Thursday, December 30, 2004

Fast Company | What Makes Beautiful Minds

I'm bookmarking this article to read when I get a few moments. But I'm also posting it here because I'm sure it is something worthwhile reading and discussing. I promise I'll come back and comment on this, okay?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Jodie French!?

A Very Long Engagement

Jodie Foster is one of those very capable actors you might trip over yourself worshipping.

Yes, okay, we all know she's star material. And - if you're twisting my arm already - we all know she's acted opposite some of the bigger names in the biz. But something I bet you didn't know: she does all of this and French!

Actually, I'd read something about Jodie in an article a while back about her classical studies training as a child actor (read: Taxi Driver). Her parents were staunchly adamant that she should emerge from the Hollywood crucible with more than just a nasty case of the cocaine sniffles. They ensured she dipped into the writings of Voltaire, the poetry of Beaudelaire, and the sonourous sounds of the latinate language. It is these same qualities it is hoped she might pass onto her son, over which she is rightly very protective.

I think I speak for most showbiz lovers: shock and awe when Foster appears onscreen in A Very Long Engagement in a way not quite like our intrepid Clarice Starling. Her accent and diction en francais in this piece were impeccable, opposite the talented Audrey Tatou, a star in her own right in today's modern French cinema.

San Fransican Peter Coyote attempted this as well in "Bon Voyage," a stellar film co-starring Gerard Depardieu and released a year prior to "Engagement." And this trend seems unabated, as more and more American stars are set to appear in non-US based projects. A boon for indie cinema, to say the least.

We are -- it seems -- really entering the age of gloablization when Hollywood catches on, folks!

Why am I so pleased by this? Well, for one, I'm happy we North Americans can press our mettle equally as capably across the Pond.

Compare this to Simon's PacRim. It churns out some of the very best acting talent Planet Earth has to offer (must be something to do with apples and kiwifruit -- methinks).

Yet one seldom imagines Tinseltown's luminous ones skipping the very same pond to participate in small budget-deals in languages other than English. Listening to Jodie do her thing in "love's language" was truly an apt instance of "I'm not worthy."

So where's the "leadership" here?

Watching Jodie sort of reminded me of my own langage aspirations. I was reminded how adaptable I was during my mid-twenties in learning new tongues. I recally how quickly I'd mastered Spanish while in university and in Cuba. French, while living in Montreal. Hebrew/Arabic when sojourning in the Holy Land, and Czech while doggedly studying it during three months in Prague. (And twisting more than one tongue in the process, hehe).

People worship linguistic sort of talent. Jodie just shows that even those well-funded and totally famous understand the nuance too.

Just don't spill your popcorn when you see it for yourself. Bring a serviette.

-- AM

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Jimmy Carter on shared experiences

"Carter said it took him years to learn that his experiences, whether on the grand diplomatic stage or in the smaller family circle, were deeper and more lasting when shared with others."

From Reuters. The quote is from the second page.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Simon holds forth on blogging

It's all very incestuous - here I am, posting to this blog about an interview with me about blogging on someone else's blog!

Anyway - this morning I was interviewed by internet marketer Chris Price about blogging for beginners. Finally, you can hear my Russell Crowe accent! (Warning: Not as exciting as it sounds)

The more observant among you may notice that I'm not as articulate in speaking as I am in writing. I notice this in other writers too, and wonder if it actually helps the writing process, because we have to work harder to really explain what we're on about. Or perhaps not.

In fact, Adam and I were discussing this just the other day during his visit to New Zealand - which was great, by the way, and will probably be the source of many posts on this here blog.

Adam was saying there are some who appear quiet in person but then write forcefully, others who have a powerful personal presence but their written communications fall flat, and others still who seem to 'have it' both ways!

At the time we concluded that it's just how each person is made up, but since then I've developed an addendum - we can all learn how to beef up the areas we're not naturally proficient in.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

leading the young

So often, I think children are seen as things that need to be reigned in, rather than individuals who have minds that need cultivating.

Parents obviously make a big impact on their children, but so do teachers. The first teacher who had a real hand in shaping how I saw the world was a man named Tom Schaefer. He seemed so foreign to me. Growing up in small-town Oregon, he was the first Jewish person I'd met (not that I thought to differentiate). He would take off strange sounding days like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and his olive skin and hooked nose made him stand out among the pale white backwater stock typical to the area. I remember how he would stand in front of the room, his shoulders slightly stooped and his pot belly protruding from his otherwise sturdy frame. He would perch his reading glasses on top of his head while he was addressing the class, and how he read!

He would spend hours of our class days, forgoing math and science assignments to read to us, creating worlds for our imaginations to get lost in. He got so wrapped up in the words -- laughing sometimes, reading ahead and chortling to the point of tears in a long pause. Or he'd cry, too, choked up by what was in front of him, the words sticking in his throat. Unafraid to show his emotions, he was calm and happy most of the time, but the one or two times he got angry hinted at a deeper sense of passion and conviction of right and wrong.

And he never condescended. He spoke to our little group of 11-year-olds as if we were adults, subverting our innocent minds with humor, taking pleasure in ushering us along to a deeper understanding of life and the world around us. Of course, that choice was ours -- we could go along on the journey or not. Some kids clung to him, others were diffident or nonchalant, resistant even. His was a revolutionary kind of leadership -- rife with optimism and understanding. He truly grasped the struggle of those early adolescent years, realized the beginnings of individual passions in each of us and tried to inspire us in ways that would help us realize them, too.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Storytellers wanted


I am writing to invite you to submit draft ideas/proposals for articles
to appear in the July/August 2005 issue of Storytell Magazine. I am
hoping for an international response from attorneys, politicians,
storytellers, healers, clerics, business people and the like so I cannot
guarantee that each will be published. However, those that do not make
it in will be offered to the HSA Newsletter, other SIG publications,
and/or posted on my website with attribution and contact information (if
the writer agrees) as part of an on-going effort to spread the many uses
of story as a key form of communicating. The particulars follow:

No matter that it's the 21st century - we are still driven by stories to
make order of things as we know them, to see the world in a particular
way. Here's a question: How does story act as motivator to help us see
the world in a particular way?

My project regarding Story As Motivator stems from an invitation to be
the guest editor for Storytelling Magazine for their July/August 2005
issue. Each civilization is built on five institutions: social,
political, intellectual, religious and economic. I would like to use
this issue to illustrate story as motivator along the lines of these
five institutions. Inotherwords, what social, political, intellectual,
religious and economic stories are we telling, do we seek to tell, or
have been instrumental in our culture. "Our culture" is defined as the
culture from which you come wherever that may be on the face of the

A few examples: what are the social, political, intellectual, religious
and economic stories that you heard and/or told across the country in
advance of this year's national and state elections. Likewise, what are
stories that were heard and told in the international community. Then
again, what about stories of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs which serve as
examples of the story that has shaped our idea of what the word
"invention" means: a couple of guys drop out of school and build an
empire. Or, how has storytelling formed the core of civilized life, how
do stories shape us as much as we shape stories (think urban legends),
and why does the human appetite for stories persist as the ultimate
connection between how we live and view reality?

The National Storytelling Network (NSN) publishes Storytelling Magazine
with the intention of being a real voice of and for storytellers. The
magazine usually includes approximately 15 short (1200-word) articles,
as well as including story text. I anticipate that we can meet and then
exceed that number of articles!

Most articles range from 500 to 1500 and the entire magazine length is
48 pages. Authors will be asked to also provide B & W photos and brief
bios with contact information as well. Article writers are not paid,
except in contributor copies. Copyright reverts to the article's author
following publication.

NOTE: While the issue will be released July 2005, the deadline date for
my submission of the journal to NSN is April 1, 2005.

DEADLINE: Based on my past editing work, I think it would be best if
the first draft of all your submissions be in California by January 1,
2005 so that there is time to do the necessary editing on all the
submissions before they are turned over with their respective sets of
graphics by the
deadline date of April 1, 2005.

I hope that you are interested in joining us in this publication. I am
looking for well written articles. Feel free to put in hefty doses of
story in this issue.

As soon as you can, please let me know what topic you have in mind and
the proposed length of article ~ Diane

Diane F. Wyzga, RN, JD
Lightning Rod Communications
"Translating Images Into Action"
San Clemente, CA
Tel: 949-361-3035
Fax: 949-369-1589"

Friday, December 03, 2004


Dean and Jackie are friends of ours studying to be pastors. Dean told us what happened at a weekend meeting of Baptist bigwigs, where they were cleaning the toilets (seriously).

The biggest problem with the way pastoring used to be taught, they were told, was that you were expected to never show weakness. They didn't hear this in a lecture; they heard it from an old man.

Have all the answers, don't ever dare to have a problem. That was the way things used to be. Or is it the way things still are?

I'm pleased to see Dean and Jackie learn that they can't have all the answers, and being a leader makes you more, not less, vulnerable. I'm learning those things myself, without the burden of a pastorate to teach me.

Pastor or managing director, the issues are the same. A recent newsletter from Australian management consultant Deborah May says it well:

"Leaders are fallible, imperfect human beings who do their best - just like every other member of the human race.

People who’ve been promoted into leadership positions are there because they’ve been assessed as having the competence to do the job required. They wouldn’t be there otherwise. But once they’ve been selected, we look for signs of super human transformation, and inevitably are disappointed.

For example, once accepted into partnership, skilled and successful lawyers are expected to suddenly know about business development, marketing, people management, economic theory, organisational behaviour – without ever having been trained in those fields.

And possibly because this is what’s expected of them, they talk as if they DO know all the answers


I wonder if unconsciously or otherwise leaders fear that to not know all the answers (even in areas they have not been trained) would be seen as weak?

Leaders must get off their pedestal - the one they’ve created for themselves or that has been built by others’ expectations.

Leaders who have the humility to accept that they don’t know all the answers provide room for the contribution of others, and space for the ideas and expertise of their people. They are more likely to engage the hearts, minds and energy of their people and collectively achieve more than they thought possible."

(Sorry about cutting and pasting the entire article, but there are no online archives available.)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Team spirit and outsiderism

Today is my last day at a long-term, on-site contract - the nearest thing I've had to a 'real job' since 2001.

It's been wonderful feeling physically part of a team. It hasn't been complete - I work shorter hours than the others, and I knew from the outset my time would be limited. But being in an open plan office, sharing secrets, and supporting those under stress - even with a sympathetic look - is quite unknown in the independent contractor's life I am returning to.

It makes me wonder - if Daniel Pink is correct and more people will be consultants rather than full time employees, how will we get around this? More to the point, how will I get around this in my first few weeks of readjusting to being an outsider?

Of course, I won't be a complete outsider. I now have a link with the team I've been with. There's a rapport there that won't really change because I'm not in the building. But the day-to-day banter won't be there.

Perhaps that's why blogs have become big. It'd be interesting to see how many bloggers are independent consultants - or employed in a workplace without a strong team spirit.

Networking groups will also never die off; instead, they'll become more vital. But the forms networking groups take - for instance, Chamber of Commerce - may be endangered as a new generation of independent contractors finds the old ways and traditions stifling, unreal and irrelevant.

I think the whole concept of Urban Tribes - as put forward in Ethan Watters' book - will take off. Social groups that just 'happen', that may only have a mindset (rather than race, religion, occupation or social status) in common.

Or perhaps that's just utopian (remember, Utopia means 'nowhere'). After all, race, religion, occupation and social status do still play an important part in who we like to talk to and who we just can't understand. But I'm starting to digress.

Recapping: More independent contractors means more outsiders, leading to increased attempts at community-building like blogging, and innovative networking groups to appeal to a new generation of businesspeople (who don't identify themselves primarily as businesspeople).

And another thing I nearly forgot - a stronger emphasis on Emotional Intelligence. (Capitalised for the Eighteenth Century people Among Us.)

Movie Review: Rob Roy

All About Courage

Okay, so I'm like 10 years behind the times, but I watched Rob Roy for the first time last night. Great romantic storyline (of course, it was written by Sir Walter Scott) with all the twists and turns you wouldn't expect (unless you've read the novel).

The key theme was honour and courage. Near the beginning Rob Roy discusses honour with his sons. "Honour is a gift a man gives himself. No man can give it you, and none can take it away." Fantastic rhetoric. Those words sum up the movie.

That's why the following action - being treated unfairly, facing hard decisions - is laced with angst, because we're thinking "is he going to be true to his word? Even in this situation?"

And there's something in this for all of us.

I sincerely doubt I will ever be in a swordfighting duel ... or escaping vicious redcoats on horseback ... or dangling from a bridge, trying to strangle someone with the ropes that bind me ... but I will face situations where I have to decide "will I be true to my word?"

And that's what honour and courage is all about. Honour sets the standard; courage keeps you to it.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Systematic and Serendipitous

The two concepts - systematic and serendipitous - sound like opposites, but as I evaluate my self-directed education over the past four years (or so!), that's exactly what it's been.

Systematic, because I identified the areas I needed to grow in - usually through some emergency or other (in the case of accounting and website design) or because I can see great potential in knowing more.

Other things - the things I guess you'd learn in a BA like philosophy and history - have come later on, because they didn't seem that relevant to start off with. When I began, I just wanted to learn things that would help me day-to-day. I didn't think about context much.

This year, more than any other, I've taken in big picture learning. I've read books all the way through - a huge achievement for me! I'm discovering the historical context for the present.

And then there's serendipity's role in my education. I guess it's actually Divine intervention, but I use serendipity both because it sounds nice and this blog is a fairly pluralistic forum.

There's serendipity on how I discover source material - how the jobs I'm working on, the books that happen to be up for review or hiding in second-hand stores combine to give me a comprehensive and unorthodox view of an issue.

I can say it's working for me, but the same thing turned into a formula wouldn't work (I don't think) for anyone else. It's completely unique to the individual.

So, does the combination of system and serendipity have anything useful to say in how people are taught? Or have I just been lucky?

A note on self-directed education - I know we've broached this subject before - mine wasn't particularly by choice; I just didn't have the money to do a degree when I wanted to. When I did have the money, I didn't find a course that seemed as valuable as the money I'd be parting with.

Better to let the hunger develop, then go in search of the right food, rather than eat any ol' thing and end up just feeling full and useless.