued. They escape to Bolivia. They try to go straight and join a team in Bolivia which is promptly destroyed by a team of bandits. Again, they are the only two survivors. Eventually, they are surrounded and killed by the Bolivian army. So why do we love the film? The individuality, friendship, and physical beauty of the main characters raise them up to a mythic quality that ove

The Call of the Wild Revisited

I listened to Jack London's, The Call of the Wild today, on a long drive in the car. I was enraptured. What a fine piece of writing.   The novel is about a dog named Buck who passes hands through various human owners. He is taken from a sunny, prosperous, and comfortable life in California and through a series of adventures, eventually is in a remote region of the Alaskan wilderness. Buck's dog life takes him from a sedate, civilized life as a pet to a life as a wild animal. The adventures and characters are entirely plausible for anyone who has had a taste of the Northern wilderness. To make his fine tale palatable, London needs to offer an anthropomorphic take on Buck. This comes at a cost of eliminating an essential element of wilderness experience, attested to by countless generations of explorers and adventures: the indifference of nature to the existence of the individual. London addresses this in White Fang and here in a moving account of Buck's capture a

Review of Robin Sharma's The Greatness Guide and Larry Winget's People Are Idiots and I Can Prove It!

I recently listened to two books by a couple of very successful and well-known professional motivational personalities. Robin Sharma's, The Greatness Guide was produced in 2006 and Larry Winget's, People Are Idiots And I Can Prove It was made in 2010. Their material has not aged badly. They  both previously had 'big hits' with Sharma's, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and Winget's, You're Broke Because You Want To Be . For their latest stuff, visit and . Sharma and Winget could not be more different in how they present themselves. Robin Sharma offers a pleasant, professional demeanor and Larry Winget comes across as 'in-your-face' and blunt. Aside from their obvious differences, both have immense marketing savvy. It would be a useful exercise to compare and contrast their use of marketing techniques for achieving their level of success at the top of a brutally competitive fiel

Lynne Olsen's, Citizens of London

Just finished reading a couple of books. The first was: Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olsen. Doubleday, 2011                       This is an excellent account of a time in history that is rapidly fading from living memory. This book tells the stories of Americans living and serving in London during World War Two.  The writer provides a vivid description of the waves of American journalists, soldiers, politicians, and bureaucrats that were welcomed by Londoners, and detailed descriptions of a few prominent individuals. There was Edward R. Murrow , the voice of CBS News in Europe, bringing the tragedy and heroism of the British at war to the more comfortable and well-fed citizens of America. Averell Harriman , was an ambitious and wealthy player on the political and business scenes. Harriman ran President Roosevelt's Lend-Lease program, which would assist the British at war and impover

The Lone Samurai by William Scott Wilson

T his book is an astonishing story of how Miyamoto Musashi who lived in the Japan of the early 1600s moved from being a young man of astonishing violence and great accomplishment in violence to becoming one of the great masters and teachers of strategy culminating in the writing of The Book of the Five Rings. Wilson does an excellent job of presenting a narrative that brings the long-ago and somewhat oblique Musashi to life for the reader. We see the important duels and battles and receive an uncomplicated sense of the development of Musashi's mind.  This is a must read for anyone interested in the ancient samurai.