The Rolling Stone speaks of inconvenient truths

The editorial board of the Charlotte News and Observer and Raleigh’s News and Observer penned the following editorial yesterday regarding one of the state of North Carolina’s more extreme new Congressional representatives called “New, troubling questions about Madison Cawthorn and Jan. 6.” The editorial speaks to some interesting findings from an unusual political source, The Rolling Stone. I am sure when Cawthorn sings that famous song about getting his picture on the cover, he was not envisioning this. Here part of the piece with a link to the full editorial below.

“Followers of former President Donald Trump have found one conspiracy theory they don’t like: That some Republican members of Congress may have had deeper roles in plans and events that led to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. One reason they don’t like it is that — unlike the bizarre theories of QAnon, the baseless notions of rampant voter fraud and suspicions about COVID vaccines — the concern that members of Congress may have had a hand in efforts to overturn the election appears to be backed by evidence. Rolling Stone reported on Sunday that two organizers of the Jan. 6 protests have told congressional investigators that ‘multiple members of Congress were intimately involved in planning both Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss and the Jan. 6 events that turned violent.’

Rolling Stone said the organizers, speaking anonymously, named seven Republican members of Congress who joined, either directly or through their staffers, in the effort to overturn the election. Republican North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn was among those named. Cawthorn spokesman Luke Ball dismissed the report on Monday, saying, “These anonymous accusations are complete garbage. Neither the congressman nor his staff had advance knowledge of what transpired at the Capitol on January 6th or participated in any alleged ‘planning process.’

That Cawthorn was named is hardly a surprise. He spoke at the Jan. 6 rally near the White House where he said, ‘The Democrats, with all the fraud they have done in this election, the Republicans, hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice.’ Since then, Cawthorn has suggested that another contested election may require taking up arms. ‘When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes your duty,’ he told a Republican group. Cawthorn’s remarks are not the only embarrassment for North Carolina.

The Rolling Stone report also suggests deep involvement in the Jan. 6 events by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, a former Republican congressman who preceded Cawthorn in North Carolina’s 11th District. And then there is the shameless behavior of Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation, who opposed formation of the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 events. Republican links to the Capitol attack are not limited to Republicans in Washington. ProPublica reported last week that at least two Republican members of the North Carolina General Assembly are members of the Oath Keepers, a militant group whose members were among the instigators of the Jan. 6 violence….

...Elected officials like Cawthorn are not simply zealots or cranks. They are the start of what could become an anti-democratic wave that would have a white and wealthy minority preside over the nation against the popular will.

The Rolling Stone report adds new urgency to the work of the House select committee investigating who and what drove the events of Jan. 6, and what must be done to end the smoldering danger to our democracy. Even one of the organizers of the Jan. 6 rally now realizes that urgency. They told Rolling Stone: ‘The reason I’m talking to the committee and the reason it’s so important is that — despite Republicans refusing to participate … this commission’s all we got as far as being able to uncover the truth about what happened at the Capitol that day. It’s clear that a lot of bad actors set out to cause chaos.’ Now the committee must uncover who those bad actors are — and how many of them are from North Carolina.”

The Rolling Stone is not the first publication who has raised this issue. I read just following the insurrection on January 6, that several of the insurrectionists had visited the capitol building as guests of various Congressional representatives. Why? It should be noted that Cawthorn filled Mark Meadows seat when the latter became Chief of Staff for the former president, so why are those two mentioned above in the report?

I have spoken to about a couple hundred members of staff of US representatives and senators. Almost all have been civil and cordial. When I spoke with one of Cawthorn’s staff about him taking the opportunity as a younger member of Congress to help the party be more truthful and forthright with citizens following some of the rhetoric he said noted above, I was told that he came down hard on the insurrection, which I was puzzled by. If he did, it was drowned out by his other words. I will let you be the judge from reading the above.

As an independent and former Republican (and long ago Democrat) voter, we must get to the bottom of the January 6 insurrection. It was a heinous act in our history and it matters not which party did it. We cannot have citizens invading the capitol building. If the former president is as culpable as he appears with his Big Lie, invitation and instigation, then we must get to the bottom of it. The fact that one party does not want to get to the bottom of it speaks volumes.

Yet, what that party fails to realize is when someone defames the office, the party must be zealous in criticizing that person or all of them get tainted. That is a lesson the Catholic Church failed to heed.

Read more at: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/article255267771.html#storylink=cpy

That broad brush

I responded to a comment on another post and felt the general theme needed a brief mention here. I will leave off the specifics, as the general theme could apply to almost any subject. We tend to paint people and groups with too broad a brush when we read or hear criticism. I know I do, so I need to guard against that tendency and back off.

Two key points. First, bad behavior sells more readily than good behavior. The doctor who performs 19 perfect surgeries, will be publicized poorly if he messes up the twentieth. The good will from the 95% accuracy rate will get lost. A poor outcome is hard for anyone to swallow, but we need context.

A few members of a group who do poor things will get a great deal of social media attention. The entire group will be painted with a broad brush, which is unfair. This is why the group who should be most zealous in policing bad behavior is the group itself. The Catholic Church failed for many decades to adhere to this policy and all priests were tainted due to the actions of a few. The same goes for political groups – when leaders defame the office they hold, the group they belong to should be leading the way to fix it, not hiding such behavior.

Second, a social media analyst said in an interview that the Facebooks and Googles know that fake news is six times more likely to be read and routed than factual news. The sensational made-up stories sell more readily. Students of disinformation, like Vladimir Putin and other autocratic leaders and wanna-bes, know this already. It just needs a hint a believability to sell.

In fact, someone who studies the Russian troll factories noted that often, the trolls would take a sensational story that had some truth in it and then blow it up into a contrived piece and drop it into social media. Their goal is to get a conspiracy outlet like Infowars or QAnon to pick it up. Then, when an elected official picks it up and mentions it, the more serious pseudo-news people will cover it enough that the officials will say “people are talking about this.” When the real news outlets start reporting it, the trolls slap high fives for success. It is a sophisticated version of a circular rumor validating the original source.

So, what do we do? Read and watch multiple sources of information. Look at the sources. A piece from Fox News personnel may be slanted, but it is far more credible than something from one of their opinion hosts, which is not news at all (using Fox leaders’ own words under oath in court).The same could be said for MSNBC and other sources that have opinion hosts.

Then there are sources that should be avoided at all costs who are selling conspiracies. A judge told Infowars to pay restitution to the families of the twenty-seven Sandy Hook victims its host defamed, eg. And a North Carolina man served in prison for four years for believing Hillary Clinton was running a child pornography ring from a Washington pizza parlor and besieging it. She may be imperfect, but a child pornography ring?

So, consider those conspiracies sources as a can of ugly paint. And, leave that broad paint brush in the garage. When you paint in the corners and crevices, you need a very small brush. Use it finely and with better looking paint that will stand the test of time.

Day Tripping

For those of you old enough to remember, I am not referring to The Beatles’ song by this name or the one the Rolling Stones called “Mother’s Little Helper.” So, narcotics or amphetamines will not be part of this story. I am referencing my wife and I like to do short one day excursions around the region.

Today, we are off to the mountains to see my daughter and her boyfriend. She has an afternoon planned of BBQ, mountain views and hiking on a cool autumn day. It will be just over a two hour journey, so it is not a bad trip for even our old bodies. Of course, we have to add time for the inevitable rest breaks on the way to and fro.

It will be a fun day. She lives in a cabin-like home halfway up a large hill (or small mountain) in a very eclectic area. She has a coop of eight chickens, so when we visit we bring empty egg cartons for their use. I have shared before the town close by is very artsy, so there is a lot of wall art on buildings, galleries and craft shops. There is even a place where they show how cheese is made.

My daughter is an environmentalist, hiker and rock climber, so she is in heaven up there. She met her boyfriend’s sister first, as they were on the climbing team at college up there. And, the sister is the one who made the introductions to her brother. He is a very nice and grounded young man.

So, I will keep this one brief and report later on our journey. Have a great rest of you day.

Lessons from Dad (a repeat of an old post)

The following post was written nine years ago. I was searching for another post, when I stumbled onto this one. It is worth the reposting, at least to me. Stay with it as there is a major life lesson at the end courtesy of my father around the issue of what do you do when you really screw up.

Six years ago this month, my father passed away. I have been thinking about him a lot this month, as my middle child graduated from high school and my youngest had her 15th birthday. In fact, I wore his anniversary ring my mother had given him during the graduation so he could be there. Like all of us, Dad was not perfect, but he was one of the finest people I have ever met.

He was raised by his Aunt and Uncle, since his parents had a messy divorce. He tried living with each, but that was not a productive co-habitation for any of them. He learned the grocery business at a very young age working in his Uncle’s small store in a small town. Like many people of his time, he started smoking when he was 12. A near life-long habit that was a contributing factor to his death, even though he had quit for over ten years beforehand. His smoking is a reason I don’t.

He graduated from a small college in north Georgia that had a work-study program, the only way he could have afforded college. There he met my mother and literally fell into her lap while diving for a loose ball during a basketball game to which she arrived late. To say he fell for her would be an understatement. It is not ironic that many couples they befriended there were still married when he died (he was married to Mom for 54 years when he died).  My father went to work as a management trainee for a large grocery chain, but moved over into the then called data processing business, the computer science of its time. Back in the 1950’s, everything was new in the computer business.

Dad was a great athlete – track, baseball and basketball – and gave back by coaching his boys (and girl). My best friend and I used to call him the 45-year-old pitching machine, as he would always go throw batting practice to my brother, sister and me. His selflessness was one of his great attributes.He was always giving to others whether it was getting up early to check on a smoked ham or turkey (or both) he was cooking for his co-workers or family or helping someone.

He taught me many things which I try to emulate. Let me mention a few before closing with an anecdotal lesson that I shared again with my children last night.

  • Everyone is welcome in our home. To this day, our children’s friends are always welcome to stay for dinner. My wife and I live in chaos on occasion, but hearing your children and their friends laugh is the greatest sound on earth.
  • Do your best at whatever you try. To do less harms both you and your employer. It is a hard concept for children to grasp that they are cheating themselves when they don’t do their best.
  • Treat everyone like you want to be treated. Dad grew up from very humble beginnings and a broken home. He never put on airs and was as genuine a person as you could find. He was a natural leader, but you would never know that from talking with him. Think of the movie “Dave.”
  • Have dinner together with your family. My wife and I strive to do this as much as possible. The kids grow tired of the small dinner bell, customary blessing and “how was your day” or “anything unusual, funny or interesting happen today” questions. Trust me, you have to vary the questions. They may complain, but would not trade a moment of it if you asked them.
  • It is more than OK to hug or kiss your wife in front of the children. One of the greatest gifts a father can give is loving his children’s mother. That is harder these days with so many scattered families, but it is worth the effort when you live together.
  • Marriage is hard and you have to work at it. Three musts. Be friends with your wife as it gets you through ups and downs. Confer together on children issues that arise, so you are on the same page (raising children is joyous, but not easy especially in this day and age) And, have a sense of humor. Life is too short and it is easier to laugh with people rather than have them laugh at you.

While, there are many other lessons learned, let me close with a final lesson that I was reminded of by my son’s graduation speaker. A successful woman told the graduates you will fail at something. Get back up, dust yourself off and keep on going. Life will go on. My father was not perfect as I said. I carry a curse with me that he had. I am an alcoholic. I have not had a drink in almost five years. I tell people I drank more in my first 48 years than many people do in a lifetime. I use the verb “am” as I want to have a drink everyday, even now. They key is to say to yourself – “I am not going to drink today.”

Dad was an alcoholic, as well. He had risen to the position of Senior Vice President in his firm. He was very successful. Yet, one day he was not where he was supposed to be and something happened at work. Since his goodwill at work was so large, he was not fired, but demoted instead. He had to go to work the next day as a peer of the people who used to report to him. He could not just go somewhere else; he had to go face the music every day. Going back to the graduation speaker’s counsel. He failed. He knew he had to feed his family, so he got up, dusted himself back off and went back to work. He told people “I screwed up,” but he made up for it by going back to work every day.

Dad was a smart man, well-respected and great employee. By the time he retired,  he had worked his way back up and was on the Board of Directors of the same company. This is what being an adult (or in this case) a man is. I tell my guys being a man is not being macho, wielding a sword like they do in the games or being proficient at weaponry. Being a man is being accountable and responsible each day. It is owning up to your mistakes and saying I will do better. I should say it is “doing better” as anyone can say they will do better.

Dad had many lessons for me (and others). This last one which shows how someone handles failure is the deepest as we are all “fixer uppers” and will fail. The key is what you do next.  My father showed how. I love you Dad.

Do you ever feel the world is watching when you stumble?

For those old enough to remember the early Saturday Night Live shows, the actor Chevy Chase would emulate then President Gerald Ford in his latest misstep, physically not politically. Ford was a very decent man who became president after Richard Nixon resigned. However, while he was a good athlete, playing football in college, he was also prone to clumsiness and would fall on on occasion. Of course, his falls were nothing like what Chase would portray.

Since I am just a tad shorter than 6’5″ I draw more attention when I misstep. Fortunately, many of my missteps are not witnessed or seen by only a few. I recall the time I was walking in a parking garage blinded by the setting sun. I walked right into a I-beam that was angled downward, with it catching me across the forehead. While I did not fall, I staggered backwards like I just took a punch from Muhammed Ali. That could have caused a concussion, but fortunately, it was just a big ouch.

One of my favorite Super Bowl commercials is of the Coke delivery man who puts all of his Cokes away in the store refrigerator and then is tempted by the Pepsi in the next door over. He looks both ways, then samples a Pepsi. To his surprise and ours, the entire shelf of Pepsi’s come crashing down on the Coke worker in his uniform. Oops.

I have shared many times about my double date to the community play. It was ‘Picnic” for those keeping score. After returning from intermission, I was drinking my plastic cup of wine and as I did, my date seemed to be moving forward in her chair. In actuality, one of my chair legs had scooted off the two feet high platform and I was going backwards. The entire audience heard this loud crash in the back as I lay across the now folded chair on the floor. Except for my pride, I was unhurt. But, it was funny. Fortunately, we dated again.

While I have seen this happen in commercials, it also happened to me, but not in such a dramatic fashion. In the grocery store produce sections, it is not uncommon for the store to stack rounded fruits or vegetables into a pyramid. The store hopes people pick one off the top. That is usually the case, but if you are getting more than one, sometimes you get more sloppy with your picking technique. I do, and on occasion, I have caused some spillage as a layer will come off. Mind you, I have not caused the entire pyramid to crumble as it does in the commercials, but I have drawn some attention, as I have to restore order to the structure.

Finally, this past spring, I shared that my wife and I went for a first beach trip as the pandemic was waning. (at least at the time). For some reason, I wore some shoes I don’t wear often, as they have a more slippery bottom than others. As we were leaving a restaurant, I paused to let the waitress come in with a tray from serving folks outside. As I paused, I could feel myself falling and said aloud “I am going down.” My wife and I chuckle at that phrase now, but fortunately, I caught myself on the door rails before I followed my prediction.

Stumbling in public. The best thing to advise others of my oafishness is try not to get hurt and laugh at yourself. If you laugh, the world laughs with you. If you cry, you cry alone. Someone famous said something like that.

Bat Out of Hell – one of the finest rock albums from a guy named Meat Loaf

When you read this title, you may do a few double takes if you are unfamiliar with the music or the performer. Who is Meat Loaf and why should I listen to such an odd titled album? Yet, “Bat Out of Hell” is end to end one of the finest rock albums to which I have ever listened. And, it almost did not get promoted due to its theatrical set of songs during the Disco era. Did I tell you Meal Loaf, (Michael Lee Aday) could belt out a song like few others?

Per Wikipedia, “‘Bat Out of Hell‘ is the 1977 debut album by American rock singer Meat Loaf and composer Jim Steinman. It was developed from a musical, Neverland, a futuristic rock version of Peter Pan, which Steinman wrote for a workshop in 1974. The album was recorded during 1975–1976 at various studios… produced by Todd Rundgren, and released in October 1977 by Cleveland International/Epic Records. Its musical style is influenced by Steinman’s appreciation of Richard Wagner, Phil Spector, Bruce Springsteen and The Who. Bat Out of Hell has spawned two Meat Loaf sequel albums:…Bat Out of Hell is one of the best-selling albums of all time, having sold over 50 million copies worldwide. It is certified 14x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.”

Every song on the album has its own merits.. The songs tend to focus on young love, angst, passion et al along with some adult realizations the song characters figure out along the way. The song that was the biggest hit off the album is not its best song, but is pretty darn good – “Two out of three ain’t bad.” One reason others did not get played as much as singles is their length – the songs each told stories. Let me highlight three of the songs.

Two out of three ain’t bad – the chorus tells an all too familiar story about lust and love, but there is more to the song than that.

“…And maybe you can cry all night
But that’ll never change the way that I feel
The snow is really piling up outside
I wish you wouldn’t make me leave here

I poured it on and I poured it out
I tried to show you just how much I care
I’m tired of words and I’m too hoarse to shout
But you’ve been cold to me so long
I’m crying icicles instead of tears

And all I can do is keep on telling you
I want you
I need you
But there ain’t no way
I’m ever gonna love you
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad”

If you focus on the chorus, you miss out that the lead character tried to make it work. What I also like is the song is sung in first person, so it is not gender specific. This could easily be a woman singing about a man or even someone who does not identify as either.

Paradise by the Dashboard Light – is the best song, in my view. It tells a story and involves in the recording Ellen Foley, who is much tinier than Meat Loaf, but whose voice can match his needed gravitas for this passionate song. And, when I say passionate, I mean two kinds – lust and eventually spite. I would add that talented Karla DeVito is seen in live performances, but the original recorded voice is Foley’s. Here are a few snippets.

“I remember every little thing
As if it happened only yesterday
Parking by the lake
And there was not another car in sight
And I never had a girl
Looking any better than you did
And all the kids at school
They were wishing they were me that night
And now our bodies are oh so close and tight
It never felt so good, it never felt so right
And we’re glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
Glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife.”

This sets the stage, but the song describes what happens by the dashboard light using a famous baseball announcer for the New York Yankees, Phil Rizzutto. You hear Rizzuto’s voice as he broadcasts a game with the muffled foreplay going on in the background. To me, the best part of the song is when Foley’s character stands her ground and asks for a pledge of love.

“Stop right there!
I gotta know right now!
Before we go any further!
Do you love me?
Will you love me forever?
Do you need me?
Will you never leave me?
Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?
Will you take me away and will you make me your wife?”

From there, I will leave it to your imagination, but the ending is worth the wait..

Bat Out of Hell – is also a story telling song as a lover leaves town, but the regret seems to drive him to be careless on the road. There are some lyrics my wife does not care for in the song as they are gruesome, but the song is vintage rock and roll.

“…Oh baby, you’re the only thing in this whole world
That’s pure and good and right
And wherever you are and wherever you go
There’s always gonna be some light”.

But I gotta get out
I gotta break it out now
Before the final crack of dawn
So we gotta make the most of our one night together
When it’s over you know
We’ll both be so alone

Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes
When the night is over
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone, gone, gone
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.”

Two other songs which are also strong are “All revved up and no place to go” and “You took the words right out of my mouth.”

Give this album a try. When I read those lists of greatest albums, this one usually makes a top twenty list. It is different. It is excellent, if you are a rock and roller.

Note two sidebars: Meat Loaf appeared in the movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in a small but pivotal role and Ellen Foley is also known for being on the comedy TV show “Night Court” with Harry Anderson.


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Former Republican County Commissioner calls his party out for a new playbook

The following editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer yesterday. It is called “My GOP needs a new playbook before it’s too late” and is written by Matthew Ridenhour, a former Republican Mecklenburg County Commissioner. I pasted it in its entirety, with a link if you wanted to see the official version. It speaks for itself.

“The GOP has a difficult future, and I’m not sure whether the party and its faithful understand this. If we are going to have a successful party — indeed, a party at all in 10-15 years — we need to have an honest look at where we are and determine an admittedly difficult path forward. The GOP has firmly planted its flag in the rural areas of our state and across the country. This has led to many victories at the state and federal level, but it is not a viable long-term strategy. The problem is simple — rural areas are not growing. They may be solidly red, but college grads are moving to cities like Raleigh and Charlotte — not to Mayberry. There have been a multitude of books, research, and analysis around the death of small-town America. Cities will become so blue and populous as to turn red states blue. In 2018, both in Mecklenburg County and across the nation, Republicans lost scores of seats in urban and suburban areas. Many wrote this off as typical midterm election results, but in 2020 Republicans did not fare much better. In four years the GOP lost the House, Senate, and presidency. How do we regain our once-reliable suburban voters?

Our message must match our actions; voters look for authenticity. We purport to be the party of individual liberty, but what liberties do we promote besides the Second Amendment? We say we support our LBTQ+ and Log Cabin Republican friends, but then we attempt to regulate what occurs between consenting adults. We are slow to repeal blue laws. We are hesitant to support even medicinal use of marijuana. We say we support religious liberties, but when we open every meeting and convention with a Christian prayer, is that welcoming to people of other faiths? We say we are the party of fiscal conservatism and limited government, but then pass laws like the Patriot Act, create the Department of Homeland Security, launch the Space Force, and oversee some of the largest periods of government spending in the 21st century. Again, this all comes across as inauthentic and hypocritical. The GOP often states it is a big-tent party, but if voters do not feel they belong in the tent, then is it really? Voters in 2018 and 2020 decided that our tent was not big enough for them. If we continue to lose would-be GOP voters, then we will not gain back the ground necessary for long-term electoral success. We will continue to lose the suburbs, older Republicans, and young people.

Voters in urban and suburban areas talk about issues like affordable housing. Student loan debt. Homelessness. Economic mobility. They do not talk about “God, Guns, and the Constitution,” though they may love all three. This does not mean the GOP should become “Democrat-lite.” Rather, find and promote conservative solutions to issues facing urban and suburban voters. Accept that Republicans engaging on these issues and others are not Republicans in Name Only (RINOs) but instead are Republicans fighting for voters on a very different battlefield than our friends in rural areas. Support the rights and liberties of others, so long as they do not encroach upon our own rights. As Ronald Reagan said: “The heart of conservatism is libertarianism”. Some Republicans will object, and counter that we are poised to take the House, and maybe the Senate, in 2022. I do not disagree, but that will only belie the decades-long voting trends in urban and suburban areas. We must change our message and our course for long-term success. Let’s Make the GOP Big Tent again.”

I agree with this Republican’s comments. Yet, one thing the party can start with is to support those who are telling the truth and calling out those who are purposefully misleading people. Ridenhour will be dismissed as a RINO, which is a shortcut label by a person without a good rebuttal. Yet, he is not alone in saying this among Republicans. He just needs more support in what he is saying.

Read more at: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/article255097637.html#storylink=cpy

What if you took that other path or were forced to walk down it?

I think we have all thought about choices we made in our past that sent us down a path where we experienced life events. It goes back to Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” What if we took the other road? There is a new TV show that I have not yet seen, but the concept follows this thought process. It is called “Ordinary Joe,” and per the show summary, here is what it entails.

“Ordinary Joe” stars James Wolk and centers on Joe Kimbreau as he makes a pivotal, life-changing decision at his college graduation and follows him on three parallel timelines: as a police officer, as a music star, and as a nurse.

I am fairly certain this show will make all watchers think about their own lives and choices. But, as we ponder these choices, we need to realize it means what happened to your actual life may not or will not happen like it has.

As with many lives, we have experienced good and bad things. We hopefully learned from the latter and were made stronger, but we have experienced those wonderful things as well. With that said, if the bad things severely outweigh the good, thinking of other choices is a far easier thing to do. To me, those are more clear cut rueful circumstances.

There is another interesting movie a blogging friend reminded me of a few months ago, that follows this what-if concept. It is called Sliding Doors and a summary of its plot from Wikipedia follows:

“Sliding Doors” is a 1998 romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Peter Howitt and starring Gwyneth Paltrow while also featuring John HannahJohn Lynch, and Jeanne Tripplehorn. The film alternates between two storylines, showing two paths the central character’s life could take depending on whether or not she catches a train. It has drawn numerous comparisons to Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski‘s 1987 film Blind Chance, the outcome of which also hinges on whether or not the protagonist catches a train.

“Sliding Doors” is an excellent movie, although it is hard to follow at first, as it flips back and forth as to what happens if Paltrow’s character misses or makes the train. But, once you get in the groove of the action, it is spellbinding. Hannah is her co-star – you may remember him best from “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and his memorable eulogy for his close friend.

The concept is fascinating to explore, but be prepared as you examine your own life choices. We all have made dumb mistakes and rued decisions, big and small. But, it is also true those decisions and mistakes are part of our fabric that hopefully helped us down the road. Maybe, by handling a few relationships poorly, we were better able to nurture the right one when he or she (or they) came along. Or, maybe we are able to make a different career move or understand its ramifications better..

I remember one life moment around changing my mind after accepting a job. The life altering moment came as I was packing my office up, so it was very late in the game. I called my wife and said “I can’t do this” and she replied “Pack?” and I said “No, leave.” Had i taken the job, it would have been fine, but by staying and gracefully backing out of the offer, I was able to go work for the same company in a much better job. Plus, I loved my old job and was not ready to leave, just yet.

Robert Frost was onto something. Sometimes that decision to walk down a the road less traveled does make all the difference. But, if you took the other one, you would have made the best of it. And, you may not have known what you missed,.

Colin Powell’s Advice to Graduates (and all Americans) Rings True

An imperfect American hero died yesterday – Colin Powell. After hearing him speak at my son’s graduation seven years ago, I posted the following. Powell was a good man, but in my view he was used to be the face on a non-righteous cause by his superiors That tarnished his reputation some, but he still had an exemplary career.

My oldest son graduated yesterday from college (a big yay!) and we attended his outdoors graduation on a beautiful, sunny and pleasant morning. We also looked forward to the commencement speaker, former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell. Powell’s speech was humble, poignant and inspiring. The part that resonated with many of the graduates was his academic record, which did not hinder his success.

Powell attended City College of New York (CCNY), as that was the only college he could afford to attend. He said he was not a great student and, in fact, the only way he was permitted to graduate was when CCNY’s leaders decided to add his ROTC straight A’s into the mix. He said his GPA increased to a 2.0, to which the graduates laughed heartily. His point was meaningful. First, he said they have named all of these buildings for me due to my success and my old professors are probably rolling over in their graves.

Second, he said just because you did not graduate with a 3.5 GPA does not mean you cannot be successful. Find your path and work hard. This meant a lot to my son who would be among the significant majority in the beneath 3.5 crowd. It resonated with him to hear words of encouragement that yes, if you work hard, you can succeed. The fact that any graduate can remember portions of a commencement speech, is pretty telling. Powell humorously mentioned that when you think back on this day, remember it was C-O-L-I-N P-O-W-E-L-L that spoke at your graduation spelling it out for everyone.

Powell had other words of advice. Get involved with your community and know the issues of import. And, go vote. He said if you are not registered to vote come see me afterwards. You are the people who must keep politicians honest. And, if you don’t like what they do, vote them out. Our is a great country, but you have to be engaged.

He also noted the beauty of compromise. He said our founding fathers came together and passionately argued over how to govern. The Articles of Confederation were insufficient and they argued over its replacement, our constitution. He said from the outset, we have benefitted from the ability of different points of view to compromise. He encouraged people to use their passion and knowledge to influence others, but be in a position to understand the opposing arguments and compromise.

Finally, he said take care of the environment. He said I am not a climate change expert, but it does not take a scientist to recognize we need to stop putting bad stuff into the air and in our water. We have to be better stewards of our earth. An article in “Stars and Stripes” about his commencement speech can be read with the following link: http://www.stripes.com/news/us/colin-powell-urges-grads-to-work-hard-give-back-1.281445

Let me close with two final comments. First, Powell agreed to shake the hand of every student, all 940 who graduated that day. Some shakes came with hugs from more demonstrative folks and he took it all in with a great sense if humor. This meant a lot to the graduates and parents.

Second, I am so proud of my son and proud for his achievement. He worked hard to make it and he did. He will be a better citizen, a better employee and a better person because of his education. The esteem of accomplishing such a great task is significant. He is closing this chapter with equal parts excitement, trepidation and melancholy before moving on to a new one. The sadness is he is leaving his home for four years before making a new one. He is leaving friends, but will stay in touch and make new ones. But, the future is in front of him. Places to go and things to see and do. Well done, son. I love you very much.

Well, you’re no day at the beach either

Sometimes, you need a humorous, but truthful line to get a friend, acquaintance, colleague or relative off a rant about someone. I was out walking and I heard three women approaching me and one was on a proverbial roll. I kept walking after smiles and hellos, as this was one conversation I did not want to hear or a be a part of. It got me thinking of something that can be said to stop the rant.

A line I used to use more often is to simply say, “Well, you’re no day at the beach either.” To me, this is a funny way of getting the person to realize he or she is also not perfect. If he or she is even more reflective, the thought that someone could be talking about him or her in the same manner, might bubble up.

In my previous post, I mentioned a colleague who listened to a new senior executive talk about every person who left the restaurant table at dinner. My colleague said he was scared to go to the restroom as he would be the next subject of discussion. Having met said senior executive, like me, she is no day at the beach, either.

These two walkers with the ranting walker were a captive audience. It would be hard to exit, unless they said something like “I need to run some.” At parties, the exiting of rant-filled conversations is an art. Once the rant starts, the listener (or I should say non-talker), is looking for that exit ramp, be it a person, drink or restroom break. The unlucky person who walks up to join the conversation, will usually be a convenient hand-off as you gracefully exit. The deft person might even pair the two together with a suggested theme.

Dr. Wayne Dyer speaks of “defending the absent” when someone is on a rant about another person. This may not be the course of action for everyone, but it certainly is a noble pursuit. Defend the person who is not there. I think the more common tactic is the exit ramp example, where you simply vote with your feet and leave the conversation.

But, if you are so inclined and need a one liner, the title above will serve you well. It makes the person think. Having been a manager of people in my career at some point, when subordinates rate their own performance, almost always, they rate themselves better than “meets expectations” or better than what the supervisors rate them. Yet, statistically if “meets expectations” is normative, then everyone cannot be better than meets expectations.

It is one explanation of why people rant. The ranter forgets he or she is not perfect and has made mistakes. So, a funny reminder will bring the person back to earth. While I try to be diplomatic, my poor wife hears my rants or comments more than anyone. So, when a relative or friend wants to discuss politics, she will look for the exit ramp if we go too long.

None of us are a day at the beach, me included. Even those PYTs that need not worry as much about how they look in a swim suit are not perfect. Real beauty is more than skin deep. We are all fixer uppers, so we should remember that before and when we rant.