Monday, December 29, 2003

The Organizing Principle for All Of My Work in the New Year

"There is no reason goodness cannot triumph over evil, so long as the angels are as organized as the mafia."
--Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Take It From One Who Knows...

"The world rewards action. It doesn't reward much of anything else."
--Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert empire

Monday, December 22, 2003

Healthy Doubt is the Ticket

'Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are not sure that we are doubly sure.'
--Reinhold Niebuhr

Friday, December 19, 2003

May She Find 100 Million Helpmates

"I am going on sabbatical, during which time I hope to help George Bush find employment for which his unique interests and training are better suited."
--Bay Area hippie theologist Anne Lamott, on why she's taking a break from her weekly column on

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

So Which Are You?

"Only doctors and hookers need pagers."
Bernie Brillstein, legendary Hollywood talent agent, in his forthcoming and eagerly awaited tell-all memoir, 'The Little Stuff Matters Most: 50 Rules from 50 Years of Trying to Make a Living.'

I'd have to add to that list people who accept cellphone calls while you're talking to them, with the understandable exception of those who are waiting for truly urgent calls (defined as health-related or from your spouse or kids. No others need apply). And let's also add to that list guys (and sorry to be gender-exclusive in my remarks, but this particular form of adolescent rudeness seems confined to guys, who seem to use these devices as stand-ins for their sex organs, which even they know they can't be manipulating in public). You know the type: they're trying to send you the subliminal message about how busy they are, how, with their thriving practices they simply can't be out of touch for more than seconds at a time (hell, if I miss that call by just 10 minutes, that $4 million deal will go elsewhere). How very 1997. Sorry guys, but the adults have been there, done that. Hey, this is a new century, a time when you need to plan better and pose as a Master of the Universe less. And a key thing in 2003 is spending more quality time in a real conversation, even if it's just 10 minutes. If you do it right, and get rid of the damn toys and gadgets and actually focus on what one person is telling you, it's amazing what you might learn and how well you might connect in just those few minutes. And then you can get back to playing with all your Radio Shack toys in the privacy of your own time and off in a quiet corner somewhere. Are we in agreement on this?

Burning Down His So-Called Career. And in news of another long-awaited book, though this one is more of the train-wreck-in-the-making variety, Jayson Blair's noxious memoir is getting close to being completed. And yes, that laughable blame-shifting title you may have heard about is going to stick. If you want to see the cover, click here. But be warned: you'd do well to first grab your barf bag...

An Aha! Moment. We've all read far too much about the endlessly dissected story of the World Trade Center, me more than most. And the comparison to Pearl Harbor, especially this week during the anniversary week of "the day which will live in infamy" is by now so obvious and overdone that it's become cliche. So it was wonderful this morning to come across this small gem in a Times review of a new book by two of its own, James Glanz's and Eric Lipton's City in the Sky--The Rise and Fall of the World Trade Center. Nothing very new or remarkable till the last paragraph of the piece. And then this bright light bulb: "After finishing 'City in the Sky,' it is impossible not to feel that the destruction of the World Trade Center is the psychological equivalent of the sinking of the Titanic, an archetypal disaster that similarly undermined belief in the inevitability of progress and the infallibility of technology." How true, how obvious in retrospect, even. Only, it wasn't obvious till this reviewer noticed it and wrote it.

Monday, December 08, 2003

A Month for Inaugurals

Another week, and nary a word shared with my dear readers, at least via this channel. As the old Latin-speaking priests would say, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! But I'll endeavor to do better, to catch up, to try this week to at least briefly get to many of the dozens of lively, interesting little tidbits I've observed, read about or experienced at first hand.

Double Inaugural Weekend. The weekend just passed saw a couple of notable inaugural efforts in our house. My oldest, Michael, kicked off his Ignatius hoops career with a rousing first game on the freshman gold team. He and his mates got off to a bit of a cold start against Mentor, with their basket seemingly having a lid on it for the first few minutes. But when opening-game jitters wore off, they rolled to a convincing victory that was fun to watch. And my favorite center poured in 19 and added perhaps a dozen rebounds in his first game. All in all, a great beginning. But neither victories nor (certainly) personal stats are the point of it all. What fills me with such wonder is watching the sheer joy with which he plays his favorite game, and thus how special it feels. It's like watching a prodigy tickle the strings of a Stradivarius. Can't wait to see my other boy, Pattie, in his spring play, where he takes that same joy and puts it into action making his own joyful noise. The other inaugural came harder: after a dozen drafts of tinkering, I finished and sent off the first of what I hope will be many years of monthly dad's columns for Cleveland/Akron Family. With about 60,000 print copies (and more than 100,000 readers including pass-alongs) it's become ubiquitous in its approximately 15 years of life (don't hold that butt-ugly website against them, the print copy, which you'll find in stacks all around 800 public places in Cuyahoga and a few other counties, looks lots better). I knew the founder, Ann Billingsley, who began the pub in a fashion not unlike most good entrepreneurs, after getting rejected. She had lived in New York, where, as she once recounted, the Village Voice had a great, literate regular supplement targeted at thinking parents. After moving here, she took that same idea to every publisher in town, and got nowhere. So she started her own, later buying and merging into her operation a great, and similar, parent-focused pub based on the west side and founded by then-New York Times Cleveland correspondent Jennifer Stoffel. Anyway, Ann sold it all to new owners not long ago, and the fresh team was looking for some new voices to pep up the pub. The impossibly great news for me: the monthly is adding just two new columns this year, mine and one by the nationally known family-advice guru, Dr. Sylvia Rimm. So expect to hear lots more in the new year from this now-refreshed new pub, edited by my newest collaborator and colleague, the talented Frances Richards. May she undangle all my participals and rein me in when I get wordy or vague.

Straight Ahead: The Holiday Blur. The next two weeks will be studded with a glittering array of amazing get-togethers, which is partly why Working With Words has been quiet for a week, as we furiously tried to finish up all our lavishly paying work in order to prepare for these fests. I won't pretend to be remotely comprehensive, but they'll include the following: tomorrow evening's kick-off event of the Northeast Ohio area's Ryze business network, ably staffed by George Nemeth; the communicators' holiday party this Thursday night the 11th, at the Club at Key Center, which features the never-before-seen spectacle of five professional groups collaborating; the next day we have a mid-day brownbag lunch to hear an update on the OneCleveland digital initiative. And the following week, on the 19th, is the latest in a series of Cool Cleveland's Art/Tech events, which should be especially warm and festive, coming less than a week before Christmas. I'd call it Cool Yule...

And Announcing the Working With Words Holiday Bash. But nestled in there about mid-way on the calendar is also the First Annual Working With Words Holiday Gathering (or a third inaugural event mentioned thus far). That's set for a week from today, December 15th, from 5 in the evening to whenever, in Little Italy, coolest of all Cleveland neighborhoods (at least to my deeply biased way of thinking). Just buzz me at the above email for more info, but do it quick, because the unfortunately limited space is going fast. But if you miss out this time, don't despair: we have a bigger and possibly better gathering, this one a Party With a Cause in the works for not too far into the new year.