Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eric Weiner Wisdom & Musings

One of the first posts to this blog was on the excellent Eric Weiner book "The Geography of Bliss" and after following him on Twitter for a while now now I gotta say... the guy has some interesting things to say.

Point of this post is to repeat some of his said Twitter-posted insight from the last six months...

From today, Nov 30 - link to a TED talk by Weiner!

Nov 29 - "Life is too short for pettiness or bad coffee."

Nov 13 - "Death is the Universe's way of making sure we pay attention."

Nov 3 - "The only thing worse than writing is not writing."

Nov 2 - "Most things in life get easier with practice. Unfortunately, writing is not one of them."

Oct 21 - '"A writer is person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." --Thomas Mann. Amen.'

Jul 22 - "Writing is the art of taming your demons by naming them. That's why I've yet to meet a sane writer worth reading. They have no demons."

Jul 15 - "Silence may be golden but so is sound. We need the ambient chatter of others to cushion our own churning minds. That's why cafes thrive."

Jul 15 - "Never analyze enthusiasm. It's a sure way to kill it."


Ok, now that I've copied my favorite Twitter missives from Weiner, I know why I like said missives so much...

If not obvious already, I've put the one-word clue as to why in italics above.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fast Company - Twitter, Boing Boing & Gaming

Lots of interesting articles and mentions from the Dec/Jan issue of Fast Company Magazine.

Cover story was "I Want My Twitter TV!" written by Ellen McGirt. The piece looks at how the company with an incredibly popular platform may have just found a way to really monetize what they do. Very innovative and cool stuff with a big push in the area of creating community around mass media.


Also from this issue of Fast Company was a host of other things of note...

Profiled was the blog Boing Boing and it's founders/current contributors. Basic premise of the article is these guys started the blog because they wanted to write on things they found interesting... and have continued towards that exact same goal. Something to be said for this idea of doing things that give you enjoyment.

A piece titled "How Video Games Are Infiltrating—and Improving—Every Part of Our Lives" about... well, that. Pretty fascinating topic that featured content about Jane McGonigal and a famous in it's circles talk on games from Jesse Schell (video below from the TED website).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

PTSD Comfort Dogs & Other Stuff - from Time Magazine

Some interesting stuff from the Nov 22 issue of Time Magazine.

Foremost was "Bringing Dogs to Heal" about the pairing of pets with Veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's a well written piece from Mark Thompson and is accompanied by this video from Time's website...

Also from this same issue of Time was a book review of "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption". The book is about track athlete and Army Air Corps draftee Louis Zamperini and written by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand.

Finally, neither had actual articles written on the topics, but also of note from this issue was mention of three different new ventures... with the first two included in Time's "50 Top Inventions 0f 2010."

- The Flipboard iPad app

- The new Bookprint website from Scholastic. Idea behind You Are What You Read (as it's also known) is a Social Networking site noting favorite books from both public figures and everyday folk. It's an interesting concept that reminds me of the book community site Shelfari

- The Responsible Homeowner Reward Program from Loan Value Group. Started by the Howard Hubler (of the $9B in bad mortgage bets made at Morgan Stanley), underwater homeowners can sign up and then get a cash sum at the time they lay off their loan in full (after consistently making payments up to that point.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Jill Costello Sports Illustrated Profile

Such a great piece from the latest Sports Illustrated by Chris Ballard.

Titled "The Courage Of Jill Costello", it's about a remarkable student-athlete from Cal and the piece reminds me a great deal of the Dec 2009 SI piece "The Games Of Their Lives" by L. Jon Wertheim.

I posted on the Wertheim profiles of Paralympic Athletes Marin Morrison and Nick Scandone and... yea, Costello definitely reminds me of these also champion individuals.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mid-Term Election Results Considered

While I know pretty well which way my political leanings go, not a lot is written about on this blog, but I can across a couple of excellent essays that bear posting here.

From Slate was "Pelosi's Triumph: Democrats didn't lose the battle of 2010. They won it" by William Saletan. One could certainly disagree with his view, but Saletan's take is the specific election results matter not as much as the passage of health care.

On a lighter, but very similar note was the Joel Stein "Ode to Arnie" column from Time Magazine. His favorable take on California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Delaware Senator Ted Kaufman made me think of two statements from the Saletan piece... "Legislative majorities come and go" and "The big picture isn't about winning or keeping power. It's about using it."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"At Home" by Bill Bryson

I wanted to love it, I really did...

Having really enjoyed several Bill Bryson books, I looked forward to reading At Home: A Short History of Private Life, but haven't been terribly into it thus far. Actually, I've had quite the juxtaposition of experience with titles from Bryson. Some I've loved, some I've found to be simply good and some I've not been compelled enough to make it through yet.


Bryson works I'd recommend to anyone were A Walk in the Woods about journeys on the Appalachian Trail, In a Sunburned Country about Australia and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir about... well, it's a memoir.

Stuff I've simply enjoyed was I'm a Stranger Here Myself about returning to and traveling in America and one of two books set in his adopted home continent of Europe... Neither Here Nor There or Notes From a Small Island (shows the impact on me when I can't recall which I read).

In the third category of books that I didn't think were bad in any way, but also didn't hold my attention enough to finish were A Short History of Nearly Everything about science-type things, The Mother Tongue about the English language and now... At Home.


I own At Home so am confident I'll finish reading it someday, just not likely soon. I'm six chapters, or 130-some pages into the 450 page book and it's certainly well written, but the material set largely in European households in centuries past hasn't really been enthralling to me.

Just as I'll eventually finish it, I'm also interested in giving another go to A Short History of Nearly Everything... especially since there's apparently now a Special Illustrated Edition, you know... with pictures!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Writing of Profundity - by Ebert & Posnanski

Two different blog entries I've come across lately that struck me not so much for the topics covered, but the depth of the writing.

To his widely-read Chicago Sun-Times blog, Roger Ebert posted "All the Lonely People" about the masses of people on the Internet (but, really just masses of people everwhere) living through tormented, difficult and just plain lonely existences. While I didn't necessarily identify with what he wrote, I respected both the profound sentiments from Ebert and those left as comments to the blog entry.

Some 10 days after the article was posted, there's been 493 different reader reactions composed, vetted for submission and posted to the blog. I found myself scanning through and reading the ones that Ebert felt compelled to comment on, with none striking me more than that below...

By Sam Salant on November 8, 2010 10:48 AM

In December, I will have been married for 61 years to the same loving woman. For the last ten years, she's been afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, and little by little she has lost her personhood, and I,even at 87 years of age, miss the intelligence and spirited love that for so long I took for granted. She must be even lonelier than I am, except when I hold her in my arms and tell her stories about our past life. She can recall what I've said for less than ten too short seconds, but for that tiny period, we are together again. Thank you for your column, and please accept my best wishes -- both of you.

Ebert: Oh, my God, this took my breath away. What a lovely man you are.


In the same category of profound work from my favorite authors was "The Promise" on the blog of Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnanski. Similar to Ebert's piece, the content struck other's more personally than I, but it's really good stuff about Posnanski, his Dad, drudgery-based work and a Springsteen song.

The piece was described by Posnanski on his twitter page as "probably the most personal post I've written."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chris Jones on Wheel of Fortune Solve and Sgt. Joe Mongomery

Some solid writing I've come across lately from Chris Jones.

His Esquire blog featured two interesting pieces... each reminding me of past story by Jones.

"Was the Wheel of Fortune One-Letter Solve Really a Miracle?" fit squarely into the "amazing game show happenings" just as did "TV's Crowning Moment of Awesome" from Esquire earlier this year. One about guessing a puzzle, one about guessing the exact value of items in a Price is Right Showcase Showdown... both well written looks at the trivial done well to the point of seemingly impossible.


Also from the aforementioned Esquire blog was "The Breathing Ghost of Veterans Day" reminiscing back on Sergeant Joe Montgomery... subject of "The Things that Carried Him" in the May 2008 issue of Esquire.

The original piece was the first story I linked to and wrote about on this blog and still gets me when I think about it. About the journey home and steps involved when a service member is killed, it's damn straight powerful work.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

"The War for Late Night" Book Excerpt

Man, I do like me some good book excerpt. In this case, "The Unsocial Network" in Vanity Fair was taken from the Bill Carter book "The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy."

The piece (and book it's taken from) is all about the Shakespearean drama played out in early 2010 between Conan O'Brien, NBC and Jay Leno. Background is that NBC gave The Tonight Show (which always aired at 11:30 after the local news) to Conan, then inserted Jay Leno in the 10:00 hour prior to the news. Totally outside the tradition of putting an hour long drama in that time slot, NBC considered the move one that would cut costs, keep Jay in their stable and basically make themselves look brilliant.

When the newly created Jay Leno Show received horrible ratings (and The Tonight Show lagged from where it was previously), things started to get interesting... this being where the Vanity Fair excerpt picks up. Conan had nothing in his contract preventing the move NBC wanted to make so what ensued was a fascinating conflict between the players involved. Lots of financial ramifications, but what struck me from the piece was the human conflict and people's reactions.

To this end, the Vanity Fair excerpt makes reference to the Conan O'Brien authored statement that pretty much closed the door on him staying at NBC. Struck me as a well written and from the heart missive by a guy whose career in front of the camera began with him as a writer.

I can't speak for the entire book at this point, but definitely recommend the excerpt (and Conan's statement) as being worth a read.

Friday, November 05, 2010

SF Giants World Series by Joe Posnanski

Great piece I came across on CNNSI titled "An unlikely story, San Francisco finally has a World Series champion". From Joe Posnanski, the piece covers an interesting topic (at least for me), but qualifies as really good writing in that the author manages to convey key pieces of hard information (such as around World Series MVP Edgar Renteria) along with a more profound vibe of the team, the city and what it all meant.

Very cool writing.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Concussions in Football Writing

Really interesting content from a Sports Illustrated Special Report on concussions in football... which brought to mind for me some other solid writing on the topic.

The lead story was "Concussions: the hits that are changing football" by Peter King and it covered both the impact on life that football-related head trauma can cause as well as the tipping point of sorts brought about by the weekend in football Oct 16-17. Starting with Rutgers player Eric LeGrand getting paralyzed while making a hit and then continuing to a Sunday in the NFL featuring multiple violent head shots and associated injuries... the weekend brought about action from the NFL commissioners office to try to make the game safer. King details this is his story as well as looks at the reaction of players who see the league as going too far in policing physical contact.

It was a solid piece and then followed by several other related stories from the same report. The two that stood out to me related to not the violent concussion-causing hits that the NFL was attempting to curb, but rather less sensational, but perhaps more disturbing idea of kids suffering damage playing youth sports (football in these pieces, but really could be any sport involving contact and potential head trauma).

In "The Damage Done", David Epstein wrote of how simply repeated head contact (such as any high school lineman has) can impact brain functioning and the Farrell Evans piece "Early Warning" has mention of cognitive baseline testing in kids so that any trauma suffered can be diagnosed through comparative post injury testing.


From this SI report, I thought of other writing on the same two content areas noted above... headshots in the NFL and then in youth football.

From an NFL perspective, there's the Malcolm Gladwell (he of best selling Outliers, The Tipping Point, and Blink) New Yorker piece "Offensive Display: How Different are Football and Dogfighting?". Additionally, I came across the interesting Chris Jones Esquire blog post "The NFL's Meathead Chorus Needs to Grow Up" written a week after the new league rules to reduce violent headshots went into effect.

So... with all this content noted and linked to, it then begs the question of whether the NFL is taking unnecessary steps? Looking at the YouTube video below of one of the Oct 17 hits that caused all the fuss... I'd say they're on the right track.

Going back to the topic of youth football (and all youth sports)... I recall doing this Dec 2009 blog post about San Jose high school football player Matt Blea and his almost dying from a head injury (and not the big hit variety) suffered in a game.

It's a dangerous world, but within that... contact sports and particularly football can be a particularly dangerous activity.

This doesn't mean that kids should live in a bubble, not play sports or not play football, but a combination of eyes open to the danger and consideration of ways to reduce risk... all things highly in order.