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Posts Tagged ‘Movies With James’

Spider-Man: Homecoming”  –  movie review
On last Wednesday, my son (James) and I went to see the recently released “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017) staring Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man and Michael Keaton as a surprisingly good villain: the “Vulture”.  Ok.  Let’s just say it…  This is THE BEST Spider-Man movie EVER!  No, it’s not particularly true to the comics from the 1960’s – they play fast and loose with some of the characters, but trust me…   This is a GREAT movie!  Of course I mean comic-book movie and not Oscar-worthy drama, but even then, it’s still pretty good.
Robert Downing Jr. has some significant cameo time as Tony Stark / Iron-Man.  Maybe a little too much…  But, I found it made up for leaving out the traditional “origin story” which should have happened in this – with it being a series re-boot and all.  Filling out the main roles: Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds (Peter’s best friend and fellow nerd), and Zendaya as Michelle (“M.J.” – Spider-Man’s future “luv” interest).  And, of course, Stan Lee has his token “minute-of-fame” / cameo.
Does the movie work?  Yes!  Holland is a better Parker than Toby Maguire and a better Spider-Man than Andrew Garfield.  For one thing, Holland actually looks like he could go to high school.  Prior versions of Parker did not.  (There, we can finally admit it.)  Junior College definitely, but not high-school.  Plus, Holland plays both Spider-Man and Peter as a kind-of goofy teenager.  So, the main actor was a good match to the role.
How about the special effects?  Okay, not so great.  The costume was blurry against the green-screen “most” of the time.  Did it hurt the movie?  No.  At least I didn’t mind it (too much).  Action?  Got it in spades!  History?  The building lift scene is almost exactly the way I remember it from the comic book 40+ years ago…  Awesome!
Final recommendation and what’s next?  This is a great summer action movie!  Highly recommended!  Bring on Civil War II, Thor, the Black Panther and the next Avengers movie…  I can hardly wait.
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On This Day In:
2016 The Responsibility Of Freedom
2015 Face It
Birdfight
2014 Honoring Firefighters
2013 And Never Will
2012 The Human Adventure Continues
2011 Almost Never

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Deadpool  —  movie review
Today I took my son James to see the new movie from Marvel Studios, “Deadpool” (2016).  This movie is rated “R” and for very good reasons: violence, nudity and language.  Of the three, the most egregious is the language, followed by the violence and then a distant third is nudity.  Obviously, it’s a comic-book movie and “kind of” a rom-com, but I would more accurately describe it as an action (violence) based dark comedy.  Most of the “comedy” is from the scripted lines spoken by the main character Wade Wilson / Deadpool – played by Green Lantern, I mean Ryan Reynolds.
This is clearly the first in a series, so of course, this is the origin story told in a series of flashbacks.  Blah, blah, “hero” does small “job”, meets girlfriend, love ensues, “hero” is diagnosed with terminal / inoperable cancer and advised to get his things in order.   Blah, blah, “bad-guy” is introduced, torture of hero follows.  Hero escapes and tries to track down the bad guy.  Hero kills a lot of people and blows stuff up.  Bad-guy gets away and kidnaps hero’s love interest.  Blah, blah, big fight, hero wins and saves girlfriend.
So, is the movie any good and what about the “R” rating?  This is a surprisingly good movie and Reynolds, I mean Green Lantern, seems to be perfect for the role.  Because so much of the humor is oral / spoken, you really have to pay attention to the movie.  How strange is that?  You’re paying attention to the movie so you can catch the jokes, not because the movie is all that interesting!   It is (interesting).  But that is not why you’re paying attention.  Either way, it works.  I enjoyed the movie a lot.
What about the big three?  Well, in (severity) reverse order, the nudity isn’t that big a deal.  I only really remember one bar scene with nude dancers.  Oh, yeah, they show Reynolds’ tush a couple of times.  Bad language, yeah, there is quite a bit of that.  Is it “really” bad?  I’ve heard worse.  Did it spoil the movie for me?  Not at all.  What about the violence?  There is quite a bit of that, too.  But, and this is the BIG qualifier, I didn’t find it to be as gratuitous as I’ve seen in some movies – actually, many movies.  I would say it’s easily on a par with “Watchmen“, the two “300” movies or “Sin City“, but not as bad as the “Kill Bill” movies.  None of this is to excuse the reasons for the “R” rating, merely to put them in context with other similar movies.
Final recommendation – strong but with the qualifications that this movie is definitely not for children just because it is a comic book hero movie.  As the “hero” says in some of the promos: “this is not that kind of hero movie.”  Not as good a movie as “Guardians of the Galaxy” for non-mainstream tier comics,  but a very good addition to the “adult” comic hero movie genre.
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On This Day In:
2015 Within The System
2014 None But…
2013 Obviously Longer
2012 A Childhood Poem
Who Are You Callin’ Leather-Faced?
2011 In No Particular Order
The Need For Proof

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Creed”  —  movie review
On Tuesday I went to see the new “Rocky Balboa” movie with my son (James).  My son is a BIG fan of the series, owns the DVDs and has many of the lines committed to memory.  So, we went to see the seventh episode in the life of Rocky.  The title character is Michael B. Jordan playing Adonis Johnson Creed, Apollo Creed’s son, with Sylvester Stallone reprising the role of Rocky Balboa.  For those of you living in a cave for the last 40 years, Apollo Creed was the boxer Rocky fights in the first and second movies in the series.  Supposedly, the Apollo character is loosely based on Mohammed Ali and Rocky is loosely based on Rocky Marciano.  Adonis (“Donny”)  needs a coach and mentor – two guesses who he picks…
Anyway, all of the Rocky movies follow a standard MO – be tough but show human frailty, train hard, struggle heroically and win or lose you can still be a champion.  This movie follows the rules and touches all the bases.  It is an excellent addition to the series.  Both James and I really enjoyed it.
As with all of the movies you have to suspend belief in reality (or have little to no idea how punishing boxing really is), but the Rocky series is not really about boxing.  What it (each movie and the series in total) is really about is facing life and the challenges it can throw at you and how you deal with them.  This spirit of human endurance and the will to move forward despite all punishment while at the same time remaining a decent person is what “makes” the Rocky Balboa character a cinematic icon.
Final recommendation: highly recommended – particularly if you are a fan of the character, the series or the genre.  You will find this a welcome addition and enjoy the story, the acting and the final fight.
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On This Day In:
2014 Game And Legend
“Scientific” Pride In Humanity
2013 Real Honor
Catching Up
2012 Thoughts And Communications
2011 But How Does Peter Feel?
2010 Name That Regret

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Today I took my son (James) and his girlfriend (Natasha) to see the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie which was just released yesterday.  Definitely two thumbs up!!
This was a rare (for me) entry into a comic-movie with no back-knowledge of the primary characters despite the fact their initial appearance (in comics) was during my prime comic collecting years (1965 to 1975).  I honestly don’t remember them at all.
So, what’s good?  To start off – it’s funny.  I laughed out loud several times!  And I chuckled or smiled a whole lot more times.  Next, the action.  It’s a fast paced movie and I certainly didn’t feel like it was a two hour movie (at least, until I had to sit through the credits waiting for the final Easter egg).  Third, the story and acting.  Basically, the story is about folks deciding to “BE” heroes.  They make a conscious decision and accept a personal recognition of the probable outcome of being a hero – we all have short life-spans anyway.  The acting is good enough that I was able to set aside the “fantasy” of the movie and identify with the individual Guardians.  That is very difficult in most run of the mill “people” movies, let alone in a “space-adventure” comic book / super-hero movie.  Finally, the special effects and cinematography are very good.  It’s well shot and I never felt like I was too close to the action to see it “all” happening (like in most of the Transformer movies), or too far away so I felt like I couldn’t really make out what was happening (like the final battle of Independence Day or the multi-IronMan suit battle at the end of IronMan III).
Final recommendation – this is a must see movie if you are into ANY of the following genres: Sci-Fi, special effects, comic book adaptations, good versus evil, or just all-out action movies.  I thoroughly enjoyed it!
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On This Day In:
2013 Little Lives
2012 Evolution
2011 Excellence At Performance = 10,000 Hours
2009 A Brief Poem…
Crater Lake Trip with James

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At the start of the month, I went to see “Captain America: The Winter Soldier“, starring Chris Evans (Steve Rogers / Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes / The Winter Soldier), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson / the Falcon), and Samuel Jackson (Nick Fury).  This is the sequel to the 2011 film, “Captain America: The First Avenger“, also starring Chris Evans in the title role.
If you’ve been following this blog for any reasonable length of time, you know by now that I was a big comic book reader while growing up and am now a big comic book-movie follower (and buyer), so I admit to a certain amount of bias in my reviews of this genre of movie.  Having said that, this is definitely one of the best of all the comic book based movies ever made.  Although lacking some of the originality of the first movie, this sequel more than makes up for it with a much deeper storyline / plot while maintaining its roots as an action movie (lots of fights and explosions).
The sub-textual plot is what does a “good man” do when faced with a world of gray shadows and it’s hard to tell if what you’re doing is “right” (morally).  Well, if you’re Captain America, you stand with your friends to bring truth out into the light.
The main plot is the fight between good and evil where the “good” is represented by SHIELD – an agency supposedly dedicated to preserving peace and freedom, and Hydra – the “bad” organization, dedicated to the subjugation of the common man for the benefits of the few who are holding power.  SHIELD has been infiltrated by Hydra and just as Hydra is about to initiate their ultimate “security” weapon, all heck breaks out (in the form of Cap and his friends).
As this is fairly early in the movie’s release cycle, I won’t give away too many spoilers.  All I can say is that you have to set aside your old notions of Cap as a suped-up normal person.  This movie version of Captain America is far more “super” than “normal”.  But if you can set aside common sense about things like – oh, gravity and the effects of sudden stops on the human body, for example – just for a couple of hours, this is a very entertaining film.
One of the things I particularly liked about this film was the subdued patriotism in favor of moral values.  In other words, it is less “my country, right or wrong” and more “this isn’t freedom, this is fear” symbolism.  This is visually captured by Cap’s change from a black and silver/grey uniform at the start of the movie to his traditional red-white-and-blue uniform for the final third of the movie.  In essence, he takes off the “fear” and returns to the inspiration of “freedom” as the justification for his heroic actions.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended!!  This movie works on many levels – action / adventure, sci-fi, political intrigue, and, of course, comic book heroism.  (And let’s not forget to say as a lead-in / promo for future Marvel comic book / movies.)  I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and look forward to seeing it come out on DVD.  Heck, I may even go see it again at the theater.  Now, I can’t wait for SpiderMan and Avengers 2!!
By the way, I went to see this movie with my son James, who is also a big comic book and comic-movie fan.  I treated him for his birthday.
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On This Day In:
2013 Remembering Val
2012 Good-bye, Val
Survival Value
2011 Traitors In Our Midst
Life Ain’t Easy

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Back on 17 July 2010, I added two pages for two of my favorite poems (sonnets) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  I also added a post (Browning…) which included a little poem I used to read on the bus going to school.  I noted in the post that I wasn’t sure I was remembering it correctly (or well), but it now seems I got it pretty close.
Today I was going through one of my old journals and found the source and then was able to look up the whole of the poem – which I have also added as a page off of my Poems tab.
The poem seems to go by a couple of different names.  One is “Song” and the other is the first line of the poem: “I prithee send me back my heart”.  The author is Sir John Suckling.
The particular verse I really like is:
But love is such a mystery,
I cannot find it out:
For when I think I’m best resolv’d,
I then am in most doubt.
It turns out the other verses are fairly good too.  Anyway, I hope you have a moment to enjoy the poem (and maybe take a second look at Browning’s sonnets).
Hammerin’:
Tonight I finally got around to watching the “Thor” DVD my son (James) gave me for Christmas.  We saw the movie when it was out at the cinema and both enjoyed it.  I actually think I liked the movie more this time.  I seemed to follow the story more and got more out of the dialogue (which was actually pretty funny).  I did find the movie did not translate to the smaller screen as well, though – particularly the scenes in Asgard.  Strangely enough, the scenes where Thor uses Mjolnir (his magic hammer) seemed more realistic on the smaller screen than they did at the theater.  So, like I said, mixed reactions, but I enjoyed it.
More good news:
I got off the phone with my brother who reports his doctor got the final results of the biopsy on his throat and it confirmed the preliminary finding – there is no cancer in his lymph nodes.  Very good news to start the weekend.
And lastly: Go Niners, beat the NY Giants!!!
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Book Review:
Today I finished “The Meaning Of It All – Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist“, by Richard P. Feynman (1998©).  The book is a transcript of three lectures Dr. Feynman gave in 1963 at the University of Washington in Seattle.  The lectures are themselves titled: “The Uncertainty of Science“, “The Uncertainty of Values“, and “This Unscientific Age“.  The lectures provide insight into the Dr. Feynman’s (a Nobel laureate in physics) views on the nature and limits of science, religion and politics.
Feynman is one of the men who worked on “The Manhattan Project” which developed the atomic bombs dropped on Japan which ended the war (WWII) in the Pacific.  Feynman’s name is mentioned frequently whenever someone talks about the greatest scientific minds of the 20th century.  It appears from this book, that he has a terrific way with words to go along with his intellect.  The speeches were fairly informal (even amusing – not quite funny), but still offered much to ponder about – particularly about science and religion.
I particularly like his openly stated views on the limits of science in explaining things – basically, science only applies when you can think of a problem and a method of testing the problem for possible solutions.  Science can’t be applied to faith and therefore not to religion.   He accepts that others can find comfort in faith.  As a believer in God, it is refreshing to not be looked down on by someone who is a scientist.  Having said this, it is, I think, important to state that lots of scientists are also religious.
Anyway, the book is fairly short (about 200 pages) and is a very fast read – although as I said, it is full of things you will find yourself thinking about later (or during) after you’ve finished the book.  I know I will.  And, yes, you’ll be seeing some quotes in the coming days.
Movie Review:
Last night, I re-watched “Percy Jackson & the Olympians“.  I’ve read the book series and saw the movie with my son quite some time back.  He saw it at the theater.  I’ve only seen it on DVD.  Anyway, I watched it again to see what I thought.  I had very mixed reactions.  I was less impressed by the acting and more impressed by the special effects.  The story in the movie was less in sync with the book (as I remember it).  All in all, I’d say it was not as good as “Transformers” and about the same as “I Am Number Four“.  Basically, okay, but not great.  Entertaining, but not “I’ll really look forward to watching that again next year.”
Other bits and bobs:
James hung around for a BBQ this evening (Sunday).  I wanted to go out, but he wanted to eat in so I went and got us a couple of pork steaks.  Hil had a beef steak and Sarah had a couple of dogs.  It was real nice just hanging out with him and chatting.
I was chatting with Hil afterwards and we’re going to miss them when they are all gone and we’re on our own.  That’s not to say I’m not looking forward to it, but time does fly and your kids are all up and grown.
Sarah has started junior college and seems to be enjoying it.  She’ll probably be there for three years with all the cutbacks in classes.  Time passes…
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Today, James and I went to see “Pirates of the Caribbean (4): On Stranger Tides“.  It’s another of the summer block-busters and it’s basically pure Disney entertainment.  The reviews I saw were BAD, but the movie I saw was good…  Go figure!  It doesn’t have the originality of the first and it’s missing two of the three main characters, but the main man (Johnny Depp) aka Captain Jack Sparrow is there and he pretty much carries the movie.  The romantic interest is played by Penelope Cruz and she’s ok.  The camera still loves her, but they are both just a little too old for these roles.  The action is not as swashbuckling as in prior editions, but it’s still ok.  I say that because the scenes seem to lack the spontaneity of the first two.  Like the third, they are starting to become set pieces always calling forth the Pirates Theme music.  Still, both James and I found it very entertaining and a good summer flick.  I’ll definitely add it to the other three when it comes out on DVD.
I’ve added three songs to my Poems page: Patches, This Ain’t Nothin’ and Tough.  The first (Patches) is a song I remember from my teens (1970 – although it seems like it’s from an earlier time).  Some vague memory came back to me and I looked it up on Google and YouTube and found it.  The song was originally performed by Chairmen of the Board, but it’s the Clarence Carter version which I remember.  His voice still haunts me when I hear this song today.  If you’re too young to know this song, you have GOT to go listen to it on YouTube!  (Check out the lyrics first…)
The second and third songs are performed by Craig Morgan.  He’s not a real big country star on my radar (yet).  I guess because he’s only been around for about ten years, but he keeps putting out songs I like.  These two are about loss (“Nothin’“) and almost losing (“Tough“) and what really matters most in life.  I admit I’m a softy and both of these songs make me cry.
Enjoy!!
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Movie Review:
James and I went to the movies this afternoon to see “Priest“.  This was a movie I thought I wanted to see for some time.  It’s been advertised as a coming attraction for several months now.  Then, last night and this morning I lost my taste for it because I’d read some reviews and they were pretty bad.  Well, we went anyway and it was a pretty good movie!  Not terrific.  Not life-changing.  But definitely a good, entertaining summer action movie.
I gather the movie is based on some graphic novel and the movie is clearly set up to be the start of a franchise (which I would definitely see at least one more of).  I wanted to see it because I recognized the star (Paul Bettany) from the movie: “The DaVinci Code“.   I thought he was weird in the role of a monk-assassin, but it was strangely suitable.  I wanted to see this movie to see if that was a fluke or if he is an actor I want to watch out for.  After “Priest“, I think I need to see a lot more of his work, because he was again excellent in this role.
Now, don’t get me wrong, vampire movies are not normally my thing (although I have enjoyed the “Underworld” series).  But, this was (for me) an interesting and entertaining movie.  Like most “comic” book adaptation, it doesn’t bear close logical scrutiny – but for the price of a matinée ticket, it is a good way to spend an afternoon.
Book Review:
Today, I also finished a book: “If Not Now, When?“, written by Colonel Jack Jacobs (Ret.) and Douglas Century (2008).   Colonel Jacobs is a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient for action during the Vietnam War.  The sub-title is: “Duty and Sacrifice in America’s Time of Need“.
The book is autobiographical and it is incredibly funny, touching and up-lifting —  all at the same time.  This was another of the $2 books I’ve gotten at Half-Price books and I can honestly say this was among the two of the best dollars I’ve ever spent in my life.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the type of person America and the U.S. military can produce – and what type of man goes on to earn a Medal of Honor.
I will be using the book as a source for many quotes.  Just a terrific read!!
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It’s another hot day here in Concord, CA.  Sooooo,…  I went to the movies again!
This time I went with my oldest daughter (Rebecca) and my son (James).  We went to see “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice“.  It’s a Disney flick, so it’s kids appropriate (both of mine are in their 20’s), but we still really enjoyed it.  If you’ve ever seen the classic Disney film, “Fantasia“, you already have a good idea what the film is about.  As a matter of fact, one main scene is lifted right from Fantasia.  But in the end, who cares?!  It’s a light, summer, good-time movie.  It’s got decent special effects, a decent plot (it’s a kids summer movie – don’t think about it too hard!), the acting is ok, I found myself rooting for the new apprentice, it has a formulaic happy ending (again, so what – it’s Disney!), and it IS entertaining.
The ONLY bad thing about the movie was seeing it the day after viewing “adult-fare” “Inception“, “Apprentice” doesn’t compare well with “Inception” at any level except the special effects.   Still, I would definitely recommend both for the big screen and I will be buying both when they come out on DVD.
Hil and I went out for a very nice Thai dinner after I dropped the kids off.  All in all, a pretty good weekend!
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Today, I went to see the new “DiCaprio” movie: “Inception” with my son, James.  We both really enjoyed it!  This is definitely a movie to see at a theater.  A small screen, even a 50+ inch TV will not do it justice.  The acting is terrific (and I’ve never been a DiCaprio fan) and the special effects are “Matrix” like in so much as they are integral to the movie and not just there to sell a summer action flic/movie.  This is a MUST SEE movie!!
As for the “concept” of inception, I find it amusing there is now a movie about planting ideas in people’s heads.  I always thought that is what entertainment AND education were all about…
I’ve added quite a few items to my poems / lyrics page today.  Two of them, “If” and “Invictus” are (to me) classics of the English language.  The first, (“If”) is obviously about some of the things you (any male or female) has to be able to do to consider themself a “adult”.  I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to be “grown-up”, let alone “old”, but I have always wanted to be (in my own opinion of myself) the person this poem describes.
The second, “Invictus” is similar in theme, but also subtly different.  I like it because it is not about “hope” (there are many songs and poems about hope) or rising to a new level, it is instead a cry of defiance: “I thank whatever gods may be, for my unconquerable soul.”  It is a refusal to be beaten down.  (Anyone living a life of quiet desperation??)
The third addition, “Affirmation“, is another of the songs I first heard in Saudi and came to love.  Probably half the lines mean something to me personally.  That says something when a single song can touch you at so many different points.  The CD (the group is “Savage Garden”) actually has several GREAT songs on it and is well worth purchasing if you get the chance.
Gimme Three Steps” is one of those simple, likeable songs that “seeps” into your consciousness and keeps repeating until it’s almost in your genetic code.  …And it’s such a “Southern” song.  I want to visit “The Jug”.  It’s a shame the accident killed so much of the original Lynard Skynard group.  I have to wonder how much more great Southern Rock they might have produced.
Have Gun Will Travel” was a black and white TV show from my childhood.  Every episode was about right and wrong, good and evil, and “men” facing up to whatever is required to make things right.  It was also my first exposure (that I recall) to the concept of the Renaissance Man.  The multi-lingual, classically educated and cultured, well-read, martial artist who at one moment is dressed as a “dandy” and the next becomes the “Man In Black”.  You can find the episodes on Country channels and Old TV channels.  I highly recommend watching them if you ever get the chance.  The theme song is only on at the closing credits – when the hero cowboy rides away into the distance (naturally).   I never said the show’s message was subtle!!  I have the first three seasons on DVD.  Unfortunately, the owners of the series have decided to screw their public and broken up the fourth season in to two sets so they can try to squeeze a few extra dollars out of the show’s fan base.  I’m waiting for a consolidated set of discs before I buy the latest season (four).
In MyRoom” is one of many hits from the Beach Boys.  I’m continually amazed at how many hits they had, and yet, they never won a major award (Grammy, are you listening?)  Anyway, this is just one of many of their songs which I love.  This one, in contrast to most of their fun, uplifting songs is a slower, more melancholy song.  But anyone who has spent more than a few moments alone can appreciate the haunting lyrics.  Again, with this song, read the lyrics – then go listen to the song.  The music compliments the words as it always does in great songs.
Finally, there is “Just My Imagination“.  I have so many favorite R&B songs and groups – it’s hard to start saying I really like one more than another.  No, it really isn’t THAT hard – the Temptations ROCK and are my favorite R&B group of all time!!  Anyone who has ever sat at window and seen “the girl next door” stroll by and day-dream about what might be will know exactly how it feels to be in this song.
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Memorial Day Weekend —  Three days off to relax!
At church, Father Joe said his last 1200 Mass for us.  He has finished his masters degree in Berkeley and is heading back to Malaysia.  Hil and I will miss him.  His sermons were always about Love.  Love for God and love for each other.  His final sermon was about fear of change and the unknown.  We were both struck by how this was an intensely personal statement about himself couched in a message of reassurance for the rest of us.
James went to mass with us.  It was his first time in a couple of years.
Saturday, I went to the movies with James.  We went to see “The Prince of Persia“.  It was a summer action movie about a poor child who is adopted by a King and who then goes forwards and then back thru time to save the kingdom.  Very entertaining.  I look forward to it coming out in DVD so I can see it again.
Yesterday, 30 May 2010, I finished reading “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance“, by Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. (2002).  I had seen the book in the used bookstore several times, but never picked it up because my past experience is these books always end up being self-serving autobiographies.  Then, about six weeks ago, I saw the book on a list of the 100 greatest business books ever written.  This piqued my curiosity and I decided to pick it up the next time I saw it.  I ended up looking for it several times (and places) before I finally found it.  Anyway, I found it this week and dove in.
I have to admit I was both correct – it is self-serving – and I don’t care because it is both very well written and offered me some thoughtful moments.  I must admit any book which can make me consider a point vis-a-vis conditions within SSA, is a book I will review positively.  I will offer a few quotes:
“Successful institutions almost always develop stong cultures that reinforce those elements that make the institution great.  They reflect the environment from which they emerged.  When that environment shifts, it is very hard for the culture to change.  In fact, it becomes an enormous impediment to the institution’s ability to adapt.”
“The truth is that no large enterprise can work without bureaucracy.  Bureaucrats, or staff people, provide coordination among disparate line organizations; establish and enforce corporate-wide strategies that allow the enterprise to avoid duplication, confusion, and conflict; and provide highly specialized skills that cannot be duplicated because of cost or simply the shortage of available resources.”
“I’ve never been certain that I can abstract from my experiences a handful of lessons that others can apply to their own situations.”
“A successful, focused enterprise is one that has developed a deep understanding of its customers’  needs, its competitive environment, and its economic realities.”
“Execution —  getting the task done, making it happen — is the most unappreciated skill of an effective business leader.”
“Great institutions are not managed; they are led.  They are not administered; they are driven to ever-increasing levels of accomplishment by individuals who are passionate about winning.”
“Most of all, personal leadership is about passion.”
“Thus, what every CEO has to do is decide what is going to be uniquely local (decentralized) and what is going to be common in his or her enterprise.”
“Great institutions balance common shared activities with highly localized, unique activities.”
Ok.  Having said how good the writing was and having listed a few quotes, what did I find “wrong” with the work?  To start off with there is an assumption that value in big organizations comes from systems and procedures.  Gerstner downplays this assumption by repeatedly discussing all of the great individuals he worked with.  But in the end, it is the big customer which must implement the technology (internet) before the value can reach the individual customer.  I’m not sure I agree with this.  Anybody can buy a shoe at a store – on-line or in bricks and mortar.  We don’t need the internet for that.  Knowledge, though, that is different.  The more widely we can make knowledge (facts and opinions, but not lies) accessible, the greater all societies will be.  It is the PC and the internet which are driving this phenomena, not the ability to buy shoes or jeans.  I’m not dismissing the value of on-line shopping for businesses or individuals, I’m just trying to establish where I place real value.
Of course, the process of posting to the internet does not differentiate between facts, opinions and lies – but that is another discussion.  The fact that buying and selling shoes and jeans is what ultimately pays to keep the internet up and running is also something for another day.
Ultimately, the most interesting part of the book is the infrequent mentioning of research and implementation.  Where a product cannot be driven to market in a timely manner, it needs to be leveraged by “selling” the use to others who will drive the product to market.  Essentially, this and the effort to make IBM a system integrator and service supplier are the key ideas for any company based on true intelligence / knowledge.  “We know how things work together.  We make some (most) of the parts (especially the big, expensive parts,) and what we don’t make we can help you buy and put together.  You pay some for what we make, but you pay most for what we know.”  [That is me, not Mr. Gerstner being quoted.]
I have to agree, this is a true growth industry and one that a large multinational corporation can make a lot of money from.
Today I went to REI and (finally) got myself a pair of Vibram FiveFingers (KSO).  They are SOOOOOO cool!!!  I wore them home from the store and they are extremely comfortable.  The biggest downside is the price: $85.  So, this is probably the only pair I’ll ever own.  But in the meantime, they are COOL!  Black and gray with cammo bottoms.
I will continue my current test pair, but I can’t wait to start logging some miles in the KSO’s.
Incidentally, last night I ran 240 minutes – about 7ish miles.  My feet feel good and my Achilles are a little tender but not bad.  Otherwise, I feel great!  And there was virtually no wear on the Delta Water Socks (the test pair).
Also today, I picked up and watched “Paper Chase“.  It’s a movie about a first year law student at Harvard.  I first saw it when I was in my 20s and I’ve wanted to get it for ages.  I couldn’t wait to get home and watch it.  Review: Even after all these years, it’s still EXCELLENT!!  John Houseman rocks as Professor Kingsfield.  He got an Oscar for his performance.
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