Cuppy: The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody

Some Sunday fun!

Will Cuppy is best known as a humorist. That is true, though it tells us little about Cuppy’s unique style of humor. What was that? He had a simple way of reducing human vanity to the absurd. For example

We all make mistakes, but intelligence enables us to do it on purpose.

Cuppy’s usual work was writing a column  where he reviewed mystery books. Behind the scenes, however, he worked for 16 years on his book, “The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody”.

I love this book. It combines history and humor in a way that no one else has matched. Here is a snippet about Louis XIV

Louis XIV was decidedly the Louis. e is hard to write about because he lived so long and was always up to something. Among his hobbies were women, invading thee Low Countries, annexing Alsace and Lorraine, surrendering  Alsace and Lorraine, and revoking the edict of Nantes. Everybody wanted Alsace and Lorraine because they were full of Strassbourg geese.

Hmmm … full of Strassbourg geese? It goes on

Throughout his reign, Louis XIV worked eight hours a day. Other kings let their ministers make their mistakes for them, but Louis insisted on making the important mistakes personally. He was the original quick-decision man.  He did it almost automatically, but there were so many details to ball up that he had to get experts to help him. Jean-Batiste Colbert, an authority on industry, agriculture, and finance, worked sixteen hours a day and therefore did twice as much for the country. He abolished the highly unpopular tax on salt and put taxes on everything else; afterwards the salt tax came back somehow. He then established strict codes for every business, so that the manufacturers went bankrupt and the peasants lived on grass, nettles, and bread made of mud. Some of the peasants went so far as to dress up in rags.

Ouch! And this is just the beginning!



Roco Explodes! Sixer Fans Rejoice! Magic Fade!

The Sixers/Magic game started out ugly. The Sixers were imitating a high school grade school basketball team, missing shots, turning the ball over, and throwing passes into the seats.The Magic looked almost like an NBA team and raced out to a double digit lead. WTF!

But things didn’t stay that way. Roco exploded, hitting a fistful of threes, Embiid and Simmons did their things, and the Sixers went up, way up. By halftime, this game looked as if it was decided.

And it pretty much was. Relying on smothering defense, the Sixers were up 20 through most of the third and fourth quarters. Very important! That allowed the starters to take a rest. The best news, however, is that Roco found his range from 3. point land.

Onward to meet the Wizards tonight in a back to back game for the Sixers!

BTW, bad news for the Timberwolves – Jimmy Butler has a meniscus issue. Let’s hope it is a minor one.

Donald Trump is Not the President

Of course, he is in name. He gets all the perks of the office too. And he toddles out to make public statements as needed. But as time goes on, two things are becoming more and more obvious

  • Donald Trump really has no idea what is going on in terms of policy and decision making. He doesn’t understand the guns issue or health care, or just about anything else. And he is either making no effort or is not capable of learning about these things. Instead, he plays golf and relaxes at his retreats. This is not the pose of a man in charge of things.
  • Donald Trump statements about what is going to happen have nothing to do with what happens. So when he talks about beefing up security at schools by giving “bonuses” to packing teachers, his budget actually cuts funds for security in schools. Another example – he says he ordered the Justice Department to look into banning bump stocks. The Justice Department has already done that and concluded that they cannot take that step without a new law.

That leaves open the question about who is guarding the hen house? Who is in charge? Or is anyone in charge? And how many people are aware of this? Do Republicans in Congress know? How could they not know? And what is their view about how this affects governance? Do they have a view?

In fact, it appears that Republicans in Congress are ok with this situation. They have no major agenda anyway, other than to protest over the Mueller investigation, cut taxes and rage on about Obamacare.

That looks how the country will head into the midterms. Yikes!

From Vox

“Whether it’s because he’s a liar or just because he’s ineffectual, (his) rhetoric has nothing to do with the actual conduct of the Trump administration. And Trump’s (recent) CPAC speech was filled with such moments — moments that would be blockbuster news from a normal president but that are largely irrelevant given Trump’s marginal role in the Trump administration. He’s a Potemkin president who riles up crowds at rallies but has no real role in governing the country.”

Want to Multitask? Here is how to do it!

The word “multitasking” has been used to describe doing two or more things at the same time. Juggling lots of balls, so to speak, with none of them falling.

Of  course, the exhortation to do this is dangerous. Why? Just think of the juggling example. The juggler keeps all the balls in the air by focusing on one task only. He is not multitasking at all. He is single-tasking so that completing the task has multiple effects.

And we know that the brain has limits on how much input it can take in per unit of time. So the more focus points you try to track in different tasks, the less well you will be able to track them. This famous simulation demonstrates that idea.

In fact, we do not want to be nearing our capacity limits. That reduces the impact of our giving our precious attention. We want to do the opposite, and get more out of the focus that we can access.

But how? There is a rather simple thought experiment that can help you on this path. Think of something that gives you great pleasure or pain. Notice that that thing induces attention on a single thing to the exclusion of other things. When you think of your true love, you probably are not also thinking of taking out the garbage. or doing your taxes.  The absorption has an exclusive effect.

That is how we get stuck on a single task. We allow it to dominate our attention.  Like when we are learning to dive into a pool, we could not help but focus on the idea of losing control of our balance. To avoid that we can embrace a principle.

No single thing has more value than the next thing after it. The connections between things should be our focus point.

So while I am typing out this post, I am thinking that I will finish washing the dishes next. While am finishing the dishes? I will decide then what my next task shall be. Try to keep the tasks as short as possible. If a task is too big, I will break it into pieces  that are more manageable.

As you do this, you will find that you have more “initiation energy“. You also may be able to generate more “flow” (an absorption in doing stuff, as one experiences in games). As you feel these higher energy levels, you will get a spill over effect – more positive emotions, more peace of mind, and more clarity about your spiritual dimension.

But — beware of overdoing it! One you are activated, the temptation is to stay activated That is great for pick up basketball games But doing a full active day, you need to pace yourself. That means knowing when to stop and rest and knowing how to rest. If you ant more on that, check out Jim Loehr who makes a living coaching CEO’s, sports stars, and others on how to manage energy. According to Loehr, humans are nothing more than fully integrated, multi-dimensional energy systems. Energy is the construct that unites all approaches to performance.

Avoid the other trap — trying to map out a list of too many things to do. The list will overwhelm you, and soon you will discard it. Just two are enough to get multitasking right.

Remember: Not two at the same time, but two in a row.

And if you get interrupted? For example, while I am going to the kitchen, perhaps I notice that I forgot to put the wash in the dryer? I can choose to take a detour, with the dishes coming up after, or the other way around. That is up to me. But I will get trapped in neither and keep moving forward through the day.

BTW, the same goes for thinking (a type of doing). No single idea is worth your focus for long. The value of that idea has to be tested by asking what it leads to next. What connections does it offer? The more you look for connections, the more connections you will see.

This is a skill, not a talent. You get better at it the more your practice.



Can Regular Folks Help to Solve Public Problems? Never!

By the way that governments operate, you might think that getting public input to solve thorny problems would be less useful than trying to fly to the moon the back of a pregnant cow When deciding on public matters they tend to lock themselves behind closed doors. They say that they are confiding in experts, but who would know?

Steve Blank makes the point that government can get better problem solving out of the public with a different approach. If they know HOW to ask questions, they can stimulate creative thinking — even among students!

Fred Wilson offers another example from New York. The subway system has to shut down the “L train” for 15 months. This is a major commuter line. The city government has no clue how to help those commuters, except to further clog up the Williamsbrg Bridge with more buses.

There may be a better way — a pontoon bridge — and it is proposed through kicsktareter.

I love it!

The Trouble with Disraeli … and More!

The trouble was that the dude wrote too many great letters!

From the preface to Robert Blake’s biography

Disraeli died in 1881. His literary executor was his private secretary, Montagu Corry (Lord Rowton), who seems to have contemplated writing a biography of his chief. Certainly no one would have been better qualified to “Boswellize” Disraeli. But when he died in 1903 nothing had been done. In the interim not only had some unofficial lives  — mostly of dubious value — appeared, but also the official biography of Gladstone, whose death had occurred only five years earlier, in 1898. In the circumstances the Beaconsfield Trustees of whom Lord Rothschild was the key figure, were anxious to have something done as soon as possible. After offering the job for a fee of £20,000 to Lord Rosebery, who declined it, they chose W.F. Monypenny, a distinguished Times journalist.  He began work in 1906. His first volume covering the years 1804 -37. appeared in 1910, and the second (1837-46) in November 1912. But he was in failing health and died a few days later. The Trustees then invited G.E. Buckle, who had recently resigned the editorship of The Times as a result of a disagreement with Lord Northcliffe. The remaining four volumes were published at intervals over the next eight years, the last appearing in 1920..

The six volume work, running to at least one and a quarter million words, is rightly described in the notice of Buckle in the Dictoniary of National Biography as both a “quarry and a classic”. Not least of its virtues is the great quantity of Disraei’s letters published there for the first time. All subsequent writes about Disraeli must acknowledge their debt to Monypenny and Buckle. Perhaps one day some wealthy foundation will finance the complete edition of the correspondence of the best letter-writer among all English statesmen. Till that day, the official biography remains the nearest equivalent.

Notice the great care that was taken to retain and re-think the things that Disraeli wrote in his private letters. In those days, in contrast to our own, letters were a major channel for exchanging ideas.

Food for thought. Given that exchange is the key to developing new ideas. should we be concerned that our use of more sophisticated tools may not be producing such high level exchanges on a regular basis?

And what of that dispute between Buckle and Northcliffe? Buckle represented the old school view that The Times was a repository of the public interest, rather than an organ of its own opinions.  Northcliffe was a publishing baron of the popular press. When he purchased The Times in 1908., he wanted to “modernize” The Times, something that Buckle did not support.

Here is Buckle as a young man, who btw, had been a very bright student

Image result for George Earle Buckle

And Northcliffe, born Alfred Harmsorth?

Image result for Lord Northcliffe

That is a flattering image. Northcliffe was a controversial figure, as he catered to popular tastes .Heaven forbid! And powerful, he was!


Looking for a Good Insult? Look No Longer!

These are beauts!   Enjoy!

A member of Parliament to Disraeli: “Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.”

“That depends, Sir, “ said Disraeli, “whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.”

“He had delusions of adequacy.”

-Walter Kerr

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”

– Winston Churchill

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”

-Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

-William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

 “Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.”

-Moses Hadas

 “I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”

-Mark Twain

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.”

-Oscar Wilde

“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend, if you have one.”

-George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

“Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second… if there is one.”

-Winston Churchill, in response

“I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.”

-Stephen Bishop

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.”

-John Bright

“I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.”

-Irvin S. Cobb

 “He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.”

-Samuel Johnson

“He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.”

– Paul Keating

“In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.”

-Charles, Count Talleyrand

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.”

-Forrest Tucker

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?”

-Mark Twain

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.”

-Mae West

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.”

-Oscar Wilde

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts… for support rather than illumination.”

-Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.”

-Billy Wilder

 “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But I’m afraid this wasn’t it.”

-Groucho Marx