Category Archives: people

Sam Shepard Passes on!

Sam Shepard was a unique figure in American culture. He was a very good looking man. NYT writes this

Like Cooper and James Dean — and let’s throw Beckett in there, too, with the beautiful hair and the minimalist outfits — Mr. Shepard had something in short supply in this time of public figures crying out for likes. And that something was coolness, a mode of presentation and expression that may have just reached its end.

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But he gave the sense that he cared less about that than you did. He was into something transcendant.  So he did stuff other than just pose for pictures and act.

And he aged well. By the time he played the grizzled American general in ” Black Hawk Down”  he had morphed into something new

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At the end of the day, you migth say that Sam Shepard was just a vey cool dude.

Thanks Sam!


Like Trump? You Will Love Pence!

July 4, 2017 –  The Trump presidency staggers forward after the Donald’s latest PR disaster. The word “self-destructive” is an understatement when used to describe Donald Trump.

So where are we headed? Let’s assume for a moment that Trump will at some point wear out his welcome in Washington. Whether he does a Nixon or is impeached and convicted, it doesn’t matter for our purposes here. We are then left with … drum roll please … President Pence.

Who is Mike Pence anyway? This article paints a rather damning picture. The only thing I know about him took place while Pence served as governor of Indiana —

(Pence’s) embrace of a “religious freedom” bill designed to propitiate business owners who wished to discriminate against gays. This antagonized the state’s business community at large, a setback exponentially amplified when, interrogated by George Stephanopoulos, Pence issued a tongue-tied nonresponse so mortifying that it rewards a look on YouTube. Shouldering Pence aside, the legislature reached a compromise to salvage Indiana’s reputation.

Here is the video

Hard Boiled Actors and Soft Boiled Lovers

As a young guy, I thought that I saw the value of a writer like Ernest Hemingway.  Ernesto was hard boiled and proud of it. And that hard boiled quality freed him — or at least it seemed to me at the time — to explore and find adventure. He was tough enough to say “So long, useless conventions and people!”! He was going to move on to greener pastures. First Paris, then Africa, then Cuba, then Ketchum. It was only much, much later that we learned that Ernest the man was less attractive than Ernest the image. Oops!

Normally one might excuse this. The author is not the character in his stories. But Hemingway made such a big deal about his attitudes towards his tough characters, one might have expected a bit more. We found out that he was less the hero and more the PR man who made up  heroes. Ooops!

Back then, worshiping at this altar was more the norm. We were still basking in the Cagney, Bogart, John Wayne era. Toughness or being hard boiled was still seen as the way to be  … and even an option for women too. I am thinking here of women like Isak Dinesen.  My dear old dad fit right into that mold. He said to me many times “Be a man!” He believed in that and he tried to live it. He thought I should too.

The sixties changed many things,  including the “free ride” that being hard boioled used to get from criticism. The anti-hero went maninstream and the anti-hero was not hard boiled at all. He and she were now soft boiled.  I think of Woody Allen in his comedic period as the classic soft boiled character.  But he is not alone. How about Dustin Hoffman’s character in “The Graduate” (1967)? Man is tha dude soft boiled! In case you don’t remember, his name was Ben Braddock.

You might even think of the sixties as an attempted escape from hard boiled attitudes.  That was the core message of one of the greatest stories from that period, Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 (1961).

You had to be crazy to fight in war (to be hard boiled), but if you realized that, you were sane and therefore you could not get a discharge from fighting.

Indeed, the need for soft boiled escape comes out clearly  in Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest” that came out in 1962. Nurse Ratched is as hard boiled as they come.  And what were those two dudes in the film “Easy Rider” escaping from if it was not the hard boiled society that they came from? Ditto for Ben and his love riding away on the bus in The Graduate. Yes, Mrs. Robinson was one hard boiled lady!

The film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967) personified how some saw the transition form hard boiled to soft boiled heroism.  Spencer Tracy  a classic hard boiled kind of dude, has to cope with his daughter’s love for a black man, played by Sidney Poitier, whom she wants to marry. Could the old hard boiled dude cope? That is really what this film is all about. And, of course, the story was a microcosm for attitudes about race in America.

In his classic speech towards the end of the film, SpencerTracy admits that he is only hard boiled on the outside.  On the inside is the softest boiled egg you will ever see! Of course, we had seen this sort of admission before. Even John Wayne fell in love from time to time. But in earlier iterations, love had to take second place to coping with the nasty world outside. That was a key part of being hard boiled!  You had to hide love – not flaunt it.  Think, for example of the famous ending speech of hard boiled Humphrey Bogart in “The Maltese Falcon”. He may be in love with a woman, but if she killed his partner, she has to be turned in! Now that is tough!

In contrast, Tracy tries to cope with the idea that his daughter and her husband will not be able to cope by being hard boiled.  They will need to be publicly in love. It is a challenge indeed. To be hard boiled enough to be soft boiled?


Adam West Shook a Mean Cape!

You had to be there.

When Adam West played Batman on American TV back in 1966. “camp” was in. And West’s Batman was very campy indeed.

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As you can see from the pic above, West was not flashing a 6 pack., And the action scenes were more like this

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Unlike our more recent indulgences in comic book stories, this iteration did not take itself very seriously.

The great thing about Adam West is that he didn’t take himself too seriously either.  He knew that after Batman he was typecast for life, and he made the most of it.  Then …

It turn(ed) out that one of (his) ’60s Batman fans, Seth MacFarlane, got his own show on Fox called Family Guy and promptly made West the mayor of the show’s fictional city of Quahog, Rhode Island. 

And Adam West took his camp seriousness to a whole new level as Mayor West. Check out the above link to see some video of West as Batman, Mayor West and in the Simsopns!

Thanks Adam!

Errr … one last thought. Watching Adam West boogaloo as Batman, I have to smile. It really was silly in the extreme. And that is what made it so popular back then. Things would get more serious just a few years later in 1968 when King and Kennedy were killed and Nixon elected.

Gambling and Life

Edward O., Thorp knows a lot about math. You would expect that from a math professor.

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You might not expect that he would use his knowledge of math to develop systems for gambling. He did that too and he became famous for it. His autobiography is “A Man for all Markets”, and Fred Wilson endorses that book.

The book is about using math to better understand and quantify the risks of taking various actions. That might sound boring. But consider this

  • For most of our history as a species, we have doggedly tried to reduce risk through the pursuit of certainty. Our fascination with religion is jus tone piece of evidence relating to this pursuit.
  • The infatuation with certainty as an ultimate value led to the 20th-century infatuation with ideology and science and quests for the ultimate meaning of everything.
  • We are just starting to realize that humans are not capable of producing certainty on demand. We have to accept uncertainty and risk as part of our systems.

In other words, looking at things from a meta perspective, we are likely to see more and more attention paid to managing risks as part of the value creation process. Less insistence on certainty. More awareness of risk linked to reward.

So are “salaries” a social good? A “tenured positions”? A “job”? All provide a modicum of security – certainty. But compared to what? If this interests you, you might do well by checking out Edward Thorp’s autobiography as part of your summer reading.

John Severson: The Surfer Artist Checks Out

To say that John Severson loved surfing would be like saying Jean Monet liked his garden.  Severson found any number of ways to enjoy the waves and to incorporate the waves into his life. Most famously, he founded Surfer Magazine back in 1962

“Before John Severson, there was no ‘surf media,’ no ‘surf industry’ and no ‘surf culture’ — at least not in the way we understand it today.”

Here he is

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And here he is

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Severson wasn’t motivated by money. He was motivated instead by the lifestyle that he could enjoy by staying connected to the waves.

He sold Surfer magazine in the early 1970s for an undisclosed amount, then returned to Hawaii to pursue his artwork, to ride big waves and to relax with his family.

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And that is pretty cool!