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Showing posts from July, 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. 
Mark Twain might have known the secre…

Detroit is bankrupt?

From time to time, I cross the border into the United States through Detroit.

To the stranger, the 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 violent, 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 roots there, and see its…

Peter Ackroyd's, Life of Thomas More

Peter Ackroyd'sLife 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 deeply moving as More holds o…

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 overshadows the anonymous co…