Friday, March 30, 2007

Dangers of Multitasking or This One Thing I Do

A recent article in the New York Times records findings from neuroscientists, psychologists and management professors, suggesting that multitasking behavior when working in an office, studying or driving a car is not good for us and the quality of the work we are doing.

Source and to Read this article: Steve Lohr, Slow down, Brave Multitasker, and Don’t Read this in traffic, New York Times, March 25, 2007.

Image: Here is an example of the dangers of multitasking. This car drove off too fast after filling up with petrol!

'This will happen to you,' says Joan Didion

Charles McNulty reviews the adaptation of Joan Didion’s book, The Year of Magic Thinking, into a stage play.

It does not seem to be the usual Broadway fare as the retelling of Didion’s grief in the year following the death of her husband has a naked candor:

McNulty records the scene and some of the words from the Didion reenactment by Vanessa Redgrave:

Didion, Hare [producer] and Redgrave have approached their task with a stark Beckettian determination. Stillness rules a set marked by a solitary wooden deck chair and hanging canvases of abstract patterns in muted colors that change with falling dropcloths. Nothing extraneous is allowed to distract from the ensuing trance-like contemplation.

A vision of white and gray, with her hair pulled back to reveal a pair of blue eyes that stare out with an oceanic intensity, Redgrave resembles a mythological figure who has traveled to a place of total darkness and filed a report for our collective enlightenment.

“This happened on December 30, 2003,” she says, naming the date when Didion's husband died of a heart attack while seated in the couple's New York apartment with a second pre-dinner drink. "That may seem a while ago, but it won't when it happens to you. And it will happen to you. The details will be different, but it will happen to you. That's what I'm here to tell you.”

Source: For the entire review see Charles McNulty, Redgrave’s Séance of ‘Magical Thinking, LA Times March 30, 2007.

Image: Vanessa Redgrave

“…but now I’m found...”

The more certain we are, the fewer words we need to say it.

The more words we use to insist on our confidence, the more we call that confidence into question.

So asserts Ruth Walker in her latest article, ‘The Paradox of Confidence,’ 30 March, 2007 CSM

Image: Words, words, words....

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Form is Temporary and Class is Permanent

Sir Vivian Richards, who was the ‘master blaster’ of cricketers in the contemporary era, has shown he can be just as incisive from the grandstand.

Sitting in the stand that bears his name, the West Indian all-rounder reflected on the devastating innings of Australian opener, Matthew Hayden. Richards visited Down Under recently when Hayden was going through a slump and when critics were calling for him to be dropped again.

His second century in two games at the Cricket World Cup caused Richards to assert that Hayden’s position in the one day team should never have been under question.

Richards continued: "I think it's a huge call having him here, in terms of being able to bank on his experience as a player. You don't just lose it like that. You can say with due respect to him that form is temporary and class is permanent.”

Geoff Pound

Image: Matthew Hayden, pure class.

Source: Chloe Saltau, Hayden a hit with master blaster, The Age, March 29, 2007.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Rudolph W Giuliani, in his book on leadership, makes these observations about leaders, not getting blogged [I did mean bogged!] down in the detail:

In 1959, the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said in the New York Herald Tribune that "God is in the details." Amen to that. Knowing the "small" details of a large system leaves a leader open to charges of micromanaging.

But understanding how something works is not only a leader's responsibility; it also makes him or her better able to let people do their jobs. If they don't have to explain the basics of what they need and why they need it every time they request more funds or different resources, then they are freer to pursue strate­gies beyond simply spending what they're given.

No leader can know everything about a system. A confident one won't hesitate to seek advice—publicly and privately—from those more expert in an area affecting the enterprise.

Rudolph W Giuliani with Ken Kurso, Leadership, (London: Time Warner, 2002), 46.

Image: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Awesome Pictures from the Book of Life

Author and speaker Ravi Zacharias, tells this amazing experience in his book, The Grand Weaver:

Some time ago I had the privilege to speak at a conference at Johns Hopkins University on the theme “What Does It Mean to Be Human?” Before my address, Francis Collins, the director of the Human Genome Project and the co-mapper of human DNA, presented his talk. He spoke of the intelligibility and marvel of the book of life, filled with more than three billion bits of information. In a strange way, he became both the subject and the object of his study, both the designer and the design of his research. Extraordinary thoughts swarmed within me as I listened, virtually tuning in and out of the talk in order to reflect on the wonder of it all.

In his last slide, he showed two pictures side by side. On the left appeared a magnificent photo of the stained-glass rose window from Yorkminster Cathedral in Yorkshire, England, its symmetry radiating from the center, its colors and geometric patterns spectacular—clearly a work of art purposefully designed by a gifted artist. Its sheer beauty stirred the mind.

On the right side of the screen appeared a slide showing a cross section of a strand of human DNA. The picture did more than take away one’s breath; it was awesome in the profoundest sense of the term—not just beautiful, but overwhelming. And it almost mirrored the pattern of the rose window in Yorkminster. The intricacy of the DNA’s design that pointed to the Transcendent One astonished those who are themselves the design and who have been created semi-transcendent by design. We see ourselves only partially, but through our Creator’s eyes, we see our transcendence. In looking at our own DNA, the subject and the object came together.

The audience gasped at the sight, for it saw itself. The design, the color, the splendor of the design left everyone speechless, even though it is this very design that makes us capable of speech. Because of this design we can think in profound ways, but we felt paralyzed by the thought and could go no further. Because of that design we remained trapped in time but were momentarily lifted to the eternal. Because of that design we were capable of love and suddenly could see the loveliness of who we are.

We can map out the human genome and in it see the evidence of a great Cartographer. We can plan and now see a great Planner. We can sing and now see poetry in matter. We speculate and see the intricacies of purpose. We live, seeing the blueprint of life. And we die, but we can look through the keyhole of life.

At Johns Hopkins that day we saw the handiwork of the One who made us for himself.

Geoff Pound

Ravi’s vivid description left me wanting to see more. I Googled ‘Francis Collins and discovered more information about him and his work. I sent him this story and asked if he could send me the pictures. Francis replied with the pictures saying, “I had not previously seen this powerful excerpt from Ravi Zacharias’ book. Attached is the image that stirred him to such inspiring words.”

I am grateful to Francis for permission to post these pictures and to Ravi for penning his reflections.

Francis Collin’s Biography
Ravi Zacharias
The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes us through the Events of our Lives, Zondervan, 2007. Publishing details, review and a fascinating interview with Ravi.

Image: Rose Window, Yorkminster; View along the axis of the β DNA Double Helix. Click on the images for magnification.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bill Clinton Encounters Poetry and Power

In the New York Review of Books Stephen Greenblatt tells this story about Bill Clinton and his indebtedness to Shakespeare:

In 1998, a friend of mine, Robert Pinsky, who at the time was serving as the poet laureate of the United States, invited me to a poetry evening at the Clinton White House, one of a series of black-tie events organized to mark the coming millennium. On this occasion the President gave an amusing introductory speech in which he recalled that his first encounter with poetry came in junior high school when his teacher made him memorize certain passages from Macbeth. This was, Clinton remarked wryly, not the most auspicious beginning for a life in politics.

After the speeches, I joined the line of people waiting to shake the President's hand. When my turn came, a strange impulse came over me. This was a moment when rumors of the Lewinsky affair were circulating, but before the whole thing had blown up into the grotesque national circus that it soon became. "Mr. President," I said, sticking out my hand, "don't you think that Macbeth is a great play about an immensely ambitious man who feels compelled to do things that he knows are politically and morally disastrous?" Clinton looked at me for a moment, still holding my hand, and said, "I think Macbeth is a great play about someone whose immense ambition has an ethically inadequate object."

I was astonished by the aptness, as well as the quickness, of this comment, so perceptively in touch with Macbeth's anguished brooding about the impulses that are driving him to seize power by murdering Scotland's legitimate ruler. When I recovered my equilibrium, I asked the President if he still remembered the lines he had memorized years before. Of course, he replied, and then, with the rest of the guests still patiently waiting to shake his hand, he began to recite one of Macbeth's great soliloquies:

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly. If th' assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success: that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all, here,
But here upon this bank and shoal of time,
We'd jump the life to come. But in these cases
We still have judgement here, that we but teach
Bloody instructions which, being taught, return
To plague th'inventor.

Macbeth (1.7.1–10)

Source: Stephen Greenblatt, The NY Review of Books, Volume 54, Number 6 ·April 12, 2007

The NY Review of Books is an excellent resource that points us to books with a rich bank of stories and ideas for writers and speakers. GP.

Image: Former President Bill Clinton, when he was in the Oval Office.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Kevin Rudd: Lost in Translation

When Australian’s Leader of the Opposition, Kevin Rudd, hears people say that he is fluent in Mandarin, he is quick to respond that he is far from expert.

As a young diplomat in Beijing in the 1980s he was asked to translate a speech by Australian ambassador Ross Garnaut for guests at a banquet.

All went well until he got to the bit about relations between China and Australia being very close, which drew a reaction ranging from hysterical laughter to shocked disbelief.

Mr. Rudd discovered later that he had assured the gathering the two countries enjoyed spectacular orgasms.

It was a lesson, he says, in not trying to do too much too fast.

Geoff Pound

Image: Kevin Rudd.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Creating a Storm in a Tea Cup

Following my last posting about the need to state the essence of your message on a coffee cup, I thought this cup (pictured) makes a powerful statement.

Image: A ‘mugnum’ for arresting people’s attention.

The Essence of Effective Communication

One of the qualities of a good talk is succinctness—being able to say in a few words what is the guts of your message.

Joel Stein says:

“AS A WRITER, it's very difficult to reach people because it requires them to read. So, in this splintered world of headline skimmers, I had to change my goals. I no longer dreamed of writing a bestselling literary novel or syndicating my column nationwide. I wanted to be on a Starbucks cup.”

If you can’t write the nub of your message on a Starbucks coffee cup, then you’re not ready to open your mouth.

If you are writing an article and you can’t summarise your message on a tea cup, you’d better have another cup of tea.

Make yourself a coffee and let Joel Stein’s ideas percolate in your mind.

Joel Stein, I am a Venti Scribe, L.A. Times, 23 March 2007.

Image: A Starbucks cup with fluid for thought [click to make the cup a grande].

Teaching Patience

“How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?

Paul Sweeney

Image: Instant mashed potatoes

Two Blushing Tomatoes

A. A. Gill writes this story on making a cross cultural glitch:

“This is a true story. A friend of mine, an English girl, moved to New York and, soon after arriving, romantically acquired a local boyfriend. Shortly after that they were both invited to a party. It would be, she was told, fancy-dress. Fancy-dress parties, unlike emotional openness, child care, and pedicures, are one of those inconsequential and nebulous little things that the English take with an infinite, furrowed-browed, death-or-glory seriousness. After many sleepless hours, my friend decided on witty outfits for herself and the boyfriend. After days of construction, they turned up resplendent and a little sweaty as a pair of tomatoes. She had coutured a Gershwin lyric. She was a tomato, he a tomato. (This doesn't really work in print.) It was a tongue-in-taffeta pun. The English simply adore little puns. They were shown into the grand residence and waddled into a room full of Americans wearing black-tie, cocktail frocks, and diamonds. My friend had misunderstood. "Fancy-dress" had meant dress fancy. For any Englishman reading this, stitching a Robin Hood outfit, the American for "fancy-dress" is "costume party." What did you do? I asked my friend. "I laughed and got drunk." That was very British of you. What did the boyfriend do? "He had a bit of a sense-of-humor failure. But we're still friends."

For the sauce of this article and for reading further see:

A.A. Gill, Brits Behaving Badly, Vanity Fair, April 2007.

Image: Tomato fancy dress/costume.

Words, words, words.

In the Shakespearean play Hamlet, Polonius asks the question: "What do you read my Lord?"

And Hamlet replies, "Words, words, words."

We often tire of the constant bombardment of words but we never tire of words of appreciation.

Words are the stock and trade of a speaker and writer so it is crucial that we discover words that are fresh and energetic, and learn how to use them.

Verbal Energy is an interesting web site that always has interesting postings about really interesting words. In the most recent posting, Ruth Walker writes a most interesting article on That Dull word, Interesting.

Geoff Pound

Image: Scrabbling with words.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

No Obligation to be Dull

U.S. Judge Michael Eakin is dispensing poetic justice by delivering his rulings in rhyming couplets. One example is in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court case involving a woman who claimed a lie about an engagement ring should void a prenuptial agreement.

Eakin wrote: "A groom must expect matrimonial pandemonium/when his spouse finds he's given her a cubic zirconium/instead of a diamond in her engagement band,/the one he said was worth twenty-one grand."

Eakin says, "You have an obligation as a judge to be right, but you have no obligation to be dull."

Source: Christianity Today, 20 March, 2007.

Image: Judge Michael Eakin

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Papal Justice for Holy Water Plot

As head of the Roman Catholic Church and probably the world's most visible theologian, Pope Benedict XVI has all sorts of demands on his time. But one of them apparently won't be appearing as a witness at the trial of a man accused of complicity in stealing from him. Stealing what? Water. Yes, ordinary water.

Before he was elected in 2005 to succeed the late Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict was better known as Joseph Ratzinger of Pentling, Germany, where he still owns property. Last August, acting on what they thought was a bright idea, three masked intruders sneaked onto the premises with armloads of bottles that they intended to fill from his garden hose and then sell as "holy water" on eBay, the Internet auction site.

There to document it all was freelance photographer Hubertus Wiendl - that is, until neighbors called the police. The others fled with barely one full bottle. Wiendl wasn't as nimble and was arrested. Prosecutors didn't buy his denial of any advance knowledge and hauled him into court. Reasoning that the pope, once he was made aware of the situation, might be sympathetic and appeal for mercy, Wiendl's lawyer sought to issue him a subpoena. "That's not gonna happen," the judge said and fined the defendant $134 (100 Euros).

Source: March 20, 2007
Christian Science Monitor

Image: Benedictine blessing.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Telling a Hair-Raising Story

At the heart of telling a good story is choosing creative and colorful words.

The web site A Word a Day is a very popular web site which not only has words and their meanings but anecdotes to illustrate. You can subscribe to this site and receive one new word a day. Often words will come in a theme. This week's theme is Hair. Here is today's strand:

Hair! What a thing! People spend millions trying to grow it. Others spend even more to get rid of it. Some do both, though on different parts of their bodies.

We can get in other people's hair (to annoy). We let our hair down (relax). We split hairs (make petty distinctions). Things can make our hair stand on end (terrify), or we might be having a bad hair day (an unpleasant day). Sometimes literally. I have seen my niece in tears in a family wedding just because she felt her hair wasn't done as well as she had hoped. (I know what some of you are saying to yourselves, "Just because?"

Our hair grows. We cut it. And in between we spend countless hours on it. This week we devote five days on hair -- and on their absence. This week's theme in AWAD: Hair today, gone tomorrow.

piliferous (py-LIF-uhr-uhs) adjective
Having or producing hair. [From Latin pilus (hair).]
Anu Garg (words at

"If there's one thing that separates us from the stars, it's hair. Film-star hair, like film-star orthodontia, bears scant relation to life as we know it; it comes and goes, changes colour at will, or sprouts overnight into rolling acres of luxuriant growth. Sometimes you can see an entire range of exciting piliferous activity within a single movie."
Anne Billson; It's Hairy, It's Scary, it's Bruce's Wig;
The Sunday Telegraph (London, UK); Jan 11, 1998.

Sponsored by:
Subscribe to -- a carefully selected non-fiction book excerpt free to your email each day. It's the thinking person's daily quote. Always find the right word with the Visual Thesaurus. Wordsmith readers save 10%. Try it free!

A hair in the head is worth two in the brush. -Oliver Herford, writer and illustrator (1863-1935)

Image: The funniest thing I’ve seen is trying to tell a hair-raising story to a bald-headed man.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Gospel According to Paddy

The 17 March is St. Patrick’s Day and is celebrated by millions around the world. I have written on the Irish in the U.A.E. in the related article, Celebrating the Irish in the U.A.E.

Have you heard the one about the Irishman who was really an Englishman? To be sure, to be sure, Patrick was born in the south of England about 389 A.D. Although his parents were Christians, he thought his family’s faith was a load of blarney. At sixteen he was kidnapped, taken to Ireland and forced to work in harsh conditions as a shepherd. As so many in a tight spot have discovered since, he said, “there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God.” Quite possibly he would have reached out to God in these words he had learned as a child:

Our Father in heaven
Hallowed be Your name.
Your Kingdom come
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive
those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil,
for the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory are Yours,
now and forever.

Six years later Patrick escaped and was reunited with his family in England who found him to be quite a different person. While there he received a vision to return to Ireland to proclaim the Gospel so he began to train for his missionary calling. No great shakes as a student, this one who was to become Ireland’s patron saint wrote, “I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many.”

He was commissioned around 435 and arriving in the Emerald Isle he conducted his missionary journeys from the northern base of Armagh. He courageously opposed druids and denounced those trading in slaves. To say that he single-handedly turned Ireland from a country of pagans to a nation of believers is an exaggeration but it is not far from the truth. In his later years he humbly declared, “Many thousands of people were reborn in God through me.”

Patrick’s effectiveness as an communicator was derived in part by his use of local images to illustrate eternal truths. For instance he would hold up a shamrock to convey the unity and three-fold richness of God as creator, saviour and spirit. He called people to a vibrant experience of God by daily putting on God as a soldier would put on a breastplate. This practical idea is found in the magnificent song that is traditionally attributed to Patrick:

“I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.”

In numerous verses Patrick calls others to begin the day by binding to themselves the many facets of God’s being:

“I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, his might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, his shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.”

We today might experience this same confidence by wrapping ourselves in the spirit of Christ through Patrick’s prayer:

“Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

Show your appreciation for this Irishman by wearing something green on the 17th March. Sing his song. Spin his yarn when you’re given the chance. Pray Patrick’s prayer for yourself, his country and our world.

Geoff Pound

Image: Getting ready for the St. Patrick's Day parade in Houston, Texas.

Lead Us Not Into...

A minister of a church got pinged for speeding and he received a considerable fine.

He wrote to the traffic department and he said:

“Dear Sir, I am a minister of the church and I was speeding because I was on my way to help some needy people. Forgive us our trespasses.”

Some time later he received this reply from the traffic department:

“Dear Reverend, I am a servant of the state and an upholder of justice. You were issued with a fine because you were breaking the law. Do not lead us into temptation.”

Geoff Pound

Source: I heard this story in an address by David C. K. Watson, circa 1974.

Image: Speed camera providing the evidence.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Cricket for Eternity

As the Cricket World Cup is in full swing or spin, here is a cricket snippet from writer Julian Barnes:

"Wits liked to repeat that the English, since they lacked any spiritual instinct, had invented cricket in order to give themselves a sense of eternity."

The above quote relates to the five day mode of cricket. With the English team losing their wickets as I write (during their match against NZ) it sounds like they are getting more of a sense of hell rather than eternity.

Source: Julian Barnes, Arthur and George, London: Jonathan Cape, 2005, 246.

Image: England v New Zealand.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I'm Just Happy I Could Help

When you think of relations between Muslims and Christians from now on, here's a name to remember: Zeljko Komsic. Why? Because with a simple act of kindness last weekend, he struck a blow for sectarian harmony in a place where it has been scarce.

Komsic, you see, is a Croat and one of the three co-presidents of Bosnia, the former Yugoslav republic whose war for independence left it with ethnically separate mini-states, each having its own government. And that's 12 years after the fighting ended.

Anyway, his motorcade was returning from official business in neighboring Croatia when he noticed another vehicle struggling to get ahead of traffic on a busy highway. A couple who turned out to be Muslim were in the car, the wife was in labor, and her husband was trying to rush her to a hospital. Komsic invited them to join the motorcade and ordered his police escort to clear the highway. At the hospital, he assisted the mother-to-be inside and only then did he leave.

"I have no words to thank [him]," the father said, adding that he hoped to shake Komsic's hand "one more time." But first, he and his wife made a gesture that is rare in Bosnia. In gratitude, they decided to call their new son Zeljko, setting aside the Muslim name they'd chosen.

P.S. This story is also appended to the Wikipedia article under the heading Trivia. What a pity. This cameo might say more than his other accolades. GP


Image: Zeljko Komsic

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

No Substitute for Hard Work

In a recent excerpt, Delanceyplace favorite, Alan Jay Lerner writes about the work ethic of great stars. The context is the preparation for his greatest hit, My Fair Lady, and Rex Harrison has voluntarily shown up before the rest of the cast to begin his rehearsals. This causes Lerner to reflect on another great star--Fred Astaire:

"[Right before we began rehearsals], while the rest of our future company was enjoying their Christmas in London, Rex arrived three days before the holidays to begin work in advance with Fritz [Loewe, Lerner's partner], Moss [Hart, the producer], and me.

"It was another example of something I found to be true throughout my professional life. Every genuinely great star with whom I have ever worked is a star not only because of talent and that indefinable substance, but because he works harder than anyone else, cares more than anyone else and his sense of perfection, which is deeper than anyone else's, demands more of him.

"I remember when I was doing a film with Fred Astaire, it was nothing for him to work three or four days on two bars of music. One evening in the dark grey hours of dusk, I was walking across the deserted MGM lot when a small, weary figure with a towel around his neck suddenly appeared out of one of the giant cube sound stages. It was Fred. He came over to me, threw his arm around my shoulder and said: 'Oh, Alan, why doesn't someone tell me I cannot dance?' The tormented illogic of his question made any answer insipid, and all I could do was walk with him in silence. Why doesn't someone tell Fred Astaire he cannot dance? Because no one would ever ask that question but Fred Astaire. Which is why he is Fred Astaire."

Alan Jay Lerner, The Street Where I Live, Da Capo, 1978, p. 89.

Used with permission.Great stories like these can be delivered to your email inbox each day by Delanceyplace.Com. This story is posted with their permission.

Image: Fred Astaire.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Hearing the Story for the First Time

One of the key goals in writing or preaching, even about something that is very familiar, is to enable people to feel they are hearing the story for the first time.

In an article for the New York Times, writer Joan Didion presents her reflections on the process of turning her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, into a stage play.

The book and the play focus on the grueling year following the death of Didion’s husband, which occurred before the death of their daughter.

Practices are taking place at the moment in the rehearsal studio on West 42nd Street. David Hare from London is directing this Broadway production. Vanessa Redgrave is playing the part of Joan Didion.

Looking out from the stage Didion says:

“There are 767 seats in the Booth Theater. Those seats either will or will not be filled. It would be hard to say at this moment which prospect alarms me more: either is the nightmare in which you get pushed onstage without a script.”

In chronicling the rehearsal phase Didion identifies one of the more poignant moments:

“One afternoon three months later the three of us first heard the play, alone in the Lion Theater on West 42nd Street, an actress sitting in a chair onstage and reading. As she spoke the first words, I could not breathe.”

Getting nearer to the opening date (at the end of March 2007) Didion shares this cameo:

“Some days I think it’s working and other days I think it’s not. But I remember a February evening when Vanessa went to see the dressing rooms at the Booth. Like a mermaid sensing water, she moved to the stage. She began saying the play. There it was: Vanessa Redgrave was standing on a stage in an empty theater and she was telling me a story I was hearing for the first time.”

Source: Joan Didion, ‘The Year of Hoping for Stage Magic,’ The New York Times, March 4, 2007.

Image: Joan Didion.

The Rare Quality of Magnanimity

The U.S. Presidential race is hotting up but I like Michael Gawenda’s report on the good grace in which Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have conducted themselves over the weekend:

“HILLARY CLINTON and Barack Obama hugged and he even planted a kiss on her cheek as they stood together on a stage in Selma, Alabama, the scene of the infamous Bloody Sunday civil rights march of 1965.”

Electoral campaigns can quickly get dirty with candidates putting in the knife or knocking others down in the quest for self-promotion. But Gawenda, the Sydney Morning Herald Correspondent in Washington D.C. noted today, not only the enduring charisma of Bill Clinton but his wonderful magnanimity:

“But the show-stopper was Bill Clinton, who stepped forward to make his first speech of his wife's campaign to loud cheers. He was just "bringing up the rear because the good speeches have been made by Hillary and Barack Obama", he said. Ostensibly in Selma to receive a civil rights award from the city, he said: "I don't think former presidents should get any awards because the job is reward enough. I am just happy today. I am happy to be in Selma any day."

“No one watching Mr Clinton could fail to see that he remains an extraordinary politician, with a charisma that makes everyone feel he is speaking just to them.”

“Mr Clinton, who the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison once described as America's first black president, remains incredibly popular among blacks, a southern boy who understood - and still does - black hopes and dreams.”

"Isn't it a high-class problem we have", Mr Clinton said, smiling at his wife and searching around for Senator Obama who was standing behind him. "Who to vote for when we like them all so much."

Source: Michael Gawenda, 'Charismatic Clinton remains the star of the show with blacks,' Sydney Morning Herald, March 6, 2007.

Image: Bill Clinton

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Savings in Accountability

One of the maxims my father frequently repeats is, “People do, not what you expect but what you inspect.” His years as a manager of people proved the truth of this as he went from desk to desk, asking how things had been going since their last catch up.

Part of the value of supervision, mentoring—call it what you will—is knowing we will have a regular inspection or a discipline of accountability.

Some people who have major difficulties with money trickling through their fingers have submitted to a novel method of self-imposed accountability (or punishment?) in their efforts to get back into the black.

John Leland has reported recently (February 18, 2007) in The New York Times and the editor is now following the progress of people who have started their own debt blogs to share the most intimate details of their finances, hoping their online confessions will help them develop some self-restraint with the purse strings.

The Times reports today, “Every time the bloggers reach for a credit card, the realization that they will have to confess any splurges is supposed to give them pause. The 29-year-old woman who writes — identified only as Tricia — keeps a running tally of her obligations in the upper-right-hand corner of the Web page (just over $22,000 right now, down from almost $38,000). Right below that is the button that allows readers to sign up to receive updates: 349 regulars are keeping a watchful eye.”

This blogger is serious about wiping out her debt.

It is not necessary to have 349 accountability partners and a site meter measuring the 101,000 times that people have checked in to monitor your financial progress! But willing accountability and confession is good for the soul (as well as the pocket).

Source: ‘Blog the Debt Away’, The New York Times, March 5, 2007

Image: ‘Forgive us our debts…’

Surround Yourself with Good People

In a personal reflection, Carey College Principal, Paul Windsor, writes of how he is seeking to grow in wisdom as a leader.

He recounts how he was on a flight with one of the greatest leaders that New Zealand has ever had, the renowned Sir Wilson Whineray, a successful captain of the All Blacks.

At the 55 minute mark of a 60 minute flight Paul plucked up the courage and asked the great captain, “What is the key to being an effective leader?”

There was a lengthy pause….

Then Whineray said, “Surrounding yourself with good people.”

Geoff Pound

Source: Paul Windsor, Learning about Leading, Paul’s Blog, 20 December 2006.

Image: Wilson Whineray.

The Words to Say It

How often has someone put a pen and a card in front of you and said, “You write the greeting?”

Meghan Daum in Sympathizing in someone else’s words introduces the new Hallmark Journeys card series that gives us the words for those tricky situations that can often leave us tongue-tied or suffering from writer’s block.

You may not like some of the words but the cards point up the struggle we often experience to speak and be truly present with people in times of need.

Geoff Pound

Image: Sample card.

"Ah, well... it happens with every book."

I am grateful to Michael Dalton for referring me to this story and introducing me to movie reviewer, Jeffrey Overstreet and author of the recent book, ‘Through a Screen Darkly.’

We can’t always be perfect and our mistakes highlight our mortality and essential humanness.

Source: Jeffrey Overstreet, “Ah, well... it happens with every book.", February 6, 2007

Image: Front cover of Jeffrey's new book.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Where Are You Looking?

The name of John Landy is legendary in Australian middle distance running. He's remembered for stopping to pick up Ron Clarke when another runner clipped his heel and sent him sprawling.

He's remembered for his titan clash with Roger Bannister in the race of the century.

John Landy said that he is also remembered for his mistakes.

Speaking at a speech night in Melbourne, he recounted his mistake in that famous ‘miracle mile’ when he turned around to get a glimpse of his opposition only to realise that he was being overtaken on the other side.
John Landy said, “I can't forget this mistake.”

In Vancouver this mistake has been captured in a bronze sculpture—Landy looking over his shoulder while his opposition passes on the other side on his way toward the tape!

This wasn't a fatal mistake for Landy. He has turned it into a lesson for others to take to heart. When we are tired. When we are bewildered. When we are worried about others, we need to remember, "Where are we looking?"

Geoff Pound

Image: This famous photograph was taken by Vancouver Sun photographer, Charlie Warner.

Leadership and the Entertainment Factor

"Odd that mankind’s benefactors should be amusing people. In America at least this is often the case. Anyone who wants to govern the country has to entertain it. During the Civil War people complained about Lincoln’s funny stories."

Source: Saul Bellow, Ravelstein, Penguin 2000, New York, 1.

Image: ‘Lincoln’s funny stories.’

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Eternity at Midnight

Arthur Stace was a homeless alcoholic who lived in the streets of Sydney, Australia. After a conversion to Christianity, he quit drinking, and spent the rest of his life writing the word "Eternity" all over the city in yellow chalk.

Beginning in the 1930s Arthur Stace spent his early morning hours writing the word "Eternity" in a distinctive cursive style in every doorway, on every street, and major entrance to a public area that he could find in Sydney.

For years, the citizens of the city wondered who was writing the "one word sermon" and why. Every once in a while, someone would claim responsibility for the graffiti and the newspapers would print the stories.

In 1956, Stace was a member of the Burton Street Baptist Church, where he also served as the janitor and a prayer leader. One day, the pastor of the church, Rev. Lisle M. Thompson, stumbled across Stace while he was writing his chalk message on a sidewalk and the mystery of the "Eternity" messages all over Sydney was solved.

Stace said that after his conversion to Christianity, he heard a sermon in which the evangelist said, "Eternity! Eternity! Oh, that this word could be emblazoned across the streets of Sydney!" In his simple way, Stace heard this exclamation as a call of God and he decided to do that.

There is a huge illuminated sign on the Sydney Harbour Bridge that says "Eternity" in Trace's distinctive handwriting, a sign that was clearly seen by hundreds of millions of people at millenium parties and during the fireworks display at the end of the opening ceremonies at the Olympics in Sydney in 2000.

Arthur Stace is remembered in Sydney for his nearly 40-years of colourful lettering, which was designed to prompt people to think about eternity and their own mortality.

Image: The memorable bridge at midnight entering the new millennium.

Friday, March 02, 2007

New Book by F W Boreham Now Available!

The letter from Michael Dalton that many of us have been hanging out for has just been posted.

Click on the following link to read this good news:

New Books by F. W. Boreham.

Geoff Pound

Time for a Perfect Date

Read this interesting story entitled, A Date With Destiny, to discover why the 7th July this year is going to be one of the most important dates in the year.

Geoff Pound

Distance or Vision?

“Too often I would hear people boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen.”

Source: Louis L'Amour, American novelist (1908-1988).

Image: Louis L’Amour.

Hey, Got Any Spare Change?

This report today gives a fascinating insight into giving:

Have you ever thought about stopping to drop some money into a collection box up ahead ... and then changed your mind? New research suggests that's probably because you were not impressed with the sign(s) above the box, the mix of bills and coins in it - or the absence thereof.

The research was conducted by two New Zealanders. But on the premise that human behavior is basically the same all over, the findings probably apply anywhere.

Economics lecturer John Randal of Victoria University in Wellington and colleague Richard Martin - in an exercise worthy of the "Candid Camera" TV series - filmed visitors to the city's public art gallery as they approached a prominently placed, clear plastic collection box in the lobby. If the researchers had left it empty, the visitors usually passed it by. Ditto if it was full. On the other hand, a mix of coins or small bills tended to be matched with donations of the same size. As for the signs, if they said "Thank You" in advance, gallerygoers were virtually certain not to drop any cash into the box. The visitors were equally unimpressed with a sign indicating that donations would be matched by a charitable foundation. One other finding: These behaviors tended to be most common among men.

Anon., THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, March 2, 2007-03-02

Image: Donation Box.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Three Chairs for Hospitality!

Further to his theme of Generous Hospitality, David Enticott offers this story that recognizes the inclusive nature of a hearty welcome:

Back in 1845 an American writer decided to devote himself to practising an inclusive brand of hospitality. He took an axe and built a small wooden hut on the shores of a pond in Massachusetts. Henry David Thoreau wanted to discover what really mattered in life. He lived simply, cultivated some crops and received anyone who came to stay with him, regardless of their position in society.

Thoreau kept a journal of experiences that later became a famous book called Walden. In it, he wrote these words:

“I think that I love society as much as most. I am naturally no hermit and so I had three wooden chairs in my house: the first for solitude, the second for friendship and the third for strangers.


I had many cheering visitors during my stay. Children came a-berrying, railroad men took their Sunday walk in clean shirts, fishermen and hunters, poets and philosophers; in short all honest pilgrims, who came out to the woods for freedoms sake!”

Source: David Enticott, Sermon, Whitley College Chapel, 26 February, 2007.

Image: Picture of Walden Pond, surrounded by the woods outside Concord, Massachusetts. Thoreau described Walden Pond as "blue at one time and green at another, even from the same point of view. Lying between the earth and the heavens, it partakes of the colour of both."

Tinted Vision

F W Boreham tells this story from his travels through the Arabian desert:

One incident of the drive across the desert comes forcefully to mind today. For its water supply Arabia is largely dependent upon sea water—salt water that has been condensed. Out beside the desert road we saw the great works in which the condensing is done, with the mountains of salt standing near by. I looked at those heaps of salt and wondered. Our driver was an Arab; but fortunately he could speak English well.

‘I suppose,' I said, leaning forward and addressing him, 'I suppose that this is salt of a crude kind to be used for agricultural purposes, or something of the kind?'

‘No,' he replied, looking quite pained, 'it's beautiful salt; what's wrong with it.’

I felt very humiliated and half resolved to drop the subject; but I was still puzzled, and decided to venture once more. ‘This salt,' I said, 'will probably have to go through several processes yet before it is ready to be shipped away as table salt?'

‘No,' he answered, looking even more hurt than before, 'it's perfect. What's wrong with it?'

I felt crushed but eventually made up my mind to make one more attempt to satisfy my curiosity. ‘You must really forgive me,’ I pleaded, humbly, ‘but if this salt is such beautiful salt, how do you account for its strange browny colour?’

And then my wife, whom I always carry with me to deliver me from such embarrassments, nudged me gently, and enquired, ‘Have you forgotten that you are wearing those amber glasses?’

Indeed I had! Before setting out across the desert a friend had warned me that the glare of the sun would blind me unless I wore coloured glasses. He gave me his. They fitted so perfectly that I had forgotten that they were there; and so the salt, that was really as white as driven snow, looked brown and unclean in my sight.

And ever since that drive across the desert, whenever I hear people complaining that there is something wrong with the world, or _____________ (fill in the gap) I have remembered my own experience with the amber glasses, and have thought my own thoughts."

Source: F. W. Boreham, Arrows of Desire.

Image: Salt in the desert