There is an interesting book by William Goldman called Adventures in the Screen Trade.  Goldman is a novelist and a screenwriter, known for such films as All The President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Princess Bride and Misery.

Much of the book is about his experiences in Hollywood, but at the end he gives a practical example of how to take a story and turn it into a movie script.  The story is one he wrote about a couple barbers.  He asked his colleague, George Roy Hill (director of such films as All The President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting and Slapshot), to critique it.

George Roy Hill had a problem with one of the barbers.  This barber was a genius, but also a jerk.  Since he didn’t like the perpetuation of this stereotype, he wrote:

“The people I’ve known with the greatest artistic integrity are usually the most professional and most considerate, while I’ve unfortunately run into a few second-rate artists who behave like s**** in the belief that this somehow automatically endows them with talent and integrity.”

I don’t have anything to add to that, except to agree.

Famous quotes are fascinating things.  In a sentence or two, or even in just a few words, a truth is well expressed.  As a bonus, they often come from someone with authority. While I like to use them from time to time, I’ve always been skeptical of ones I don’t know the source.

One I heard years ago is, “The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one.” It is found in Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell To Arms” (Book 2, Chapter 21).  It’s powerful, but it is interesting to read a little more around the quote.  Below is the passage in the book:

“We won’t fight.”

“We mustn’t. Because there’s only two of us and in the world there’s all the rest of them.  If anything comes between us we’re gone and then they have us.”

“They won’t get us,” I said.  “Because you’re too brave.  Nothing ever happens to the brave.”

“They die once.”

“But only once.”

“I don’t know. Who said that?”

“The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one?”

“Of course. Who said that?”

“I don’t know.”

“He was probably a coward,” she said.  “He knew a great deal about cowards but nothing about the brave.  The brave dies perhaps two thousand deaths if he’s intelligent. He simply doesn’t mention them.”

I agree with the last paragraph in the passage above.  To me, it expresses a more universal truth.  There are many manifestations of bravery, just as there are many types of injustices.  Physical strength is an outward strength that everyone can see, but emotional, intellectual and spiritual strengths all need their own kind of muscle and endurance.

Poor King Canute! Or, should I say lucky King Canute?  I’ve only recently learned about Canute (or Cnut), a Danish king that lived a thousand years ago.  As a real historical figure, his life has been recorded.  But, I wonder how accurately.

There is one story in particular that I have seen told in two contrasting ways.  Both stories start the same, the king and his followers are on a beach facing the sea.  Canute is sitting in a chair, possibly his throne. In one version, the king is stupid.  He commands the tides not to rise, but of course they still do and he gets wet.  In the other version, the king is wise.  He has assembled everyone there to show them that even though he is a powerful king, he is powerless next to God who controls nature.

So, was he was wise, but some careless historian has made him into a buffoon?  Or, was he an idiot, but some royalist has tried to salvage his reputation?  Or, was he something else?  We may never know and I’m not surprised.

A while ago, it was pointed out to me that by three or four generations after we die there is no one around who really knew us.  And, any stories about us, may not be correct.  So, why worry about what people will think of you?  Live life with a clean conscious, be kind to others and take the occasional stroll by the seaside.  Just remember to watch out for the tide.

Looking back to my school years, I realize that I was lucky to have had some good teachers.  If I haven’t turned out to be more successful, it isn’t their fault.  Sometimes a lump of coal will never turn into a diamond.  I take full credit for my failures.  But, that isn’t my focus here.  Instead I wanted to praise one of my past teachers and recommend a website.

Below are two photos of my dictionary.  Buying it was one of the assignments given to me and my classmates from our grade 5 teacher, Mr. Doug Shaw.  He didn’t tell us what dictionary to buy, but he told us to make sure we got a good one.  He took the time to explain that a good dictionary would be with us for a long time and would help teach us a lot of words.  He was right. This book was with me through middle school, high school and university.

I still like and use my paper dictionary, but I also find myself going online for my word searches.  My favourite site is Merriam-Webster’s: http://www.merriam-webster.com/   (Yes, it is essentially the same company that made my dictionary 40 years ago.)  Besides the regular dictionary functions, I’ve really enjoy their video series.  The videos are Merriam-Webster editors explaining a language feature in a simple, but engaging way.  Check it out; the “word nerd” in you will be satisfied.

And, one more thing: apparently my Grade 5 self felt that the edge of the book needed to be a little more “high class”, so I added some blue stripes.

Dictionary-01Dictionary-02

 

 

 

 

Elegantouch

I must begin by saying that I do realize the brand is “Elegant Touch” and not “Elegant Ouch”.  It has been a busy week with not too much in the way of happy news.  So, when I saw this product on a store shelf, I had to smile.  This isn’t meant as a criticism of the product (I’ve never used it), so before I get into why I don’t like the typeface, I’ll elegantly end this post here.

 

It was hard to go back to work today.  Not just because it was -12C outside, but because I had a nice mini-vacation.  No exotic trips, I just stayed in the city and spent time with loved ones.

There is a very simple concept from the world of finance: if you want to stay economically afloat, don’t let your expenses exceed your revenue.  Some of that applies to how you seek pleasurable moments in life.  If you have the time and can afford to take trips to far away destinations, by all means do so.  But, if you can’t, it is still possible to be happy.

I know this isn’t anything new, but these last few days reminded me that if you are content with what you have then you’re already rich.

The photos below were taken last week in Toronto’s Allan Gardens.  Built over a hundred years ago, it is a real oasis in the city’s downtown area.  And, it was a nice treat to complement a physically tiring, but emotionally happy hour spent shovelling a wet and heavy snowfall.  This was followed by tea and later a delicious home cooked dinner.  A good day.

Hope you have had some good ones recently and that 2016 is a great year for you.

Alland Gardens at Christmas

 

Allan Gardens - Leda and the Swan

Allan Gardens Interior View

AllenGardens-BenchSign

I’m going to prove that I’m a little (?) strange.  I’m going to recommend a TEDx talk that is well intentioned, makes some good points, is worth discussion, and is flawed.  The link to the talk is here: Why You Will Fail To Have A Great Career

To prevent you from seeing my argument too early, I’m including photos I took while visiting some parks and ravines in Toronto.

TO-Park01

TO-Park02

TO-Park03

 
OK.  Now that you are back, or you decided to skip the talk, here is what I’m thinking.  I agree with Larry Smith that people with great careers can also be good people.  And, blaming your family for not following your dream isn’t nice.  My problem is near the end of his talk, the “tombstone” scenario, where he pities the person who “merely” invents Velcro.

I get that he is trying to inspire his audience to dream big.  The problem is the invention of the hook and loop fastener, commonly known by the original maker’s name “Velcro” is a great invention. Hook and loop fasteners are everywhere today since they provide a secure and easy way to secure garments and other objects together.  The’re also a great example of biomimicry.

So, why doesn’t Larry Smith and perhaps the average person see it this way?  My guess is because of a prejudice against what is considered ordinary. What I would like to see is people understand and appreciate that common, everyday objects, events and activities  and people can also have high value.  Not everyone gets to be a celebrity.

Many years ago, a friend told me of a woman who had a medical condition that had kept her bed-ridden for close to 20 years.  He asked me if I wanted to visit her in the hospital.  I was in my early twenties, still not sure of myself, so I said, “I don’t think I could say or do anything to cheer her up.” To which my friend replied, “You don’t understand.  People don’t go to see her to cheer her up, they go because she cheers them up.  Even though she is quite sick, her attitude and kind heart inspires everyone she encounters.”  Unfortunately, before I could find time, she passed away.

My point in telling her story is to show it as an example of a person who did the best with what she was given.  We are all in situations that are not completely of our choosing, we have to do our best with what we got in front of us. This woman who I wish I met, didn’t have any kind of a career and there are no fancy words on her tombstone, but she was a great person.  And, being a great person is harder than physics.

 

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