Saturday, December 31, 2016
Music for drinking a glass of wine and staring into the fire in the fireplace for a half hour...................
The Allman Brothers..............................................Mountain Jam
Culture is the invisible force on which innovation depends. We like to pin the mantle of invention on individuals, not circumstances. We anoint heroes and tell their stories. Yet innovation is a collective undertaking. It is as much the product of circumstance as of genius. There is a spirit to it. Preserving that culture and spirit at Pixar was very, very important...
Corporations are a lot like living creatures. They have personalities, emotions, and habits. The person at the top might seem to be calling the shots but is often imprisoned in a culture he or she can do little to change. As corporations succeed, they generally become more conservative. The flames of creativity on which a company is built can easily cool as pressures to perform mount. Success brings something to defend, something to lose. Fear can easily trump courage.
In my days as a lawyer representing start-ups doing deals with large corporations, I had observed how the giant East Coast technology companies like IBM and Digital Equipment Corporation that once ruled the high tech world had evolved into hierarchical, formal cultures. Orders came from the top. Lines of communication were rigid. Coloring outside the lines was shunned. Their organizations became politicized. The most progressive, innovative contributors did not necessarily rise to the top. Excessive hierarchy and bureaucracy were like a death blow to innovation. I knew at Pixar we had to avoid this.
-Lawrence Levy, as excerpted from To Pixar And Beyond; My Unlikely Journey With Steve Jobs To Make Entertainment History
Now, some might say it was easy to cede creative control when you have someone like John Lasseter on your team. But in my experience it is never easy. And it was certainly never easy for Pixar. Every one of Pixar's films went through a series of hair-raising creative crises that repeatedly tested out decision. Creative excellence is a dance on the precipice of failure, a battle against the allure of safety. There are no shortcuts, no formulas, no well-worn paths to victory. It tests you constantly.
But I felt really proud of our decision. We had chosen to truly empower talent, to send a signal to Pixar's creative leaders that we trusted them. I cannot say this approach would be right for every company. But I can say that whether you are making bottled water, mobile games, or computer chips, the decision of who has control over the creative elements is among the most important any team will make. Fear and ego conspire to rein in creativity, and it is easy to allow creative inspiration to take a back seat to safety. It is one thing to cite the adage "Story is king." It is another thing entirely to live by it.
-Lawrence Levy, as extracted from To Pixar And Beyond: My Unlikely Journey With Steve Jobs To Make Entertainment History
The laws of physics suggest we cannot go in one direction forever. Sooner or later, something will slow us down. Whether it be stocks, housing prices, economics, or entire civilizations, even the biggest booms stall. We build castles, churches, and monuments believing they will last forever, our perception of solidity often belies an underlying movement that is difficult to perceive. Sometimes we can see the wave of change coming. But more often we are swept along in it.
-Lawrence Levy, as excerpted from To Pixar And Beyond: My Unlikely Journey With Steve Jobs To Make Entertainment History
Entrepreneurial risk taking and trial-and-error learning are all we have. Nothing else come close.
-Peter Gordon, as culled from here
Friday, December 30, 2016
....................I look forward to reading everyday. Althouse is one of those. Exhibit A for why that is a good idea is here.
"Explanations are overrated. The power of the presidency is overblown. Find love and meaning where it really is."
Thursday, December 29, 2016
*Maria Rosa Menocal's Ornament Of The World: How Muslims, Jews, And Christians`Created A Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain may not be on everybody's reading list, but.........
I just audited a course at my alma mater. The course, History 102 - Late Antiquity, covered the time period 200 CE - 1000 CE. 800 years is a lot to cover in one semester: the end of the Roman Empire, the formalizing of Christianity, the rise of the Byzantine Empire, Beowulf, Mohammad and the birth and spread of Islam, the Goths, the Visigoths, the Carolingians, Charlemagne, Al-Andalus, the Vikings - you get the idea.
Al-Andalus caught my attention, so after class I asked the professor what additional reading he might recommend. With the side note that it wasn't the whole story, he suggested Ornament Of The World.
Just as 800 years is a bit much to cover in one semester, 700 years is a bit much to cover in one book. A long-running happy, healthy, and prosperous civilization is not all that common in the history of mankind, so the glory years of Al-Andalus are worth celebrating and studying. If you saw the subtitle to the book and picked up the book looking for the "how to", you might be disappointed. Having said that, this is a worthy book with lessons to teach. Consider it recommended.
The effects of the long-term presence of two expansive religious ideologies, each originally foreign to the Andalusian ethic, transformed the nature of the conflicts at hand. They made religious-ideological warfare a reality, cultural orthodoxy a real possibility, and monochromatic identity a realizable ideal. And yet it must be said that neither Castilian Christians nor the Nasrid Muslims of Grenada were ever vociferous advocates of these notions, although certainly both societies moved toward far more conspicuous levels of religious segregation and intolerance. They nevertheless continued to deal with each other in a universe characterized by realpolitik and by cultural openness of the sort that led to the building of Seville's Alcazar in the fourteenth century.
-Maria Rosa Menocal, Ornament Of The World: How Muslims, Jews, And Christians`Created A Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain
A very different kind of external force may also have played a decisive negative role. The devastating Black Death, the bubonic plague that swept through Europe and decimated its populations in the middle of the fourteenth century, provides the most solid conventional explanation of the rise of religious intolerance on the Iberian Peninsula - as well as throughout the rest of medieval Europe. The nearly unimaginable upheavals and despair triggered by the sudden death of upwards of twenty percent of the overall population were most vividly described by the contemporary Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio. The Decameron, his masterpiece, which was written shortly after the height of the plague, in 1348, begins with a description of the horrors of the plague. The physical ravages were terrible enough, but far more telling was the utter destruction of the social mores and civic standards that were (and are) the backbones of any civilization, the devastated communal and familial structures that followed the fast-spreading illness. Bodies were thrown into the streets and most people died alone, abandoned by terrified and helpless family and friends. This catastrophic and wholesale undermining of the social and religious order resulted, among other things, in the scapegoating of certain minority communities - the Jews conspicuously so - as well as in the scapegoating of tolerance itself. In answering the question of why God would countenance the near-destruction of His people, it was easy enough for certain voices to claim, echoing Scripture itself, that society was surely being punished for its lack of true belief, as well as for the tolerance of nonbelievers in its midst.
-Maria Rosa Menocal, Ornament Of The World: How Muslims, Jews, And Christians`Created A Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain
For Moses [of Leon], these seemingly opposing visions of the universe, the philosophical and the normatively religious, were alike in that neither could lead to any real understanding of the true complexities of God and existence.
-Maria Rosa Menocal, Ornament Of The World
Each focused unflinchingly on the paradoxes that must be embraced in order for faith and reason to flourish in their respective domains. Neither faith nor reason was to have precedence (this would necessarily lead to a tyranny of the one over the other), but rather each was to have a generous and uncompromised place at the table where both could share in the banquet of truth.
-Maria Rosa Menocal, as excerpted from her discussion of Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and Musa ibn Maymun (Maimonides) in Ornament Of The World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created A Culture Of Tolerance In Medieval Spain
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
For neither the first nor the last time in history, heady success sowed some of the seeds of its own demise, and what had been a court that proudly displayed its community's wealth and superiority began to be perceived as a self-indulgent and narcissistic court unwilling or unable to tend directly to the governance of that community.
-Maria Rose Menocal, The Ornament Of The World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created A Culture Of Tolerance In Medieval Spain
Every time I've ever hit a shot, I tried to hit it in the hole. That includes a tee shot on a par-5. Now, that wouldn't have been very realistic, but that's how I hit every shot in my mind's eye.
I think this might be one of the best thoughts you can have when playing golf, because it really focuses your mind on the ultimate goal.
-Arnold Palmer, A Life Well Played: My Stories
During the Six Days, God created man and the other animals.
He made a man and a woman and placed them in a pleasant garden, along with the other creatures. They all lived together there in harmony and contentment and blooming youth for some time; then trouble came. God had warned the man and the woman that they must not eat of the fruit of a certain tree. And he added a most strange remark; he said that if they ate of it they should surely die. Strange, for the reason that inasmuch as they had never seen a sample of death they could not possibly know what he meant. Neither would he nor any other god have been able to make those ignorant children understand what was meant, without furnishing a sample. The mere word could have no meaning for them, any more that it would have for an infant of days.
Presently a serpent sought them out privately, and came to them walking upright, which was the way of serpents in those days. The serpent said the forbidden fruit would store their vacant minds with knowledge. So they ate it, which was quite natural, for man is so made that he eagerly wants to know; whereas the priest, like God, whose imitator and representative he is, has made it his business from the beginning to keep him from knowing any useful thing.
Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and at once a great light streamed into their dim heads. They had acquired knowledge. What knowledge - useful knowledge? No - merely knowledge that there was such a thing as good, and such a thing as evil, and how to do evil. They couldn't do it before. Therefore all their acts up to this point had been without stain, without blame, without offense.
But now they could do evil - and suffer for it; now they had acquired what the the Church calls an invaluable possession, the Moral Sense; that sense which differentiates man from beast and sets him above the beast. Instead of below the beast - where one would suppose his proper place would be, since he is always foul-minded and guilty and the beast is always clean-minded and innocent. It is like valuing a watch that must go wrong, above a watch that can't.
The Church still prizes the Moral Sense as man's noblest asset today, although the Church knows God had a distinctly poor opinion of it and did what he could in his clumsy way to keep his happy Children of the Garden from acquiring it.
-Mark Twain, as excerpted from Letters from the Earth
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
.............has noted the retirement (at age 86) of Thomas Sowell. It probably won't surprise them that he is also an accomplished photographer. Additional evidence here.
"In trading, doing nothing is often the most difficult doing. A bias toward activity gives us an illusory sense of control, when in fact we often exercise the greatest control when we are not doing."
Sunday, December 25, 2016
........................left at our house by Santa was Bill Lyon's Deadlines and Overtimes: Collected Writings on Sports and Life. Santa must read this blog. Faithful readers may remember that, in large measure, my love for the printed word was nurtured by my much younger self's perusing the works of the great sports writers of Philadelphia's three daily newspapers. Lyon wrote sports columns for the Philadelphia Inquirer for more than 30 years. A quick scan of his book turned up these quotes:
"Sports is where, for all that is petty and pig-headed here on the third rock from the sun, we are privileged to witness pride and passion, valor and resiliency, perseverance and persistence...great, shining examples of the fierce, unbending indomitability of the human spirit. It gives us that rarest of gifts. Hope."
"Grief is like religion, a thing to be done with the heart and on one's own terms, none of it anybody else's business."
"Nothing lasts forever...well, with the exception of public television pledge drives."
"Hillary Clinton's election would have been a consolidation of power in the existing ruling class of the United States. Donald Trump is not a DC insider, he is part of the wealthy ruling elite of the United States, and he is gathering around him a spectrum of other rich people and several idiosyncratic personalities. They do not by themselves form an existing structure, so it is a weak structure which is displacing and destabilising the pre-existing central power network within DC. It is a new patronage structure which will evolve rapidly, but at the moment its looseness means there are opportunities for change in the United States: change for the worse and change for the better."
-Julian Assange, as lifted from here