Category Archives: people

Leadership Lessons!

Leadership is one of those words that endlessly fascinate. What makes a leader? What does a leader actually do? How can we measure leadership success or failure?

Unfortunately, we do not have settled answers to these questions. If we dud, we might have more success in making policy choices  So it may be useful to reflect for a moment on how great leadership has been exercised.

This video attempts to do that, using  Winston Churchill  as a case study,  As a Churchill buff, i found the video to be quite entertaining! Enjoy!

Remembering Marie.Antoine Carême

Have you ever wondered how our modern kitchen routines got started? For example, who were the first celebrity chefs? How did they achieve their status?

If you are intrigued by these questions, the check out the life of Marie-Antoine Carême, the first celebrity chef.   How is this to get the story started

The bustling Paris streets were rutted and caked in thick mud, but there was always a breathtaking sight to behold in the shop windows of Patisserie de la Rue de la Paix. By 1814, people crowded outside the bakery, straining for a glimpse of the latest confection created by the young chef who worked inside.

Yup. It was the young Carême. What were the people looking at?

Carême fashioned edible replicas of the late 18th century’s most famous buildings — crumbled confectionery ruins of ancient Athens and pastry towers of Chinese fortresses with flowing trellises of appetizing greenery. Bailly displayed these opulent creations — often as large as 4 feet tall — in his bakery window.

And he was still just a teenager. He went on to cook for diplomats, kings, and Napoleon as well. He also wrote cookbooks that set the standard for the day.

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Very cool!

Remembering Harold Nicolson

Nicolson is most remembered as the husband of Vita Sackville West.  This is a famous photo of them

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Harold is on the far left, Vita next to him, but more connected to the woman on her left, Rosamund Grosvenor, her lover at the time.

Are you shocked? Well, that is just the tip of the iceberg when it game to their sexuauty and relationship Their grandson writes

When they were engaged, early in 1912, each of them knew they were homosexual, but neither told the other. Homosexual acts were illegal at the time, but their marriage was not an act of concealment or conventionality. They had quite simply fallen in love with each other.

And both went on to pursue numerous affairs. Nicolson did it for fun. it was not serious. Vita did it for passion. It was deadly serious for her. And the odd thing is hat through it all, their love for each other was sustained. Not just tolerance, but true affection.

So much for convention. But in a  way both of them were conventional, especially Harold. He was a diplomat and believed i in a precise reporting of the people involved in making high decisions.

.This comment about Nicolson’s writing on Lord Curzon gives the flavor of his writing

(Nioclons) is right no doubt in his main thesis, that the Marquis was unequalled in his knowledge of the past and his grasp of the present, but defective in both imagination and decision as regards the future.

Oops! Not a condemnation, but an honest appraisal. in light of what was needed.  That precision, I think, is highly valuable.

My favorite story about Nicolson and Curzon goes like this. Nicolson was assisting Curzon at the Paris Peace talks after the First World War.  One day, as he was dressing, he realized that it was his 25th birthday. How to celebrate? He decided to wear a rather brightly colored tie. Curzon met him in the corridor at work and said something of this order

“Nicolson, that tie!”

Nicolson replied, “It is my 25th birthday today, my lord.”

Curzon looked for a second and said “Ah yes, 25. What was I doing when I was 25? Right. Viceroy of India.” and he walked on.

Just so.

Tina Brown and the Kardashian Camelot

Tina Brown is not stupid. She knows a lot about you and me. Things that we might be a bit squeamish about, but that are there none the less. She said this about the Trump election

… it’s fair to say that every time I saw Trump walk across the stage with the family, I thought: my God, they look like the Kardashian Camelot. Beautiful girls married to good-looking guys; the big patriarch with the private plane. I mean, it’s Dyyy-nasty. That is a show people want to watch. Do they want to watch a show with the Clintons earnestly discussing healthcare? No, they don’t. They want a show about making it.”

One must admit that Tina has a way with words. At the same time, we might note as well that Trump’s election is exactly the type of story that she loves – a soap opera where reality comes out looking like a cartoon.  Moreover, the majority of American voters did not want to watch Trump at all.

And as I said, she is not stupid. We are, after all, part of the hyped up generation. And Tina Brown is one of the great hyper uppers around.

Kirk Douglas Turns 100

Douglas had an incredible Hollywood career. but not everything went he way.

Having bought the rights to Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in the 1960s, he himself played the lead for its Broadway adaptation: McMurphy, the subversive wild-man imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital. For years, he struggled to raise the money for a film version. His son Michael took over as producer and, in the early 70s, brought his dad good news and bad news. The film would get made, but with the younger hotshot Jack Nicholson in the lead. It was a uniquely painful moment for both father and son. Kirk Douglas’s A-list moment had passed.

But what an A lister he was! Check out the Guardian article to celebrate his 100 birthday!

And remember Douglas’s great film Spartacus? The screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo, a man who no one in Hollywood would work with. He had been blacklisted during the McCarthy  days. Douglas broke the blacklist.

HBD Kirk!

Remembering Alexis Soyer

Who was this great man? Kate Young writes

If you wrote him as a character, your audience wouldn’t believe him for a moment. A gifted chef, he was born and trained in France before moving to England in 1830. He became one of the first ‘celebrity chefs’ in London. He was the chef de cuisine at the Reform Club for 13 years; some of his dishes are still on the menu. He revolutionised the kitchens during his time there, introducing gas hobs, ovens with adjustable temperatures and refrigeration. Outside of the kitchen, he wrote books, developed menus for and worked in soup kitchens during the Irish famine, worked with Florence Nightingale to improve cooking in military hospitals, and invented a simple cooking stove used by all British soldiers from the Crimean War into the 1980s. He is unquestionably an extraordinary character.

BTW, have you ever wondered how the “celebrity chef” phenomenon evolved? After all, chefs were once considered to be servants

Under the ancien régime, chefs had long been lowly, largely itinerant domestic servants, giving rise to a persistent vision of them as comical, subservient figures, which survived well into the post-revolutionary period, in popular and humorous contexts,

It was in the early 10th century that  a select few morphed into public figures. Alexis Soyer was among the early innovators.  He was born and trained in France. In 1830,  he was employed in the kitchens of the foreign office.  And then revolution swept across Europe. We only dimly remember that one, but it was a very big deal at the time. And it was followed by the revolution of 1848-No mon ami, the 19th century was not boring.

Back to Paris at the foreign office kitchens. The mob burst in and …

The cooks were driven from the palace, and in the flight two of Soyer’s confrères were shot before his eyes, and he himself only escaped through his presence of mind, in beginning to sing ‘la Marseillaise’ et ‘la Parisienne;’ when he was in consequence carried off amid the cheers of the mob.

Time to head for London. And there, he cut quite a figure.

Soyer …  would make his reputation, notably as chef of London’s prestigious Reform Club from 1837 to 1850. But his close call during the July Revolution remains an oddly revealing point of departure for his later, successful career. Casting him in the suggestive role of the faux-revolutionary, it already offers a glimpse at his general propensity for theatrics; his talent for rallying the public, and for making the most of unlikely opportunities; as well as his ambivalent class status and loyalty. A modestly-born opportunist, slaving away in service to the upper crust, and belting out Rouget de Lisle’s or Casimir Delavigne’s rabble-rousing lyrics at gunpoint, he appears at once a man of the people and lackey of the elite.

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A revolutionary Victorian? Sacre bleu!

Back to Kat Young at the Guardian. She prepares Soyey’s omelette as depicted in “The Devil’s Feat”. Not bad!