Saturday, October 30, 2004

Fast Company | 'You Can't Create a Leader in a Classroom.'

This article casts some light on our recent discussion about learning and leadership.

I think we're all talking about the same thing, but from opposite ends. Education is important - even well-known leaders who left school early like Robert Kiyosaki and Kevin Roberts admit this - but it's the right kind of education.

It's about the kind of hunger for learning that just isn't there in the traditional classroom.

Especially interesting is this: "Right now, we are creating a kind of neo-aristocracy," he complains, "a 'business class' that believes it has the right to lead because it spent a couple of years in a classroom."

This is an important point, especially when we take the whole of history into consideration. Up until World War I, hereditary aristocratic power was the main reason for being in charge of the world. Since then, America has replaced the British and other Empires as the predominant world power. As well as that, business and the corporate world has replaced imperial power.

But just as parliamentary and democratic power eventually replaced the Divine Right of Kings, customer and employee power will soon replace the "right to reign" of corporate power. Interesting.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Why are leaders so poor?

One logical conclusion to modern western culture's peculiar obsession with individuality is the industry for teaching leadership to people in leadership roles. A quick browse of the business section of any bookstore reveals a huge number of volumes about leadership and management.

One reason for this is the huge number of managers who have neither training nor experience in managing people. Often a few years of success at some other role (such as a corporate lawyer) or, worse, a graduate degree in some fashionable discipline (such as engineering) supposedly qualifies a person for a management role. Of course, this is neither logical nor practical, but the solution most organizations seem to take is to attack the symptoms (our leaders are of poor quality) rather than the cause (we choose or prepare our leaders poorly).

An important component of the whole problem, though, is that we have far too many leaders, and hold them in far too high esteem. As a result, we have lost sight of the crucial other side of the equation -- the followers.

I'm not advocating blind, sheep-like devotion to leaders, but it's worth recognizing and rewarding followers who make leading easier. They are an important component of good leadership, and are the source of the positive feedback loop that exists for a team that is profoundly in synch.

The other side of the problem, of course, is that it's a lot easier to sell a book to someone by telling them that they could be a great leader than it is by telling them they could be a great follower. I probably shouldn't be as surprised as I am.


When the black people of America who changed the world -- the ones who won the most significant victory for racial equality in the history of human society -- were preparing for their demonstrations, here's what they did:
  • They took the tallest men out of the demonstration pool, because they might seem intimidating.
  • They practiced demonstrating by parading the demonstrators by a practice crowd, who would verbally and physically abuse the demonstrators -- to the point of throwing lit cigarettes in their hair. Anyone who reacted would be removed from the demonstration.

Is it any wonder that they succeeded? Is it any wonder that we stand in awe, a mere generation later, that there was legal grounds for discrimination on the basis of skin colour? It was our parents' generation. It was yesterday. And a relatively small minority of smart, strong people changed everything.

What I'm interested in, though, is this current idea of victimship. If you want to get anywhere these days, you need only to demonstrate that you're a victim -- of racial, cultural, or class discrimination, preferably. If you can do that, you will at least gain fame and attention. And for some people, that's plenty.

But I doubt that any long-lasting benefit will be gained that way. I do not deny that there are victims of racial discrimination today (numerous Muslim travellers would probably agree with me), but I do not see the people who are willing to take ownership of the problem, the people who are willing to lead with dignity rather than cower behind their complaints.

Show me a person who says, "I will take your abuse, and by taking it I will show you your error;" I will show you a leader. Gandhi knew it; Martin Luther King knew it. We are subjected to Moore-ish screed and hyperbole, when true leadership asks so much more -- and promises so much more.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Childhood Heroes and what they teach us

Growing up without a dad, I had no immediate male role models to look at. But I did have TV!

Sounds bad, but when I think back on it, I learnt some great things from my small-screen heroes. Like...

Dr. Who taught me to think first before trying to solve something with force. Helps when fixing computers! He also taught me to have a childish sense of wonderment and a sense of humour, even when you're about 900 years old.

Michael Knight taught me that confidence makes you look cool, and attracts the ladies (an important lesson to a 7-year-old!). He also taught me that going against the flow can sometimes get jobs done better (just think of how many times he upset poor old Devon Miles).

Captain James Tiberius Kirk taught me a helluva lot ... I studied that guy like I was going to Starfleet Academy! Key learnings I suppose were the value of waiting and seeing how a situation will pan out, and knowing how to act when the time is right with decisive action.

He also taught me about bluffing. Works well when faced with big ugly aliens.

And the Tracy brothers taught me to keep composed even under the worst pressure. Oh, hang on, that was probably because they're puppets... :)

How about you? Did you get some growing-up lessons from the small screen? Please share!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Book Review: Shackleton's Way

As promised, here's a book review I did way back in 2001, followed by my present-day review of my review.

"Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer
Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell

On the face of it, Sir Ernest Shackleton is an unlikely hero. He failed not once but three times at his stated goal - reaching the South Pole.

Yet he is indeed a hero, simply because he never lost a man, even on his disaster-stricken 1914-1916 expedition. When a member of his crew was later asked how they survived the long months of deprivation, severe cold and boredom, he answered with one word: "Shackleton".
This book looks at Shackleton's life and translates it into leadership lessons for the 21st century business world, including interviews with more recent crisis leaders such as Apollo 13 astronaut James Lovell.

Find out about teamwork, people-centred leadership, getting the best out of people and more. I love the way this is presented - a story that gives its own lessons.

Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer is available from"

I pretty much agree with my view then that true success is not necessarily reaching a distinct goal, but looking after people in the best way possible.

But I also learnt something about Shackleton and other remarkable people like him - the whole 'work/life' balance just doesn't work for people like this.

Shackleton was like a father to his men, but to his own family he was a well-meaning but absent husband and father. He was unfaithful to his wife. While not detracting from his good points, these other things about him show an unbalance.

And it made me think: is this the case for many great leaders?

Recently I mentioned I'd been reading "The Battle of Long Tan As Told by the Commanders". It was good to see the commanders not just in the heat of battle but right up to the present. The CO of Delta Company, whom I expected to have the most promising future, had a series of disasters: injury, disagreement with his superiors, two divorces. I read these things with a slightly hollow feeling.

Perhaps those who shine most brightly are actually burning out.

Great Quote

"I believe most in educated intuition, in what you get through profound experience."
Raymond Loewy (1893-1986)French industrial designer

From - a great resource for quotes and all sorts of other sales advice.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

We are actually a Reflective Learning Journal

Just discovered this is not a blog.

Well, not in the traditional sense of "web log". A log simply records what happens; a Reflective Learning Journal records what happens inside our minds when something happens.

While I'll still call this a blog to my offline friends (who are only just getting the idea of what a 'blog' is) I think it's helpful to know the difference.

Found out about it here. Perfect description of what we're doing really: "Human beings, by their nature, are 'connection makers' and 'meaning makers'. Our experience always consists of 'what happens' and then what we make of 'what happens'. "

The helpful hints are also ... well, helpful ... like:
  • Begin asking yourself these questions: "What?", "So what?", and "Now what?". Listen as your mind makes connections.
  • The best time to make an entry in your Journal is as soon as possible after an event takes place. Be sure to have a few notes if there will be a long time lapse before you make an entry.
  • Periodically reread your Journal entries. They will provide more to connect with in your reflections.

That last one is good. In fact, later on I'll be re-posting some book reviews I did years ago for the Communicate! newsletter, and seeing if I still agree with them.

Shock and greed in "Morvern Callar"

I watched a Scottish movie called "Morvern Callar" this weekend. Samantha Morton plays the title character -- a woman who's novelist boyfriend has just committed suicide as the film begins.

Throughout the film, she's forced to make hard decisions. Whether or not your think what she's doing is appropriate or morally correct is up to you -- though she's the heroin of the film, the final verdict is left up the viewer -- has Morvern acted in ways that she could look back on without a sense of guilt? Has she shown the kind of 'self-leadership' and discipline that would inspire others to go above their base instincts for self-preservation?

For instance, instead of telling the authorities of her boyfriend's ill-timed demise, she drags him into the bathtub, chops him up into tiny pieces, then takes his remains up to a remote field and spreads them around. She sends his finished manuscript to a London publisher after naming herself author of the novel. She then takes the money he has set aside for a funeral and uses it to go on a two-week holiday with her best friend to Spain.

The publisher is interested in the manuscript, and gives her $100,000.00 (or pounds, rather) on the spot for it. In the final frames of the film, she is seen waiting for the train, suitcase in hand, presumably onto a better life -- leaving her friend and job and the supermarket behind.

Is Morvern someone acting out due to shock -- or is she someone who is simply opportunistic? Because she has no backstory in the film, her only motivation seems to be greed.

What would anyone else do in this situation? Would you give in to the temptation to take advantage of someone you love when they'll never know the consequences of your actions?

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Okay, a good post now...

Quoting from Colin Powell:

"...Titles mean little in terms of real power, which is the capacity to influence and inspire. Have you ever noticed that people will personally commit to certain individuals who on paper (or on the org chart) possess little authority-but instead possess pizzazz, drive, expertise and genuine caring for teammates and products?"

Examples of 'real power':

- Queen Elizabeth I of England. Just finished reading about her in A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Vol II. Her people loved her. She turned England's focus outwards. She even sacrificed her own desire to marry for political stability. England - Protestants and Catholics alike - almost worshipped her.

- Sir Winston Churchill. Today he inspires people in all walks of life with his message of 'never surrender' - and a life that pretty much epitomises that.

- Ronald Reagan. I read one of Reagan's advisers describe him going out to a press conference... paraphrasing here: "He would bounce out of the oval office and walk at increasing speed down the hallway toward the podium, virtually jumping on the lectern to meet the press." Energy - can't beat it.

It's also worthwhile to note that these people all attracted criticism. They were not neutral people, nor could they be.

In the case of these people - and other leaders - I don't think their level of energy or drive could be drummed up. They were simply being their remarkable selves. And that's what made them remarkable.

Please ignore my last post - but please read the article it links to!

Ugh. Just thinking about my post and it's all over the place - messy and disorganised and doesn't really have anything to say. I could delete it, but I'll leave it there to remind me not to post when I'm relaxing.

Anyway, please do read the Colin Powell article it links to - absolutely brilliant. Just enjoying the whole article now.

Colin Powell on pissing people off

Reading this article the very first point made me stop and think:

"Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off"

As someone who eschews conflict and likes everyone to be happy, it made me think about the standards I use to judge organisations.

Not being numbers-inclined, I've only recently really paid serious attention to the details of a balance sheet. Besides, we live in an era that recognises that there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Balance sheets don't always tell the whole story.

Instead, I was big on judging an organisation by the culture I perceived. But I did wonder why every organisation I've worked with or for seemed to have someone with a complaint against the way things are.

I used to take these complaints very seriously, figuring, oh well, there's another organisation that doesn't live up to its stated standards. But recently (say, the last few years) I've realised that, while sometimes complainers are vitally-needed prophets in an organisation showing up issues that need change, other times they are just people who can't get on with others.

How do you deal with them? Directly. We tend (or at least I tend) to assume everyone else is motivated the same way as me. That's definitely not the case. I think we would all make a lot more progress - personally and in whatever business enterprises - if we learnt more about people entirely different from us. Different in beliefs and background, yes, but more than that - different in motivation, reaction and thinking.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Leadership Defined

I'm being naughty and skim-reading again. A bad old habit, but I couldn't resist reading the first few paragraphs of this article, blogging it, and using the blog post as a bookmark. But in the interests of the blog community, I'll comment.

No I won't, I'll just cut and paste. I like this definition of a leader, spiritual or not:

"Leadership is:

A person

Involved in a process

Of influencing and developing a group of people

In order to accomplish a purpose

By means of supernatural power."

Thoughts? Is this Christian article relevant in a secular, pluralistic setting?

Monday, October 11, 2004


I have had a few managers in my working career who were exceptionally bad speakers. One would address a group of forty software developers each Friday at a company-sponsored lunch, held in a large meeting area. Some of the developers would be sitting fifty feet away from him as he spoke, and there was the nearly constant commotion of eating, getting more pizza, shuffling, quiet talking, and so on.

But even with these conditions, this development manager never spoke with a tone of voice any higher than he used sitting across the desk in his office. As a result, all in attendance had to strain to hear him, and often missed crucial information -- not only because they couldn't hear him, but also because they had stopped listening.

There is much to be said for a clear, confident voice. Not only is it more practical for addressing a large group, it sends a clear signal that the speaker is the leader, has something important to say, and wants very much for everyone to hear it.

At the other end of the spectrum, though, is something we used to call "loudership". In the hierarchical, bullying world of the military, leaders often resort to shouting. The reasons are the same -- you need everyone to hear you, and you need to assert your authority -- but the tool is not one that you could employ in the typical office environment.

What, then, is the optimal volume for a leader's address? In studying poetry, I found that there is a difference between simple volume and emphasis. When you emphasize a syllable in a word, you don't say it louder; instead, you force more air through your windpipe. I think that this is the key to speaking to a group with confidence; you don't have to shout, you simply need to talk forcefully.

The one thing that everyone agrees on with leaders is that they act like leaders. Although that is rather too tautological to be practical, it is worth remembering that leaders also talk like leaders -- not only to be able to talk like a leader, but also to recognize leaders when you see them.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

The Power of a Broken Person

Last night, Marie and I watched Das Boot: The Director's Cut. Our movie-watching is taking on a decidedly serious tone, what with the Pianist last week and now this. I'm planning on getting out Bridge over the River Kwai next week!

Anyway, we were analysing the team dynamics at work on the submarine. (If you haven't seen the movie, it's probably good to read the story summary first.)

The captain (actually Kapitän-Leutnant) seems to be a real driver personality, ignoring the needs of the people he's working with, just getting the job done. It's only later on in the movie, when things are very, very bad, and he has in fact given up, that those around him start using their initiative to bring breakthroughs. It's then he starts to become emotionally intelligent - heaping copious praise on them, like "Good. That's good!". Doesn't sound a lot, but it's a lot from him.

Made me think - sometimes we need to go through the bad things in life to realise what we need to do. Anyone else got thoughts on that?

Henry VII, CEO

It turns out that Henry VII - father of the famous "wed 'em, bed 'em, behead 'em" Henry VIII - was quite the astute king. He bridged the gap from the middle ages to the Renaissance in England, which was possibly the furthest country from its reach.

But what struck me as I read about Henry in Vol II of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples was how he really approached his kingdom as a business enterprise.

Where previous kings had based their claim to the throne on heredity - with civil war as the result - Henry was more practical. He made decisions that seemed to genuinely be in the nation's best interests; Henry realised the power of the electorate, that even Kings are ultimately elected.

He was also very shrewd - cunning, even - in appointing his 'management team'. He eschewed the traditional 'nobles' - clever politicians with long-standing interests - and hired unknowns, people who would not only bring a fresh perspective to the organisation, but would also owe him alone for their position.

I'll let Churchill take the narrative: "Henry was at first not strong enough to afford mistakes. Daily, in all his leisure, he made notes on political affairs, on matters which required attention, 'especially touching persons', whom to employ, to reward, to imprison, to outlaw, exile or execute.

"... His skill and wisdom in transmuting medieval institutions into the organs of modern rule has not been questioned. His achievement was indeed massive and durable. He built his power amid the ruins and ashes of his predecessors. He thriftily and carefully gathered what seemed in those days a vast reserve of liquid wealth. He trained a body of efficient servants. He magnified the Crown without losing the co-operation of the Commons."

I dare any modern-day CEO to try that. :)

Bush-Kerry debate - who communicated best?

Question for the other blog members (and anyone else reading this who wants to comment) - who communicated best in Friday's debate between Bush and Kerry?

My take: earlier this week I read an article saying what either candidate needed to do - or mostly what they needed to avoid. Bush needed to avoid malapropisms or ridiculous, factually incorrect statements. Kerry just needed to cut down on his word count.

I saw maybe 5 minutes of the debate on TV yesterday, and both of them seemed to be doing pretty well.

I saw a DW-TV report this morning that seems to suggest it was a draw. What do those of you closer to the action think? Politics and policies aside, how did these individuals communicate and inspire?

Friday, October 08, 2004

Mark Loeffelholz and his Bottle of Death

Wait a second there -- this isn't just a snazzy title for a hit new horror film, nor is it the name of a pageturning novel, though it certainly should be.

Actually, it's the name of a great new screenplay by Mark I've recently done "coverage" on -- industry-speak for a formal review.

Bottle of Death tells the story of L'Esquadrille Americaine, in the early years of the Great War (WWI) -- a gang of brash young American flyboys who choose to toss their lot in with the rest of the French fliers against the Germans, or Boche, as the French were fond of calling them. This was before the Americans had formally entered the official exchange of fire. Their intentions stemmed from very altruistic motives, as they'd heeded the call of the Free World to battle against the Kaiser's tyranny. Men flocked to the French side in direct opposition to their government's orders, and when challenged to return back home -- many refused.

Mark sets up an excellent romance between the protagonist Johnathan Rimmon and a young French debutante, Sophie -- attracted to him for more than just his purported inherited wealth and good looks. In the leadup to the US' involvement in the War, the boys of the esquadrille pull increasingly dangerous feats of daring as they're sent on ever-daring missions across No Man's Land.

Mark's my kind of screenwriter -- someone I aspire to be like in many ways. I've read all of his projects: he's penned three so far: Retail (which if it doesn't get green-lighted in the next month, I'm almost tempted to produce part of it myself), The Disappearance of Wiley Hood, and now Bottle of Death.

I've been amazed with the speed with which this man is able to produce snappy tight dialogue, key to a screenplay's success on screen. Mark's got a knack for this sort of thing, the kind of guy I'd like to have in my own script review group that will be meeting weekly up here soon in Toronto. I've made a point of referring to him in my private correspondence as the Dialogue Doctor. He knows why. Also, if you can beleive this -- Mark's got a sequel in the works -- but I'll let him tell you about it.

And the amazing thing about this dude is he doesn't even do this FULL-TIME! He's a salesman in 'real life.'

So, if ever there were reason enough to give a guy a Hollywood break, Mark's provided all the necessary details. I look forward to reading more from this truly inspiring writer. The industry needs more players like this.

Ask him if he'll let you read some of his stuff. He's pretty good about that sort of thing. But you should definitely be keeping your eye out for this man. His name's going to be adorning all manner of movie marquees and title credits soon.

And maybe we can coax him into contributing a word from the wise on our little blog here?

Mark can be reached at

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Performance Management and Video Games

If corporations can spend thousands on CRM software to make the customer experience better, why can't they invest in the staff experience?

My wife Marie works in a call centre where metrics are everything. Every breath staff take is monitored, they lose points every time they go to the toilet (not really) and there are graphs of everything everywhere. But who gets to see these vital key performance indicators? The bosses. The staff see them, but don't understand them.

This flies right in the face of a great truth: Feedback is the breakfast of champions. If you don't know how you're doing, how can you do better?

Perhaps the management thinking goes like this: all those facts and figures won't interest the staff. They can't be bothered with things like that.

But let's look at some popular pastimes - sports and computer games. And most of these involve tons and tons of statistics. Whenever there's a rugby game on here, we get detailed stats on each player - age, height, number of tries scored, average this, that and the other.

Then there's computer games. This time you're the key player with all the stats showing. And you need to watch you don't run out of ammo, or your right shield is down, or whatever.

Here's a challenge to CRM software makers - make the working experience more like the gaming experience.

What do you reckon?

A Leadership Story

As this is my inaugural post, I thought I might tell a little story about the first time I truly saw and recognized leadership in action. It was a minor event, but it taught me this central truth about leading: leadership requires the strength to trust your people despite the fact that they might fail. The trust relationship begins with the leader, and is returned equally by his charges.

I was a radioman in the Royal Canadian Artillery; this entailed sitting in the back of a tiny, cramped command post truck with three other people, a technician, a fire officer, and a command post officer -- we would receive target information from our forward observers, and give our guns the appropriate orders to hit that target. It was mad, harrowing work, with huge volumes of information flowing through us, to the computer, to the six guns at our command.

In the off hours, the radioman was the only person in the truck, though. We were required to monitor no fewer than three radio networks, representing three levels of command; you'll note that this outnumbered our ears, so we typically had two pairs of earphones on, and one radio set on speaker. We also had three handsets for transmitting, which were difficult to keep straight. The radiomen -- there were three of us -- were responsible for manning the radios 24 hours a day.

Of the three radio networks, one was used mainly for fire missions; one was used for orders at the regimental level, typically things like "move here" and "don't fire here"; and one was used at the divisional level, things like "we have 1000 rounds remaining" and "we have 45 men". The divisional network was used infrequently but we had to check in twice every day with our little list of stats. This network was run by a high-ranking officer, who is always referred to as "Zero".

We were on a two-week-long exercise, in my first year as a radioman "in the box". It was getting towards the end of the exercise and, for one reason or another, I had not been able to switch off with the other radiomen, and I was getting to the 20-hour mark of sitting in the chair, with only two short breaks to get food and use the field latrine (that is, a bush). I had not slept in over 24 hours.

The real problems began when I coded and sent my semi-daily report around seven in the morning. When I was finished, I found that another command post was in the middle of sending their report in. I did not know if I had been cut off or if he had. When he finished, I waited a few moments, then checked in.

I was told by Zero to send the report immediately. I did so. After a minute, I was told that it was gibberish and I was told to re-encode it and send it again. The codes changed every twelve hours, too, and I realised that I had encoded it wrongly. I quickly re-coded it and sent it in.

Zero came on again after a few minutes and -- in violation of radio procedure -- swore a blue streak at me. I was to send the report. I was to send it now. Report sent, I answered. But I was cut off by yet another radioman's report. When he was finished, I reported that my report had been sent. No answer.

I waited. Zero crackled again -- send the report. I picked up the handset and very deliberately, very carefully sent the report. Zero called again, with the order to fetch my commanding officer. I rogered and left the truck.

When Zero demanded to talk to the CO, someone was in real trouble. But my CO, with the rest of the crew, was off getting some breakfast from some trucks a mile away. So I was relieved to lean out of the truck and see an officer I knew, Lieutenant McNair, ambling past.

McNair and I came from the same place and even went to the same university. He had been in the army for a while and was a few years my senior, but he was always very friendly with me. He was not a part of the command post crew, but I thought he could at least drive out to pick up the CO.

I hailed him and explained the situation as best I could. At this point I was almost incomprehensible with both anger and fear. I had sent the report, and Zero was furious with me and wanted to talk to the CO. McNair nodded calmly and said "Let's go talk to him, then."

We entered the truck, and McNair sat on my little table as I tried to raise Zero again. Zero ordered to put the CO on, and I complied. I switched to the speaker and handed McNair the handpiece.

McNair asked what had happened, and Zero blasted me again. Wrong code. No report. No radio check. What was going on there? As the tirade continued, McNair reached over and turned down the volume.

"Bin," McNair said, standing up, "Maybe you'd better give me those headphones." I handed him the headphones, and McNair turned the speaker off. The blast continued -- I could still hear it, even though I couldn't make out the words.

"My signaller --" McNair said, but was cut off by Zero. McNair waited patiently.

"My signaller --" McNair began again, but was again cut off. He looked up and smiled at me.

"Bin," he said, "maybe you'd better wait outside."

I left the truck, closing the door behind me. I could hear McNair faintly through the plywood sides of the command post, shouting back at Zero. There were long silences, and then angry bursts from McNair. After a few minutes he came out, and told me that I should send the report to Zero now.

I went back into the box, sat down, and composed myself. I checked my notepads, my earphones, and my handsets. And realised, to my horror, that when I thought I was sending the report to Zero, I had been transmitting on the wrong radio. Zero had never heard my report. I had mixed up the handsets.

And McNair, seeing that I was frustrated, stepped in and defended me to my and his superior. On my say-so, he put his own reputation on the line to defend me. And whether I was right or wrong, in the end, was irrelevant.

I realised, then, that leadership is the ability to take that risk on behalf of your inferiors; to trust that they are right. And McNair earned my trust there; from then on, I would make sure that no matter what the circumstances, whatever the task, I would never fail McNair again.

That is leadership.

Martin Scorsese and how it all began

Just had a chance to watch the three-DVD documentary set called "A Journey Through American Movies with Martin Scorsese."

Choice selection indeed!

Scorsese takes us from Hollywood's earliest incarnations, all the way up to the late 60s in American film lore. Right until the time when he started making films himself.

Without spoiling it for the rest of us, let me just say it''s a comprehensive and nearly four-hour overview of some of the classic genres in old-time Studio filmmaking. A dear friend even tipped me off to the companion book -- an offshoot of this great British Film Institute project.

From its early pre-WWI years with films like Intolerance and Cabiria, to the mid-twenties and projects by the German masters Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau, to Cecil B. DeMille's Ten Commandments, to Vicente Minnelli, to Howard Hawkes and Anthony Mann, and more. They're all in there.

I recommend it as required viewing for anyone desiring to hold their own in a film conversation. (I didn't know how much I was missing -- it's really endless, and as Scorsese says: "My education never ends."

Too little is known about the old studio system, with the former Big Five of Warner Bros., MGM, Paramount, RKO, and Fox -- the executive system today seems to be the end all be all -- as if nothing preceded it.

But like Will Smith sings in one of his famous songs -- "you don't know where you're going, if you don't know where you've been." ('s here and I like it...)

If you get a chance to see it, give me a shout. Better yet, let's talk about how it influenced you. As for yours truly -- I am now a film noir junkie.

Hey, you gotta have one vice in life, right?

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Richard Wicka and the HOTF

Richard Wicka's a just a great guy with a great idea. And he's not even a web guy, so to speak.

Funny way how he and I met. I'd written a film review and posted it somewhere on the web -- now and again I have a tendency to do so. Next thing you know, I receive a thank you email. Seems Richard was bold and kind enough to follow through.

Several more email exchanges later, I quickly found myself a most willing particpant in the Home of the Future Project.

The technique is so staggeringly simple. Take a friend, a colleague, a public servant, or just about anybody with a bone to pick mix it with a story to tell or some beef and bake it. Well, sort of...just get them to deliver it within 5 minutes in front of a camera.

It's uncanny how challenging this can in fact be, getting down to the brass tacks of it all. I've since had a chance to review several more segments since our first meeting, and recently submitted my personal nominations for three of the 17 weeks shot so far.

It's a competition of sorts. Twenty-two finalists will be selected from this grand group of nominees, reviewed by a Committee of Reviewers.

Then these winning entries will be stamped onto a packaged DVD, authored, then distributed at a premiere to he held in Buffalo, New York, where Richard practices law.

My experience? People were frank, forthright, and -- doggone it!-- fulminated so passionately about the things meaninful in their lives that I can totally see this catching on in other places.

But don't take my word for it.

Surf on over. Send him email. Turn on, tune in, and tickle your fancy.

He'll be glad you did. And so will you.