Thursday, April 24, 2008

Nick Hornby on Going to the Football

There is a short story by the American writer Andre Dubus entitled, ‘The Winter Father’, about a man whose divorce has separated him from his two children. In the winter his relationship with them is tetchy and strained: they move from afternoon jazz club to cinema to restaurant, and stare at each other. But in the summer, when they can go to the beach, they get on fine. ‘The long beach and the sea were their lawn; the blanket their home; the ice chest and thermos their kitchen—they lived as a family again.’

Sitcoms and films have long recognized this terrible tyranny of place, and depict men traipsing round parks with fractious kids and a frisbee. But ‘The Winter father’ means a lot to me because it goes further than this: it manages to isolate what is valuable in the relationship between parents and children, and explains simply and precisely why the 200 trips are doomed.

In this country, as far as I know, Bridlington and Minehead are unable to provide the same kind of liberation as the New England beaches in Dubus’s story; but my father and I were about to come up with the perfect English equivalent. Saturday afternoons in North London gave us a context in which we could be together. We could talk when we wanted, the football gave us something to talk about (and anyway the silences weren’t oppressive), and the days had a structure, a routine. The Arsenal pitch was to be our lawn (and, being an English lawn, we would usually peer at it mournfully through driving rain); the Gunner’s Fish bar on Blackstock Road our kitchen; and the West Stand our home. It was a wonderful set-up, and changed our lives just when they needed changing most, but it was also exclusive: Dad and my sister never really found anywhere to live at all.

Source: Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch, (London: Victor Gollancz, 1992), 17-18.

Image: “The Arsenal pitch was to be our lawn …” The Arsenal Stadium until 2006 when the club transferred to the Emirates Stadium.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

But the Free Gift…

Dan Ariely, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Behavioral Economics at MIT, examines the effect of the word "free":

“In one experiment ... we set up a table at a large public building and offered two kinds of chocolates--Lindt truffles and Hershey's Kisses. There was a large sign above our table that read, 'One chocolate per customer.' Lindt's chocolate truffles are particularly prized--exquisitely creamy and just about irresistible. They cost about 30 cents each when we buy them in bulk. Hershey's Kisses, on the other hand, are good little chocolates, but let's face it, they are rather ordinary: Hershey cranks out 80 million Kisses a day. ...”

“When we set the price of a Lindt truffle at 15 cents and a Kiss at one cent, we were not surprised to find that our customers acted with a good deal of rationality: they compared the price and quality of the Kiss with the price and quality of the truffle, and then made their choice. About 73 percent of them chose the truffle and 27 percent chose a Kiss.”

“Now we decided to see how FREE! might change the situation. So we offered the Lindt truffle for 14 cents and the Kisses free. ... What a difference FREE! made. The humble Hershey's Kiss became a big favorite. Some 69 percent of our customers chose the FREE! Kiss. ...

“According to standard economic theory (simple cost-benefit analysis), the price reduction should not lead to any change in the behavior of our customers. ... A passing economist would have said that since [the price difference] was the same, our customers should have chosen the truffles by the same margin. ... The conclusion, incidentally, remained the same in other experiments as well. In one case we priced the Hershey's Kiss at two cents, one cent, and zero cents, while pricing the truffle correspondingly at 27 cents, 26 cents, and 25 cents. ...”

“What is it about FREE! that is so enticing? ... I believe the answer is this. Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is FREE! we forget the downside. ... I think it's because humans are intrinsically afraid of loss. The real allure of FREE! is tied to this fear. There's no possibility of loss when we choose a FREE! item (it's free). But suppose we choose the item that's not free. Uh-oh, now there's a risk of having made a poor decision--the possibility of a loss. And so, given the choice, we go for what is free.”

Source: Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational, Harper, 2008, pp. 51-55. This excerpt came from DelanceyPlace (23 April 2008) which sends an eclectic excerpt to your email daily, for free!!

Image: A box of Lindt truffles and some Hershey’s kisses.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Anecdotal Evidence and Science

Luca Turin says in The Secret of Scent:

“It has been said, correctly in my opinion, that theories define facts as much as the other way around. ... Anecdotal evidence has sort of a slippery, jelly-like quality to it, and theories are needed to congeal the stuff together into single, solid facts. 'Anecdotal' is often used as a pejorative term in scientific circles, meaning unreliable. In practice it often means isolated, and therefore hard to assess.”

“Think of a new field of science as a large jigsaw puzzle. Pieces are discovered one by one, and at first they are unlikely to fit together to make a picture. Things can look distinctly unpromising, sometimes for decades. But if you can bear the pain of feeling stupid and the humiliation of being wrong, anecdotal evidence is the call of the wild, the surest sign of the undiscovered.”

“Columbus set sail on the basis of anecdotal evidence. The Mayan hieroglyphs were deciphered using anecdotal evidence. Life-saving remedies based on plants, such as aspirin and digitalis, were found by scientists who paid attention to anecdotal evidence.”

“Scientific problems typically go through three phases. In the first phase, a few bold explorers discover a new land and map out its basic features. In the second phase, boatloads of immigrant scientists arrive and colonize the land. In the third phase, statues are erected on town squares, sometimes to the original discoverers, more often to the able administrators who built the roads and railways.”

Source: Luca Turin, The Secret of Scent, HarperCollins, 2006, p. 108. First spotted on Delancey Place, 23 May 2007, which makes available, ‘eclectic excerpts delivered to your email daily.”

Image: “Think of a new field of science as a large jigsaw puzzle.”

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lead by Getting Out of the Way

A BBC News report has some salutary words for leaders. It says:

Most workers reckon that their bosses are excessively bureaucratic, apportion blame wrongly and are inconsistent in decision making, a report has found.

Sirota Survey Intelligence questioned 3.5 million staff over three years at firms including global giants Shell, Tesco, Microsoft and Dell.

The belief that managers hamper staff is deeply ingrained, the report showed.

Instead, workers want to know what is expected of them, have competent bosses and better cooperation across the firm.

Sirota argues that the biggest challenge for many companies is creating an enthusiastic workforce as this is a key element of a successful organisation.

Dr David Sirota, Chairman of the research firm, believes that too often managers get in the way and hinder their staff's natural enthusiasm.

"People come to work, to work," Mr Sirota said.

"Unfortunately, they often find conditions that block high performance, such as excessive bureaucracy burying them in paperwork, and slowing decision making to a crawl.

"Management has to help employees perform, which in many cases means getting out of the way."

Source: “Workers Want Bosses to ‘Get Lost,’” BBC News, 19 August 2005.

Image: “Which in many cases means getting out of the way.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Facebook Friends Going AWOL

About Face
Between 2006 and 2007 the social networking site, Facebook, went from being the 60th to the 7th most popular web site on the Internet but one year on there are signs that the Facebook bubble is bursting. A face to face conversation with about 90 of my 150 Facebook friends evoked powerful feelings about joining, staying and why many are going AWOL.

Showing Face
Many joined Facebook to see what all the fuss was about. Others joined when they received an invitation from a close friend, a remote acquaintance or an unknown person who seemed hell-bent on building their friendship base. Many in their mature years were drawn into Facebook by a son or a daughter and it seemed a way to keep in touch or appear ‘hip’.

About ten percent of my Facebook Friends received a welcome, posted their profile, looked around and have hardly been seen since. Even the initial surprise of becoming a ‘friend’ with one or two people did not tempt them to stay.

Another ten percent are ‘high users’ and are mainly teenagers or those in their twenties. They rely on Facebook for sending email and communicating regularly with a huge number of friends. In its original incarnation it was an online networking facility at Harvard University so it is not surprising that Facebook continues to be strong among students and an effective means of maintaining group cohesion and nurturing alumni associations.

A handful of my friends use Facebook as a means of flogging their business, their blog postings and the meetings of their organization. One friend in the blogging business has the highest number of friends at 1962 and still climbing, a CEO of a Social Justice network has 1371 friends (he hires a staff member to oversee the nurturing of his friends), while a leader of a training organization, when one of his friends asked on his ‘wall’, ‘Can anyone really have 795 friends?’ he declared, ‘I am a man of immense social capacity.’

The vast majority of my friends enjoyed an initial flurry of activity when their Facebook experience was a novelty, followed by an intense period of connecting and then a dramatic decline in interest and commitment. They still show their face and are usually reactive but they assert that Facebook is a time waster and they now choose to give precedence to activities in ‘the real world’.

In Your Face
While time pressure is the biggest reason for the widespread decline, considerable angst has also caused Facebook to fall from favor. Facebook users commonly feel bombarded with requests to play new games, add applications and join a cause (although controls are now provided to block certain applications and requests from specified friends). One friend said, “There’s only so much fun to be had by being a pirate-ninja-zombie-werewolf-slayer.” Another said, “I have no desire to throw virtual food or rank my friends.” One Aussie user said, “Virtual beer is not as nice as real beer.” When Facebook users quickly recognized that most of the applications were childish, inane and of little value, their frustration intensified with every request to try something new.

The exponential growth in new friends is flattering but new connections bring endless mail, a deluge of news and more crushing requests. The very success of Facebook’s ability to connect is leading not only to its growth but to its downfall.

While there is a welcome and establishment process that newcomers undergo, Facebook should create a positive way that allows people to leave, to offer a farewell, remove their profile and indicate any future contact details.

Loss of Face
Many Facebook users joined because they did not want to appear unfriendly. Furthermore, refusing the friendship of people that they did not know is difficult to negotiate. One person said they were “yet to find out the social consequences of declining an invitation to engage in such activities as a Traveler’s IQ Test. Will they still love me in the morning?” More serious rejection is experienced by people who are excommunicated from somebody’s Friends List.

Keeping Face
One serious concern involves issues of privacy. As the list of friends grows most users divulge less personal information. Some uncertainty exists about what comments are posted to one person and what gets broadcasted to all their friends. Someone described a storm over the posting of photographs from a staff party, without getting the permission of all people in the shots, some of whom appeared to be ‘letting their hair down’.

Face to Face
Voted as one of the most valuable applications is the ability to post photographs so it’s little wonder that Facebook is currently the most popular site on the Internet for photographs with 14 million photos being uploaded daily. Reflecting on this visual aid to friendship one person said that “seeing a photo is a potent reminder of people’s presence that it encourages me to make contact more than just plain email.”

The Search Function to find old friends was hailed with enthusiasm. While some testified to ongoing contact, most users said that after the exciting virtual reunion there was little sustained friendship that ensued.

Where most of one’s friends are on Facebook, as is often the case in student communities, the ability to organize a meeting or a party, advertise who is attending and post the apologies, is a great benefit.

With the combined email service, Status Update and photo posting, Facebook is highly popular among travelers and family members who are living abroad. The ability to inform friends with messages and pictures sent from a mobile phone or a Personal Organizer is an additional benefit.

The Status Update (what I am doing or thinking today in about 25 words) which comes as a News Feed is a major reason why people enjoy Facebook. This verbal snapshot helps them to ‘feel in touch’ with friends they do not see on a regular basis. One person likened this to his parents whose only contact with some friends was the sending of the annual Christmas card.

Facebook has faded for those nurturing friendships in their immediate circle but it is helping people stay ‘in touch’ with those on the fringe in a take it or leave it friendship which is all that many want or can manage.

Thanks to my Facebook Friends for taking time to respond and share valuable insights. If you think of anything further or wish to make a clarification or correction, do post a Comment.

Geoff Pound

Image: Facebook Profile Page.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Last Supper on the Titanic

The recent anniversary (14 April 1912) of the Titanic disaster has highlighted the menu for the last supper served to the first class passengers.

Take a look at the details of the ten courses that were each washed down with a special accompanying wine and followed by fresh fruits, cheeses, coffee, cigars, port and distilled spirits.

Don’t forget to reflect on the truth that if your direction and security through life is not assured then it doesn’t matter how fine the food and wine is on your table.

Source and full article: Dave Faris, ‘The Last Meal on the Titanic’, Cooking Monster, 9 April 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Painting of the Titanic sinking.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Travelers and the Place that is Home

Robert Dessaix in his novel Corfu reflects on travel and the longing for home:

“Homer was telling the truth, I think, about going home, about that ‘pining all my days, to travel home and see the dawn of my return…’”

“Not that every traveler wants to go home in a literal sense—some are marooned for so long they think they are at home—but every traveler, even the kind that never leaves his armchair in front of the fire, wants to find the place where being what he is will matter. That place is home.”

Source: Robert Dessaix, Corfu (A Novel) London: Scribner, 2001, 53.

Image: “The place where being what she is will matter.”

Friday, April 11, 2008

Still Working in Old Age

Dr Harry Morrow Brown is one of the oldest doctors still practising in the UK, and he has no plans to retire.

Aged 91, he despairs of how he would spend his time. "If you didn't know what to do with your day, it would be dreadful, awful," he warns.

Dr Morrow Brown is still active, running allergy clinics from his home in Derby, as well as still publishing in academic journals, and inventing machines to measure air quality.

He's one of a tiny but growing group of people I've been researching, who are still working way past the normal retirement age.

To read more about Dr Brown and many others who are working in their old age:

Martin Shankleman, ‘Still Working at 90’, BBC News, 11 April 2008.

Image: Phyllis Self joined the Garden Centre when she was 65—35 years ago!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Rudd Raises in Mandarin Tibetan Concerns to China

Kevin Rudd has arrived (9 April 2008) in China on his first State visit and has wasted little time in telling students that he will be raising with government leaders the human rights issues concerning Tibet.

Rudd has been getting much kudos for giving his address in Mandarin and television networks have emphasized that the new Australian Prime Minister is the only western leader who is fluent in Mandarin and that this might give him a better hearing.

But what is Kevin Rudd saying and will he get it right?

When Rudd hears people say that he is fluent in Mandarin, he is quick to say 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 that the two countries enjoyed spectacular orgasms.

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

Let’s hope on this visit the Aussie PM does not get lost in translation.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Kevin Rudd in happy mood.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Chekhov on Love Locked Away

In Act IV of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, trying to explain to the baron why, although she’s happy to become his wife, she does not ‘love’ him (‘it’s not in my power to’), Irina says:

‘I’ve dreamt about love, I’ve dreamt about it day and night for years, but my heart is like a glorious grand piano, and the lid is closed and the key is thrown away.'

Source: A Chekhov, Three Sisters.

Image: “Like a glorious grand piano, and the lid is closed and the key is thrown away.”

Friday, April 04, 2008

Martin Luther King Jnr on Loving the Unlovely

Ms. Mitchell, a pioneer in early childhood education at Penn, once asked Dr. King, "How can you tell me to love people who treat me as if I were not human?" She said she will never forget his response. "He said we are created in God's image. So you love the image of God in that person."

Source: ‘A Retreat for Dr King’, The New York Times Slide Show, 4 April 2008.

Image: Ms. Mitchell at the Penn Center. This photo is from the slideshow taken by Stephen Morton for The New York Times and used with thanks.

Martin Luther King Jnr on Work and Vocation

In one of the hundreds of articles today commemorating the life and death of Dr King, Chris Droessler posted this statement and adds his comments:

In a speech that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered six months before he was assassinated, to a group of students at Barrat Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967, he said these things about work and vocation:

“If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.’”

“If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill,
be a shrub in the valley.
Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.”

“Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.
If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail.
If you can’t be a sun, be a star.
For it isn’t by size that you win or fail.
Be the best of whatever you are.”

Dr. Martin Luther King understood that all jobs have worth. We don’t all need to go to college and get a desk job to feel like we are worth something. Even the jobs that require little skill are important to our society, and those employed in them need to feel good about what they do.

Source (with thanks) : ‘Martin Luther King Jnr Understood’, ACTE, 4 April 2008.

Image: Dr King.

Martin Luther King Jnr Martyred At the Lorraine

Martyred At the Lorraine

I can see Martin.

On that balcony.

Hosea. Jesse. Martin. Ralph.

But you will say,

my mind is playing tricks.

That was the night before,

right? Before

he gave that speech

to those garbage men,

going to Mason’s Chapel in pouring rain,

tired as he was.

Sure he would march.

But who would guess,

his final speech

would come in Memphis?

The baritone softly hums “Precious Lord,”

and he smiles.

Wrong again.

That was the day

it happened.

I can see Martin.

At that Negro motel.

He throws out his chest,

waves his hand as he speaks,


into the nip of an April twilight,

perhaps picturing his “four little children”:

a robust man, he tells

of what he sees atop the mountain—

in the land beyond,

in the view.

“Oh! . . . ”

The bullet pierced its intended,

and Ralph gently cradled

Martin’s dying head. Who, now,

will choose redemption,

suffering—to implement the dream?

I see Martin carried.

From the Lorraine.

A widening pool of still-warm blood

turns brown.

Helen Losse, “Making All Things New: The Redemptive Value of Unmerited Suffering in the Life and Works of Martin Luther King Jr.,” MALS thesis (Wake Forest University, 2000).

Source: ‘Martin Luther King Jnr Forty Years Gone’, Windows Toward the World, 4 April 2008

Image: Lorraine Motel, Memphis.

Selfless Arab Hospitality

William Thesiger in his book Arabian Sands, that chronicles his amazing journey through the harsh Arabian Desert in the late 1940s, pens a wonderful insight into Arab hospitality. Before his group entered the interior of the desert they came across some tents and Thesiger writes of the welcome they received:

“Our hosts brought us [camel] milk. We blew the froth aside and drank deep; they urged us to drink more, saying, ‘You will find no milk in the sands ahead of you. Drink—drink. You are our guests. God brought you here—drink.’ I drank again, knowing even as I did so that they would go hungry and thirsty that night, for they had nothing else, no other food and no water.”

Source: Wilfred Thesiger, Arabian Sands (First published London: Longmans, Green and Co Ltd., 1959. The edition from which this excerpt has been quoted was published in Dubai: Motivate Publishing, 1994, 2006), 122.

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

A superb web gallery of photographs taken by Wilfred Thesiger can be found at:
Thesiger Galleries

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: ‘Thesiger’s Party in the Empty Quarter’ by Wilfred Thesiger. This is a sample of the photographs at the Thesiger Galleries.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Martin Luther King Jnr and the Formation of the Dream

This post is one of a series this week in anticipation of the 4th April 2008, the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jnr.

Family Influences
Martin Luther King Jnr., was born on January 15, 1929 at the family home in Auburn Avenue Atlanta, Georgia. He was the first son and second child born to Alberta and Rev. Martin Luther King Snr.

Growing up in Georgia, Martin suffered experiences of discrimination that demoralise and outrage human dignity. He recalls the curtains that were used on the dining cars of trains to separate white from black. "I was very young when I had my first experience in sitting behind the curtain," he said. "I felt as if a curtain had come down across my whole life. The insult of it I will never forget."

‘I’m No Boy!'
I remember riding with him [my father] when he accidentally drove past a stop sign. A policeman pulled up to the car and said, "All right, boy, pull over and let me see your license."

My father replied indignantly, "I'm no boy." Then pointing to me, "This is a boy. I'm a man and until you call me one, I will not listen to you."

The policeman was so shocked that he wrote the ticket up nervously and left the scene as quickly as possible.

“With this heritage,” Martin said, “It is not surprising that I had... learned to abhor segregation, considering it both rationally inexplicable and morally unjustifiable.”

Anger Rising
On another occasion, Martin and his school teacher were riding a bus from Macon to Atlanta when the driver ordered them to give up their seats to white passengers. "When we didn't move right away, the driver started cursing us out and calling us black sons of bitches. I decided not to move at all, but my teacher pointed out that we must obey the law. So we got up and stood in the aisle the whole 90 miles to Atlanta. It was a night I'll never forget. I don't think I have ever been so deeply angry in my life."

Source: The text is gathered from a variety of sources.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Martin Luther King Jnr’s parents.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Martin Luther King Jnr Killed in 1968

This post is one of a series this week in anticipation of the 4th April 2008, the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jnr.

Do you remember 1968? What else was happening in your country in the year when King was killed?

In New Zealand, Keith Holyoake was Prime Minister, former PM Walter Nash died and Alison Durban won the Golden Disc with the song, I have loved me a man.

In Australia John Gorton was sworn in as Australian Prime Minister after Harold Holt disappeared at Portsea, Billy Graham returned to Australia, the Big Mac became part of Aussie cuisine, Rain Lover won the Melbourne Cup, the Carlton Blues won the AFL flag, the Aussie Cricket team beat India 4 nil and the Hit Song of the Year was Hey Jude!

South Africa went without the tour of the MCC cricket team because they refused to accept the presence of Basil D’Oliveira, a Cape Coloured, in the visiting side.

Nigerian forces captured Port Harcourt thus prompting the Biafran crisis.

Border clashes are happening between the Middle East between Israel and Jordan.

An illegal civil rights march took place in Derry, Northern Ireland.

The film and later the musical Oliver! opened in London.

Aristotle Onassis and Jacqueline Kennedy married on the Greek Island of Skorpios.

In Iraq Saddam Hussein became Vice Chair of the Revolutionary Council after a coup.

In Italy Pope Paul VI published an encyclical condemning Catholics for using the Pill and other forms of birth control.

France exploded its first Hydrogen bomb but not in its own backyard.

The Rodney Riots took place in Kingston, Jamaica.

The Olympic Games were held in Mexico City and two African-Americans gave the black power salute on the victory dais.

Pierre Trudeau became Canada’s 15th Prime Minister.

In the USA the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl, the Vietnam War raged with the Battle of Khe Sanh, the Tet offensive, the Battle of Saigon and the Mai Lai massacre; Robert Kennedy entered the race for the Democratic Party nomination but was killed three months later, Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, Richard Nixon wins the Presidential election and the Musical Hair begins on Broadway.

It was against this kaleidoscopic backdrop of war, conflict, celebration and success that Martin Luther King Jnr lived and died.

Dr King said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

Source: Many of the above items come from the article ‘1968’ Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: American newspapers on 5 April 1988.

Martin Luther King Jnr and His Influence on Andrew Young

This post is one of a series this week in anticipation of the 4th April 2008, the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jnr.

It looks at Andrew Young, who like King commenced his career as a pastor (in Alabama) and was greatly influenced by the writings of Mahatma Gandhi and his concept of non-violent resistance.

At the twentieth anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jnr journalists were assessing the legacy of King, one of which was the emergence of black politicians and their appointment to significant positions. Robin Toner writes about the rise of Andrew Young. Here are some excerpts from an article published on 1 April 1988:

“Twenty years ago Andrew Young marched behind the mule-drawn wagon that carried the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to his tomb. Today, as Mayor of Atlanta, he presides over the political establishment of the city that will act as host to the 1988 Democratic National Convention. It is an establishment that is mostly black.”

“The political scene in and around the convention hall will be a rich reflection of the King legacy. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has reached eagerly for King's mantle, has waged two Presidential campaigns that test the ceiling on black political aspirations. In Atlanta, other sons and daughters of the civil rights movement have pushed through other political ceilings, step by step, office by office…”

“Mr. Young is thinking about running for governor in 1990. No black man has ever been elected to that post in any state, but the Mayor of Atlanta thinks Georgia may be ready to break the barrier.” [He was unsuccessful]

“Mr. Young relaxed in his office one recent afternoon and talked about what made Atlanta's politics different. ‘So many of the politicians originally came out of the civil rights movement,’ he said. ‘That's changing, but most of us became politicians when it could cost you your life.’”

“Mr. Young, once a top lieutenant to Dr. King, laughed and added, ‘It wasn't just blind ambition.’”

Source: Robin Toner, ‘Legacy of Dr King is Reflected in the Political Power Structure of Atlanta’, The New York Times, 1 April, 1988.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “Twenty years ago Andrew Young marched behind the mule-drawn wagon that carried the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to his tomb.”

Martin Luther King Jnr and His Influence on Aretha Franklin

This post is one of a series this week in anticipation of the 4th April 2008, the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jnr.

Aretha Franklin’s song “Freedom” was written after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

Her song inspired the world to “think about what you are trying to do to me, think, let your mind go and let yourself be free, ooh freedom, freedom, I said freedom.”

The full text of her song is at this link: Lyrics.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Aretha in full voice.

Martin Luther King Jnr’s Influence on Oprah Winfrey

This post is one of a series this week in anticipation of the 4th April 2008, the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jnr.

Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech – Oprah talked about the impact he had on her life:

"Nothing that has happened in my life since I was 16 years old would've been possible. I wouldn't have been in radio, I wouldn't have been on television, I would not have been have been who I am... I just wouldn't have had the life that I have without Martin Luther King Jr.," she says.

"To have been a living witness to the changes his vision and his dream have brought – not just for me personally but for all– it really is amazing grace."

Source: ‘Oprah Winfrey: How Martin Luther King Changed My Life’, People.Com., words and video clip, 20 January 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “I just wouldn't have had the life that I have without Martin Luther King Jr.”

Martin Luther King Jnr and His Influence on Harry Belafonte

This post is one of a series this week in anticipation of the 4th April 2008, the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jnr.

Harry Belafonte several years ago received an award from the TransAfrica Forum. As he entered the hall at Howard University in Washington DC, wafting through the public address system was his signature tune: “Day-o, day-ay ay-o…Daylight come and me wanna go home.”

As the large crowd of civil rights activists, celebrities and ambassadors gave Belafonte a standing ovation the big screen flashed snapshots of his career including photos of Belafonte with Martin Luther King Jnr and Bobby Kennedy.

At 79, the old entertainer in his response was stingingly prophetic. In January 2006 he led a delegation to Venezuela to talk with President Chavez and he reported on this visit. On George Bush, he boldly labelled him as “the greatest terrorist in the world.”

Some think Belafonte in his old age is going too far but throughout his entire career he has pushed the boundaries and been uncomfortable. In taking up the cause of Martin Luther King Jnr he told the audience, “I was a threat for my middle class and white audience.”

But to prove the usefulness of such unpopular protest Belafonte said, “Now look how far the mainstream edge has moved. Dr King is [now] a holiday.”

It was vindication to see Belafonte receiving a lifetime service award because his prophetic work has come at a cost.

When asked what has sustained him Belafonte looked back and recalled some advice he got from his role model, the blacklisted singer, Paul Robeson.

Robeson told him, “Get them to sing your song and they’ll want to know who you are.”

“Sure enough,” Belafonte said, I woke up one day and the whole world was singing ‘Day-o’ ‘Daylight come and me wanna go home!’

Dr. Geoff Pound

Source: David Montgomery, ‘Controversial Entertainer’, LA Times; Washington Post; Gulf News, 13 April 2006.

Image: Harry Belafonte

Martin Luther King Jnr and His Influence on Yolanda King

This post is one of a series this week in anticipation of the 4th April 2008, the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jnr.

Yolanda King, the eldest child of the Martin Luther King Jr. died suddenly on 15 May 2007 at the age of 51. She was an actor and the CEO of her own production company, Higher Ground Productions. It was through acting and public speaking that she became herself while still carrying on the civil rights activist work of her parents.

Being Dr. King’s daughter was a big burden to bear. It began on Jan. 30, 1956, when Yolanda, nicknamed ‘Yoki’, was 2 months old and the family’s house was bombed in the Montgomery bus boycott.

Her deepest memories were the love of her father, who taught her to swim and but never spanked her. She called him “my first buddy,” saying, “I was tremendously loved.”

Yolanda King was 12 on April 4, 1968, when she heard a news bulletin on television saying her father had been assassinated in Memphis. Four days later, she and her brothers accompanied their mother to appear at Memphis City Hall. Coretta King said the children attended because they wanted to.

In 1963, when she was 7, her father mentioned her and her siblings at the March on Washington, saying: ''I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.''

An article and a video interview in which Yolanda King speaks in 2003 about what it was like being a child of Martin and Coretta is found at this link:

BBC News-Breakfast-Yolanda King

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Yolanda King, photo from her web site.

Martin Luther King Jnr and His Influence on Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto’s Daughter of the East: An Autobiography concludes early in the year 2007 when she decides to return to Pakistan from exile and face an uncertain future. This statement is all the more poignant in the light of her death in December 2007:

“So I prepare to return to an uncertain future in Pakistan in 2007….I realize I can be arrested. I realize that like the assassination of Benigno Aquino in Manila in August 1983, I can be gunned down on the airport tarmac when I land. After all, al-Qaeda has tried to kill me several times, why would we think they wouldn’t try again as I return from exile to fight for the democratic elections they so detest. But I do what I have to do, and am determined to return to fulfill my pledge to the people of Pakistan to stand by them in their democratic aspirations.

I take the risk for all the children of Pakistan.

It is not about personal power. It is about simple decency and respect for the right of men and women to live in security and dignity and in liberty….

I know it sounds idealistic, and to some unrealistic, but after all these years, I still maintain my faith that time, justice and the forces of history are on the side of democracy.

Some people might not understand what drives me forward into this uncharted and potentially dangerous crossroads of my life. Too many people have sacrificed too much, too many have died, and too many people see me as their remaining hope for liberty, for me to stop fighting now.

“I recall the words of Dr Martin Luther King: ‘Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent on things that matter.’ With my faith in God, I put my fate in the hands of my people.”

Source: Benazir Bhutto, Daughter of the East: An Autobiography (London: Simon & Schuster, 2007), 430-431.

This book is reviewed at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Benazir Bhutto: ‘Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent on things that matter.’

Martin Luther King Jnr and His Epitaph of Freedom

This post is one of a series this week in anticipation of the 4th April 2008, the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jnr.

Dr King was shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

His funeral services were held on 9 April in Atlanta at the Ebenezer Baptist church and on the campus of Morehouse College with the President of the United States proclaiming a day of mourning.

The area where King was entombed is located on Freedom Plaza at the Martin Luther King Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

On his grave are these words, which were the last words in his famous, ‘I have a dream speech in Washington DC in 1963:

"Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, I am free at last."

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: "Free at last."

Martin Luther King Jnr and the Death of the Dreamer

This post is one of a series this week in anticipation of the 4th April 2008, the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jnr.

On the night of April 4, as Martin Luther King Jnr was leaving his motel to go out for dinner, a shot sounded in the air. King fell to the balcony floor, the victim of an assassin’s bullet. He died later that night in hospital.

When you visit the Lorraine Motel now, there is a wreath on the door of King’s room and a plaque with Martin Luther King’s name, his dates (1929 to 1968) and the verse from the first book of the Bible that was the text used by Ralph Abernathy at King’s funeral.

The verse of Scripture is from the Joseph story:

“Here comes the dreamer. Let us kill him.”

The truth from the Bible and the truth preached by King is that you can kill the dreamer but you cannot kill God’s dream!

Source: James M. Washington, ed. I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World/ Martin Luther King, 202-203.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: King and colleagues on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

Martin Luther King Jnr’s Famous Last Words

This post is one of a series this week in anticipation of the 4th April, the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jnr. This posting offers a reflection on his life and death.

In March of 1968 King responded to the rubbish workers in Memphis to help them in their striking against unfair labour practices. That night Martin was feeling depressed. He felt like a failure. Full of a cold he went along to a large church to be the speaker and on his last night he gave one of the greatest speeches of his life.

Nobody knew that this would be the last address he ever gave and here are some of his famous last words:

“It really doesn’t matter what happens to me. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, …the pilot said over the public address system, ‘We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.’”

“And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?”

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been up the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Source: James M. Washington, ed. I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World/ Martin Luther King, 202-203.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”