The Confessions of Max Tivoli

Max was born old and gets younger as he lives his life. Set in San Francisco, the writing is tolerable, but the storyline starts to grate on me. I probably should have finished this one before starting Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which was so bright and shiny that Max Tivoli seems dullish in comparison.
The last 50 pages were good– not a bad story overall.

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Blink

Just finished the hottest book on the market. Check out the envy I generated!
The always interesting Malcolm G. does it again with another book chock full of learning and ideas. The hype surrounding the book did somewhat dampen my enjoyment of it, but it was a positive experience (and quick read).
Intro chapter goes into the Getty/fake kouros incident from the mid-80s, when the Getty museum did all sorts of scientific and legal research on a statue they were buying for $10M. Logical thought said yes, this statue is real. However, art experts reacted differently to the statue, with intuition. In the blink of an eye, we can make snap judgements that are more valid than extended study decisions.
Second chapter goes into the idea of “thin slicing” reality– by looking at a thin slice of time, you can make judgements about quality of people’s relationships, teaching ability, etc.
Other notables from the book– the rogue commander in the Pentagon’s War Games exercise who didn’t go by the rules and thus sunk 18 of the Red Team’s ships before any shots were fired by the Red Team. After 2 days of sulking, the Red Team stripped the Blue Team of any power and played a scripted game which they won hands down, and then promptly invaded Iraq.
Also, Amadou Diallo in NYC, who made the mistake of standing on his stoop one night in 1999. Cops thought that seemed suspicious, and split second decisions led them to shoot him 41 times. They thought he had a gun, but he was only reaching for his wallet. Scary.
Cook County Hospital’s heart attack detection elements– less information allows you to make quicker decisions.

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Getting Things Done

Types of things to keep track of:
* projects list
* project support material
* calendar actions/info
* list of “next actions”
* list of “waiting for”
* reference material
* list of “someday/maybe”
Steps to get things under control:
1. Gather all out of place stuff into an inbox
2. Sift through, taking one item at a time. If you can take care of the item in 2 minutes, do it. If not, decide what the next action is & put in pending/delegate/trash.
*****
Now that I’m finished, I feel well prepped to tackle my own piles of mess. And I’ll try to read 43Folders more often (a site that sprung up out of love of Getting Things Done)

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SF bookstore arranges books by color

bookcolor.jpg
Chris Cobb, a San Francisco artist, created an installation art piece by arranging the books in Adobe Books by color. He called his work “There is Nothing Wrong in this Whole Wide World” and it was one of the most endearing pieces of art I’ve ever experienced. Just by grouping the books in an order outside the norm caused me to discover books I’d likely never pick up. And the overall effect of the rainbow of colors was incredible– it diffused happiness throughout the store. I am now a huge Adobe bookstore fan, what with their resident cat and willingness to be the site of this great work.

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I Capture the Castle

Awesome first sentence caused me to purchase this book from the green section of the rainbow-organized books at Adobe bookstore in SF.
“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.”
In the midst of reading it now, and have to keep reminding myself that it’s set in the 1930s. It seems to reach back much further in time than the 20th century.
Dodie Smith also wrote 101 Dalmations.
*****
I finished this one last night; it was a whale of a tale, a gem, a fantastic book. Not sure why I’m stuck in catchphrase land, but can’t think of anything original to say to describe.
Two sisters, Cassandra (the narrator), and her older sis Rose, get mixed up in a love tangle with the new American landlords of Scoatney- Simon & Neil Cotton. The Mortmain family is barely eking by on a 50 year old lease of the castle that the Cottons inherit, the father wrote one famous book then crapped out. Cassandra tells the story to us through journal entries. Good stuff.
The only complaint I had was in the edition I was reading, at the very end when I was basking in the glow of a completed story, I happened to glance at the page after the end, which was filled with inane “study questions”, like “This was published in 1948. What do you think people’s reactions were then?” and “What does the title mean?” and “Why does Cassandra tell us the story through her journal?” The dispassionate questions brought me back to junior high school days when we actually had to answer those types.

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Earth

Blah. It was a real struggle to get through this, and I confess to major skimming after page 150. I’ve read books that deal with the subject of geology that are presented in an interesting manner– this was not. Fortey attempted to lighten his tone by interjecting personal stories along the way, like his mule Buttercup, who took him to the Grand Canyon floor. Yawn.

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The Light of Day

Tom Peters recommended. I had a tad bit of trouble getting into it, but now am swept up in this dizzying dazzling story. George, the private investigator, falls for Sarah, a cheated on wife who has him follow Bob & Kristina to the airport to ensure only she got on a airplane and report back how the farewell went. Sarah kills Bob later that night. Interwoven stories, zipping back and forth in time. Helen is George’s daughter, Rachel his ex-wife who left after he was branded a crooked cop. The first spying he did on his dad, having an affair with Carol Freeman (mom of a girl he had a crush on).

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Habit 1: Be Proactive: Principles of Personal Vision
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind: Principles of Personal Leadership
Habit 3: Put First things First: Principles of Personal Management
Habit 4: Think Win/Win: Principles of Interpersonal Leadership
Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood: Principles of Empathic Communication
Habit 6: Synergize: Principles of Creative Cooperation
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw: Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal

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Il Colore Ritrovato

Excerpt from Il Colore Ritrovato
To the question what is the difference between Venice and Milan other than a difference in tone, in the sunlight, and in the air, the answer is that Milan is where you busy yourself with the world as if what you did really mattered, and there time seems not to exist. But in Venice time seems to stop, you are busy only if you are a fool, and you see the truth of your life. And, whereas in Milan beauty is overcome by futility, in Venice futility is overcome by beauty.
It isn’t because of the architecture or the art, the things that people go to look at and strain to preserve. The quality of Venice that accomplishes what religion so often cannot is that Venice has made peace with the waters. It is not merely pleasant that the sea flows through, grasping the city like the tendrils of a vine, and, depending upon the light, making alleys and avenues of emerald or sapphire, it is a brave acceptance of dissolution and an unflinching settlement with death. Though in Venice you may sit in courtyards of stone, and your heels may click up marble stairs, you cannot move without riding upon or crossing the waters that someday will carry you in dissolution to the sea. To have made peace with their presence is the great achievement of Venice, and not what tourists come to see.
What Rosanna can do with her voice–the sublime elevation that is the province of artists, anyone can do in Venice if he knows what to look for and what to ignore. Should you concentrate there on the exquisite, or should you study too closely the monuments and museums, you will miss it, for it comes gently and without effort, and moves as slowly as the tide.
Despite the fact that you are more likely to feel this quality if you are not distracted by luxury, I registered at the Celestia. The streets near San Marco are far too crowded and not as interesting as those quieter areas on other islands and in other districts, and they have a deficit of greenery and sunlight. And the Celestia, with its 2,600-count linen and stage-lit suites, is the kind of luxury that removes one from the spirit of life, but I went there anyway almost as a way of spiting Rosanna, who was paying for it, and because that is where we always stayed in Venice, and I wanted to accumulate more hotel-stay points. In that I am compulsive. Once I start laying-in a store of a certain commodity, like money, I get very enthusiastic about building it up.
Also, I’m somewhat known in Venice, and were I to stay in a less than perfect hotel word might get out that either Rosanna or I were not doing as well as was expected, and in the public eye position is not half as important as direction of travel. People are clever, and just as they find comets and shooting stars more of interest than simple pinpoints of light, they wisely ignore the fixed points of a career in favor of its trajectory.
I arrived in the evening, swam for a kilometer in the indoor pool, bumping on occasion into an old lady who was shaped like a frog and kept wandering blindly into my lane, and then I had dinner in my suite. Because I’m unused to sleeping with the sound of air-conditioning and in curtain-drawn darkness–at home the light of the moon and stars filters through the trees as they rustle unevenly in the wind–I slept as if anesthetized, and the next morning, parted from my current life, I woke up as if the world was new to me, as it used to be every morning when I awoke when I was young.
Still, I look my age, which is right and proper, so when I walked to the Accademia to “check out” the Bellini I stopped feeling like a youth, because I was brought back by the registering glances of passersby, the deference, the treatment one receives instantly and with neither word nor touch from strangers on the street. Young people look at you only quickly, as they would a post or a gate, saving their more intense concentration for one another. This, for someone of my age, constitutes the kind of dismissal for which, not inexplicably, one can actually be grateful. And for someone of my age it is a pleasure when older people look at you knowingly–for what you have seen, what you have done, for the wars you have lived through, the pains you feel, the energy you lack, and your bittersweet knowledge that you are not young anymore.
So by the time I paid admission to the Accademia I was in a state of perfect balance, my youth fresh in feeling and memory, my age clearly in mind, my reconciliation of the years that had passed with the years that were to come much like the reconciliation in Venice of land and sea.
The first thing you do in the Accademia is go upstairs, and this I did, rising into the same kind of rarefied world into which Rosanna provides entrance with her voice, and into which she had sent me to see what had happened when the paintings had been made young again, how it had been done, and how their colors, liberated from the sadness and fatigue of centuries, shone through.

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The Pacific

Great writing…
Reprint of excerpt from first story is here.
Every story I read is better than the next. Il colore Ritrovato was great, and it keeps spiralling upward. Just finished Perfection, where a 13 year old Hasidic Jew teaches Mickey Mantle about baseball/God. Also a great story about the rich post-IPO guy whose wife leaves him to contemplate his awesome Hamptons house alone b/c he can’t handle her chaos. He sits outside watching the sun move across the horizon, reading, and smells smoke; turns to find it is his house burning, so he just flips his chair around to watch his house burn. Also a story about WWII parachuter behind enemy lines who crashes into a building yet survives to call in enemy positions. Also a story about a contractor and his crew who renevate a widow’s new apartment for free once they realize her husband died in the WTC on 9/11.

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