A Review of Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath

Only time will tell what makes you better or worse

Just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

Actually enjoyed it better than his other books – which I also enjoyed – particularly because it seems to echo things I’ve always believed to be true. For example, he notes that there’s a difference between:

  • Direct hits – where something kills you, literally or figuratively
  • Near-misses – where something almost kills you, literally or figuratively, and it’s enough to send you spiraling into despair
  • Remote misses – where something almost kills you, literally or figuratively, but it’s far away enough from you to help you become stronger

Although not mentioned in David and Goliath, I think that two quotes best sum up the basic idea of the book:

Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong. – Winston Churchill
All experience is great provided you live through it. If it kills you, you’ve gone too far. – Alice Neel

It’s only with the passage of time that we’re able to see if the remote misses are near-misses and vice versa. Of course, that’s only if you overcome the blow in the first place. It’s not a perfect book – what is – but that rings true to me.

David and Goliath uses a lot of religious references (obviously) in order to show how these ideas have been with us since the early days of humanity.

And whether you believe in the biblical god or not, I’ve always like the story of how Jacob wrestled the angel and the angel was overcome. The angel could easily have destroyed Jacob but allowed him to survive to learn how to survive.

I’m not a parent, but I would like children of my own one day. I’m just not sure how to pass this type of knowledge down.

After all, a parent doesn’t wish troubles onto their children. But it’s only through stress does something become stronger, become anti-fragile.

Maybe that’s why I want them to fence, to wrestle, to struggle. I’d want them to know what it means to  get beaten, and then get back up again.

I think that’s why I do what I do. To give myself a daily dose of remote misses and to struggle to get back on my feet.

Location: getting dressed to go struggle for an hour
Mood: geeky
Music: a rattle and hum; Jacob wrestled the angel, and the angel was overcome
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Another rough stretch of insomnia

Who knows what battles we’ll have today?

Her: He looks good.
Me: He does. Goodbye Sal. Say hello to Dino.

Spent Thursday getting to the wake and then went the next day to the funeral. All funerals are the same in the sadness but unique in the details.

And that’s all I’ll say on the subject.

On a different point entirely, had a sleepless stretch from Thursday through last night.

Interestingly, the face of the world changed with a sleepless night. Not my sleepless night, the night of a man named Darius.

Almost exactly 2,344 years ago, at the Battle of Gaugamela – which is an amazing story for a million reasons – Alexander the Great went to sleep the night before the battle and Darius of the Persian Empire did not.

The Battle of Gaugamela, Alexander's Decisive ...
The Battle of Gaugamela, Alexander’s Decisive Movement, 331 B.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Moreover, Alexander told his men to get some sleep while Darius told his men to stay awake in case of a nighttime raid.

After that single battle was over, Alexander took over Babylon and gained half of the Persian Empire. Darius escaped with his life only to be murdered and betrayed by his men soon afterward. That lack of sleep the night before cost Darius and his men everything.

I think of that story from time-to-time when I’m up at night. Last night, slept for just under seven hours – the most in a week – so I feel a good deal better but still, not quite myself.

Coincidentally, my sister just wrote me to ask if she could crash at my apartment for a few hours because of her insomnia.

I’d like us all to get some rest.

Because who knows if we have to go to battle today?

Wife: (laughing) I can tell when you haven’t had sleep.
Me: How?
Her: You start talking funny. (imitates my voice)
Me: I’m always worried I start sounding crazy. (sighing) I need to get some sleep.

Location: in front of a lotta coffee
Mood: anxious
Music: Sometimes it feels just like I’m falling in the ocean
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Ollie’s, Heisenberg, Mill, and Chock Full o’Nuts

How much change can we take before we’re not us?

Me: You know what our problem is, don’t you?
Bryson: What?
Me: Even though we know we’re 40, inside, we still think we’re 17.
Him: (laughing) That is so true.

Gave my buddy Bryson a ring the other day. Been laid up with my bum leg again; got injured a few weeks back and it’s not getting better. Bit the bullet and called up the doc today. I’m praying it’s not another ACL tear but it looks more and more likely as the days go on.

Disconcerting. Moreover, it’s the main reason behind my insomnia these days.

In one of those hazy nights, remembered when I actually was around 17. Was at Columbia University at the time. There was an Italian diner on the corner of 116th and Broadway called Ollie’s, run by an Italian dude named Ollie, natch. You could go in and get spaghetti and meatballs – which I did often – a burger, and Chinese food. The reason was because it had a Chinese cook.

Down the street was a diner called The Mill. Picture your typical diner with spinning stools and that was The Mill. They had a Mexican cook and a Korean cook so you could go to there and not just get a burger, but also a burrito or a Korean dish.

They’re both still there but The Mill’s been gut renovated and is now a Korean restaurant. And Ollie’s? It’s now a chain of Chinese restaurants in the City.

No one remembers what they used to be. That’s not true; I remember.

Did you know that Chock Full o’Nuts, the coffee brand, is called that because a fella named William Buck used to sell nuts. But then the depression hit so he had to sell coffee for a nickle.

Thought of that Sunday night when the Breaking Bad series finale came on. The Mill, Ollie’s, and Chock Full o’Nuts – they were born one thing but the world changed around them and they became something else entirely.

Like the Ship of Thesus, I wonder how much change we can go through before we’re no longer the person/thing we once were. Sometimes, something changes us so fundamentally the only thing left of us is our name. In Heisenberg’s case, not even that.

Bryson: The wife is telling me I should take up running.
Me: Ha, mine is telling me the same thing. I’d do it if I didn’t find it so boring.
Bryson: It’s hard to explain why we are the way we are, isn’t it?
Me: Don’t really think I understand it myself. (pause) But it wouldn’t be us if we didn’t do what we do.

Location: my pad, with ice on my leg
Mood: concerned and #$@#$ tired
Music: really want to stay inside and sleep the light away
Subscribe!

Enhanced by Zemanta

The oldest thing we had was a tree called the Methuselah tree

Can’t deny feeling my age these days

Me: Should I wear my wedding ring or will you keep the women away from me?
Her: (putting on shoes) Yeah Logan, I’ll swat them away like flies.

The weather’s finally turned from summer to fall so the wife and I went out for a walk. Had to stretch my legs.

Pinus longaeva, Methuselah Walk - Methuselah G...
Methuselah Grove (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Work’s been slow because judges are usually away for the summer, as are most of my clients.

But just this week, several of them called me out of the blue so I assume that we’re back to the grind.

I did want to take advantage of the slow week to hit the gym but my old injuries acted up again. The buddy I train with had some useful insight:

Him: I think I know what the problem is.
Me: Really, what?
Him: You’re seriously old, man. I mean, really, really, really…
Me: (interrupting) That’s just mean, man.

It’s funny, I look in the mirror and I don’t think I look all that different. But I had to take most of last week off from the gym because something. went wonky in my knee.

Suppose there’s no two ways around being 40.

For years, the oldest thing on the planet was a tree called the Methuselah tree; records put it at 4,845 years. But they just found an older tree nearby at 5,062 years old.

Me? I’d like to make it to three digits if at all possible.

It doesn’t actually feel that far off for me any more. After all, the last decade seemed to go by in a heartbeat.

I figure I’ll blink and it’ll be 2073. Wonder if I’ll be able to teleport to California by then.

In any case, there’s a line from the song below that goes, I want to be the best I can. For me, for you, for every man, But I can slip, I lose my place.

But then there’s not much to do but get up and get back up and try again.

After my knee stops aching, that is.

Location: the Duane Reade on 72nd Street and the upper west side
Mood: hopeful
Music: I might ignore, just close the door before you have your fun
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Everyone has their thing

Here’s what I think of the royal baby being born

Town Crier for William and Kate's baby

I don’t like football. Considering that – amongst other things – a professional player gets between 900 to 1,500 blows to the head in a single season it strikes me as the closest modern analogy to gladiator battles.

Of course, I love MMA/UFC matches and I make excuses for it all the time: the amount of blows are different, the ability for someone to defend himself properly is different, the fact that a participant is encouraged to “give up” when in danger add to the safety, etc.

But I realize that, while it makes sense to me, it makes little sense to someone else.

For that reason, while I don’t like football, I wouldn’t go online and bash it just to bash it. Everyone’s got their thing, yeah?

Which brings me to this royal baby business.

My Facebook feed is exploding with people that are just angered by how much coverage it’s receiving. Almost none of them realize how much money this kid is going to inject into the British economy – up to $400 million according to some estimates.

Now, I don’t get it. Not even a little. BUT I don’t begrudge anyone their joy. If someone finds joy in watching grown men hurl themselves at each other while chasing a leather ball or cheering the birth of a singularly lucky (lucky) child, so be it.

Also, I realize that people have their fates tied up to odd things.

Like that dude in the picture above – for all I know, this is his shining moment, the greatest thing he’s ever done: Announce the birth of the next king in a funny hat. I don’t know, nor do I really care that much.

But someone does and that’s all fine and good. I’ll turn the channel just like I do when football is on.

We all have our weird things and we should let others have their weird thing too.

Speaking of weird things, I believe I’m due for some more chili for a midday snack.

Location: off to the gym
Mood: praying for rain
Music: Is there room for one more son
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Picasso and his napkin art

Effortless things take years of effort to accomplish

Female client: This bill is outrageous! Who do you think you are?
Me: I think I’m someone that needs to get paid for the work I do.
Her: For four pages of work?
Me: Let me tell you a story: Picasso was sitting in a cafe one day when someone asked him to draw something on a napkin. He did and asked for $12,000. Like you, the man said that it was outrageous because it only took him a minute, to which Picasso said, “Actually, that took me 40 years.”
Her: So you think you’re Picasso?
Me: No, but I did spend the 15 years learning how to write that four page document you’re holding in your hand. If you could have done it, you would’ve. You came to me, not the other way around. You don’t work for free, why do you expect me to?

It’s a never-ending thing in the service industry: explaining the difference between value and price.

Igor Stravinsky and Pablo Picasso collaborated...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Location: back from the gym
Mood: irritated
Music: my brush would take me there But only If I were a painter
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Jaws or Poetry is in the limitations

Jaws was the world’s first blockbuster because of what it couldn’t do


Me: What about Wednesday?
Her: (looking at calendar) I think I’m free Wednesday night.
Me: Cool, it’s a date. (laughing) This is like when we were first dating.

Planning out a date night with the wife, we discussed what film to see.

Years ago, summer was when Hollywood put out its shlock. Their very best films they brought out in wintertime – the holidays – and the dregs of what they had was reserved for the summer.

That is until Jaws.

famous poster
famous poster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jaws was such a massive success that it actually created the modern meaning of the word, “blockbuster” as well as the entire summer movie season.

And the reason why it was a blockbuster was because of a mechanical shark named “Bruce” (after his lawyer!)

Bruce was built specifically for the film but the problem was that it was so experimental that it broke down constantly. All these scenes that Spielberg had envisioned in his head, Bruce couldn’t do.

And a pivotal scene was when a girl is attacked by the monster.

So Spielberg decided to not show the the shark/the monster/Bruce at all. Instead, you see the girl being yanked under and dragged about.

If you’ve seen the film, you’re seeing this scene in your head as you read this. I saw the film 25 years ago and still remember it vividly.

Partly because of that scene, and a number of other changes Spielberg made because Bruce was so persnickety, Jaws became that first blockbuster.

Art is in the limitations.

When I wrassle, there are a number of things I can’t do because of my injuries. And there are some things my fencing students can’t do because of injuries or physical limitations. So we find other things to do. Cool things. Artful things.

I’ve reached a point in my life where, when things don’t go my way, I think, OK, what can we do differently here? And more times than not, it’s better.

I suppose it’s a plus of being older. Which is good, because there are a lot of negatives.

Barber: You know, you should wear a hat.
Me: I do in the winter.
Her: Good. Hats make older people like you look distinguished. Plus you can hide your bald spot.

 

Location: looking for air conditioned rooms
Mood: steamy
Music: Well, might as well give it another day
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Why are Poison Dart Frogs posionous in the first place?

We become what we consume

Poison dart frogs are well known for their bri...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The most poisonous thing on the planet is a frog; more specifically, it’s the Golden Poison Frog with enough venom to kill between 10-20 humans or two elephants.

But the interesting thing with the Golden Poison Frog – or any poison frog for that matter – is that they aren’t inherently poisonous. They become poisonous from the specific things they eat; if you took baby frogs and fed them things that didn’t have the poison, they wouldn’t be poisonous.

They become poisonous because of what they consume.

On a related note, I’ve come to realize that I know people that consume a steady diet of outrage, and because of that they’re outraged all the time. Or perhaps it’s reversed and they’re outraged all the time and then consume a steady diet of more outrage.

Still others have a steady diet of stupidity, and they’re stupid all the time. And it goes on.

Young, broken people grow up to be old, broken people and after a while you can tell who’s going to end up which.

And I’m finding out that they’re every bit as poisonous to me as those frogs. So I keep my distance.

After all, a frog in a well knows nothing of the ocean and I like to know of oceans.

Conversely, however, I’m also finding that I have more optimistic, worldly, and ambitious people in my life than I might have otherwise expected. And these people consume those things that make them more optimistic, more worldly, and more ambitious.

These people I don’t keep at a distance.

Finally, I’ve been dreaming of the other side again. Just this past weekend, had a dream I lived in Gibraltar.

I’ll tell you about it someday.

Location: the start of a NYC heat wave
Mood: relaxed
Music: again, and again, I think I will break but I mend
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Revenge of the Green Dragons

Scorsese tells a gangster story we all (kinda) knew growing up


Got a message from my sister the other day; she said she overheard someone talking about a new film that Martin Scorsese and Andrew Lau were working on called, Revenge of the Green Dragons.

It’s about two young men seeking revenge as they make their way through the New York City’s Chinatown underworld.

If it sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same basic idea as my book, The Men Made of Stone.

However, this isn’t a mere coincidence, in fact, it goes to the heart of why I was so irritated at Kirkus Indie when they said that they would assign me a “qualified reviewer” to review my work.

By qualified reviewer, it implies a reader of crime fiction. After all, a reader of children’s books is probably not going to like the amount of violence in a noir crime thriller.

But anyone that reads crime fiction would know that The Men Made of Stone was based on actual events. Moreover, these actual events were recounted in a somewhat famous New Yorker article by Fredric Dannen named – you guessed it – Revenge of the Green Dragons.

Therein lies the nexus.

I never read Dannen’s article but I knew all about the Green Dragons and similar gangs growing up because any Asian-American in Queens and Manhattan during the 80s and 90s knew something about them.

Now, there’s a joke I tell all the time: Do you know the nerds growing up that were never picked to be on a team? Well, I was the guy that those nerds beat up.

As an adult, though, I found there’s one small benefit to being a nerdy nobody growing up; it meant that could fade into the background and listen and observe. Since most of these stories were second, third, and fourth-hand knowledge, that meant that I was probably getting highly exaggerated versions of what was actually going on.

Perfect for any budding writer.

When it came time to write my book, it was a fictionalized account of fictionalized accounts of actual events – as well as a combining of the stories of the Green Dragons, the Born to Kill Gang and the London Kray Brothers.

Just based on what I’ve read, it seems that Lau and Scorsese’s story is their fictionalized based-on-actual-events account of the Green Dragons alone.

But because both stories are based on the same germ of truth, I’m wondering what overlap, if any, there will be. It’s a bit like a modern day, real-life Rashomon – another crime noir reference for those of you that follow the genre.

There is one overlap that I’m already aware of. The thing that infuriated me the most about Kirkus Reviews was that the reviewer said a scene in my book in a pool hall was “completely unrealistic.”

Except that pool hall scene actually happened.

In fact, here’s a video of that scene being shot for Lau and Scorsese’s version of that event four days ago.

In any case, knowing Scorsese and Lau’s prior work, I assume we’ll see the usual suspects of: Loyalty, honor, violence, and revenge – all the ingredients of a good story, IMHO – with the added bonus of it being about Asian-Americans.

Looks like a winner to me.

Oh, and here’s my completely fictionalized version of what happened:

 

The Men Made of Stone - Logan Lo
 

Location: out in Queens, coincidentally
Mood: curious
Music: Difference is I’m throwing four, he’s throwing fifty
Subscribe!

And in the “I knew it!” file…

Study shows that people that meet online are less likely to get divorced


A recent study came out that showed that:

  1. more than a third of people that marry met online, and
  2. are less likely to divorce.

This makes sense to me. As I said before, online dating is like having an aunt named Aunt eMatch saying, “I’ve got a girl I think you might like – and here’s her resume, a buncha pics, and a writing sample.”

While I didn’t meet my wife online, she represents exactly what I was looking for. And I’d been looking for her for a while. After all, we’re always looking for our people.

On a related point, because of a number of reasons, I have a good deal of twenty-something friends on FB. I’m always slightly amused and nauseated at how much the profess their undying love to each other, then have an online spat, and then sign on again to write egregiously bad poetry about soulmates.

Heard a joke once where someone said something like, Your soulmate is the guy that had the locker next to you in high school? What are the chances?!

Dating is tiring and depressing with occasionally bright spots of hope – mainly because it’s a constant stream of being disappointed and disappointing others. But just like anything of value, if it were easy, it wouldn’t be valuable.

The difficult and rare things are valuable.

I think a large part of divorces happen because either (a) someone wanted it easy, and/or (b) there wasn’t enough connection to begin with.

There’s no such thing as a soulmate. There is such thing as a lotta hard work and having enough in common to begin with.

Inadvertent comedy doesn’t hurt either.

Me: (entering room) Are you ok?
Her: I just accidentally typed in Wetflix instead of Netflix. (pause) I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.

Location: about to run to an office in shorts and a tee-shirt
Mood: contented
Music: It’s still hard to wait around. The problem is this seems so easy to miss
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Enhanced by Zemanta