Saturday, July 30, 2016

Abstemious

ab·ste·mi·ous

əbˈstēmēəs/

adjective

not self-indulgent, especially when eating and drinking.

" I had been abstemious and had tidied my apartment, OK – but what was that all about?" - Alan Glynn, Limitless

Numinous

nu·mi·nous

ˈn(y)o͞omənəs/

adjective

having a strong religious or spiritual quality; indicating or suggesting the presence of a divinity.

"Instead, giving in to the numinous glow of the whiskey and letting it override my impulse to get out of there, I went back to thinking about my ex-wife, Melissa." - Alan Glynn, Limitless

The Great Gatsby

He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. -  F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Elephant Keeps Walking as the Dogs Keep Barking

By Suze Orman

I’ve built a successful career around giving advice. And that very success has often made me a target of criticism. Not helpful, constructive criticism, but nasty feedback entirely disconnected from facts.

When I first encountered the blowback, I was angry and confused. Angry at how my work was being misrepresented and misconstrued. Confused by why the attacks grew in lockstep with my success.

Then I learned to be an elephant.

A wise teacher from India shared this insight: The elephant keeps walking as the dogs keep barking.

The sad fact is that we all have to navigate our way around the dogs in our career: external critics, competitors, horrible bosses, or colleagues who undermine. Based on my experience, I would advise you to prepare for the yapping to increase along with your success.

You can’t tame the barking dogs. But you have it within your power to completely tune them out. By being an elephant that keeps walking while the dogs are barking.

Channeling your inner elephant is a healthy exercise in being focused on who you are and what you believe in, rather than letting others do the defining. The only thing that matters is what you know to be true about your goals and intentions. Everything else is noise.

While the world would definitely be a better place without vindictive and misinformed dogs, I have learned to make peace with their existence. And used it to my advantage. Being an elephant has made me stronger and more resolute, and helped me become even more compassionate. It delights me to turn the dogs’ vitriol into my virtue.

A Reason to Buy Paperbacks

Robert E McGinnis and the Secret of The New Cover

Posted by Neil Gaiman at 6:31 PM

I've loved Robert McGinnis's covers for a very long time. I remember the first one I was aware of (it was the cover of Ian Fleming's  James Bond book DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, when I was about 9. They put the film poster on the book cover, which puzzled me a bit because the plot of the book isn't the plot of the film.) And I assumed that he had retired a long, long time ago.

About a year ago, Jennifer Brehl and I were talking. Jennifer is my editor at William Morrow, and is one of the best, most sensible and wisest people in my life. I am lucky to have her. We were talking about paperbacks, and how publishers put less effort into them these days. I went off about how paperback covers used to be beautiful, and were painted, and told you so much. And how much I missed the covers of the '50s and '60s and '70s, the  ones I'd collected and bought back in the dawn of time.

And somehow the conversation wound up with me asking if Harper Collins would publish a set of mass market paperbacks of my books with gloriously retro covers and Jennifer saying that yes, they would.

A few days later I was in DreamHaven Books in Minneapolis. I noticed a particularly gorgeous cover on an old book on a shelf. "Who did that?" I asked Greg Ketter.

"Robert McGinnis," said Greg. "Actually we have a whole book of McGinnis artwork." He showed it to me. The Art of Robert E. McGinnis. It's gorgeous. Here's the cover:

http://amzn.to/2aLcYg2

I was surprised at how recent the book was. It had been published a few months earlier. "Oh yes," said Greg. "Bob's still painting. Must be almost 90."

(He was 90 in February 2016.)

I sent a note to Jennifer asking if there was even the slightest possibility that Mr McGinnis would be interested in painting the covers for the paperback set we wanted to do. He said yes.

I say that so blithely. But he has retired, pretty much, and he doesn't have email, and it was only because the Morrow art director had worked with him, and he was intrigued by the commission... and ROBERT MCGINNIS SAID YES.

He sent in the first painting, the one for American Gods. It was perfect. Now we needed to make everything that wasn't the cover  feel right.

Todd Klein, the finest letterer in comics, came in to create each book's logo and to help design it and pick the fonts, to make each book feel like it came from a certain age.

Each painting from McGinnis was better than the one before. Each Logo and layout from Todd Klein was more assured and more accurate. These things are glorious.

Now... we were planning to announce these in an much more planned and orderly way. I'm not going to tell you what books we're doing, or to show you any covers but the one.

And that's because the upcoming 2017 Starz American Gods TV series has created a huge demand for copies of American Gods. People who have never read it have started buying it to find out what the fuss is about. People who read it long ago and gave away their copy bought new ones to reread it.

The publishers ran out of books to sell.

So they've rushed back to press with the new paperback edition, which wasn't meant to be coming out for some months (and the text is the text of the Author's Preferred edition in case you were wondering).

And that means the version of the paperback with the new cover is going to be coming out a lot sooner than we thought. And tomorrow it will probably up on Amazon.

And I wanted you to hear it from me first.  You aren't going to see the rest of the Robert E McGinnis covers for a little while (and each of them looks like a different kind of book from a different era). But this is the first of them.

In my head, and Todd's, it's probably from about 1971...

Are you ready?

Okay....

Here goes...

Robert E McGinnis and the Secret of The New Cover

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Midnight Paintings of Dr. Seuss


Protect Your Dream


The Stockdale Paradox

by Niall Doherty

Some of the best lessons I’ve learned about personal development come from a book that isn’t aimed at the personal development market at all. It’s a book about business and leadership, called Good to Great.

Author Jim Collins and his research team spent five years trying to identify the common factors that separated good (or briefly great) companies, from companies which were able to achieve and then sustain excellence for fifteen consecutive years or more.

While reading, I realized that almost all the findings in the book could be applied on a personal level as well. (I’ve even written about The Hedgehog Concept here before.)

While I would highly recommend that you get your hands on this book and read it in its entirety, today I’d like to share a part of it that has stuck with me most.
The Stockdale Paradox

The Stockdale Paradox is named after admiral Jim Stockdale, who was a United States military officer held captive for eight years during the Vietnam War. Stockdale was tortured more than twenty times by his captors, and never had much reason to believe he would survive the prison camp and someday get to see his wife again. And yet, as Stockdale told Collins, he never lost faith during his ordeal:

“I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

Then comes the paradox.

While Stockdale had remarkable faith in the unknowable, he noted that it was always the most optimistic of his prisonmates who failed to make it out of there alive.

“They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

What the optimists failed to do was confront the reality of their situation. They preferred the ostrich approach, sticking their heads in the sand and hoping for the difficulties to go away. That self-delusion might have made it easier on them in the short-term, but when they were eventually forced to face reality, it had become too much and they couldn’t handle it.

Stockdale approached adversity with a very different mindset. He accepted the reality of his situation. He knew he was in hell, but, rather than bury his head in the sand, he stepped up and did everything he could to lift the morale and prolong the lives of his fellow prisoners. He created a tapping code so they could communicate with each other. He developed a milestone system that helped them deal with torture. And he sent intelligence information to his wife, hidden in the seemingly innocent letters he wrote.

Collins and his team observed a similar mindset in the good-to-great companies. They labeled it the Stockdale Paradox and described it like so:

You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.

AND at the same time…

You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

For me, the Stockdale Paradox carries an important lesson in personal development, a lesson in faith and honesty: Never doubt that you can achieve your goals, no matter how lofty they may be and no matter how many critics and naysayers you may have. But at the same time, always take honest stock of your current situation. Don’t lie to yourself for fear of short-term embarrassment or discomfort, because such deception will only come back to defeat you in the end.

Living the first half of this paradox is relatively easy, since optimism really isn’t that hard. You just choose to believe that it will all turn out for the best, and everything that happens to you is a means to that end. Simple as.

But optimism on its own can be a dangerous thing:

There’s no difference between a pessimist who says, “Oh, it’s hopeless, so don’t bother doing anything,” and an optimist who says, “Don’t bother doing anything, it’s going to turn out fine anyway.” Either way, nothing happens. – Yvon Chouinard

So you need to embrace the second half of the Stockdale Paradox to really make strides. You must combine that optimism with brutal honesty and a willingness to take action.

Now of course, nobody likes admitting that they’re fat, that they’re broke, that they’ve chosen the wrong career or that their marriage is falling apart. But admitting such truths is an absolute necessity if you want to grow and improve.

It might feel like you’re taking a few steps backward by doing so, but you can view that retreat as the pull-back on a sling shot: you’re just setting yourself up to make significant progress down the road.

disrupting The rabblement: The Stockdale Paradox

Monday, July 25, 2016

Vintage Ford

Seen in the Bed Bath & Beyond parking lot.

I Am So Close

I am so close, I may look distant. So completely mixed with you, I may look separate. So out in the open, I appear hidden. So silent, because I am constantly talking with you.
~ Rumi

My Actions

My actions are my true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Surrender


Friday, July 22, 2016

Your Worst Enemy

Your worst enemy is hiding within yourself, and that enemy is your false ego.

~ Rumi

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Book Review

The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACTThe Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT by Russ Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


blink·ered
ˈbliNGkərd/
adjective: (of a horse) wearing blinders.
having or showing a limited outlook.
"a small-minded, blinkered approach"
synonyms:narrow-minded, inward-looking,parochial, provincial, insular, small-minded, close-minded, shortsighted;

1. How would I act differently if painful thoughts and feelings were no longer an obstacle?
2. What projects or activities would I start (or continue) if my time and energy weren't consumed by troublesome emotions?
3. What would I do if fear were no longer an issue?
4. What would I attempt if thoughts of failure didn't deter me?

What troublesome thoughts and images appear when you contemplate these four questions? Do you visualize yourself getting hurt in some way? Does your mind tell you, "It's hopeless" or "It's too hard" or that you can't make these changes because you are too weak/inadequate/depressed/anxious/stupid/unlovable?

“If a Miracle could happen so that you automatically had the full approval of everyone who matters to you so you weren't trying to please or impress anyone, then what sort of things would you do with your life and what sort of person would you try to be?”

Unlike all of the "just smile" memes on Facebook, this book is actually helpful. Russ Harris doesn't advise distracting yourself from uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Instead he walks the reader through specific steps to allow, to expand, to make room for uncomfortable "bad" feelings. I found especially helpful the section that walks the reader through defining one's own values. And he points out that values, in addition to a set of guidelines to live by, are what's important to you, what your priorities are. For example, while listing my priorities I included reading, but I've been watching a lot of television and doing very little reading. Obvious perhaps, but seeing it written down has helped. Also, listing being healthy and strong as a priority helps me to get off the couch, knowing that's a value, even when I don't "feel" like doing it.

My only criticism is that when listing examples of behaviors, the author lists way more than I needed to understand what he meant. But I just read faster through those parts. Other readers might appreciate all of the examples. His explanations of his concepts are excellent otherwise. Highly recommended.





View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sense and Sensibility

A musical adaptation and a very fun show. I also loved the vintage costumes, especially the men's boots. How do I get a pair of those?

Walking to my car afterwards I had to dodge the hordes of people walking around staring at their phones playing Pokemon Go. Ah well, they were outside enjoying the Park on a nice night.

Balmoral Hotel

Photo by Roy MacPhail.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Butterfly

Photograph by Billy Jencks

Remember Their Names

“Napoleon said men will die for bits of ribbon pinned to their chests, but the General understands that even more men will die for a man who remembered their names, as he does theirs. When he inspects them, he walks among them, eats with them, calls them by their names and asks about wives, children, girlfriends, hometowns. All anyone ever wants is to be recognized and remembered. Neither is possible without the other. This desire drives these busboys, waiters, janitors, gardeners, mechanics, night guards, and welfare beneficiaries to save enough money to buy themselves uniforms, boots, and guns, to want to be men again.”
 - Viet Thanh Nguyen

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Improve Yourself by Other Men's Writings

Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.
~ Socrates

Saturday, July 09, 2016

As Vast as the Sky

The Tibetans teach that we should allow our minds to be as vast as the sky and our daily conduct to be as fine as a grain of sand. This reflects a basic truth: How we live today - the ways we treat others, the energy behind our words, our habits of relating to the earth - affects our own consciousness and ripples out into the world around us.

~ Tara Brach

Beloved

Monday, July 04, 2016

Tower Bridge

Autumn

Lavender

By Jet Nepomuceno, Kent, UK.

Sunshine Through My Window

Posted by moshimeebas on Google +.

Red-Capped Robin

Red-capped robin
The red-capped robin is a small passerine bird native to Australia. Found in drier regions across much of the continent, it inhabits scrub and open woodland. Like many brightly coloured robins of the family Petroicidae, it is sexually dimorphic.

Orange

Raspberry

Andreas Klose

Hills

Stefano Cesqui

Venice

Robert Schmalle

Tree

©Kirk Lougheed

Tree

©Kirk Lougheed

Pups in the Park

Garden

Butchart Gardens Stairs in Vancouver, BC, Canada

Friends

Photographer Lassi Rautiainen captured the profound partnership between a she-wolf and a brown bear in the wilds of northern Finland.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Book Review

Welcome to Night ValeWelcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I'm was excited to start reading this book. I'd been alternating between self-help, The Happiness Trap(really good), and classic literature, John Steinbeck 's Tortilla Flats(loved it). This was something completely different; going from the sublime to the ridiculous in a good way.

The book is full of non sequiturs, just like the podcast, and things listeners have come to know, such as Cecil the community radio host, Carlos the scientist, and the library with its deadly librarians; it actually takes us inside the library. But it doesn't center on them, it centers on Jackie, a 19 year old pawn shop owner, and Diane, a single mom, both just trying to figure their lives out.

The free associations and lapses in the space/time continuum go on throughout the book. If there's any shortcoming in the writing it's that they don't always contribute to the forward motion of the storyline. But what the writers do very well is make the characters very real, three dimensional humans with flaws and perfections, people that you care about and hope the best for.

Along the way they make some wry observations about our very real lives, such as:

"He drives to his job. His car is nice. Nicer than he can afford, but just as nice as he hopes he can soon afford. His car is aspirational. His gray pin-striped suit, his smile, his silver watch, the way he walks, these are all also aspirational. He doesn't think of himself as the him that exists in this moment but as the him that will exist soon. He is not far away from the him that he really is. He will be that version of himself very soon."

And:

"It didn't matter what he said. The world is terrifying. It always is. But Cecil reminded her that it was okay to relax in a terrifying world."

A note on the hard back edition: the book doesn't have a paper jacket, which I never liked. Instead the front and back cover graphics and the inside flap synopsis and author bios are all printed directly on the book cover, which I love. Publishers should do this with all future hardback editions. Librarians worldwide will thank you.



View all my reviews

The Saboteur

Failing and Flying

By Jack Gilbert

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.