Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Thought-Provoking Christmas Message from Ben Stein

My good friend, Tom Glass, sends out some wonderful gems to those on his vast e-mail distribution lists. This is one I really appreciated receiving, and thought you might enjoy reading it, as well.

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning


My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees.. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'

In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?
Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on

your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they
will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards, Honestly and respectfully,
Ben Stein

'Be who you are and say what you feel...
Because those that matter... don't mind...
And those that mind... don't matter

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire - A Response from 2 LT Rajiv Srinivasan, an Indian-born U.S. Army Officer

As soon as I left the Loew's Boston Common Theater in Boston after being mesmerized by the landwark film, "Slumdog Millionaire," one of the first things I did was to call my friend, Rajiv Srinivasan. Rajiv is home on leave from the Army and is visiting his parents, who live in Cambridge.

"Rajiv, I know that there is a blizzard raging around us here in Boston, but I want you to take your parents by the hand and go see 'Slumdog Millionaire' right now!"

I wanted to hear the reaction of one who had been born in India and is now part of the Indian diaspora living in the U.S. With Rajiv's permission, I offer his thoughts, posted to his Facebook page a few hours ago.


Lessons From a Slumdog Millionaire


Rajiv Srinivasan

Poster for Slumdog Millionaire

I am an American. I have lived here, worked here, studied here, and now I serve in my nation's defense. Yet along side my sincere and passionate loyalty to my country is a strong respect for my Indian heritage and ethnic identity. As I attempted to reconcile these two identities during my more formative years, I found that finding strength in one often resulted in becoming stronger in the other.

Yesterday, my family and I saw the independent film "Slumdog Millionaire." The movie tells the life story of a poor Muslim boy, orphaned at a young age, who eventually becomes the star of the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." The millionaire contestant, Jamal (played by Dev Patel), is skinny. He is weak, unconfident, and walks as if a stiff wind could bring him down. He sits in the hot seat looking across a rich and dynamic game show host who is doing everything he can to entertain his audience, despite the feeble creature in the spotlight.

Like any quiz show, the questions are simple and precise. When I hear such questions, I scan for the answers in my vague classroom memories left over after 17 years of formal education. I search through all the information recorded over the hours I have spent sitting in front of the television, reading books, watching movies, or digesting wikipedia. I replay the hundreds of intellectual conversations I have enjoyed with my classmates and friends in pretentious coffee shops over lattes whose names I cannot even pronounce. And of course, when I do not have the answers, I somehow have the nerve to feel empty inside.

Jamal had no recollections of coffee shops nor an education to rely on in this game show; only the painful memories of a Mumbai slum. Whether it was his mother's murder, his brother raping Jamal's destined true love, or seeing the inhumane fate of an abandoned friend, these moments were seared into Jamal's memory to be replayed over and over again. Unlike pleasant memories which tend to fade over time, painful memories only become more vivid. The intense awareness of Jamal's most scarring rites of passage gives way to factual realizations, which ironically become the answers to million-rupee questions. Jamal's unique talent in answering quiz show trivia brings new meaning to the phrase "ignorance is bliss."

Who is the American statesman on the $100 bill? Which cricketer has the most all-time centuries? Who invented the revolver? Whether one knows the answer to these trivia questions is merely a function of whether one is exposed to such random data. As the culture among the American-Indian diaspora often imposes upon its youth, "the more you study, the more you know, and the further you go." Thus, the collection of such information, in the form of a formal education, becomes the center of our lives. Jamal, on the other hand, possesses the correct answer to each question despite having not attended school--notice I say "not attended school" as opposed to saying "not having an education." Because what Jamal teaches us is that an education learned on the streets can often be just as powerful as one learned in a classroom.

I had the blessing to learn life's lessons in a safe environment afforded to me by parents who love me and a country that believes in me. But I often wonder what life would be like had I never made it to the United States. What if I lived in India? What if I were an orphan? What if I were raised in a slum? What percentage of a man's success is a result of his environment, and what percentage is a result of his inner strength and persistence? Perhaps there is something to be said for knowing that Franklin is on the $100 bill because your impoverished blind friend chastised you for giving him one; knowing that Lord Rama holds a bow and arrow in his right hand because of the massacres that Hindu extremists brought to your slum; or knowing that Samuel Colt invented the revolver because your brother pointed one at you.

This movie helped me remember that the gift of education is not limited to the educated. The most successful people and cultures I have studied, to include Indians, find greatness from the mastery of perception: the recognition of the greater implications of the events in our lives, and the use of these lessons to foster growth in our hearts, our families, our businesses, and our communities. Jamal found success and fame because of his environment, not in spite of it. He leveraged his surroundings and experiences to his favor. I am not making the argument that playing fields are level and that rich and poor have equal chances at finding success in life. My argument is that our investments in impoverished areas are futile when they are limited to basic sustenance. Food, water, clothing, and shelter will sustain life. An education may enrich life. But only the awareness and depth that can form from constant mentorship and love will elevate life. The same mentoring that has made the American-Indian diaspora such a competitive demographic in the United States is what will unearth the greatness of the millions of silenced slumdogs around the world. Although we should remember that, in India, even slumdogs express greatness by spontaneously breaking out in song and dance.

The Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire

"Slumdog Millionaire" - See This Film Now!

In the past, I have told readers of The White Rhino Report about the respect I have for the film reviews written by Ty Burr of the Boston Globe. So, when Ty reviewed this film last month and give it 4 stars out of 4, I made a mental note to see the movie at my first opportunity. That opportunity presented itself this week when, in the midst of Boston's first blizzard of the week, my friend, Rick, suggested, "Let's go see Slumdog Millionaire; I love to go to the movies during a storm. I like to see how the world outside has changed while we are wrapped up in the world of the film."

Ty Burr's review, linked below, says everything I could have said - and more, so I do not feel the need to write a review, per se. I had forgotten Mr. Burr's mention of Dickens. As we left the theater, I said to Rick, "If Dickens had been born in India, he would have written this story and created these characters - even down to the moment reminiscent of Sydney Carton in 'A Tale of Two Cities,' best remembered for the iconic line: 'It's a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done. It's a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.'"

So, I commend to you Ty Burr's poignant review, and I add my voice to his in urging you to see this movie. You will not regret it.



Boston Globe Review of Slumdog Millionaire

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Soldier's Christmas - A Gift from the Seidel Family

I have written in the past in The White Rhino Report about the Seidel family, whose son, Rob, gave his life in Iraq serving as a soldier in the U.S. Army. Bob, Sandy and Stephen just sent out this link to a YouTube video that gives a moving and sobering perspective on those who will not be home for Christmas this year because they have chosen the life of a soldier.

As you watch and listen, please pause and say a prayers of thank for those who have chosen to serve and to protect, and for the sacrifices that their families make.

A Soldier's Christmas

This Christmas season, may God bless the men and women serving around the world.


Monday, November 24, 2008

What Does Joe the Plumber Have to Do with It? - A Fresh Look at Executive Coaching

About a year ago, thanks to the kind introduction of our mutual friend, Bob Glazer, I was introduced Dr. Mindy Gewirtz. Mindy is an executive coach . . . plus a whole host of other things that will be revealed in the paragraphs that follow. Before I met Dr. Gewirtz, I had a very limited and stereotypical picture in my mind of “executive coaching.” I used to think about an executive coach as “Joe the Plumber” - fixing a leak and cleaning up a mess. I thought a coach was called in only when there was a significant hole in an executive’s performance or leadership that needed to be plugged.

Over the past year, as Mindy and I have met on a regular basis, I have begun to see executive coaching as an iterative process – a framework in which to discuss opportunities to be pursued, problems to be solved or dreams to be dreamed that were never before imagined. Coaching provides tools and strategies for making all of these possibilities a reality; it helps prune away the dead branches to make way for new growth. My coach teaches me to ask myself the tough questions, and to consider what I can do differently or more effectively. I now have the handles to open drawers that were shut tight and new hooks to safely hang my thoughts while I try on new ways to think about things differently. It is like “putting the cookies on a lower shelf,” so what I am feeling is then accessible. As a result, I now find myself thinking more strategically as I go forward - whether propelling my business or balancing my life.

So what does an executive coach do?

  • S/he creates an interactive process which involves acting as non-judgmental sounding board.
  • S/he provides accountability. Think of the process as an amalgamation of having a really good therapist, and a personal board of directors rolled into one.
  • S/he provides a process that helps to integrate the person with the professional.
  • The really effective coach gives permission to and empowers the executive to interject his or her humanity, personality, temperament and value system into the organization, thereby removing and breaking down artificial barriers.

Coaching is like painting lanes on the highway, to make the traffic of one’s life flow more effectively and with fewer unfortunate collision or traffic jams!

What are the characteristics of a good coach?

  • There has to be good chemistry and fit.
  • Look for authenticity, trust, unconditional positive regard and a willingness to ask searching questions in a non-threatening way.
  • Someone who believes in your ability to change, to discover the ideas within you to propel you forward, in your business and your life.

What is the secret sauce that makes coaching so special?

  • Coaches helps leaders to “get on the balcony” to gain perspective in context of business s/he is running, the transition process from one career to the next, the worry about the unpredictability of the economy.
  • Your coaching relationship can be your safe haven to think about the long term, away from the day to day chaos. There can be almost a spiritual dimension that adds humanity to the professional persona.
  • Think about having a partner to walk along side you, as you machete the unchartered territory in the rain forest of your dreams as you proceed on your internal treasure hunt.

As a reader of the White Rhino Report, how would I know if I am the right person to call Mindy?

  • Whether you are in the military transitioning to the business world, or whether you are on Wall Street, or in a university or non-profit system there is a common thread of internal and external navigation: within yourself, your team and even across organizations.
  • Are you in a new position of leadership?
  • Are you leading others during this turbulent time?
  • Are you now required to do something game-changing that is challenging to you?
  • Is the current economic crisis forcing you to think differently about your career or business
  • Are you ready to do something about where you are - not just talk about it?
  • Would having a resource like this allow you to be less “frozen” and think more creatively and effectively about your business.

If your answer to one of more of these questions is a resounding “Yes,” then I encourage you to consider meeting with Mindy to assess whether establish a coaching relationship makes sense. To shift metaphors that come to us from the recent Presidential election and its aftermath, I no longer think of a coach as “Joe the Plumber.” I think of a coach as my personal “Transition Team,” helping me to line up resources to bring about needed change and a fresh approach to the governance of my enterprise.

Yes, we can!

Dr. Mindy Gewirtz

(617) 803-2268

Google’s New Free 411 Service – 1-800-goog411

My sister was kind enough to forward me information about a new service from Google:

Here's a number worth putting in your cell phone, or your home phone speed dial: 1-800-goog411. This is an awesome service from Google, and it's free -- great when you are on the road, or just looking to order a pizza from home.

I am driving along in my car and I need to call the golf course and I don't know the number. I hit the speed dial for google 411.

The voice at the other end says,

"City & State?"

I say, "Garland, Texas."

He says, "Business, Name or Type of Service?"

I say, “Firewheel Golf Course."

He says, "Connecting."

And someone at Firewheel Golf Course answers the phone. How great is that? This is nationwide and it is absolutely free! Save this # in your phones. 1-800 Goog-411 [1 800 466-4411] And it does even more - Click on the link below and watch the short clip for a quick demonstration.

I just tried the service, looking for a “diner” in Arlington, Massachusetts. Within a few seconds, I was talking to someone at the Mass. Ave. Restaurant and Diner in Arlington.



Last-minute SCUBA Opportunity in Belize – Dec. 2-9

A friend of mine booked and paid in advance for a luxury SCUBA vacation in Belize at the famed St. George’s Caye Resort.

Because of a medical emergency, my friend will be unable to make the trip, and is looking for someone who would be interested in a terrific bargain. Here are some particulars:

“The dive trip is Dec. 2-9 in Belize, for two. We prepaid $5,200, and are willing to sell it for a lot less. We would take $3,000 at this point. It includes all lodging, meals and diving, but NOT transportation.”

If you have looking for a once-in-a-lifetime getaway and have the freedom to travel on short notice, this could be a great opportunity. If you are looking for more details, contact me ASAP and I will put you in contact with my friend.


Saturday, November 15, 2008 - A New Network Linking Veterans, Their Families and Supporters

On Thursday evening, I joined a large group of veterans and supporters at Harvard Business School in observance of Veterans’ Day and the birthday of the US Marines Corps. The evening’s keynote speaker was John R. Campbell. John served as a Marine in Vietnam. After a distinguished career as a commercial banker with firms including Credit Suisse First Boston and JP Morgan, John is devoting his retirement years to the vision of creating, an online social network platform designed to connect military veterans, their families and those who want to support our men and women who have served. went live this past week.

Here is how the Website describes the purpose of the new site:

MyVetwork is the online social networking community custom designed to be the most valuable and sustainable community of individuals in the US military — whether active duty, retired or veteran — and their spouses, families and friends. MyVetwork is provided at no cost to individual users.

MyVetwork’s objectives for individual users are twofold:

1) To provide our US military and those who care about them with a means to interact with and support each other in ways that range from the lighthearted and entertaining to deep and meaningful connections that they wish to sustain.

2) To create an interactive exchange where a broad variety of experts – including veterans of earlier conflicts – provide timely news of particular interest to military personnel, distributed in sophisticated, graphically exciting format; job and career advice; information about educational opportunities, advice regarding health care, access to coaching and mentoring services, and a variety of other resources valuable to recently separated veterans demobilizing from the military, whether they are recuperating from injury, moving on to further their education, or planning careers in public or private sectors.

I just took 10 minutes to create a profile for myself within I encourage you to join me in supporting and promoting this new tool.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Small Window Opening onto a Little Bit of Heaven in Kendall Square – Limited Availability at CIC

This past summer, I shared with readers of The White Rhino Report a Boston Globe article about my landlord – Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC).

Since that article first appeared, a number of my friends and business acquaintances have visited me here in Kendall Square, and many have asked me how they might be able to rent space for their company at CIC. This is a typical response whenever someone sees this unique space for the first time. Cambridge Innovation Center is the largest flexible office facility for growing technology and life sciences companies in the Greater Boston areas.

This is a great place to work and to grow a company. CIC offers month-to-month flexibility so that as a company adds employees, it can expand its space. The Center also takes care of all of the back office and infrastructure support needs that can be a nightmare for small companies. I have had occasion to call the “hotline” for the IT support team, and within minutes, a member of the team was standing at my desk helping me to figure out a technical problem with e-mail or printing or Internet access. Tim Rowe and his team have intentionally and successfully created a space that creates a deep sense of community. From the open design of the architectural concept to the community kitchens that serve as natural “town squares,” the culture of CIC invites collaboration and networking. The energy I derive from rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s most creative and energetic entrepreneurs has a synergistic impact on my own work.

Until recently, whenever anyone has asked about renting space for their company at CIC, I have had to tell them that there is a waiting list. The good news today – and one reason for my publishing this piece now – is that because of some recent changes that have occurred at CIC, there is some limited availability of space for new tenants. This situation should create the same kind of buzz and excitement that swept the back rooms of Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill last week when it became clear that there could be a rare open seat for the office of U.S. Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts if John Kerry is tapped for a senior role in the Obama administration.

So, if you would like to take advantage of this “once in a blue moon” opportunity and explore the possibility of joining the companies that call CIC home, you can contact my friend, Dougan Sherwood to set up a visit to 1 Broadway in Kendall Square.

Dougan Sherwood
Cambridge Innovation Center
617-223-7971 – Cell

Visit the CIC Website to get a feel for the place and for the people who make this feel like home for so many of us.

Enjoy, and come pay us a visit. The views are great. The service is unbeatable. It is a happening place.

“Won’t you be my neighbor?”


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Daniel Hartzheim – A Stunning New Talent on Loan to Boston

At a party on Beacon Hill this week, I met several new friends. Among them were some musicians from Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Daniel Hartzheim impressed me the moment I met him – not initially for his musicianship, but for his erudition. He looked at the White Rhino Partners logo on my business card and read the Latin motto: “Esse Quam Videri.”

’To be rather than to seem,’ right?"

“Yes, indeed. You are one of the few people to get it immediately.”

It was only after I had come to know the fine human being that is Daniel Hartzman that I learned to appreciate the accomplished and gifted musician who is honing his composing and performing skills at Berklee.
I invite you to watch this performance of Hartzman’s song “Autumn’s Remarks” with full orchestra.

Daniel’s Website gives access to many more samples of his work – composition, lyrics, keyboard artistry and lilting vocals. His music is haunting and beautiful.

I encourage you to purchase his music using the links on his Website. His debut album, “What Doesn’t Break” was released early this year.


A Very Moving TV Commercial - Sometimes It Takes More than Medication

I have learned to “catch” people doing things rights and to praise them profusely in order to reinforce the positive behavior. When my friend, Ed Westerman, forwarded me this TV commercial, I knew that I would have to make others aware of it. This kind of creativity and sensitivity is all too rare in commercial television.

This piece has been nominated as Best Commercial of the Year. It gets my vote.

Sometimes it takes more than medication – indeed!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Grant Park Revisited - 2008 and 1968

It has been almost a week since the Presidential election was held. I have spent the week in deep reflection over the unprecedented events of election night, and I would like to share some of those musings.

As I watched the scene from Grant Park in Chicago being covered by all the major TV networks, I eagerly awaited the appearance of President-elect Obama. I knew that his words would be iconic. Only a few minutes into his landmark address to the world, tears were coursing down my cheeks. The friend with whom I was watching the coverage turned to me and said: “You seem to be getting emotional.” The question for me that night was, “Why is this historical moment moving me to tears?” In terms of pure policy, I probably find myself more often in agreement with Senator McCain than I do with the President-elect. But Barack Hussein Obama’s ascendance to the Presidency of the United States is about so much more than matters of policy. And it was these larger forces and dynamics that moved me and took me back in time. My roots in Chicago are deep.

Chicago – 1968

I was an undergraduate student at Wheaton College in Illinois, majoring in Sociology. As part of a field study for a Sociology class, I was involved in a project that resulted in my organizing the parents of street gang members on the West side and South side of Chicago. Their sons were incarcerated in the St. Charles Training School, one of the nation’s largest and most violent reform schools. Their sons were also members of Chicago’s two largest street gangs – The Disciples and the Blackstone Rangers (later known as the Black P. Stone Nation and later still as El Rukn.) In a sense, like Obama did later in time, I was doing community organizing in microcosm in the notorious Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side.

It took several months for me to get the mothers to trust me enough to be willing to meet together to form a peer support group. Mrs. Early volunteered to host the first meeting in her modest home in the projects near Roosevelt Road on the near West Side. The meeting was to be held on an evening early in April. As I prepared to leave my dormitory room to head into Chicago for the meeting, my phone rang. It was Mrs. Early:

“Mr. Chase, this is Miss Early. I have been talking to some of the other mothers, and we think it would be best if you did not come tonight.”

“But Mrs. Early, we have been planning this meeting for weeks, and you seemed enthusiastic about hosting the meeting.”

“Well, we don’t think it would be safe for you to drive into the city tonight. Dr. King has just been shot, and there are riots and fires breaking out all around us.”

Once things calmed down in the aftermath of Dr. King’s assassination, the mothers’ meeting eventually did take place, and I became involved in the lives of several of the families – particularly several of the families whose sons were members of the Black Stone Rangers. As they learned to trust and accept me – a white face in an otherwise almost totally black neighborhood - I learned things about life in Chicago’s segregated neighborhoods that are usually not apparent or accessible to someone growing up in the serene suburbs of Boston’s North Shore.

On a regular basis, I saw shootings, apartments destroyed by fire, frequent trips to the Emergency Room at Cook County Hospital, funerals for victims of gang violence, drug overdoses, suicide attempts, and street violence. And police brutality. On more than one occasion, I was the victim of intimidation by the overwhelmed Chicago Police Department and the feared Gang Intelligence Unit, who were trying desperately to cope with escalating gang violence and increasingly violent political protests against the Viet Nam War and against racism. These were the days of the Black Panthers and the notorious Chicago Seven. The police probably figured that this white college kid with longish hair must be up to no good in a neighborhood where he “did not belong.” So, it came as no surprise to me in August of that year when what was termed a “police riot” broke out in Grant Park and environs during the chaotic Democratic National Conventional. As police clubbed and bloodied young protestors, the students shouted: “And the whole world is watching.”

Chicago - 2008

Last Tuesday night, once again from Grant Park, “the whole world was watching.” And how that world has changed. In the 40 years since I first walked the mean streets of Chicago, a lot of progress has been made. In 1968, a white college student could not enter an all-black neighborhood without arousing suspicion and recrimination. Tough black street gang members were afraid to enter the all-white suburbs to the north and west of Chicago. A conversation I had with some of the Black Stone Rangers will stay with for the rest of my life: “Al, we have been told that in the suburbs, like Wheaton, where your college is located, the white folks have machine guns behind their hedges in case any black people try to come into their neighborhood. Is that true?” Fear ruled – on both sides of the racial divide. “They” were as much afraid of “us” as “we” were of “them.”

So, last Tuesday, as I watched the images being beamed by satellite from Grant Park, my heart was full and my mind was racing – back to 1968 and forward into the future. Thus I was moved to tears when I heard our next President proclaim: “We are not just a collection of Red States and Blue States. We are and always will be the United States of America . . . It’s been a long time coming, . . . but change has come to America. . . To those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help, and I will be your President, too. . . Our Union can be perfected. . . We have come so far, but there is so much left to do. . . Yes we can!”

As Obama’s earnest and eloquent words soared into our hearts and into our history, the TV cameras panned to the tear-stained face of the Rev. Jesse Jackson. And I was transported back to 1968 when he led Operation Breadbasket. I had Jackson’s home phone number in those days so that I could discuss with him whom we should invite to speak at Wheaton College for our event for racial reconciliation.

As Obama reminded us, “Yes we can,” the camera caught an ebullient Oprah Winfrey. And I was taken back to a day I spent with her on Chicago’s West Side. Oprah and I and two federal inmates worked side-by-side that day to build a Habitat for Humanity house for a poor black family. Black and white working together for a common cause.

So, you see, there are myriad reasons why my heart was full and my tears we flowing last week. Reflections of the past and ruminations about the future. Rejoicing with my adopted city over the history-making success of its adopted son.

May God grant wisdom to the man who spoke in Grant Park and who, with the power of his words and the force of his spirit, dispelled the ghosts of 40 years ago.

God bless America!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Two Faces of Change in America - President-elect Barack Obama and Ann Nixon Cooper

This is a proud day in America. Regardless of whether you voted for McCain or Obama, I hope you share the joy this morning that the torch has been passed to a new generation of leadership. I was deeply moved as I listened to McCain's gracious concession speech. His heart-felt words set just the right tone, and were worthy of a man wo has served his country proudly for half a century.

I was even more moved by President-elect Obama's gracious, humble and watershed acceptance speech. I was in tears as he told us the story of Ann Nixon Cooper's trip to the polls in Georgia - a trek of 106 years and tens of thousands of painful steps taken in the dark double penumbras of racism and sexism. Much to my delight this morning, I learned that America's oldest voter has her own Website!

Here are some of the things I learned as I logged onto her site:

Ann Nixon Cooper, 106 years old, has seen presidents come and go in her lifetime and has outlived most of them. On a sunny fall morning, she left her weathered but well-kept Tudor home in Atlanta, Georgia, to vote early -- this time for Barack Obama.

Ann Nixon Cooper, 106 years old, lived during a time when blacks and women did not have the right to vote.

The African-American centenarian remembers a time not long ago when she was barred from voting because of her race. Now she hopes to see the day that Obama is elected as the nation's first black president.

"I ain't got time to die," Cooper said with a smile.

"Even if he didn't win, I was happy for him just to be nominated," said the former socialite. "The first black president -- isn't that something, at 106 years old?"

What a legacy!

What a country.

God bless America. Pray for our next President as he assembles the team that will help him to lead our nation to a return to greatness.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Discovering a New Writer – “The Crow Road” by Ian Banks

I love to discover a new writer – or, more precisely, a writer previously unknown to me. Ian Banks, a Scottish novelist, has been writing fiction and science fiction for quite some time, but I had not been aware of him. I just finished reading his latest novel, “The Crow Road.” I will now begin to backtrack and read some of his earlier writings. I would characterize his writing style as murder mystery meets comedic sarcasm. He combines some of the best elements of Tom Robbins and Harlan Coben.

Here a some brief tidbits of his delicious use of the English language:

“Beside the thick-necked bulk of the Urvill of Urvill (soberly resplendent in what I assumed was the family’s mourning tartan – blackish purple, blackish green and fairly dark black) sat neither of his two daughters, Diana and Helen – those long-legged visions of money-creamed, honey-skinned, globetrotting loveliness – but instead his niece, the stunning, the fabulous, the golden-haired, vellus-faced, diamond-eyed Verity, upwardly nubile scionette of the house of Urvill, the jewel beside the jowls; the girl who, for me, had put the lectual in intellectual, and phany in epiphany and the ibid in libidinous!” (Page 14)

The protagonist and narrator, ‘Prentice, describes his Glasgow roommate, Gavin:

“Gavin stuck his head out from under the duvet, giving me cause once more to marvel at the impressive way the lad’s shoulders merged into his head with no apparent narrowing in between (this appeared to be the principal physical benefit bestowed by the game of rugby; the acquisition of an extremely thick neck. Just as the most important thing one could take to the sport was a thick skull, and from it an intact one still in satisfactory two-way communication with one’s spinal cord).

Gav – who probably epitomized thick-skulledness, though admittedly would not be amongst one’s first fifteen when it came to offering proof of heavy traffic within the central nervous system – opened one bleary eye and focused on me with the same accuracy one has grown to expect from security forces aiming baton rounds at protestors’ legs. ‘What’s made you so unbearable this morning?’” (Page 161)

The narrator’s description of his ample Aunt Ilsa is worth sharing:

“’Where are you off to, Aunt Ilsa?’ I asked the lady in question, during our waltz. Aunt Ilsa, even larger than I remembered her, and dressed in something which looked like a cross between a Persian rug and a multi-occupancy poncho – moved with the determined grace of an elephant and a curious stiffness that made the experience a little like dancing with a garden shed.” (Page 360)

The plot of the novel weaves its way through several generations and branches of a wonderfully dysfunctional clan who live among the lochs of the Highlands of Scotland. Death – colloquially known as “The Crow Road – is a motif that recurs every few chapters. Banks’ rich narratives and inventive descriptions are interspersed with dialogue that explores the meaning of life and the after-life – or the lack thereof.

It is almost trite to talk about not being able to put a book down, but this was the case for me as I made my way through the chapters of this novel. If you have not already been familiar with Banks and his work, I encourage you to add him to your list of authors to check out.



Sunday, October 26, 2008

Top 10 List of Pet Peeves in Spoken Communication.

As I sail into the turbulent waters of “The Golden Years,” I see early indications that I may be in danger of turning into a cranky curmudgeon. One such harbinger of incipient curmudgeondom is my increasingly short fuse and impatience when it comes to listening to the banal and inane speech patterns that have crept into our daily dialogue that pollute even professional and business communication. It is the rare hour when I do not find myself inwardly cringing and wincing at some particularly inapt phrase being blithely thrown out by a host or caller to WEEI talk radio, or injected into an otherwise perfectly pleasant conversation. Even the well-educated are not immune from this creeping devolution of daily discourse.

So, I offer my own – very subjective – list of my Top 10 List of Pet Peeves in Spoken Communication.

I offer the list to the readers of The White Rhino Report for two reasons. First, I need to get this off my chest, and the readers of this Blog seem to be an appropriate and receptive audience for my rant. Second, it may cause you to take a personal inventory of your own speech patterns to ascertain whether some of these deadly sins of syntax have crept into your own every day speech. Be aware that we are all being evaluated every hour of every day by those with whom we interact. Everything is a test! As an executive recruiter, I am often called upon to make very subjective choices about which potential candidates to present to a client company. On more than one occasion, I have chosen not to put forward a candidate who on paper appeared to have all of the requisite qualifications, but whose speech patterns were so unsophisticated and colloquial that the candidate came across as unprofessional.

Top 10 List of Pet Peeves in Spoken Communication

10) “I am trying to make a point. OK?”

It is not uncommon for a speaker, wishing to put forth an argument, to replace a logical chain of propositions with a series of simple declarative sentences, followed by the interjection: “OK?”

“Tom Brady has an infection in the knee that was operated on. OK?

I hear that the Patriots brass are upset that he used a surgeon in California. OK?

Brady many not be ready for the opening game of the 2009 seasons. OK?

I’m afraid we may not make it back to the playoffs. OK?”

Etc., etc.

This Neanderthal approach insults the listener, because it implies that he may need a handhold at each step along the line of the argument being presented. It also reveals the speaker to be woefully inept in crafting a cogent series or propositions.

Don’t fall into this trap. It makes you sound stupid! OK?

9) “Ya know?” or “Do you know what I mean?”

This foible is similar to #10 in that it implicitly insults the listener, and reveals that the speaker may have crawled onto dry land out of the muddy end of the gene pool.

“I got a new job. Do you know what I mean?”

“Ya know, the Red Sox could have won Game 7 if Varitek had just been able to make contact, ya know?”

On rare occasion, I have become so exasperated in listening to this stream of often unconscious verbal Hamburger Helper that I have interrupted the speaker:

“I am going to buy a hybrid car. Do you know what I mean?”

“No, I don’t. I am so friggin’ stupid that I am not capable of comprehending a simple sentence. Please explain what you mean.”

That usually makes the point – and ends the conversation – and sometimes terminates the friendship. I said I was becoming a curmudgeon, do you know what I mean?

8) “. . . , Which is Good!”

Stating the obvious is a sin that will quickly get one labeled as an intellectual lightweight.

“I just looked outside and it has stopped raining, which is good!”

“The number of foreclosures in Massachusetts is down this month, which is good!”

Please! Let the listener decide the moral value, if any, of a simple statement. If you can eliminate this faux pas from your conversation, people may assume you are brighter than they heretofore had given you credit for – which is good! OK?

7) “She was talking to he and I.”

In technical grammatical terms, this construct is called the “compound object of a preposition.” It is rare in English for a noun or pronoun to change cases, but this is one of those rare instances.

“I” is appropriate when the word is used as a subject: “I am writing this Blog piece.”

“Me” is used when the word is an object of a verb or preposition: “Readers of this Blog may write me and respond to me with comments.”

It gets tricky when there is more than one object. Our gut tells us that it does not feel right to use “him” and “me,” because we have heard yokels say: “Him and me went to the picture show!” So, in trying not to fall into that trap, we inadvertently trigger an IED – an “inarticulate expressive device”!

A simple way to figure what is appropriate is to remove one of the objects.

“She gave the book to he and I” or “She gave the book to him and me?”

“She gave the book to I” or “She gave the book to me?”



6) “Can I git?”

I believe I have mentioned this pet peeve in the past in this space, but it still drives me crazy. Dunkin’ Donuts locations may be the sites of the most frequent perpetrations of this verbal idiosyncrasy.

“Can I git a couple of crullers and a large iced hazelnut, extra cream, three Splendas?

I would prefer a simple: “I would like . .” or perhaps “May I please have . . .”

When I hear “Can I git?” I want to retort: “No, you can’t; NO SOUP FOR YOU!”

5) “Can I help who’s next?”

While I am on the subject of Dunkin’ Donuts, I would like to offer the observation that they need to train their customer service people to be a little warmer in their greetings. “Can I help who’s next?” does not cut it for me. It may sound hokey, but I prefer places where I am greeted with a smile and a simple “Hi,” or even, “Can I help the next guest/customer/glutton?”

4) A “Very Unique” Problem

“She was wearing one of the most unique brooches I had ever seen.”

By definition, “unique” means “one of a kind” – there is nothing else like it in existence. So, there cannot be degrees of uniqueness. It is not logically possible for one thing to be “more unique” than another. If you get this concept right, you will stand out among your peers as uniquely articulate.

3) Revert back

“Revert back” is technically a redundancy. Revert means “to go back to” or “to return to,” as in “She reverted to her old tardy ways.” So, the concept of going back is already contained within the word “revert,” and to add “back” is like gilding the lily. It is unnecessary and annoying.

2) “Very, very” or “Right, right, right”

With these final two pet peeves, I am moving into the realm of what I think of as “automatic response” or “knee jerk” verbal fillers. Whenever I hear a speaker begin to use these forms of verbiage, I begin to assume that I had better turn on my “BS filter” because it strikes me as insincere. These are unconscious forms of communication that fail to connect with me on any meaningful person-to-person level.

“This cell phone is very, very reliable, and I think if you buy it, you will be very, very pleased.”

“Right, right, right!”

1) “To be quite candid” or “To be honest with you”

As soon as I hear this kind of language, I check to make sure that my wallet is where it belongs. The implication is either: “Up until now, I have not been completely honest with you, but now I will begin to tell you the unvarnished the truth.” Or, it may imply, “With most people, I tell them what I think they want to hear, but you are special, so I will tell you the whole truth.” I expect the next line will be something like: “What will it take for me to get you into one of my cars and have you drive it off the lot into your driveway today?”

In either case, the sense is that I am now dealing with a person that I cannot completely trust. See Shakespeare:

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

--From Hamlet (III, ii, 239)

So, there you have it: a curmudgeon’s jeremiad lamenting the woeful state of verbal communication in the world today. OK? I would welcome your comments. Do you know what I mean?


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Illuminating TV – “Friday Night Lights”

My son, Scott, has very discerning and discriminating tastes when it comes to the arts – music, cinema, theater, TV or the fine arts. So, when Scott tells me I should pay attention to a particular artist or work of art, I have learned to listen and respect his judgment. A few weeks ago, Scott said to me something along the lines of:

“Dad, you know how much I hate sports and how little interest I have in following anything to do with sports. So it may shock you when I say that the TV series, ‘Friday Night Lights’ is the best TV show I have ever seen. I am sending you the DVD’s for the first two seasons. I think you will enjoy them.”

So, I have just finished a marathon viewing of the entire first two season of the show. Scott was right – as usual. This is extraordinary television. The concept is based on the 1990 book, “Friday Night Lights” by Pulitzer Prize winning writer and journalist, H.G. Bissinger. Bissinger spent a year chronicling the phenomenon of Texas high school football in Odessa, Texas. The book spawned a feature film by the same name that starred Billy Bob Thornton. The film was released in 2004, and was directed by Peter Berg, a second cousin of Bissinger.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the translation from film to TV series:

“Once filming on the movie was completed, Berg turned his attention to adapting the story for television. Berg expressed in various interviews following the film how he regretted having to jettison many of the interpersonal topics covered in the book from the film because of the time constraints of a feature film. Creating a TV series, particularly one based on fictional characters, allowed many of those elements to be brought back in and addressed in-depth.”

In my opinion, the biggest difference between the film and the TV series is the breadth and scope of the subject matter. While the film was primarily about Texas high football and how it defines the lives of everyone living in the small town of Odessa., the TV series has a more ambitious reach. While it uses football as the prism through which the lives of each character is viewed, the series is about nothing less than examining and illuminating how we in Middle America raise our sons and daughters – or in some cases – leave them to essentially raise themselves.

The ensemble cast is flawless in their acting and in the interactions with one another. The writing is note perfect – from the many colloquialisms that help to define the characters to the incisive look into many aspects of small town Texas life. The Bible Belt element – both black churches and a white evangelical congregation – is handled with great care and reverence, while giving full freedom to explore the constant tension some of the characters feel between being led by raging hormones or by the Holy Spirit!

The remarkable thing about this show and its overall effect is that I found myself caring deeply about the welfare of each character – even of the rogues, like the oleaginous Booster Club President, Buddy Garrity. The characters are richly drawn and finely nuanced – no white hats and black hats here. This is closer to Dostoevsky than it is to Zane Grey. The line between good and evil – between hero and villain - runs down the center of each character. In the hands of lesser talents, this show and its material could easily have devolved into bathos and soap opera. Instead, it rises to the level of fine art and great television.

In my theater-going career, one of the highlights was seeing the eight and a half hour production of Dickens’ “Nicholas Nickelby” staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company. By the end of the play, I felt I had come to know and to care about each character as if they were a long-time friend and neighbor. I had the same sense of intimate connection with the characters that populate “Friday Night Lights.”

The show was renewed for a 13-episode third season; episodes began airing on DirecTV's The 101 on 1 October 2008 and will be rebroadcast on NBC in the winter. If you have access to DirecTV, check it out now. If not, while waiting for NBC to air the third season episode early in 2009, I invite you to catch up on the lives of the denizens of fictional Dillon, Texas by watching the DVD’s of the first two season.

Thanks, Scott.



Big Game Hunters – “The Apprentice” Invites You to Own a Piece of Big Sky Country

Anyone who has been reading The White Rhino Report for any length of time will recognize the name of Kelly Perdew. Kelly is the West Point graduate who won the second season of “The Apprentice” and went to work with Donald Trump as a result of winning the top prize on the show. Since then, Kelly has been involved in a number of entrepreneurial endeavors. It has been fun keeping up with his development as a business leader.

Kelly recently made me aware of a project that he and his family are involved with. I will let Kelly tell the story briefly:

My family and I are selling 15 lots and memberships in a gorgeous hunting/fishing ranch just outside of Great Falls, Montana. I would very much prefer to share this beautiful place with connections or connections of connections than complete strangers.

You can see details about the ranch at:

Potential buyers for our memberships would be those who want that outdoor/hunting/fishing lifestyle.

Because any potential buyers will be neighbors of the Perdew family, they want to ensure that they maintain control of the process of making people aware of this opportunity by using their network of personal contacts. If you, or anyone you feel may be interested, would like more information, let me know and I will be glad to put you in contact with Kelly with my word of recommendation.

Be aware that this offer is only available through December 15, 2008.

Happy hunting!


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Swapping Baseball Stories at Fenway - Morgan Magic in the Stands

In the midst of the Red Sox woeful play on the field against the Rays on Monday, I managed to salvage some enjoyment from the game. I found myself sitting next to former Red Sox Manager, Joe Morgan - he of "Morgan Magic" fame. During the 1988 season, the Red Sox fired Manager, John McNamara, and replaced him with Interim Manager, Joe Morgan of Walpole, Massachusetts. Under Morgan the revitalized Sox won 12 straight games, 19 of 20 games, and put together a skein of 24 straight home victories. They went on the win the AL East, and Morgan continued to manage for a total of three seasons.

So, it was a treat to be able to lean over towards Joe and ask questions about the good old days. I listed the Sox starting line-up from when I was a lad, and he made comments about each one - Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, Dom Dimaggio, Ted Williams. He knew them all. We talked about why Ortiz and Varitek are struggling to catch up with the fastball in this series. We talked about why Varitek refuses to give up switch hitting, when it appears he has no chance of getting a hit from the left side of the plate. We talked about Joe's getting tossed by the umpires an average of 3 times a season during his major league career, but 8 times a year in the minor leagues. We talked about Manny's departure, and why it was inevitable. He talked about the fact the he did not expect Youkilis to be as good as he has turned out to be, and that he knew from the first time he saw him play that Pedrioa would be a winner.

At one point Morgan turned to me and asked: "That Bartlett kid at 3rd - who did the Rays trade to get him?" I answered that I thought it was Delmond Young and one or two more players. It was nice to be able to give something back to one with a great baseball mind and a reputation set in stone among Red Sox Nation.

Thanks for all the magic, Joe.

Go Sox!


Mike O’Malley – Keeping the Faith in the Red Sox

My friend, Mike O’Malley, now lives in LA, but he is a die-hard Red Sox fan. You may know him from his CBS series, “Yes, Dear.” Mike’s new series on NBC is “My Own Worst Enemy,” starring Christian Slater. The show had its debut Monday night at 10:00. Mike was not able to be in Boston for the Sox game, and was working, so he was not even able to monitor the game from LA. So, I fed him real time text message updates from my seat in Section 29.

After last night’s tough defeat at the hands of the up-start Tampa Bay Rays, Mike sent the following e-mail message:

It worked last year, so, here it goes again... A mid-week Sermon for the faithful

Just replace "Indians" with "Rays" whenever necessary.
But the sentiment is the same.

Wed Oct 17, 2007 3:43 pm EDT

A mid-week sermon for the faithful

Mike O'Malley, an actor, writer and fervent Boston Red Sox fan, is blogging about the Red Sox during their American League championship series match-up with the Cleveland Indians.

Ah, my fellow Sox fans, I can feel you beginning to drift away on this off-day.

I can feel you trying to disperse your disappointment in the last three games by trying to come up with positive repercussions of a potential Sox elimination on Thursday. You're telling yourself it will be good to have a free weekend without your life hanging on every pitch, a weekend where you can go to church Sunday morning and actually make a choice to not pay attention rather than allowing your baseball-induced narcolepsy to make it for you.

I can feel you retreating into your calendars. Into your long-avoided tasks on your to-do lists. Into and onto travel websites to make your Thanksgiving travel plans. Into your junk drawer, which you will clean while you avoid SportsCenter's multiple showings of another team's champagne celebration. I can feel your retreat into a dark place for Game 5 as you avoid like-minded people to sit by yourself, shrugging your shoulders and waiting to be put out of your misery. I understand the inclination.

So you bright-side the Red Sox losing by imagining having no games to frustrate you, no more late nights, no more muttering about managerial moves to your significant other/friend/dog/sibling/fellow drunk, no more shouting obscenities at your television when your suggested move ends up being ignored and bad things result!!

You can see in the not-too-distant future a life where you're not distracted by men playing a game you gave up long ago. I can feel you imagining a time when you will not avoid your kids, or get around to trying to have kids, or stop acting like a kid by crying when the Red Sox lose. I can see you planning an evening before the fireplace when you'll pop a bottle of wine and actually have a conversation with someone.

I share these dark thoughts. I have the same switch on the wall inside my head. It is a switch that, once flipped, sets into motion an engine of negativity. It has been revving since the Game 3 loss. And since the Game 4 loss, you've been retreating to your emotional work shed, jiffy-lubing your very own doom-and-gloom switch so you'll be able to flip it on at the first sign of trouble in Game 5, and with satisfaction, you will watch the rest of the game as if the Sox losing was a foregone conclusion.

You are familiar with this mechanism, because it has done such a bang-up job at alleviating your predicted disappointment in the past. It tells you that you are tired of placing a disproportionate amount of your happiness in the hands of men who swing a big piece of wood at a moving piece of stitched leather. You're fed up and bothered, bunched-up and spent. You feel ready to deflate your misguided hopes and settle in for some football.

I am here to tell you one thing. Fight that feeling. For at least another day. Stand firm. Tides change with one bobbled ball. Games are won and lost on one pitch all the time. That pitch in Game 5 has not been thrown yet.

Fight the feeling to say things like: "It's good for baseball that two smaller-market teams go to the World Series." Enough about what's good for baseball. Let television executives and the people from Stubhub and the folks who sell throwback jerseys worry about what's good for baseball. Being a real baseball fan is about one team winning. Yours. We root for one team because when things go well, we're the only ones who get to enjoy it.

I never believed in the Curse of the Bambino, in the hex sense. But I did believe in the power of an entire group of Red Sox fans collectively predicting and then willing the worst to happen. It was easy to behave that way. When things got close or tough, or it looked like victory was ours, the bad thing happened so often and in so many maddening manifestations that it became a national joke. But 2004 put that joke in the past, and with it, we should all have discarded the proclivity to bail before the boat has sunk.

Now, there's no doubt we're taking on water. And this is a different
team than 2004. But you, dear fan, have not gone on to root for another team. You were part of the past, the losing and the winning, and your thoughts of belief when Dave Roberts stole second were like the butterfly flapping its wings in Africa that started the hurricane in the Caribbean. Your belief when Roberts stole second were the butterflies that blew Bill Mueller's batted ball past Mariano Rivera's grasp moments later.

I'm no physicist, but it is possible that's true.

Because you, dear fan, matter. You have been there through the most depressing low and the most joyful high. Why not linger with good thoughts for a moment longer? You have it in you to root like hell for Beckett on Thursday. You have it in you to drum up the confidence when Papi is at the plate late in the game. You have it in you to direct some of that belief to the men on your Red Sox roster who need it most right now.

Be not distracted by those Indians fans who are reading this, gloating, laughing, doing their very own rooster strut as they troll the web looking for sad Sox fans while making travel plans for Colorado for the Fall Classic. We know the feeling. Gloating has been something we have written the book on. You can't blame them, they are good and they are devoted.

Summon your very own devotion to your very own Red Sox for one more day. Be not a wounded animal, alone in a corner willing your final breath to come sooner rather than later. Be a believer. Have we been beaten pretty good the last three games? No doubt. Are the Indians hard to hate? Not anymore. Start hating them and their towel-waving antics. Hate their drum, their logo, their unknown stars who will soon leave to play for the Mets or Yankees, and hate them good. Let the broadcasters and national media blush with praise and desire for these oh-so-very-likeable Indians.

Your job, friends, is to hate. Believe and hate. Heck, that's what our great country was built on! Do you not believe in the idea of America?

Belief and hate – two powerful things to get you through Game 5.

Well said, my friend. Keep the faith. Go Sox!

By the way, I watched “My Own Worst Enemy,” and loved the show. It runs opposite Monday Night Football, so it looks like I’ll be missing the first half of a few games this season! Check out the show next Monday at 10:00. I think you will enjoy it.