Mini reviews: Brave, Quiet, Reamde, Freedom and more

Some mini reviews of books (and one movie) I've had a chance to take in lately.  For most items I’ve linked to an online purchase option, but please consider buying from your locally-owned bookseller or visiting your local library first:

Brave (2012), Pixar
I can't say that Brave, Pixar's latest feature film, is anywhere close to my favorite from this studio.  It's not that the animation isn't stunning (it is) or that the watching experience isn't enjoyable (it was), and it's certainly great to see a strong female main character whose departure from limiting traditional roles is largely uncompromised.  But the world wrought by the story feels somehow smaller and more forgettable than other Pixar adventures.  The nuanced and emotionally complex experiences of the characters mostly overcame the awkward dialog and sometimes dragging plot, and in the end it was observing their inner transformations that was most compelling,

Continue reading Mini reviews: Brave, Quiet, Reamde, Freedom and more

Book reviews: Game Change, Public Speaking, Rework

I'm fortunate to have had time to read some actual books cover-to-cover in the last few weeks.  Other than some novels that made for decent beach reading, a notable theme of business, communication and politics emerged.  A few reviews are below; I've linked to an online purchase option, but please consider buying from your local bookseller or visiting your local library first.

Game Change
by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

Published in 2010, Game Change recounts the stories of the 2008 Presidential election with a behind-the-scenes perspective unlike anything I've seen elsewhere. The book reads like a novel (think Joe Klein's Primary Colors or even a John Grisham work) and is simply fascinating to take in.  Chapter after chapter paint a nuanced picture of what Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, John McCain and other candidates were experiencing from the time they decided to run until the election itself - it's a narrative that the media simply couldn't have assembled along the way.  Knowing of the extensive research and interviewing that the authors did to assemble it together made it all the more impressive.

Continue reading Book reviews: Game Change, Public Speaking, Rework

Obama, Gates and Restorative Justice

When Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested on July 16th at his house in an apparently over-zealous and possibly racially charged police decision, everyone involved quickly fell into the usual pattern of conflict for these kinds of incidents.  Statements were released, lawyers were hired, accusations and implications were flung, and everyone prepared for to defend themselves in battle.  The media did its usual thing, egging on the conflict and brinksmanship, interpreting every action and word in the worst possible light, and the parties involved in the fight used those channels to communicate their anger with each other indirectly.  When President Obama first got involved, he only escalated the situation by first admitting that he didn't have all the facts, and then proceeding anyway to say that one of the parties involved had acted "stupidly."  Awful and disturbing, but pretty much what everyone expected.

But then something curious and possibly amazing happened.

Continue reading Obama, Gates and Restorative Justice

My political aspirations

Update March 2011: I'm currently a candidate for election to Richmond's City Council.

At a local business networking event tonight, someone noted that they'd heard a rumor I might be getting involved in politics locally.  We had a good conversation about it, and I thought I'd use it as a jumping off point to share a little more about my own political aspirations.

Sometime during my college experience, I decided that I was going to run for the Presidency of the United States of America.  I was mostly serious. I mean, I announced it on the Internet for crying out loud, so you know I wasn't just messing around.  I figured out that I would be old enough to be elected President in the 2012 elections, and I dreamed my dream from there.

I've since figured out that national politics is probably not for me, at least not anytime soon.

Continue reading My political aspirations

Obama adoption of "there is no alternative" stance on economy

Two lines stood out to me about President Obama's press conference opening remarks on the state of the U.S. economy:

...at this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life.

I think this is not only incorrect, but also quite counter to the "grass roots we can do it yes we can" message that got Mr. Obama to the White House.  If we accept that the only way to heal a broken economic system is through the actions of the federal government, we absolutely dis-empower and even discourage individuals, families, local communities, and regional partnerships from taking action, taking responsibility for their own way of life.  I think it's irresponsible of Mr. Obama to suggest that we must turn to the federal government's resources for something better, that there is no alternative.

Second:

Continue reading Obama adoption of "there is no alternative" stance on economy

Can the President of the U.S. use e-mail?

The Times has a nice little article today about why Barack Obama will probably have to give up the use of his Blackberry - and e-mail altogether - when he becomes President:

As his team prepares a final judgment on whether he can keep using e-mail, perhaps even in a read-only fashion, several authorities in presidential communication said they believed it was highly unlikely that he would be able to do so.

Diana Owen, who leads the American Studies program at Georgetown University, said presidents were not advised to use e-mail because of security risks and fear that messages could be intercepted.

“They could come up with some bulletproof way of protecting his e-mail and digital correspondence, but anything can be hacked,” said Ms. Owen, who has studied how presidents communicate in the Internet era. “The nature of the president’s job is that others can use e-mail for him.”

Surely there's some middle ground to keep a President as tech-savvy as Barack Obama from being forced off of e-mail altogether? I mean, this is the guy who announced his VP pick by SMS text message, for crying out loud.

Here are some scenarios to explore: Continue reading Can the President of the U.S. use e-mail?

The Most Important Part

The most important words spoken last night, I think:

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Congratulations to President-elect Obama, and to all of the people who put themselves into the political spotlight during this campaign to seek change in their communities at all levels. May the integrity and dreams of a better world that got you this far continue to ground you in the years to come.