Archive for June, 2008

China Road? Can the people move forward while bound in shackles?

A recent story in the WSJ about protests over the rape and death of a 16 year old student – the three plaintiffs (two of whom were related to local officials) were held for 24 hrs and released.  Saturday 500 students protested the death and were dispersed and beaten.  This angered the villagers and triggered a protest of 10,000 who set fire to police and government offices in protest to how local officials handled the investigation.  If China is on the road to wealth, prosperity, and a becoming a world superpower – can they get their without basic human rights – freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom to demonstrate/protest? 

Tiger, Rocco Save World of Sports

Before our profligate commentator, Bobby Jones, calls us to the mat for not giving a Broken Spines perspective on yesterday’s finish to the U.S. Open – I figured I would post.

Rocco Mediate gave Tiger arguably his most difficult test in a major championship.  They were tied after 90 holes of some of the most challenging conditions in golf.  But, what was really on display was sportsmanship of the highest order.

Remaining tied after an 18 hole playoff on Monday (unique in the majors), they went to number 7 for a sudden death playoff.  Rocco pulled his drive into the trap on the left, Tiger’s drive was center cut.  Rocco again tugged his second shot into the grand stand on the left and had to take a drop, Tiger’s second shot made the green leaving him a difficult birdy putt.  Rocco’s third shot left him inside of Tiger.  Tiger missed his birdy and tapped in for par.  All Rocco had to do was make his putt to go to the next hole.  Alas, he missed on the high side and tapped in for bogie – yielding the championship to Tiger 91 holes later (and 37,000 yards on a bum knee).  Wow.

How does Tiger do it?  Read David Brooks’ column “Frozen Gaze”.  What made this a great sports championship?  Read Gene Wojciechowski’s column “Tiger, Rocco save world of sports”

We will miss you Tim! Thank you for your honesty, integrity, and courage.

I know I had posted an article recently about where have all of the good journalists goneTim Russert, NBC News Washington Bureau Chief, was one of those few good journalists left… today we lost a great journalist and an awesome man.  Tim took his responsibility as chief moderator of “Meet the Press” very seriously, he also asked tough but thoughtful questions and did not let his guests slide with generic answers.  In the age of partisan reporting, Tim was at a whole other level – I could not tell you which party he endorsed.

For those of you who have not found the time to read “Wisdom of Our Fathers” it is absolutely essential for every parent – mother or father. 

Thank you Tim for your honesty, integrity, and courage!  You will be missed by us all.

Failure as a tool to understand who we are?

Can we for a second go back to one of my favorite topics… Failure?  J.K. Rowling delivered her commencement address to Harvard last Thursday, entitled “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination.  (See Video)

In her address, J.K comments that “What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.”  She goes on to state that:

“However, the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person’s idea of success, so high have you already flown academically.

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.

Given a time machine or a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.”

Kudos to J.K. Rowling… and to my hypothesis… in the absence of life or death circumstances, we NEED to celebrate failure… personal failure, work failure, and community failure… because it is only after peering into the abyss that we truly understand who we are.

Why America is great… this land is our land!

We all can be so sarcastic about life and our own personal circumstances… but there is so much “good” in the world that we just need to open our eyes or in this case ears to see and hear.  I heard one great story yesterday on NPR from Eboo Patel, a native from India, a Muslim, living in America and I wanted to share it… please take the 3 minutes and 49 seconds to join me on this journey.

Let me know what you think?

If you build it…

Our very first bout, regarding the book Collapse, spawned a pipe dream for a utopian, self-sustaining ranch in rural MN, that would effectively pull the inhabitants off the grid and out of harm’s way. In subsequent bouts that notion has resurfaced several times, each time with some new crazy twist or addition recommended as a solution for the issue du jour. Just give us another year or two and we’ll have imagined an entire city-state!

But if we’re ever motivated enough to actually follow through with creating such a place, one resource may end up being Becky’s Homestead. The tagline for her blog is:

… how to go from a consumer lifestyle, into the Self-Sufficient, Community Driven, Eco-Friendly, Homesteading Lifestyle.

Some of the gems of knowledge Becky offers up: building a light-weight chicken coup, how to sharpen an axe, and heating your home with kerosene.

I discovered this blog after listening to the most recent episode of This Week in Media. One of the hosts, John Flowers, had performed a video tour of his “Life Zero” studio apartment in San Francisco and submitted it to Becky for her blog as an example of how to live a minimalist lifestyle.


Big Brother Is Watching (Your Music Video)

Check out “The Get Out Clause” performing their song Paper on CCTV in Manchester, England (where the average person is caught on video 300 times per day):

The Essential Man’s Library

While we hope the books we read and their subsequent reviews and discussions serve as valuable filter for interesting readings, the reality is we barely scratch the surface when it comes to important writings. In addition, our parameters of non-fiction and 300 pp or less restrict even further the range of potential books. Thankfully, a few guys over at The Art of Manliness have compiled their list of the 100 must-read books for men.

Granted, about 80% of the recommendations are fiction, but I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that for our Fight Club we have read exactly zero of these…


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