Saturday, June 20, 2009

‘Is Anybody There?’

Barrie Hibbert reviews the movie, 'Is Anybody There?

In England, old actors never die… they just get bit parts in movies about elderly people in residential care.

In the latest of these old-age home dramas “Is Anybody There?” veteran Michael Caine is superb as the retired magician, Clarence Parkinson … or “The Amazing Clarence” as the gaudy sign on the side of his battered old van proclaims.

Clarence, a widower, has been assessed by the local authority as being in the early stages of dementia and unable to care for himself any longer. A place is found for him at Lark Hall run by a couple who have turned their house into a rest home for the elderly. Among the dozen or so mainly eccentric and fairly decrepit residents, are a number of characters whose faces will be familiar to film-goers of years gone by. They certainly look older than when I recall their earlier appearances, but Leslie Phillips is no less dapper, and Sylvia Sims’ glamour, though faded, is still evident.

“Is Anybody There?” tells the story of the unlikely friendship that develops between Clarence and Edward, the eleven-year-old son of the couple who run the home. As the film’s promotional leaflet says, “It is a charming story about growing up and growing old.”

There are some hilarious moments in the film, but as the plot unfolds there are fewer laughs, and there is a profound poignancy in the way the old man and the boy try to help each other to “lay their ghosts.”

For me, some of the most poignant moments come near the end of the story. Clarence had been haunted for many years by the guilt he felt in cheating on his lovely wife, Annie and then finally walking out on her.

Talking with Edward one day, he remarked how beautiful she had been, how much he had loved her and how badly he had treated her. Then he said, “Years ago, I found out she’d died … and… you know… I’ve never even visited her grave. ”

In an attempt to help his old friend, Edward discovers where Annie is buried and takes Clarence on a bus journey to the cemetery. They locate the grave, but the old man, by now quite deeply into his dementia, looks at the name Annie Parkinson on the headstone with a measure of interest but no emotion. All he can say is, “Well, look at that… she’s got the same name as my missus.”

But even in the haze of his growing mental incapacity, Clarence is still racked with guilt. One day, after he has wandered far from the home, he ends up dazed and confused in the hands of the police. Eventually, the couple who run the home are contacted and they arrive to pick up poor old Clarence and take him back to Lark Hall.

On the way home, he is sitting in the back seat with the wife. In his confusion he thinks she is Annie and he starts to pour his heart out to her, telling her how desperately sorry he is for all the pain he has caused her. “It’s alright,” she tells him, “It’s alright.” But Clarence keeps saying over and over again, through his tears, “I’m sorry, Annie… I’m sorry, I’m terribly sorry! ” He is inconsolable.

Then the young woman does something quite extraordinary. She takes the old man’s face gently in her hands, looks into his tear-filled eyes and in a firm, but quiet and tender voice says, “I forgive you… I forgive you, Clarence.” Then, even more deliberately, “I –- forgive -- you.”

He is stunned into silence. As the words hit home, the old man’s tortured face relaxes into a gentle smile, and he nestles his head on the young woman’s shoulder, and sleeps quietly for the rest of the journey.

I am sure I will long recall many of the scenes from this remarkable film, but probably the most memorable will be the one when the back seat of that car became a confessional… the caring young woman became a priest… and a weary old sinner found forgiveness and peace.

Thanks to Barrie Hibbert, Adelaide, South Australia.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Images from the movie.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Music Takes Us to Another World

The shy Palestinian teenager raised her flute and dispatched the courtly melodies and cascading runs of an 18th-century concerto with surprising self-assurance.

Over just three years of study the flute had become a near obsession for Dalia Moukarker, 16. She was practicing so hard …. For she has earned an almost surreal reward: a master class with her hero, Emmanuel Pahud, a major international soloist.

Dalia is one of a new generation of Palestinians who have been swept up in a rising tide of interest in Western classical music in the last several years here in the Palestinian territories, but especially the West Bank. The sounds of trills and arpeggios, Bach minuets and Beethoven sonatas, are rising up amid the economic malaise and restrictions of the Israeli occupation.

Mr. Pahud circled, studying her intently. Then he took her instrument and sent out stunning roulades of notes to demonstrate. Dalia gaped in wonder and gave a soft laugh of amazement.

The flute, she said later, “takes me to another world that is far away from here, a more beautiful world. Because it is not a beautiful place here. It is an ugly place.”

Read the whole story at:
Daniel J Wakin, Minuets, Sonatas and Politics in the West Bank, New York Times, 31 May 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “The flute, Dalia Moukarker said later, ‘takes me to another world that is far away from here, a more beautiful world.’”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tiger Woods on Fatherhood and Getting Life in Perspective

In 2001 Woods held all four major titles concurrently, completing what is called the Tiger Slam. Between August 1996, when he turned pro, and June 2007, when Sam was born, he won 57 titles, including 12 majors. In 1996 and in 2000, he was named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated.

“But life is so much better now,” Woods said, the conviction in his voice leaving the clear impression that it is not even close.

See why life is so much better now, in this conversation:

Karen Crouse, All Eyes are on Tiger Woods the Father, New York Times, 13 June 2009.

Tiger and the Joy of Shaping Lives, SFS.
Tiger’s Victory Over Himself, SFS.
Tiger and His Father, SFS.
Tiger and Team Effort, SFS.
Tiger: The Clubs or the Cubs? SFS.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Tiger and family. (Photo courtesy of NYT at the above link).

Remembering Tim Russert One Year On

This weekend is the anniversary of the death of Tim Russert and perhaps the best way to remember him is to post some of his stories and reflections.

Tim Russert: Journalism is a Vocation
CNN, on Larry King Live, had a special edition on the day (13 June 2008) that journalist Tim Russert died entitled ‘Journalist Tim Russert is Remembered’.

During this hour of reflection by many of his colleagues King played this video excerpt of Tim Russert’s thoughts about being a journalist:

“We are surrogates for the American people. Very few places in the world have the kind of protections, particularly the Constitutional protections, we have in this country as a free press. And we have an obligation for all those men and women who work hard all week long in real jobs that when they turn on CNN or turn on NBC, or pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio, they realize that someone else is working as hard as they are trying to get to the truth. And it is not an easy job, but you know what, Larry, it is the best one you could ever have. It is a vocation being in journalism.”

One might wonder when and how Russert developed this notion of vocation. In an ‘On Faith’ interview sponsored by The Washington Post and Newsweek (18 May 2007), he revealed the secret:

“Let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
--John F. Kennedy January 20, 1961

“I was ten years old when I heard those words. They still resonate with me nearly a half century later. Am I doing God’s work? Is being a journalist my vocation? How does my faith influence my judgment as a reporter? Should it? Are the demands of my chosen profession leaving enough time for my responsibilities as a son, brother, husband, father and friend?”

Russert had headed this article with the important question, ‘Am I doing God’s Work?’

Tim Russert on Lifting Others Up
Tim Russert on America
Tim Russert on Fatherhood and Family
Tim Russert: ‘Always Loved, Never entitled’

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “Am I doing God’s work?”

Wonder is in the Eye of the Beholder

Jonathan Drori spoke about the Millenium Seed Bank project and at the Q & A he was asked if he had any more seed collecting stories. This is the story he shared:

During a seed-collecting trip to the Andes last year, I saw the most amazing bird I’ve ever seen in my life, which I now know to be one of the world’s largest hummingbirds –- a truly remarkable creature.

Almost speechless, and keeping my voice low, I pointed at it and asked one of the Chilean plant-scientists with us what we were looking at.

He appeared puzzled for a moment, then brightened, “That’s a fantastic plant -– quite rare though it’s not much to look at -- it’ll be easier to see once that distracting bird gets out of the way."

Scenes from the Millennium Seed Bank: Q & A with Jonathan Drori, TED Blog, 10 June 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Jonathan Drori (photo courtesy of TED Blog at above link).

Are Your Stories Sticky? Riveting Lessons on Communication from Sesame Street

Sonia Simone writes:

Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller The Tipping Point revealed something surprising about our favorite show.

When we watch, everything feels very casual and unforced. You’d never guess that Sesame Street was actually shaped by round after round of rigorous testing with pint-sized focus groups.

Groups of little children were allowed to watch the show, with another appealing diversion just across the room. In other words, the testers tried to pull the children’s focus away.

Each time a child’s attention skipped away from Sesame Street, the producers made a note. That segment needed to be made more “sticky,” more compelling, more effective.

Kids are riveted to Sesame Street because the show is designed to be riveting. It looks informal and fun, but behind the fun is a lot of analysis.

Source: Sonia Simone, 5 Things Sesame Street Can Teach You About Breakthrough Blogging, Copyblogger. Follow this link to read the full fine story from a blog site that is sticky and riveting.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The Sesame Street gang.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The 19th Best Pizza Place in Town

Slice of Honesty
At a time of exaggerated marketing, how refreshing is it to hear about a pizza restaurant issuing a statement to say that they are ‘the 19th best pizza place in town.’

Nick of D’Marios Pizzas could be overly modest but he reckons honesty is the best policy and that pizza lovers will come by his place and taste and see.

Link: Honest Pizza Place Admits to Making 19th Best Pizza, 11 June 2009, Onion Radio News.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Lower the expectations and invite people to taste and see.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Aren't They All Our Children?

There are few things in this life more difficult to experience than the loss of one's child.

Jim Wallis, in WHO SPEAKS FOR GOD tells about a sad and terrifying incident that occurred during the tragic war in Sarajevo not too many years back. A reporter who was covering the violence in the middle of the city saw a little girl fatally shot by a sniper.

The reporter threw down his pad and pencil and rushed to the aid of a man who was now holding the child. He helped them both into his car and sped off to a hospital.

"Hurry, my friend," the man urged, “My child is still alive.” A moment or two later he pleaded, "Hurry, my friend, my child is still breathing." A little later he said, "Hurry, my friend, my child is still warm."

When they got to the hospital, the young girl was gone. "This is a terrible task for me," the distraught man said to the reporter. "I must go tell her father that his child is dead. He will be heartbroken."

The reporter was amazed. He looked at the grieving man and said, "I thought she was YOUR child."

The man replied, "No, but aren't they all our children?"

I think that is one of the great questions of our age. Aren’t they all our children? It is a question that deserves an answer.

Aren't they all our children? Those who live under our roof and those who reside with another family? Those to whom we are related as well as those whom we have never known?

Aren't they all our children? Those on our side of the border as well as those on the other side? Those of our nation no more or less than those of another?

Aren’t they all our children? Those who worship like us and those who worship differently? Those who look like us and those who do not?

Aren’t they all our children? The well-educated and the under-educated? The well-fed and the under-fed? Those who are secure and those who are at risk?

Aren’t they all our children? The highly valued and highly esteemed as well as the castaways and the lost?

Aren’t they all our children? Aren’t they all our responsibility? ALL of them? Ours to nurture? Ours to protect? Ours to love?

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that the survival of our world hinges on the answer to that question.

To say they are NOT all our children is to condemn the world to more struggle – family against family, group against group, nation against nation.

Aren’t they all our children? If we say yes, can we ever again pit them against each other? "If we have no peace," said Mother Teresa, "it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other

Aren’t they all our children?

There may be no greater question for our generation. And how we answer that question will determine the shape of our world for years to come.

Source: Thanks to Steven K. Goodier for this great story. Check out his web site at this link:

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Aren't they all our children? Children from Tanzania.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Sean D’Souza and Respecting the Intelligence of Your Audience

Sean D’Souza has a great post on Copyblogger today that is intended for copywriters and bloggers but it has great application for storytellers:

I was drawing cartoon strips for a very popular newspaper called ‘Mid-Day’. And every day, I’d draw a new strip, and submit it to the newspaper. And since it was back in the days before the Internet, I often had to get on a train, travel 20 miles, and walk for 15 minutes to get to the newspaper office before the 7:30 am deadline.

One day I ran into the editor. And he commended me on my cartoons.

“But there’s one thing you can do to make them better,” he said.

“You need to respect the intelligence of the reader.”

“You need to write the joke so that the reader almost gets it,” he said. “That way the reader anticipates the humor and has twice the laugh. If you go into too much detail and explain the joke in your comic strip, you lose out on the punch. The reader feels cheated. And it’s all because you haven’t respected their intelligence.”

Sean continues:

As a writer you need to respect the intelligence of the reader as well.

In your writing, you’ll often find that the story you’re telling is coming to an obvious end. And so, you simply leave out the obvious end. You simply let the reader make up the story in their own mind.

To read the whole article about knowing when to shut up:
Sean D’Souza, Do You Know When to Shut Up, Copyblogger.

Variation on a Theme:
Barber Shop Wisdom, SFS.

Dr Geoff Pound

John Mortimer on Losing Yourself as an Advocate

One of fictions most endearing legal advocates is John Mortimer’s “Rumpole of the Bailey.” The TV series featuring Leo McKern brought Rumpole into many living rooms around the world.

John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole, was himself a barrister and his comments about the danger inherent in being a prominent legal advocate make fascinating reading.

Life as an Advocate
In his autobiography, “Clinging to the Wreckage,” Mortimer describes his view of life as a barrister:

“There is no art more transient than that of the advocate, and no life more curious. During his working days the advocate must drain away his own personality and become the attractive receptacle for the spirits of the various murderers, discontented wives or greedy litigants for whom he appears.”

This requirement of a successful barrister, as Mortimer notes, has its peculiar dangers. Chief among them is that the advocate will lose his or her own ‘self.’

The Vanishing Self
He illustrates this by drawing on the life of Sir Edward Marshall Hall, the famous English barrister. Here is what Mortimer says of him:

“In the biography of Sir Edward Marshall Hall the great advocate’s ‘self’ seems to have vanished…The props are there but the voices are those of the prisoners in the dock. They borrowed his personality to escape death and left him, as perhaps he always was, hollow. His life is merely their lives and nothing is left of Sir Edward.”

Losing Voice and Identity
Most people in public life, social service and pastoral care have spent their lives as advocates, serving as part of the defence team for people, organizations and causes. Is it possible that in our desire to defend people or the faith, to say the things people expect us to say, taking on the voices of those who wish us to defend their version of the story, we lose our own identity? So in our biography the props are all there, the battles we’ve fought, the institutions we’ve served still remain but the voices are the voices of those who have borrowed our personalities and left us hollow or as ‘play-actors?’

Source: The quotes came to me in a magazine from Tom Cadman and his comments I have tweaked.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Mortimer and Rumpole (Leo McKern).

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Supreme Accomplishment of Wall Street

John Kenneth Galbraith writes engagingly and with color about Wall Street:

“Wall Street, in these matters, is like a lovely and accomplished woman who must wear black cotton stockings, heavy woolen underwear, and parade her knowledge as a cook because, unhappily, her supreme accomplishment is as a harlot.” (p48)

John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash 1929 (London: Penguin, 1954, 1975).

A review of The Great Crash 1929 is posted at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr Geoff Pound

The Difference between a Gambler and an Investor

Will Payne explains the difference between a gambler and an investor.

A gambler, he pointed out, wins only because someone else loses.

Where it is investment, all gain. (p50)

John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash 1929 (London: Penguin, 1954, 1975).

A review of The Great Crash 1929 is posted at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr Geoff Pound

What Archbishop Tutu Wants to Say to Young People

Archbishop Desmond Tutu recently spoke to members of The Purpose Project in an Atlanta Hotel:

There is a moment in our exchange when we ask Archbishop Tutu what he wants to say to the next generation. The question seems to activate his sense of hope and, as he answers, a light returns to his eyes, a boost to his posture, a passion to his voice.

"I have the highest regard for young people. God frequently makes use of young people because young people are idealistic. They dream dreams about a better world. They do. Until they are infected by the cynicisms of oldies like us, they do believe that poverty can become history. They are just amazing. I have a lot of time for them and say to them, 'Dream. Dream your dreams. Dream your dreams of a better world.'"

We've stumbled upon Archbishop Tutu's hidden message -- revealed partly in this short, simple vote of confidence, but mostly in his choice of what not to share. Through his reluctance to give us all the answers, solutions, and strategies for success, he conveyed a message much more profound, and simple: If we just get to work dreaming our dreams -- getting wrapped up in them so we feel we must live them, giving them voice, and sharing them with others -- then it will be very difficult to put them away again. The rest of the 'how' and the 'what' and the 'who' will take care of itself.

Link: Michelle Cote: Archbishop Tutu’s Dream for the Future, THP, 5 June 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Archbishop Tutu Shares Secret to Winning the Nobel Peace Prize

Archbishop Desmond Tutu recently spoke to members of The Purpose Project in an Atlanta Hotel:

“A few years ago, I was in Bali with about 300 young people, and other elders...three or four Nobel Peace Laureates. And, at one point, one of these young people said, 'What do you have to do to win a Nobel Peace Prize?'”

“And I said to them, 'Ah, it's easy. You need three things.”

“One, you must have a large nose.”

“Two you must have an easy name, like Tutu.”

“Three,'--you know it was very hot in Bali and I'm in shorts, and I said, 'Three, you must have sexy legs.'”

“Basically saying...that Nobel Laureates don't come dropping from the sky....You don't come in a way, sort of specially equipped. We all come equally able.”

Link: Michelle Cote: Archbishop Tutu’s Dream for the Future, THP, 5 June 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Elie Wiesel at Buchenwald Says our Task is to Improve the Human Condition

Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel, was asked by President Obama to share a reflection after they, along with Chancellor Merkel, lay roses on the memorials to those who lost their lives at Buchenwald.

Wiesel spoke poignantly of returning to his father’s grave, his memories of that dark day when his father died and he shared these reflections:

“Mr. President, we have such high hopes for you because you, with your moral vision of history will be able and compelled to change this world into a better place where people will stop waging war—every war is absurd and meaningless—where people will stop hating one another, hating the otherness of the other rather than respecting it.”

“Memory must bring people together rather than set them apart. Memory is here not to sow anger in our hearts but, on the contrary, to give a sense of solidarity to all those who will lead us.”

“What else can we do except invoke that memory so that people everywhere will say the twenty-first century is essentially a century of new beginnings filled with promise and infinite hope and at times profound gratitude to all those who believe in our task which is to improve the human condition.”

"A great man, Camus, wrote at the end of his marvelous novel, The Plague: 'After all,' he said, 'after the tragedy, never the rest...there is more in the human being to celebrate than to denigrate.' Even that can be found as truth -- painful as it is -- in Buchenwald."

"Thank you, Mr. President, for allowing me to come back to my father's grave, which is still in my heart."

Video of Speech: Buchenwald’s Survivor’s Memories, CNN, 5 June 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Angela Merkel, Barack Obama and Elie Wiesel at Buchenwald.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Barack, Have You Heard My Favorite Middle Eastern Joke About…

New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, called Barack Obama for a phone interview before the President left for a visit to the Middle East.

Friedman got to share with the President this favorite:

There is this very pious Jew named Goldberg who always dreamed of winning the lottery.

Every Sabbath, he’d go to synagogue and pray: “God, I have been such a pious Jew all my life. What would be so bad if I won the lottery?”

But the lottery would come and Goldberg wouldn’t win. Week after week, Goldberg would pray to win the lottery, but the lottery would come and Goldberg wouldn’t win.

Finally, one Sabbath, Goldberg wails to the heavens and says: “God, I have been so pious for so long, what do I have to do to win the lottery?”

And the heavens parted and the voice of God came down: “Goldberg, give me a chance! Buy a ticket!”

Friedman followed with this application:

I told the president that joke because in reading the Arab and Israeli press this week, everyone seemed to be telling him what he needed to do and say in Cairo, but nobody was indicating how they were going to step up and do something different.

Everyone wants peace, but nobody wants to buy a ticket.

Link: Thomas Friedman, Obama on Obama, New York Times, 3 June 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Tom Friedman.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Let Me Help You Write that Important Speech

Got a Speech to Write?
Even brilliant speakers like Barack Obama have people to help them research, write and polish their speeches.

Why I can Help You
Since I won Rotary Club prizes for giving speeches at the age of eleven and twelve, I have loved speaking and have made a living from jobs where speechmaking was paramount.

I can make your speech colorful and captivating. I learned the art of interesting speechmaking by speaking to 300 children at their Elementary School Assembly every week and I discovered how to grab and hold attention by speaking to prison inmates at the local prison (a captive audience?) every week for almost a decade.

I can help you tailor your thoughts to your audience as for more than thirty years I have developed versatility by speaking regularly to service groups, business audiences, conferences, churches and students at their University Commencements.

I understand the art of speechmaking as I wrote one of my doctoral dissertations on the dynamics of public communication and have taught speechmaking in one-off workshops as well as in courses at the tertiary degree level.

I can help you pitch your speech to your target. I am a native English speaker but I will help you tailor your speech to the cultural context of your audience. My audiences have included—Chinese, Australian, Indian, Spanish, Malaysian, Kiwi, Russian, Karen, Fijian, South Korean, Nepali, Indonesian, American, Vietnamese etc.—along with many international gatherings both small and large.

I can give you stories for your address that will entertain or open windows to let in the light. I regularly resource people through my popular Stories for Speakers and Writers website (which currently has over 800 illustrations) as well as contributing to magazines and online sites for speakers.

I can help you get your speech done so you have ample time to absorb it and concentrate on a winning delivery. I am efficient and will normally get work back to you quickly. Good speech writing is, however, like making excellent coffee—both need time for percolation.

Your speech, your audience and your style are unique, so my prices are calculated on an individual and personal basis.

Let me know how you want me to help. Are you at the research stage, needing help with structure or is it the time for polishing and tweaking? Give me your ideas about your subject, what you want this speech to accomplish, tell me about your audience, your time allotment and your timetable.

Contact me for availability and a quote for your speechmaking project at:

geoffpound (at) or on Facebook

We use secretaries to help us with our administration, caterers to help us with our parties, gardeners to help us with our gardens, nannies to care for our children, so why not let me help you write your important speech?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Geoff Pound with images of some speechmakers.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Seth Godin and the Mets Winning By a Walk

Seth Godin writes for a marketing audience but this story, like most of his articles, has a universal application:

By a Walk
I was just informed by the resident baseball fan that the [New York] Mets won a game by a walk. By a walk!

Of course, in a 4 to 3 baseball game, you don't win by a walk. You win because before the walk, you scored three runs, and you win because before the walk you limited the other side to three runs. The walk was merely the last event.

Last Event
The last event has huge impact for organizations. When a non-profit fundraiser brings home a million dollar donation, there's a lot of celebration and the fundraiser (deservedly) gets a lot of credit. But what about the person who started the group thirty years ago? Or the firm that named it or the volunteers that staff it or the heroic work one employee did in Rwanda? What about the CFO who has never missed a quarter in turning in tax returns or the admin who makes that donor feel so welcome every time she stops by?

Right Thing in First Place
Marketers take a lot of credit, because marketing is near the end of the game. Part of my mission is to move the work marketers do closer to the beginning of the game. Not because there's more glory there, but because there's more leverage. If you build the right thing in the first place, you're more likely to get a walk at the end.

Link and to subscribe to Seth Godin’s popular articles:

Seth’s Blog.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Santos Carries Mets to Walk Off Victory.