The best Billy Collins poems are those which take the ordinary, mundane parts of life and illuminate them such that the reader experiences the amazing, supernatural, or whimsy hidden in those events. The Country is a perfect example of this. A mouse torch bearer setting a house on fire - how absurd! But, that's not the absurdity. The true absurdity is the subject's irrational fear. The Country highlights the tension in personal relationships, the humor that is much needed in a successful relationship, and the importance of imagination.
Nine Horses is a collection of 50 poems. The Country is by far my favorite and the first of the collection. There are 11 poems that stand out as beautiful reflections on life. Whether it be a description of an Old World bath house (Istanbul), the fate of roadkill (Ave Atque Vale), learning to speak a foreign language (By a Swimming Pool Outside Siracusa), or the experience of drinking by one's self (As If To Demonstrate an Eclipse), the intense focus Billy Collins uses to describe these events is both comforting and awe inspiring.
The themes are similar to his other works - love, loss, death, travel loneliness... He seems to be having less "fun" in this collection than he had in Whale Day. A few poems are too long for my taste; Bermuda is a good example. He does an amazing job describing lying on a beach in the sun with his companion. It is beautiful and tranquil, only to be interrupted by his fear of loss and death that seems to invade the poem (only now, as I write this, do I realize that is exactly what he is trying to accomplish. Regardless, I would have ended the poem sooner...).
The beauty of poetry is that each reader will find their own beauty and criticism, which is why I highly recommend the poetry of Billy Collins. It is accessible. But, the poems also challenge you to be an active reader, to examine your own life, and appreciate the beauty and detail in everyday experiences.
When I read this book, I said to myself, "My father would love this book!" I sent it to him and he sent me this email which is an amazing write up (and the longest email he's ever sent to me...)
"I always thought John Irving was the great American story-teller, closely followed by E. L. Doctorow. But after reading a few of his novels, Michael Chabon now has taken over this position for me. I am in awe of his ability to take a bit of real history and weave a fantastic tale around it, incorporating throughout real people, places, and things. (He does acknowledge and credit Doctorow’s similar skills in the latter’s Ragtime.)
Moonglow really connected with me in several ways. First, of course, was the author’s surprising knowledge of model building-building supplies and techniques. He has had to putter around in this hobby before. Then there are references to “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor,” which I regard as one of the greatest short stories of all time, and I suspect he believes that, too. And chasing Werner von Braun toward the end of WWII is quite accurate, as having him as our Nazi and not the Soviets was an important goal of the U.S. military.
But whatever seed germinated in his mind—whether the von Braun history or actually sharing time with his dying grandfather—it grew into a moving human story, full of love and respect for the principle characters. I was particularly touched with the descriptions of the grandfather’s fond relationship with the difficult grandmother, a situation which I experienced during the last few years.
Fortunately, Chabon’s comedic skills ameliorate what could have been a saccharine story; hard to forget the snake hammer or urinating in a ficus planter or the night watchman, Devaughn, or the Key bridge (of course).
Thanks for sharing the book. If you haven’t done it already, read Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. It’s another remarkable work based on a real event.
My father recently said to me, "I read The Silence by Don DeLillo. I'm going to send it to you. I didn't understand it at ALL!" A week later, the book came in the mail. Weighing in at 116 pages, I figured that I would be talking to my dad about the story in no time. (I should mention that DeLillo's Underworld is a fantastic novel.)
As I read, I would periodically text my father some thoughts. Rather than write a review from scratch, I thought it might fun to "re-print" my text string between me and my father as my review of The Silence...
Me: "I'm reading The Silence. I love it. I love Don DeLillo. Love his dialogue. Reminds me of David Mamet (who came first?). Not done yet so no spoilers, please. What I can say at this point is that we should all be ashamed of how much we have let technology control our lives without understanding its power. We walk around mourning its loss and are, at the same time, are afraid of losing it, while all the time figuring out how to make technology more and more important. We are weak and beaten if we don't come to terms with that."
[No response from him to that text message. I followed up with...]
"Plus, we are afraid, right? We are afraid to be alone. To talk to one another. We are afraid of the machines. We are afraid of what their disappearance means for our life. And, we are afraid of the next war. We won't survive it. We know that and it scares the shit out of us. So far, that's what I think this means."
[Again, no response. I followed up with...]
"I do realize how cynical this sounds and that it most likely a reflection of my point of view and insecurities. But, as a species, I think we are afraid of how to control what we have created."
Dad [FINALLY!]: "I agree that it's easy to lose control of what we create. Early Christianity and the Industrial Revolution come to my mind."
Me: "I notice, too that no one in the book knows what to do. There is no leader. Even the hospital administrator, who's job it is to maintain some order at the hospital, is lost. Lost, and at the same time randomly over sharing. Like, we say whatever comes to mind because we don't know what else to do. No one is helping us navigate the crisis."
[No response to that one either.]
"I haven't really figured out why so much Einstein in the book. Other than the brilliant quote about war, why go into physics so much? Any thoughts on that?"
[I think what I learned is that my father doesn't like to text.]
There are a number of well known allegories out there in the business/self help category that have gained notoriety, Who Moved My Cheese is likely the most famous of these, but there is also The One Minute Manager series as well as Zapp!
The Positivity Tribe by Christopher J. Wirth and Chris Wilberding takes that tradition and appliers it to the youth market. The protagonists, Mike, Jennifer, and Pete are high school students navigating daily pressures such as acceptance, bullying, family dynamics, etc. Through the intervention of some key characters, the three realize their attitudes and lives not only have an impact on others, but their POSITIVE attitudes are contagious in a way that makes everyone better.
This isn't a unique story. There are other self-help books on positivity and the power of positive thinking. The Positivity Tribe, however, delivers this message to a teen audience - their problems, thoughts, and opportunities. The three students actually think through their actions and work hard to make their ideas come to life.
The story also presents Mike, Jennifer, and Pete as a diverse group. They are not all participants in a single extracurricular, nor are they all in the same caliber academically, nor are they the same race. It is this diversity that adds dimension to the impact of positivity - being kind, positive, grateful, encouraging, humble, generous, and forgiving is not just for a single type of person but for people that care about improving themselves and others.
The Positivity Tribe reminds me of a book I had as a kid called TA for Tots (TA standing for "transactional analysis"), which introduced me to warm fuzzies and compliment cards. Transactional analysis is a psychological theory focused on understanding communication and behavior by analyzing ego states. Sound geeky? It is. But, it is also an important way to communicate. What The Positivity Tribe does well is use TA without forcing the reader think about TA.
The book has a few sharp edges that could be rounded out through professional editing. There are a few references to pop culture that may date the book into the future. But, neither of these are reasons not to read, share, and identify the role positivity plays in your life, your family's life, and your community's life.
When I finished The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly, I said, out-loud, to myself, "This book just changed my life."
Since that day, every conversation with me has begun, "In 30 years, no one, I mean no one is going to [insert anything you do today]." It is true. No cash. No brick-and-mortar retail. I physical ID cards. No credit cards. No sun-drenched game of tennis. Everything will change. If you don't believe me, pick up The Inevitable and have your mind blown.
This is another book that I should have read when it was published in 2016. Because of my delay, some of the stories are a bit dated, so the punchlines don't land as hard as they should. But, believe me, there is plenty of breathtaking content to experience, which should be expected from the guy who was a co-founder of Wired magazine and a consultant for the movie Minority Report.
The book highlights the "...12 technological forces that will shape our future." The concepts are: becoming, congnifying, flowing, screening, accessing, sharing, filtering, remixing, interacting, tracking, questioning, and beginning.
Each chapter defines the concept, explains how it is playing out in the world today, and gives us a prediction of what the future might look like. The chapters are more than simple explanations of the concepts, however. Many of them have a political viewpoint and metaphysical flavor.
For example, the first chapter "Becoming" focuses on the dawn of the Internet. When computer scientists built the first internet, they never envisioned the massive outpouring of data and content contribution that exists today. In fact, the Internet is still becoming what it will be, acting more like a living organism than a collection of silicon and wires. The Internet is in a constant state of "becoming."
I want to preserve most of the magic in the book for readers to discover, there are a few concepts that must be shared:
My favorite parts of this book are the chapter endings, where Kelly burnishes the point he is making in the chapter. These short narratives outline the life of the future. In "sharing" he writes about co-working spaces, and co-ops where workers incrementally improve on the designs of others and then receive "micropayments" when the designs or code get used, similar to a royalty. Photos are shared and copy-written. Publishers receive royalties for usage. the marketplace is a true meritocracy. The better the work, the more micropayments. with the ultimate power residing with the worker, not an entity like a corporation or a state.
Upon first read, this sounded far fetched. But, wait? Co-working? Bitcoin-like micropayments? This science-fiction is happening! Just like Ray Bradbury predicted the flat screen TV in Fahrenheit 451, so does Kelly predict a future that seems totally logical and unbelievable at the same time. That's the power of this book. Stretch your mind out of its comfort zone.
Kevin Kelly believes that machines will ultimately replace the work we don't do well or the work we don't want to do. But, technology does have a limitation. Technology cannot dream. While we may use bitcoin to buy everything and never touch the steering wheel again, humans will continue to ask the big questions. As Kelly says so succinctly, "Questioning is simply more powerful than answering."
Definitely give The Inevitable the time it deserves.
We found Van Morrison's second album, Astral Weeks, in a Dublin record shop during our first trip with our children to Ireland. A Van Morrison album I didn't know about? "Great," I thought. I knew the song "Sweet Thing" but nothing else.
We popped the CD into the car player on our way out of Dublin, headed toward Kilkenny. By the time that 90-minute ride was over, we were in love. Astral Weeks didn't leave the CD player for the next 10 days as we drove the whole of Ireland. It was mysterious and beautiful.
I listen to Astral Weeks weekly. It is a tonic in stressful times, relaxing during lazy times, exciting during upbeat times. So, when I heard Ryan Walsh refer to the album as "medicine" during a podcast recently, I was compelled to get his book.When Walsh set out to understand more about Astral Weeks, he did it for the same reasons that drove me to the book. "How can I get closer to the songs?"
During the research for his book, Astral Weeks, A Secret History of 1968, Walsh learned of a long lost recording, made months before the Astral Weeks sessions. Rumored to be the only live recording of the Van Morrison trio performing the songs, Walsh became obsessed with finding and listening to the recording. Who had a copy of this show? How did the recording get made? Why has no one heard it?
If you are coming to this book to learn more about the Astral Weeks' musicians or technical descriptions on how the album was made, you won't find anything you didn't already know (assuming you, like me, have spent hours researching the album). That isn't to say the book doesn't have great stories about the making of the album:
What you will mostly find in this book is a history of Boston that you do not know. It took me several chapters to truly enjoy the book because I wasn't actively seeking a deep history of Boston counter culture. Now that I know the history in greater detail, what could be more interesting?! Highlights of Boston in 1968 include:
Talk about "Blowin' Your Mind!"...
What Walsh found on his journey, is that the influences and the meanings behind the poetry of Astral Weeks will forever be out of reach. It is the time and place, specifically 1968 Boston, where the truly amazing story lies.
When Walsh did finally hear the illusive recording, the pieces of 1968 fell into place - the cast of characters, the city, the politics, and the decade.
Do I understand Van Morrison better after reading this book? Not really, no. But, that's the point. Astral Weeks is a masterpiece. It transcends understanding. It was made during a turbulent time in Morrison's life and the life of Boston. Finding peace, tranquility, and beauty during 1968 was challenging for many people. Astral Weeks was a gift. No one really knows how or why the gift was given, but we are all better off because of it.
The Looking Glass War moves quickly, unlike A Small Town in Germany which requires heavy lifting to get to the plot. I was immediately hooked as we meet Taylor and watch him drink away the late afternoon in an airport while on the job. Avery is sent in to clean up that mess, but he doesn't succeed, which drives Leclerc to create an operation of some intricacy and scale.
As the chapters move forward, we are introduced to a cast of characters that include wives, mistresses, colleagues, and strangers. All of them nursing poor physical and mental health. The cure for their ills? A misplaced belief that the British intelligence service has their best interest at heart. Driving the plot forward is Leclerc who fantasizes about his competition with George Smiley and the Ministry.
Like A Small Town in Germany, it is Le Carre's dialogue that makes The Looking Glass War strikingly realistic. Like David Mamet, Le Carre's staccato phrases and sweeping overreactions are more real than we care to admit. The characters don't tell the truth. They don't say how they feel. They leave the best bits as internal monologue. They trudge through the rain and the ever-present falling snow of Le Carre's world desperately wanting more sunshine but never walking on the sunny side of the street (rendered almost impossible by a world in which the sun rarely shines).
For me, this world is an exciting, enticing warm blanket. The story is well crafted. The writing is careful and smart. It's a book that makes me want to read more John Le Carre.
While I was reading ABM is B2B., my family asked me, "Why are you reading that boring book?!" For a non-marketer, I get it. Who wants to read a book about account-based marketing? But, for a marketer, account-based marketing is the future. In fact, it is the present and the future.Sangram Vajre and Eric Spett's book, ABM is B2B., makes the argument that B2B marketing is account-based marketing. They are synonymous. In making that argument, they point out several truths:
Don't we know these things already? Aren't we working every day to collaborate with other teams, coordinate marketing and sales efforts, and focus on the ideal customer? Isn't our content distribution personalized? Unfortunately not.
What Sangram and Eric do well in ABM is B2B. is layout the strategy as well as give tactical examples and suggestions. The case studies illustrate how real clients do real marketing using account-based tactics. Sample organizational charts help us see the options for building a team capable of executing account-based marketing. The campaign suggestions illustrate how a company might build agile test programs. Plus, they give us access to resources for beginners and more experienced practitioners.
I would recommend this book for teams that need to get started with account-based marketing or need a "shot-in-the-arm" when it comes to building ABM programs. Not only will teams benefit from the theory but also the practical steps to get started.
My main criticism of this book is the editing. It feels rushed, from overall organization to proofing the numerous typos. In this way, this book is illustrative of the speed with which books are published today. In fact, it doesn't feel like this book was "published" as much as it was "produced." Even with these criticisms, it is still a good teaching and learning tool.