Sunday, December 30, 2007

Storytelling and the Rule of Three

Brian Clark asks in his blog article:

Have you ever wondered:

* What the three little pigs, the three blind mice, Goldilocks and the three bears, the Three Musketeers, the three wise men and the Three Stooges have in common?

* Why the three-act structure is the dominant approach to screenwriting in Hollywood?

* Why three bullet points are more effective than two or four?

The Rule of Three works in stories due to the presence of the concise, memorable patterns…. But even if that wasn’t the case, the number three has been used so widely throughout some of the most memorable works from our childhood, it’s likely that we are preconditioned to respond favorably to elements grouped in threes.

You see the Rule of Three used all the time across diverse areas of life. Why?
Because information presented in groups of three sticks in our heads better than other clusters of items. For example:

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people”

“Friends, Romans, Countrymen”

Check out the rest of this interesting article and all the other useful tips on Brian Clark’s blog site, Copyblogger.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: The Three Amigos

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Stories at Old Year and New Year

I have gone through the archives of Stories for Speakers and Writers and culled out any stories that I think could be useful for reflection or for speaking about this time of Old Year and New Year:

Remembering the Future
Tiger Woods on the Joy of Shaping Lives
Give Me Another Chance
Present Moments
Don’t Let the Past Imprison you in the Present
Eternity at Midnight
The Power that Brings Hope
Facing our Wolves
Four-Legged Guide
Open to Wonder
This is a Better World
Knowing where you are going
The Adventurer Spirit
Starting Over
Why Not the Best?
Life is Gift
All-Encompassing Gratitude
Protesting Against Boredom
Dig Yourself Some Memory Holes
Engaging Life Fully
Forgetting the Point
The Answer is in our Hands
If I Had My Life Over Again
The Most Memorable Graduation Speech
Pace of Life
Never ending Story
Asking Questions
I Want Real Human Moments
Getting Use to Being Alive
Teaching People How to Live
The River Has its Bend
Blessing Your Coming and Your Going
Imagining Peace Together
From Bethlehem to Bedlam
Dreaming and Living
Everybody Can Be Great
Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution
Changes We’ve Survived
I Shall be Ready
Hearing the Story for the First Time
Where are you Looking?
Cricket for Eternity
Turning Frustrations into Fortunes
The Business of Being Human
Larry King on the Future
Rose Gilbert: ‘You Either Live Living or You Live Dying’
How to Kick the ‘If Only’ Habit
How Big is Your Vision?
The BBC’s Formula for Happiness
Experiencing Afresh the Joys of Living
Dealing With Day-To-Day Living
Eluding Death the Business of Life
He Will Never Amount to Anything
Living in the Present?—Impossible!
Deciding Not to be Hostage to Hostility
Time Yawned
Sir Edmund Hillary on His Most Worthwhile Things in Life
Groucho Marx on the Subject of Age
Andre Agassi: What’s Better than Tennis
Time Like a Piano Accordion
Why Whiling Away Your Life is So Important
Do You Really Love Your Job?
Make it a Good New Year by Living in the Present

A happy new year to you all!

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Happy New Year!

World Café: A Creative Process for Telling Stories for Change

This is an edited version of an article by Jay Cross entitled ‘Conversations’. He writes about conversation, stories, the World Café and his experience of using this process to revolutionize education in the United Arab Emirates.

Conversation has magic to it. Dialogue is the most powerful learning technology on earth. Conversations are the stem cells of learning, for they both create and transmit knowledge. Frequent and open conversation increases innovation and learning. Schooling planted a false notion in our heads that real learning is something you do on your own. In fact, we all learn things from other people. People love to talk. Bringing them together brings excitement.

Stories are an element of conversation (so long as you don't repeat them word for word). They communicate patterns and give meaning to experience. They are important because we know more than we can tell. They also hold communities together. They are the buzz of the beehive.

World Café
The best approach I have seen for creating value from people's collective intelligence and igniting innovation is the World Cafe.

The World Cafe is a process for fostering conversations that matter. If conversation is the way people create value and innovate in organizations, it is worthwhile to host the best conversations we can.

People spend most of their time at work or at home. Work is a demanding, pressure-packed, rats-in-the-maze race with the clock to get the job done. Home is a comfortable, private space for sharing time with family and individual interests. Neither work nor home, a World Cafe is a neutral spot where people come together to offer hospitality, enjoy comradeship, welcome diverse perspectives, and have meaningful conversations.

First Experience of World Cafe
My first experience with the World Cafe was a meeting of 30 people convened by Brook Manville, McKinsey's first director of knowledge management and later chief Darning officer at Saba, to pin down the meaning and utility of the term 'human capital.' After a morning of thrashing through whether human capital implied that people were property and other cerebral issues, Eric Vogt, the founder of Communispace Corporation, proposed that instead of the usual call to break into small groups, discuss, and then reconvene to talk what we'd talked about, perhaps we should have a World Cafe session.

We covered each of four tables with flip chart paper, and someone assigned each table a different aspect of human capital to discuss. People talked among themselves for ten minutes, after which everyone but the table "hosts" switched tables. Each host summarized the discussion thus far, referring to scribbles and diagrams left over from the previous crowd. The groups continued contributing to the conversations, by now searching for patterns and linkages. We rotated once more and then described the fresh insights we had gained.

Since then I have teamed from World Cafe sessions, with executives and with close friends. Inevitably, I left with new approaches that I would not have come up with on my own.

Origins of World Cafe
The World Cafe started in 1995, when organization development consultants Juanita Brown and David Isaacs were getting ready to host the second day of a discussion with two dozen visitors at their house on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais in Mill Valley, California. Rain was pouring down. While Juanita prepared breakfast and coffee, David arranged TV tables around the living room. A pal said it was beginning to look like a cafe, but they needed tablecloths; sheets from a flip chart sufficed to cover each table. The friend put a "Cafe" sign on the front door.

Conversation began spontaneously, and people began to draw on the cafe "tablecloths." Excitement built. Someone suggested switching tables to find out what the others were talking about. The energy level rose. After three rounds of conversation, the group shared their drawings and realized they had tapped into their collective intelligence. The World Cafe was born. It works. But was it appropriate for exploring opportunities to revolutionize education in the UAE?

Brown and Isaacs recently published a wonderful book, ‘The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter’. When you decide to host your own cafes, buy the book. For now, I'm going to borrow from it heavily.

The World Cafe technique is best suited for sharing knowledge and stimulating innovative thinking around real-life issues and questions; the UAE situation filled that bill. The cafe is good for conducting an in-depth exploration of key challenges and opportunities, also what we wanted to do. The cafe engages people meeting for the first time in authentic conversation. In the UAE, we had not only strangers, but Emiratis, Italians, Americans, Saudis, Austrians, British, Chinese, and Norwegians, among them government officials, professors, vendors, consultants, and school teachers. There was a fit.

The World Cafe is one of many ways to foster authentic, purposeful conversations. Others are salons, study circles, Appreciative Inquiry, Open Space, strategic dialogues, and wisdom circles. All of these techniques build on similar design principles [Brown & Isaacs, 2005]:

* Set the context. Clarify the purpose and broad parameters within which the dialogue will unfold. Remind participants that they are invited to participate in authentic, active conversation rather than be a passive audience.

* Create hospitable space. Ensure the welcoming environment and psychological safety that nurtures personal comfort and mutual respect. A little music, some posters, and a few flowers always help.

* Explore questions that matter. Focus collective attention on powerful questions that attract collaborative engagement. Be open and non-judgmental, and engage aspirations, not problems. Genuine questions are those we don't have answers for.

* Encourage everyone's contribution. Giving-making your contribution is what brings community alive.

* Cross-pollinate and connect diverse perspectives. Use the living-system dynamics of emergence through intentionally increasing the diversity and density of connections among perspectives while retaining a common focus on core questions.

* Listen together for patterns, insights, and deeper questions. Share attention in ways that nurture coherence of thought without losing individual contributions. Intelligence comes from Latin for "gathering understanding in between." Reflection is the heart of the matter. Leave room between the notes to hear the music of collective wisdom.

* Harvest and share collective discoveries: Make collective knowledge and insight visible and actionable. Use visual memory. Tour the tables.

Experimenting With World Café in the UAE
The day before the eMerging eLearning conference was to begin in 2005, a group of us met in the library of the college where the event would be held. This is not a typical library. There's lots of open space, plenty of sunlight, many tables to sit at, and computers galore. To convert the library into a cafe, we pulled together eight tables and put a flip chart "tablecloth" on each. To make things hospitable, we put flowers on each table. I'd hoped to offer coffee, but the library Starbucks was closed for renovations. I'd also hoped for music to create a mood, but students were studying in other parts of the same large room.

The toughest part of designing an effective World Cafe is figuring out the right question to start things off. You don't want to stifle free thinking or include your own bias. Six of us wrangled over the appropriate conversation for forty-five minutes. Some wanted structure; others wanted free form. Some were concerned with having demonstrable outcomes; others wanted to extract the wisdom of the group, expecting it to be messy. I called for a breather.

We took up the topic of the question again at dinner. Discussion was rich. We were learning about the World Cafe process itself as we noodled on the best catalyst. "How do they become what they want?" "What does the ideal graduate look like?" "If you had a magic wand, what sort of learning experiences would you create?" "If you could build the nation's K-12 system, starting with a blank slate, what would you do?" "What should a graduate be able to do?" "How would you create a way for today's youth to lead more fulfilling lives?" We had our arms around the issues; I suggested we leave the final wording to two of our party, who would be leading the sessions the next day.

After lunch the following day, several dozen people sat down in our cafe. Our moderator explained what we were doing and asked the groups to talk about what questions they would want answers to in creating a better educational structure in the UAE.

My table got off to a roaring start. We wanted to ask about the product, that is, the graduates: What values would they have? What job skills? What life skills? How would they reconcile high hopes and current realities? After ten or fifteen minutes, we rotated to different tables.

Excitement was building. Our session in the library began to capture the energy that Juanita Brown and David Isaacs experienced when rain led to the first World Cafe experience:

The World Cafe reintroduces us to a world we have forgotten. This is a world where people naturally congregate because we want to be together. A world where we enjoy the age-old process of good conversation, where we're not afraid to talk about things that matter most to us. A world where we're not separated, classified, or stereotyped. A world of simply greeting, free from technology and artificiality. A world that constantly surprises us with the wisdom that exists not in any one of us but in all of us. And a world where we learn that the wisdom we need to solve our problems is available when we talk together.

It was my turn to give a presentation downstairs, so I left at this time, re-joining the second cafe right before closing time. I returned to find people suggesting how we might visualize the discussions.

More people came to a follow-up panel session the next day. Dr. Kamali had highlighted the activity in his summary of the day. Conversations at the tables began spontaneously. Our moderator told us what had come the day before and explained that we had put sheets containing graphics picturing the day on three tables: "Today's Challenges," "What We Need to Do," and "Future Goals."

We invited people to take a look and talk about what they'd seen. Then they were to write their own ideas on sticky notes and stick them on the tables. The moderator would call time-out after three minutes. People excitedly flocked to the tables. New ideas were flowing fast and furious. We announced they had another ten minutes.

Beehive, Buzz and Honey
An effective community of practice is like a beehive. It organizes itself, buzzes with activity, and produces honey for the markets.

Conversations take place among people with shared interests, that is, communities.

Source: The entire article can be found at Jay Cross, ‘Conversations’, ed. Tayeb A Kamali, 20: An Anthology Celebrating the Twentieth Anniversary of the Higher Colleges of Technology, United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi: HCT Press, 2007), 103-111.

Image: World Café graphic.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Kent Nerburn on The Value of Travel

Kent Nerburn in his book Letters to My Son writes about the value of travel:

"Because I have traveled, I can see other universes in the eyes of strangers. Because I have traveled, I know what parts of me I cannot deny and what parts of me are simply the choices I make. I know the blessings of my own table and the warmth of my own bed. I know how much of life is pure chance, and how great a gift I have been given simply to be who I am.

"If we don't offer ourselves to the unknown, our senses dull. Our world becomes small and we lose our sense of wonder. Our eyes don't lift to the horizon; our ears don't hear the sounds around us. The edge is off our experience, and we pass our days in a routine that is both comfortable and limiting."

Kent Nerburn, Letters to my Son, New World, 1994, pp. 114-115.

Source: Delancey Place which gives a helpful story excerpt to your inbox every day.

Image: “The blessings of my own table.”

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Story Acted by Children

Some children were acting out the Christmas story.

They had worked on it for months. They had researched the story from the Scriptures, then used their imagination to recreate the atmosphere of that night with the shepherds out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks.

Boisterous 10 year old boys made the most of their chance to portray rough rugged shepherds. They cursed the government, they cursed the weather, they cursed their wives and they cursed their sheep.

Then came the flashing light and the sound of the Hallelujah Chorus on the recorder.

A mini ballet troupe of angelic 10 year old girls pirouetted on the stage.

Then the big announcement was made! God was coming in the birth of a Saviour. God’s salvation was for all people, even shepherds!

The invitation was extended. The angels fluttered off and the shepherds were once again alone, doing their best to look and sound dumbfounded.

Well, would they or would they not go to Bethlehem to see if it was true?

One of them said, "It's too dark!"
Another said, "It's too cold."
Another said, "We can't go right now
Another said, "What's the hurry?"

And in the middle of the argument when one shepherd was pointing out that they couldn't possibly leave their flocks out there in the middle of the night, young Fergus delivered his line.

Standing in the centre of the stage with his hand upraised to silence his fellow shepherds he said:

"Listen you guys. If this is as important as it sounds, the sheep can jolly well look after themselves for once. I'm off!" And he led them off into the night.

Young Fergus was so right! Christmas is an event and a call which simply demands our immediate and total response. To procrastinate, to delay or to give it our half-hearted attention will mean that we will miss the opportunity or fail to make the most of it.

Fergus is reminding us not to allow busyness or weariness, selfishness or blindness to keep us from enjoying the richness of the Christmas gift.

If such a call and invitation is as good and as important as it sounds, let's leave the sheep to look after themselves for once and let’s head for Bethlehem!

Source: Heard about thirty Christmases ago from superb storyteller, Barrie Hibbert.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Fergus the shepherd.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sonia Gandhi: Sometimes Life Directions are Chosen For Us

I have posted some excerpts from two lectures given by Sonia Gandhi in which she describes the tragic forces in her family and in the nation of India that led to her give up her quiet existence and undertake her present role as President of the Indian National Congress.

Link: Discernment Resources.

Image: Sonia Gandhi.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Is the Answer Under Your Nose?

Back when NASA started launching manned spacecraft in the 1960s, they found out that the astronauts couldn’t use pens to write with while in space. The ink wouldn’t flow down through the pen in a zero-gravity environment. NASA decided to retain a man named Paul Fisher to design a pen that would work in space.

A mere $1.5 million later, they had a solution. NASA now had a pen that worked in zero gravity, in a vacuum, and in a drastic temperature range.

The Russian cosmonauts had the same problem, of course. So they used a pencil.

Now, this anecdote isn’t historically accurate, and has become a bit of an urban legend. The truth is both the US and Russia used pencils at first, and Paul Fisher independently created the pen and sold 400 of them to NASA for a song.

The reason the exaggerated story is so widely embraced, though, is because it rings true.

We often expend large amounts of time and effort creating elaborate solutions to problems when a simple answer is right under our noses.

Source, Brian Clark, Teaching that Sells, E-Book, 2.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Make it a Good New Year by Living in the Present

Earlier I posted an excerpt from Margaret Forster’s book, The Memory Box, in which one of her characters is unable to live in the present, as “everything exciting lay in the future.”

John Banville’s character in ‘The Sea’, has the opposite problem as he finds his mind always gravitating to the past. As he is reminiscing to his daughter she challenges him:

‘You live in the past', she said.
I was about to give a sharp reply, but paused. She was right, after all.

Life, authentic life, is supposed to be all struggle, unflagging action and affirmation, the will butting its blunt head against the world's wall, suchlike, but when I look back I see that the greater part of my energies was always given over to the simple search for shelter, for comfort, for, yes, I admit, it, for cosiness. This is a surprising, not to say a shocking, realisation. Before, I saw myself as something of a buccaneer, facing all-comers with a cutlass in my teeth, but now I am compelled to acknowledge that this was a delusion.

To be concealed, protected, guarded, that is all I have ever truly wanted, to burrow down into a place of womby warmth and cower there, hidden from the sky's indifferent gaze and the harsh air's damagings. That is why the past is just such a retreat for me, I go there eagerly, rubbing my hands and shaking off the cold present and the colder future. And yet, what existence, really, does it have, the past? After all, it is only what the present was, once, the present that is gone, no more than that. And yet.

John Banville, The Sea (London: Picador, 2005), 60-61.

Image: “Before, I saw myself as something of a buccaneer, facing all-comers with a cutlass in my teeth, but now I am compelled to acknowledge that this was a delusion.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mozart: Discipline Important for Creativity

Mark McGuinness says:

Organisation, structure, discipline and habit—these often seen as threats to creativity. Not to mention corporate-sounding phrases such as ‘time management’ or ‘workflow’.

We like to think of creativity as a space for untrammelled imagination, free from all constraints. Yet while freedom, rule-breaking and inspiration are undoubtedly essential to the creative process, the popular image of creativity overlooks another aspect: examine the life of any great artist and you will find evidence of hard work, discipline and a hard-won knowledge of the rules and conventions of their medium.

Choreographer Twyla Tharp, who directed the opera and dance scenes for the film Amadeus, has this to say about the film’s portrait of Mozart:

The film Amadeus dramatizes and romanticizes the divine origins of creative genius.
Antonio Salieri, representing the talented hack, is cursed to live in the time of Mozart, the gifted and undisciplined genius who writes as though touched by the hand of God… Of course this is hogwash. There are no ‘natural’ geniuses… No-one worked harder than Mozart.

By the time he was twenty-eight years old, his hands were deformed because of all the hours he had spent practicing, performing, and gripping a quill pen to compose…As Mozart himself wrote to a friend, “People err who think my art comes easily to me. I assure you, dear friend, nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not industriously studied through many times.”

This passage is taken from Tharp’s excellent book The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life, in which she argues that ‘routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more’.

Source: Mark McGuinness, Time Management for Creative People, E-Book, London, 2007 5-6. This is an excellent free E-book and is a useful resource, especially for writers, bloggers, poets, musicians...

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Mozart.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Temptation, Taxes and Tables Turning

A man in Massachusetts won $4,200 in the daily numbers game in the state lottery. He got in a cab to go and collect his winnings. On the way it occurred to him that if he paid the cabby $200 to go into the lottery office and collect his winnings, the Internal Revenue Service would never find out that he had won the money. He could avoid paying the taxes on his winnings—too bad for the cab driver!

Neither the lottery winner nor the cabby knew that Massachusetts has a program which placed the lottery in partnership with the Department of Social Services. The lottery computer noticed that the cabby owed $4,000 in back child support payments which it withheld for the cabby's ex-wife. The cabby and the lotto winner were left to fight over the remaining $200.

Temptation on the journey was followed by the "payoff" at the end - "as certain as death and taxes."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tiger Woods: The Clubs or the Cubs?

Looking for a story for your article or talk?

In addition to going through the archives on this site or using the (top left) Search Function, make sure you check out the many stories on these sister sites:

Experiencing the Emirates
Have a look at the story of Tiger Woods and the important contribution he makes when he chooses the cubs, not the clubs.

Discernment Resources
This site has a growing number of stories about discernment and making decisions. They include:
Discernment is Like Crock Pot Cooking

That’s not what ships are made for

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Elin and Tiger Woods

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Life: One Great Shopping Mall?

Robert Dessaix in his novel, Corfu, pens this conversation between the narrator and William:

‘Nothing seems to “mean anything” to you, William. What do you think life is? One great shopping mall you can just drift about it, listening to the muzak? Pick up a bit of reincarnation here, grab a bonk there—Chekhov, Cher, the Rolling Stones, Beirut, it’s all the same to you, it’s just background noise.’

Robert Dessaix, Corfu (London: Scribner, 2003), 226.

Image: Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, all equipped with shops and ski field.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dorothy Parker: The Problem With Perfectionism

Brian Clark, in his recent posting to bloggers, about the crippling power of fear, tells about one aspect of this plague—perfectionism. He says:

“Writer Dorothy Parker couldn’t meet a deadline to save her life, because she said for every five words she wrote, she erased seven.”

“Our fear of mediocrity manifests itself as perfectionism, and perfectionism prevents us from simply putting things out there and resolving to get better over time. With that approach, we fail to achieve anything at all.”

Image: Dorothy Parker

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Battered, Not Pretty but Still Standing

In the book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, by author Khaled Hosseini, Babi, Laila and Tariq are venturing out from Kabul to see some of Afghanistan’s cultural sites:

Babi pointed and said:
“That’s called Shahr-e-Zohak. The Red City. It used to be a fortress. It was built some nine hundred years ago to defend the valley from invaders. Genghis Khan’s grandson attacked it in the thirteenth century, but he was killed. It was Genghis Khan himself who then destroyed it.”

“And that, my young friends, is the story of our country, one invader after another,” the driver said, flicking cigarette ash out the window. “Macedonians, Sassanians, Arabs, Mongols. Now the Soviets.”

“But we’re like those walls up there. Battered, and nothing pretty to look at, but still standing. Isn’t that the truth badar?”

“Indeed, it is,” said Babi.

Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns (Great Britain: Bloomsbury, 2007), 132.

A review of this book can be found at this site:

Reviewing Books and Movies

Further stories from this book posted on this site are:
Time Like a Piano Accordion
Three Cups of Tea in a Thousand Splendid Suns
The Taliban: How Fundamentalism takes the Fun out of Life

Image: Shahr-e-Zohak, The Red City (courtesy of the blog writer with an amazing story and sensational pictures at Kabul Diary).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Iraqi Symphony Orchestra: Music in the Mayhem

Al Jazeera has run today a news item on the making of beautiful music in Iraq, against all the odds.

The Iraq Symphony Orchestra began in the 1930s as a string quartet but quickly grew and became popular in the days of Saddam Hussein, who gave it his protection and blessing.

The Iraqi Symphony Orchestra has survived decades of war, sanctions, death threats, explosions and the deaths of some of its members.

The orchestra is made up of Sunni, Shia and Kurds and their practices and performance sound an example of how all these different groups can get along together.

The orchestra members pride themselves on continuing to be a symbol of Iraq’s indomitable spirit. It is an orchestra that proclaims hope and harmony.

Al Jazeera has not posted this news video on its site yet but keep a look out for it.

Here is a link to a video clip on the Iraq Symphony Orchestra. Or go to YouTube and search for the ‘Iraqi Symphony Orchestra’. The commentary in the clip is in Arabic but the music is international.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Iraqi Symphony Orchestra.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Robert Dessaix on Acting: 'Why Do We Do It?

‘Why do we do it?’

It was one of those last night questions—not even a question….

It had been an exhausting evening—the first run-through of the whole play without a script, a dog’s breakfast of a performance, with everyone getting very snappish. ‘Why we did it’, however, I knew perfectly well. I’d known since I was eleven or twelve.

One summer in the early 1960s, down the side of our house in Largs Bay [Adelaide], under the magnolia-tree by the fence, my father took it into his head to put up a car-port. In those days everyone was doing it: alongside gracious old sandstone bungalows all over Adelaide—those showily prim but faintly sinister houses that bring to mind fine china, vicars and arcane perversions—men starting erecting car-ports often with a little shed out the back. They looked hideous, like gumboots on a debutante, but my brother and I were ecstatic. It meant we were modern.

And having just been to a matinée performance of The Pirates of Penzance, I knew instantly what our car-port’s higher purpose was: a backyard theatre.

It’s all in the curtain. Everything else—writing the play, the raids for props and costumes, the daily betrayals and clashes with puffed-up egos—is tumultuous fun, but it is that final moment, when the neighbours are sitting on cushions and chairs on one side of the curtain and we are poised with cardboard swords and a trunk of pebbles wrapped in silver foil on the other, that is alchemical. This is the moment, as my brother jerks the bed-sheets apart, when the mystery descends, and in the blink of an eye we are both ourselves (our tiny, backyard, childish selves) and not ourselves (miraculously, beautiful, even good). The parting curtain has wrought a miracle, a collision of worlds, and this miracle is witnessed with rapt attention. Everything now matters—every trivial word, every crooked finger, every raised eyebrow—everything….

When my brother yanked the curtain closed on the final scene of mass slaughter that first Saturday afternoon (every child in the street lying stone-dead among the grease-spots), I knew what wonder was. Needless to say, it wasn’t the kind of thing I could ever explain to my father, who in any case had spent the afternoon at the cricket.

‘We do it,’ I said to William now, ‘because it’s our way of making up for the utter ordinariness of our lives.’

Robert Dessaix, Corfu: A Novel (London: Scribner, 2003), 239-241.

Image: “It’s all in the curtain.”

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Newspapers: Stories of Life Flattened in Newsprint

E L Doctorow writes tellingly of the role of newspapers and their importance to us:

“The outside perspective reduces everything to reasonable proportion. The paper is not the world, it is a simulacrum of the life of the world, its wars, famine, business, weather, politics, crime, sports, arts, science categorized and worked into stories flattened on folded newsprint.”

E L Doctorow, City of God (London: Abacus, 2001), 208.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Stories

Stories for Thanksgiving
See Updated List for Thanksgiving 2008.
With American Thanksgiving being celebrated this Thursday (22 November 2007) and reunions extending over the weekend, I thought I would draw together some of the stories on my web sites that have a theme of thanksgiving and gratitude.

Personal Story
Here is a story from me to kick it off.

When, at the age of five my mother died, our grandparents gave up their retirement and came to live in our house to support my father in the raising of us three kids.

Both my grandparents had been school teachers and their discipline did not let up even in their senior years. They drummed into us the importance of saying ‘Thank you’ every time we were given things or someone did something for us.

The discipline of gratitude became so ingrained in me, that one day, after I had done something wrong and my Grandpa took me out for a thrashing, I turned to him and said, “Thank you!”

Perhaps I was fearful that if I did not express my thanks I would get another stroke of the cane! (By the way, this was in the unenlightened 1950s before smacking, strapping and stroking with a stick was frowned upon). Looking back I also ran the risk that I showed my appreciation so wholeheartedly, my Grandpa would think that I, like Oliver, was asking for more.

Gratitude is a healthy habit, a delightful discipline but it is given and received best (even to God) when we express thanks from our hearts and not by rote.

Stories of Gratitude (in no special order)
On Being a Privileged Spectator of Life
My Thanks to those Who Have Sent Me Emails
Deciding Not to Become Hostage to Hostility
Experiencing Afresh the Joys of Living
Punctuate Your Difficulties With Humor
The BBC’s Formula for Happiness
Ed Ricketts: The Ability to Receive
Mrs. Niebuhr: Giving Recognition Where it is Due
How to Kick the ‘If Only’ Habit
Turning Frustrations into Fortune
“…but now I’m found…”
‘I’m just happy I could help.’
Generous Hospitality
Don’t Let the Past Imprison You in the Present
Changes We Survived
Kneel Where Believers Have Knelt
Giving Thanks
Choosing Gratitude (the story behind the US Thanksgiving celebration)
Blessing Your Coming and Your Going
I Want Real Human Moments
Dig Yourself Some Memory Holes –Story from the Pilgrim Fathers and Mothers
Joyous Generosity
Life is Gift
All Encompassing Gratitude
Thanks for Everyday Blessings
Culinary Cloud of Witnesses
Hooray for Grandmothers!
In the Beginning it was Fun!
Why Didn’t I Notice Her Eyes?

For more stories of gratitude go to this next site and put the word ‘Thanksgiving’ into the search space at the top left of the site:

The Official F W Boreham Blogspot

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “Gratitude is a healthy habit, a delightful discipline…”

Monday, November 19, 2007

Change, like Coffee Requires Time to Percolate

If you are battling to get a new idea accepted or a program implemented, go to the nearest coffee shop, order yourself a strong brew and ponder the story of coffee.

Coffee or qahwa (قهوة) is a ninth century Arabic discovery, as legend has it that Eritrean or Ethiopian shepherds noticed the way that the eating of certain beans by their goats caused them to dance, so they tried it and got happy themselves.

The beans were popular in Yemen where coffee was initially chewed and then made into an invigorating drink. The Sufis found a century or two later that a cup of swirling coffee kept them awake and on task for their all-night chanting and swaying ceremonies.

Coffee changed from a religious drink into a social beverage served in coffee houses, with most Muslims viewing coffee as a splendid alternative to alcoholic drinks which were off-limits. But some Muslim scholars, recognizing the intoxicating (or addictive) influence of coffee then decreed that it was in the same category as alcohol and promptly took it off the Muslim menu. This was like a fatwa on coffee and whenever coffee was seen it was seized and burned and coffee drinkers were beaten.

Islamic scholars in Cairo later disputed this ruling that coffee was haram and soon the appetizing liquid was back in the shops.

Traders took the beans to Europe through Venice where in the seventeenth century, Pope Clement VIII baptized it as ‘a Christian drink’ even though there were calls for ‘the Muslim drink’ to be banned. With the Pope’s blessing the popularity of coffee was assured and the rest is history.

Remember as you swill your bottomless cup that coffee, like many other good inventions, only gains acceptance after trials, fatwas and threats of fatwas.

Coffee-Wikipedia (and thanks to them for the coffee photo)
Delancey Place (who pour out some wonderful stories into our inbox receptacles each day) and who got their story from Tom Standage, A History of the World in Six Glasses, 2005, pp. 137-140.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Coffee, the dancing drug, chewed by Yemenis, imbibed by whirling dervishes, deemed halal, haram, fatwa(ed), baptized and blessed. Have another cup.

Read how coffee and coffee customs are a big part of life in the UAE in:
‘Imbibing the Emirates’, Experiencing the Emirates.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Discovering Gifts and Passions by Accident

I have posted a story from the life of the comedian, Steve Allen, who found some gifts and whose talent was discovered quite accidentally.

This story is posted on a related site that has stories and resources to do with decision making and discernment.

Steve Allen: Discernment Comes From Doing

Image: Steve Allen

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Warren Bennis: ‘Do You Really Love Your Job?’

Here is a story from my recently launched online book, Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment.

If you like the story, there are plenty more like this on the theme of decision making or discernment and you can click on the link below.

In our last reflection we saw how Parker Palmer was spared the discomfort of taking on an ill-fitting job. In a similar story, which again values the scrutiny of others, management guru, Warren Bennis, tells how he accepted an invitation to head up a university but realized later that he had done it for the wrong reasons.

Bennis was delivering a lecture at Harvard University. He was a seasoned speaker and he loved the thrill of working a crowd. At the open time to follow, a question came from the Dean of the School, who was a respected figure in education. Bennis thought his experience at responding to questions was sharpened to a fine point after so many years of teaching and media work. His secret conceit was that there was not one question that he could not respond to in a convincing and winning way.

The question came “like a long, high lob floating lazily over the audience and masking its astuteness in that self-effacing (and deceptive) mid-western drawl of his. “Warren,” he asked, “Do you love being the President of the University of Cincinnati?” Bennis said he did not know how many seconds passed before responding. The room was suddenly so quiet he could hear his heart beating. Finally, he looked up at his questioner and haltingly said, “I don’t know.” Actually, that was the moment he knew the answer but had not yet told himself. The truth is that he did not love it and did not have the passion for it. He wanted to be a University President but he did not want to do university presidency.

A question from an interested observer had made Bennis aware that administration was not for him. It was this epiphany that led to his calling as an adviser and coach to leaders in corporate, government and academic life.[1]

Often by a question or a story (invited or uninvited), another person can help us discern our thoughts and trawl through our motives so that we may admit our mistakes and discover our genuine passions. To welcome and submit to regular, loving scrutiny is a key discipline in the ongoing pursuit of one’s call or vocation.

The link to this Warren Bennis story is here.

To arrive at the Home Page and see how this book can be used by individuals, by couples (even through email if they are on opposite sides of the world) and then by larger groups, churches etc here is the link:

Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment

Do mark this web site as a favorite for an easy return to this resource.

Pass on the link to anyone you know that is seeking directions and wrestling with discerning the way forward.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Warren Bennis

[1]Warren Bennis, Managing the Dream: Reflections on Leadership and Change, (Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus, 2000), xxv-xxvii.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New Book on Decision Making & Discernment

I wanted you to know that I have recently published online a book entitled, Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment.

If you are simply interested in discovering stories for your talks and articles, this book has scores of stories from people such as Charles Handy, Joan Chittester, Frederick Buechner, John Claypool and F W Boreham.

This book, Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment, as I have said in the introduction, “is a workbook, a tour guide or a travel journal for people wanting to make a forty-day journey in discernment.”

To learn more about how it can be used or simply to find those stories, here is the link:
Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment

The last page of this online book has a page of ever increasing resources on decision making and discernment. It points to a related site called:
Discernment Resources

Please let me know of other helpful resources such as books or web sites by adding a comment.

There are regular stories on the theme of decision making and discernment that I will be posting on this site.

If you find these resources helpful, do pass on the links to other people by email or link in your newsletter.

Geoff Pound

Image: On the journey.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pursuing the Saratoga

The problem was an acute one. It all happened at Parattah Junction in Tasmania. I was traveling on the south-bound express. Having enjoyed a good dinner in the refreshment rooms, I discovered that I still had five minutes before the train resumed its journey.

At that very moment, the north-bound express arrived. How better could I spend my spare five minutes than by strolling along the platform on the chance of meeting somebody I knew? And, surely enough, beside one of the central carriages, I caught sight of a young lady, a minister's daughter, at whose home I had often been a guest.

I saw at a glance that she was in dire distress.
‘Why, Effie!’ I exclaimed. ‘What's wrong?’
‘Oh, I'm in serious trouble,’ she replied. ‘I've lost my Saratoga!’
‘That's dreadful,’ I assented, sympathetically. ‘But look, you take the front part of the train and I'll take the back, and we'll meet again here in a minute or two!’

I hurried along the carriages that I had assigned to myself, looking high and low for the elusive Saratoga. I sincerely hoped that Effie would find it in that portion of the train that I had allotted to her, for I had to confess to myself that I felt seriously handicapped in my own search by the lamentable circumstances that I had no shadow of an idea as to what a Saratoga was!

It sounded as if it might be a special breed of dog, and I poked with my stick among the bags and boxes hoping that, with a frightened yelp, the little beast would dash out at me. But then again, it might be an article of jewelry, and, for that reason, I scrutinized the asphalt of the platform and the floors of the carriages in the frantic hope that I might detect a sudden glitter.

But then, I reminded myself, a Saratoga might conceivably be some mysterious part of a lady's wearing apparel, and it was because of this possibility that, fearing to embarrass her, I had refrained from asking Effie for exact particulars of the missing treasure.

At any rate I searched my half of the train as closely as my limited time would allow, and, on returning to our appointed rendezvous, was delighted to find Effie with her face beaming and the precious Saratoga at her feet. How was I to know that a Saratoga was a species of suitcase? I congratulated her, waved her a hurried goodbye; and caught my own train by the skin of my teeth.

But, to my dying day, I shall never forget the sensation of searching eagerly for a thing without possessing the faintest clue as to what that thing might be.

My experience that day resembles the universal search for happiness. If asked what they were seeking, nine people out of ten—perhaps ninety-nine out of a hundred—would reply that they are seeking happiness. Do they know what they are looking for? Would they recognize it if they saw it? Or is their passionate quest like my own wild pursuit of the Saratoga?

F W Boreham, Dreams at Sunset (London: The Epworth Press, 1954), 22-24.

New Book of Stories
The above story is one of the 250+stories that can be found in the recently published book:

F W Boreham, All the Blessings of Life: The Best Stories of F W Boreham.

My publishing colleague, Michael Dalton has a Thanksgiving Special on at the moment so it can be purchased (with the two other new Boreham books) at the best price.

Instructions are at this link:
F W Boreham Publishing News—Thanksgiving Special

Southern Hemisphere people might like to order from these links:
COC Online Shop
Steve Grosey Site

Image: Found it! This is a Saratoga. It was a large trunk (nineteenth century), so called because it was much used by women traveling to the summer resort of Saratoga, New York.

Another story from this book is posted at:
The Official F W Boreham Blogspot.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Billy Graham Library: The Man and the Message are Inseparable

The New York Times has recently run a story by Edward Rothstein about his visit to the new Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The new exhibition includes Billy’s boyhood home, decked out with a rural touch—a silo and a mechanical cow that moos—then there is a film on the famous evangelist, photographs depicting the Presidents that he prayed for and famous people who sought his counsel, a gallery showcasing the contribution of Ruth Graham, a media hall, a tribute area, and a journey of faith’ which concludes with a walk through an aisle and counsellors available who will chat with you about your eternal destiny. Outside there is a prayer garden where visitors can pause at the grave of Ruth Graham and eventually the grave of Dr Graham.

Rothstein is respectful but he does not give this exhibition a high mark saying:
“Unfortunately, the overall effect is not very illuminating, presuming devotion rather than creating it. Of course museums of many kinds choose to preach to the converted. They design exhibitions not to convince the skeptic or attract the outsider, but to gather those of like minds to share a common vision. But there is probably no place where this is more literally true than here. Unless you enter fully faithful, there is a limit to what can be taken away, aside from a curiosity about Mr. Graham himself.”

The Man and the Message
Rothstein makes an interesting observation when he says:
“But one of the unusual things about both this place and Mr. Graham’s ministry is that it is impossible to think of either without thinking of the man behind them. That may even be their greatest strength, though it also raises other questions.”

“It is impossible to separate the man and the message in this library.”

This thought, which is important for every communicator to ponder, is captured in the title of the article which can be found at this link (with a free log in):

Edward Rothstein, ‘At Billy Graham Library, Man and Message Are One and the Same’, New York Times, 10 November 2007

Image: Entrance to the Billy Graham Library (courtesy of the NY Times)

The Billy Graham Library will undoubtedly contain all the writings of F W Boreham, a speaker and writer who had a profound effect on Dr. Billy and Ruth Graham.

More about the Billy and Ruth Graham connection can be found at this link on the Official F W Boreham Blogspot.

Recent stories are posted on this site include:

The Need to Keep One’s Eyes Wide Open and

The Joy of Making a Great Discovery

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Groucho Marx on Why We Need Comedians to Make Us Laugh

Groucho Marx writes, on the subject of comics:

“I am not sure how I got to be a comedian or a comic. ... I doubt if any comedian can honestly say why he is funny and why his neighbor is not.”

“I believe all comedians arrive by trial and error. This was certainly true in the old days of vaudeville, and I'm sure it's true today. The average team would consist of a straight man and a comic. The straight man would sing, dance or possibly do both. And the comedian would steal a few jokes from the other acts and find a few in the newspapers and comic magazines. They would then proceed to play small-time vaudeville theaters, burlesque shows, night clubs and beer gardens. If the comic was inventive, he would gradually discard the stolen jokes and the ones that died and try out some of his own. In time, if he was any good, he would emerge from the routine character he had started with and evolve into a distinct personality of his own. This has been my experience and also that of my brothers, and I believe this has been true of most of the other comedians.”

“My guess is that there aren't a hundred top-flight professional comedians, male and female, in the whole world. They are a much rarer and far more valuable commodity than all the gold and precious stones in the world. But because we are laughed at, I don't think people understand how essential we are to their sanity. If it weren't for the brief respite we give the world with our foolishness, the world would see mass suicide in numbers that compare favorably with the death rate of lemmings.”

“I'm sure most of you have heard the story of the man who, desperately ill, goes to an analyst and tells the doctor that he has lost his desire to live and that he is seriously considering suicide. The doctor listens to this tale of melancholia and then tells the patient that what he needs is a good belly laugh. He advises the unhappy man to go to the circus that night and spend the evening laughing at Grock, the world's funniest clown. The doctor sums it up, 'After you have seen Grock, I am sure you will be much happier.' The patient rises to his feet, looks sadly at the doctor, turns and ambles to the door. As he starts to leave the doctor says, 'By the way, what is your name?' The man turns and regards the analyst with sorrowful eyes. 'I am Grock.'”

Source: Groucho Marx, Groucho and Me, Da Capo, Copyright 1959 by Groucho Marx, renewed 1987 in the name of Arthur Marx as son, pp. 87-89.

Posted recently at Delancey Place where you can get an excerpt like this each day.

Image: Groucho

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Shirin Ebadi on the Power of a Pivotal Event to Rally the Crowds

In her book, Iran Awakening, Shirin Ebadi relates the growing public dissatisfaction with the Shah and she highlights how certain events, such as the burning of a crowded cinema in 1978 and the death of 377 people, prompted people to protest and overthrow the regime:

“I realize only two decades later the momentous power of such a moment—how an egregious act can electrify a population until then ambivalent, and convince them that a confined dispute between political forces carried implications worthy of drawing them out of their living rooms, into the fray.”

“A month later, at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, one hundred thousand people poured into the streets, the first of the grand marches against the Shah. An ocean of Iranians as far as the eye could see filled the wide boulevards of Tehran and raised their voices against the Shah.”

“I found myself drawn to the opposition that hailed Ayatollah Khomeini as their leader.”

The author also exposes the negative aspects of crowd movements for their hailing of Ayatollah Khomeini quickly turned to howls of protest.

Source: Shirin Ebadi with Azadeh Moaveni, Iran Awakening (London: Rider, 2006), 33.

A review of this illuminating book is posted at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Image: The burned out building of Cinema Rex in which doors were locked so people could not escape their death by fire.

Friday, November 09, 2007

On the Familiar and the Foreign

F W Boreham tells this story about the way that we so often have never awakened to the charms of the beauty spots around us yet we will travel long distances to see other attractions:

In the days of his youth James Russell Lowell spent one memorable summer vacation in the White Mountain district. One day, when enjoying a stroll through the Franconia Notch, he became absorbed in conversation with a man who was in charge of a sawmill. The man chatted on, feeding his mill with logs the while. Presently the poet asked his new acquaintance if he could direct him to a point from which he could obtain a good view of the ‘Old Man of the Mountain.’ ‘Dunno’ replied the man, ‘never seed it!’ Lowell immediately expressed his astonishment that any one living so near such a marvellous spectacle, which people came from long distances to see, should never have taken the pains to gaze upon it.

‘And how far have you come?’ asked the man. With evident pride the poet answered that he had come from Boston. ‘D'you tell?’ exclaimed the countryman. ‘I'd like to see Boston. Why, just to stand for once on Bunker Hill! You've been there often, likely?’ And James Russell Lowell confessed with shame and confusion of face that he never had!

F W Boreham 'Wedge Bay' The Golden Milestone (London: Charles H Kelly, 1915), 112-113.

More on this story and related stories on this theme can be found at this link:
The Official F W Boreham Blogsite

Image: Bunker Hill monument.

For Your Sickness and Pain take up a Pen and Paper

A former teacher and a journalist discovered the help writing can be when she was trying to come to terms with her son’s 27 months deployment as an infantryman in Iraq. This benefit and revelation led Sue Diaz to conducting weekly writing workshops in the US with war veterans.

Diaz says: “The heart of each workshop session involves writing together. I offer a prompt – a word, a phrase, an object – to get pens moving. We all write for 20 minutes, then take turns reading aloud what we've written. That part's always optional, but most make that choice. It's a chance not only to be listened to, but in some instances to at long last be heard.”

Read the article to learn how the practice of writing, especially communal writing, helps to confront pain and work through difficulties.

Then write your way to healing and wholeness.

Sue Diaz, ‘To Help Veterans Confront War: Pen and Paper’, CSM, 9 November 2007.

Image: “For Your Sickness and Pain take up a Pen and Paper.”

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Shirin Ebadi on Faith, Good Works, Justice and Fortitude

In the front page of Shirin Ebadi’s book, Iran Awakening, is this statement from the Koran, that has obviously been a strength to this Nobel Peace prize winner in her work for human rights.

‘I swear by the declining day, that perdition shall be the lot of man. Except for those who have faith and do good works and exhort each other to justice and fortitude.”

Source: The Holy Koran 103.3

Image: Shirin Ebadi and a boy.

A review of Shirin Ebadi’s book, Iran Awakening is posted at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Shirin Ebadi on the Power of the Written Word

The human rights activist, Shirin Ebadi, in her memoirs entitled, Iran Awakening, gives this cameo into the power of words and stories.

“Propped up on my desk in Tehran is a clipping of a political cartoon I like to keep in sight while I work. The sketch is of a woman wearing a space-age battle helmet, bent over a blank page with a pen in her hand. It reminds me of a truth that I have learned in my lifetime, one that is echoed in the history of Iranian women across the ages: that the written word is the most powerful tool we have to protect ourselves, both from the tyrants of the day and from our own traditions. Whether it is the storyteller of legend Scheherazade staving off beheading by spinning a thousand and one tales, feminist poets of the last century who challenged the culture’s perception of women through verse, or lawyers like me, who defend the powerless in courts, Iranian women have for centuries relied on words to transfer a reality.”

She says how her book is subject to censor and adds:

“My work places me in opposition to our system, and I suspect I may never be able to write anything in Iran without taking off my helmet.”

Shirin Ebadi with Azadeh Moaveni, Iran Awakening (London: Rider, 2006), 209-210.

A review of Iran Awakening can be found at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Image: Shirin Ebadi

Monday, November 05, 2007

Doctorow on the Importance of Stories

“A story on the page is like a printed circuit for our lives to flow through, a story told invokes our dim capacity to be alive in bodies not our own.”

E L Doctorow, City of God (London: Abacus, 2001), 204.

Image: “A story on the page is like a printed circuit…”

Friday, November 02, 2007

Chekhov and Making Small Things Greater

Several actors in Robert Dessaix’s novel Corfu, are discussing the style of Anton Chekhov:

What we can hold onto in it [Uncle Vanya by Chekhov], however, is Chekhov’s astonishing ability to make small things greater and big things… not smaller exactly, but big for smaller, more human reasons. Drinking tea, loving a woman, saving the forests, playing the guitar, a botched operation, a thunderstorm, the pointlessness of everything… somehow or other (it’s a mystery to me, I can’t fathom it) all these things make space for each other, allow each other their own particular value, refuse to shout each other down.

In life things may not work out like this, but they do in the play. Life, so to speak, may not be beautiful, but its translation may be.

Robert Dessaix, Corfu (A Novel) (London: Scribner, 2003), 247-248.

Image: “A thunderstorm… it’s a mystery to me…”

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hillary Clinton: Not Letting the Truth Get in the Way of a Good Story

A story is doing the rounds, circulated by email and judged by people to be fiction. It has been linked with various celebrities—George W Bush, Al Gore and now Hillary Clinton—but it illustrates the way people put ‘spin’ on a negative story to make it sound positive.

This email claims that Hillary Clinton, an amateur genealogical researcher, discovered that her great-great uncle, Remus Rodham, a fellow lacking in character, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889.

The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows. On the back of the picture is this inscription: "Remus Rodham; horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889."

In Hillary's Family History, her staff of professional image consultants, cropped Remus's picture, scanned it in as an enlarged image, and edited with it image processing software so that all that's seen is a head shot. The accompanying biographical sketch is as follows:

"Remus Rodham was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed."

Image: Hillary Clinton on the platform.