Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mini-Review: “Fortunate Son – The Autobiography of Lewis B. Puller, Jr.”

The name of General “Chesty” Puller brings a proud smile to the lips of every Marine. He is part of the pantheon of “the few and the proud.” His son, Lewis Puller, Jr., has written a memoir that tells the story of growing up in the shadow of a legendary father, becoming a Marine officer in his own right, losing his legs in an explosion while serving in Vietnam, and struggling to build a life for himself in the aftermath. This thoughtful and thought-provoking book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Lewis Puller, Jr. demonstrates a great deal of transparency in recounting his pilgrimage from the son of a war hero to a wounded warrior looking for his rightful place in the world. The New York Times called this book: “A haunting tribute to the names on the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial . . . An important contribution to the personal literature of war.”

The fact that much of Puller’s personal journey took place during the same time the nation was struggling with building the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial adds a special poignancy to this memoir. Several of my friends who have served recently in Iraq and Afghanistan commended this book to me as one that had helped them in their own process of reconciling their experiences in war with their return to the United States.

This is a story of great loss and of commensurate courage and determination. I think you will find it inspiring and well worth reading.


Dr. Mardy Grothe Does it Again - Review of "I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like"

In the past, I have taken great delight in sharing with the readers of The White Rhino Report my reviews of Dr. Mardy Grothe's intriguing and illuminating collections of quotations, "Oxymoronica" and "Viva La Repartee":

Previous Reviews

So, I was thrilled to learn that Harper Collins has just published a new collection, brilliantly entitled "I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like." The shameless punster in me did a fist pump when I first saw the title! The subtitle calls this latest collection of quotations "a comprehensive compilation of history's greatest analogies, metaphors and similes."

Anyone who loves language and appreciates its proper and creative usage will find nuggets of gold in the 300+ pages of this book. Here is a small sampling of the delights you will find as you let your fingers and mind wander through these chapters.


"If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world. and that his heart is no island cut off from other islands, but a continent that joins to them."

Francis Bacon (p. 27)


"What we become depends on what we read
after all of the professors have finished with us.
The greatest university of all is a collection of books."

Thomas Carlyle (p. 29)


"Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the face."

Victor Hugo (p. 111)


"The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story,
and writes another, and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it."

James M. Barrie (p. 120)


"To love another person is to see the face of God."

Victor Hugo (p. 169)


"I inhabit a weak, frail decayed tenement; battered by the winds and broken upon by the storms, and from all I can learn, the landlord does not intend to repair."

John Quincy Adams, as he lay dying (p. 219)


"Every man who takes office in Washington either grows or swells, and when I give a man an office, I watch him carefully to see whether he is swelling or growing."
Woodrow Wilson (p. 273)


"Ideas are to literature what light is to painting"
Paul Bourget (p. 292)

"An idea, like a ghost . . . must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself."
Charles Dickens (p. 284)

"A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity, and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon, and by moonlight."

Robertson Davies (p. 301)


In keeping with the spirit of Dr. Grothe's offering, let me say that this latest volume is an all-you-can-eat buffet of morsels to satisfy every literary palate. Dig in!



In The Interest of Fairness – The Other Side of Obama’s Visit to the Troops

In the past week and a half, my in-box has been inundated with e-mails from well-meaning friends who are outraged at the reports coming from Iraq that Senator Obama had snubbed our troops while touring the war zone.

A friend of mine, a decorated military veteran who supports the Obama candidacy, sent me the following clarification. In the interest of fair play, I share it with the readers of The White Rhino Report for your consideration.

This report is false and has already been debunked. His time spent meeting troops has been extensively documented by numerous sources, including Fox News:

Having had the opportunity to see Barack in action on several occasions, I have seen him go out of his way to make personal connections and truly listen to both his supporters and people who don't agree with him. This is not an effete liberal - but a self made man with incredibly strong character & values.

I don't know if CPT Porter is a real person with partisan political motives, or someone fabricated for the purposes of the smear, but appreciate any help you can provide in spreading the facts & elevating the tone of the campaign.

Thanks for everything!


Troops Smear Link

Monday, July 28, 2008

White Rhino Hack Attack - Gmail account compromised

If you received a bizarre e-mail from my Gmail account on Saturday, I apologize for the Spam. Someone, most likely somewhere in China, was able to hack into my Gmail account and send a solicitation e-mail to everyone on my mailing list. The IT support people here at Cambridge Innovation Center are working to get to the answer to how this might have happened.

My apologies for any inconvenience or confusion.


How to contain radical Islam - USMC Captain Donovan Campbell

How to contain radical Islam

The best global strategy for the US may be the one that won the Cold War

By Commander Philip Kapusta and Captain Donovan Campbell

My good friend, Marine Corps Captain Donovan Campbell has just co-authored an article that ran in yesterday's Boston Sunday Globe. In this article, Captain Campbell, a veteran of three deployments to Southwest Asia, teams with Commander Kapusta to offer one of the most cogent arguments I have yet encountered on how the United States should respond to the realities of the Post-9/11 world. In a nutshell, they make a very compelling case for promulgating a policy of "neocontainment" to parallel the policies that worked so well for the U.S. in containing and ultimately defeating Communism during the Cold War.

Boston Sunday Globe Article

This article is well worth your time to read and digest.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Free Concert - Jake Armerding in Kendall Square, Cambridge - Wednesday, July 30 at 12:30 PM

I invite you to mark your calendar for Wednesday at lunchtime for a rare opportunity to hear Jake Armerding perform in a free concert setting. Here are the details:

Join me next Wednesday, July 30 at 12:30 to hear Jake Armerding perform as part of the summer-long concert series sponsored by Club Passim. The concert will take place at 2 Cambridge Center in the plaza outside the Kendall Square Marriott Hotel (Kendall stop on the Red Line)

Here is a link to the event invitation I have posted on Facebook:

Facebook Event Invitation

I look forward to seeing you there.


A Creative Way to Support the Creative Arts - Investing in Jake Armerding's New Project

Even the most casual reader of The White Rhino Report is aware of how much I have come to admire the artistry and musicianship of Jake Armerding. In order to underwrite the costs of producing his next album, Jake is adopting an innovative practice that other musicians have recently used with great success. I will let him explain the concept with these excerpts from his recent newsletter.


Hullo lovers of organic music,

Happy summah, as we say in Boston. Or happy haze, heat, humidity and general discomfort, as the case may be.

I'm excited -- nay, exuberant -- to tell you I have completed enough songs to begin working on a new record. I hope to start recording in early fall with the help of some of my very favorite musicians on the planet. If you can, I'd like to ask you to be involved with it.

I consider myself unbelievably fortunate still to have the means (as I enter my third decade!) to write down something about life -- mine or yours -- that has inspired me, to put it to music, and to present it to you, either on stage or on record. I get to be creative every day, and I hope it doesn't sound too sentimental to say my soul is healthy because of it. I could not be more honest when I say my hope in doing this has always been to increase the health of yours. We all need truth and beauty, and I've been blessed with an ability to create things that, occasionally, I believe to be beautiful and truthful. It is mostly your emails that have convinced me of this belief.

As I gear up for another recording project (perhaps my favorite thing on earth to do) I find myself with two options: to use only what I've saved, which would somewhat compromise the recording quality and musical integrity of the project, or to explore the option of pre-orders, in the hopes of gaining the creative freedom to record an album that is as excellent as I can make it.

I've been honored by your purchases of my past records -- those sales, along with your support at my live shows, have allowed me to make a living for nearly a decade. Now I'd like to ask you to be involved in the making of the next Jake Armerding record by pre-ordering it -- instead of the record or records you might buy upon its release, you can raise the quality of the finished product by purchasing now. It's an investment, and the only risk you run is my making a poor record (not an option in my book).

This is my Truth & Beauty Fund. There are several ways to invest, and I've put together a few different options. Each one recognizes your generosity by giving you something unique and unavailable to the mass market.

Option 1: $25

You will receive an autographed copy of the new record, hot off the press. (This will probably be about six weeks before its commercial release.) You will also receive either an autographed photo or an autographed poster, whichever you prefer.

Option 2: $50

Two autographed copies of the new record, an autographed photo or poster, and a bonus, limited-edition Extras CD containing the following songs:

Little Boy Blue (independent country remix)
Evening (outtake from the Jake Armerding sessions)
Porto, PT (previously unreleased)
Walking on the World (original demo)
The Girl I Left Behind Me / Blackberry Blossom featuring Greg Liszt (live at the Somerville Theater)
Amie featuring Taylor Armerding (outtake from the Jake Armerding sessions)
Caged Bird (plugged-in remix)
Flirting (alternate take)
Honda Civic EX (previously unreleased)
The Fleece (original demo)

This bonus CD contains a couple of cover songs and thus will not be sold commercially - it will only be available through the Truth & Beauty Fund.

Option 3: $100

Five autographed copies of the new record, one copy of Walking on the World, one copy of Jake Armerding, the Extras CD, and an autographed photo or poster.

Option 4: $250

Ten autographed copies of the new record, one copy of Walking on the World, one copy of Jake Armerding, the Extras CD, an autographed photo or poster, and a note of thanks in the album credits.

Live Truth & Beauty: $1,000

The ultimate in artist support. To discuss benefits for this option, including the possibility of a private, in-home concert, please email me at

Shipping and handling are included for all options.

There are two ways to invest:

1) Please mail a check or money order, along with the attached form, to:

Jake Armerding
22 Oakhurst Avenue
Ipswich, MA 01938

This method is preferred, as there is no 'middle man' and I am thereby the sole beneficiary of your generosity.

2) On the MUSIC page, we have added a new option that will let you make a secure payment to the fund directly, with your credit card. As you will not be filling out the option form, please be sure to provide your name and address on the following page, using the "Notes" field to specify to whom the CDs should be signed.

Visit this link to invest electronically:

Thank you so much for your support, and look for another newsletter shortly, in which we'll take a closer look at the twisted psyche of Italian bus drivers.

Cheers all!


I love the concept. When I see Jake next week, as he performs in Kendall Square, Cambridge, I will hand him a check that will represent my investment in the Truth and Beauty Fund. I encourage you to consider joining me as a patron of the arts.


A Fitting Tribute - The Naming of Nicholas Robert Allen Nelson

I have written often in the past of 1st LT Rob Seidel, West Point Class of 2004, who gave his life serving in Iraq. Rob's family and friends have found many moving and creative ways to keep his memory and his spirit alive. The Nelson family of Thornton, Colorado recently added their own unique contribution to Rob's legacy by naming their son after Rob and two other soldiers who served with Chris Nelson in Iraq.

Here is the gist of the story, as reported by Denver's Channel 9:

"Chris Nelson, was serving with the US Army. His son's story started on May 18, 2006.

'I'll never forget. It's burned into my memory forever,' Nelson said.

He was scheduled to drive a Humvee during the day's mission. Onboard were two of his closest friends, PFC Nicholas Cournoyer and Sgt. Lonnie Allen, Jr., who went by 'Allen.' Nelson's commanding officer, First Lt. Robert Seidel, offered to give Nelson the day off because he'd been up early performing maintenance on the vehicle.

Nelson was safely back in his barracks when the Humvee hit an improvised explosive device, an IED. Five were killed, including Cournoyer, Allan and Seidel.

'It was a horrific day and I'll never forget it,' said Nelson.

He was determined to honor a plea from the fallen soldier's parents.

'They asked us, don't forget. Do not forget. Please,' recalled Nelson.

Nicholas Robert Allen Nelson is their namesake and a promise kept.

'We're keeping their sons' names alive,' said Nelson.

'They were everything to my husband,' Tiffany Nelson said. 'I knew that they would always live in his heart if we had a boy named after them.'"


For the full story and video clip, click on the link below:

Link to 9News Article

A Blog Reader Strikes Back - A Priceless Parody from Mark Sohmer

In response to the recent Blog posting, "Broadway at Its Best," my friend and faithful reader of The White Rhino Report, Mark Sohmer wrote a comment. His extended parody of a typical life in the day of The White Rhino is so creative that I want to makes sure it gets a wide audience. I don't mind a laugh at my own expense, especially when it as cleverly done as is Mark's piece. I trust you will enjoy his sense of humor as much as I do.


Mark "I LOVE AL" Sohmer has left a new comment on your post "Broadway at Its Best – “August: Osage County”":

"A Day in the Life off Renaissance Man Al Chase"

~ A Parody in One Act ~

by Mark Sohmer

Dear Diary,

Today was pretty blah. Nothing unusual. It started with a flight to Washington D.C. to meet with the President's Adviser on Foreign Affairs. I had been introduced to him through a mutual friend while eating muffins at the most lovely establishment in Paris that you just must try.

During the meeting with this dignitary, we realized we had mutual friends in the Pentagon, we we took a stroll over there. There was a problem with me not having proper clearance, but the guard recognized me from my stint playing Tevye [played by the actor, Topol, in the film version] many summers ago, so he agreed to let me in if I would autograph his notebook. It was the least I could do.

Due to the bad weather, my flight to Logan was diverted to Chicago, and I had to wait in the airport there for an hour. What do you know! Who should walk by my terminal but Johnny Damon. Johnny remembered me as the fun-loving guy who used to watch him play so often back in Fenway. Although he has never admitted it publicly, over a coffee in the terminal, he told me that he often regrets his decision to cut his hair and join when he called "the dark side." Then he said some unkind words about Steinbrenner and was off. Oh, but not before he let me try his Red Sox world series ring.

I was a bit embarrassed, but it got stuck on my finger, and his flight was leaving, so he told me to keep it and just mail it back to him when I got the chance. Nice kid.

Once I reached Boston, there was a bit of trouble getting through the gate because there was a family having difficulty with security guards. Apparently there was a communication problem. As I got closer to the melee, I realized it was due to the guards not being able to understand the people, and it became apparent why. They were speaking the most charming dialect of Kiswahili, which I happened to have picked up in my extensive traveling in Uganda in my youth. So what a delight to revisit one of my favorite languages and translate for these people. They took me out for a mid-afternoon snack as thanks, and I enjoyed traditional matooke. Nice people. And would you believe that upon having a discussion, we discovered we shared a mutual friend in the embassy and I was able to setup a social networking connection?

When I got back to the office, I was so tired I was only able to read three novels.

And I was too pooped to call General Petraeus back. He had wanted my analysis on some recent West Point graduates. He's so high maintenance. Always wants my opinions.

Well, Diary, I'm heading to bed. As I said, nothing too out of the ordinary today. Another typical one. Perhaps something really exciting will happen tomorrow, like falafel lunch with my friend Mark Sohmer!

Habari za jioni


Mark, thank you. Let's schedule that falafel lunch soon!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Broadway at Its Best – “August: Osage County”

During my most recent visit to New York City, I carved out a few hours in the middle of the day to take in a matinee performance of a Broadway show. I headed to the TKTS booth in Times Square to see what was available for discounted tickets. The line waiting to see one of the musicals stretched out to fill the block around the box office. The line dedicated to dramatic straight plays contained only a few dozen hearty souls. So, my decision was made to see “August: Osage County.” It was one of the best decisions of my theater-going career.

The play, written by Tracy Letts, has received universal acclaim. It won the Pulitzer Prize and 5 Tony Awards. The writing is of the highest caliber. Think of a blend of Chekhov, Eugene O’Neill, and Tennessee Williams and add a dash of Pinter. The three hours and twenty minutes that it took for the three acts to play out seemed to fly by. The ensemble cast, now anchored by the estimable Estelle Parsons as the matriarch, Violet, is note perfect and flawless. The play originated with Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company, and the cast is populated with several actors from that venerable troupe. The story raises family dysfunction to an art form - literally and figuratively. Unless you were raised in a particularly healthy and loving home, you will probably recognize some extended family members among the richly-drawn characters that Letts has brought to life.

The recent review linked below, written by Charles Isherwood of The New York Times, captures perfectly the dynamics that make this the best play to grace Broadway in many a year. If you plan to be in NYC any time in the next few months, this play is worth going out of your way to see. It has already taken its place in the pantheon of great American drama.

Isherwood Review



Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In the Presence of Greatness – A Visit with Frances Hesselbein

I first became aware of Frances Hesselbein a few months ago when she spoke at a leadership dinner sponsored by the West Point Society of New York. This diminutive dynamo held the crowd spellbound as she told stories of advising U.S. Presidents and top-ranking Army generals. She is well known for having turned the Girl Scouts of America from a predominantly lily-white organization to one that has come to embrace the ethnic and racial diversity of our land. Long past the age when most folks have chosen to retire, Mrs. Hesselbein maintains a schedule that would challenge executives several generations her junior. She is a wonder and an inspiration. Fortune Magazine named her “The best non-profit manager in America.”

A few weeks ago, I was having lunch in Boston with a friend of mine who has founded and built a very successful non-profit organization. The organization has become so successful that they are being challenged to replicate the model in other metropolitan areas across the U.S. Lisa asked me if I had any ideas on how they might go about expanding their organization to a national level. “No, but I think I know someone in New York City would might be able to give you some good ideas.”

Not long after my conversation with Lisa, I was introduced to Alex, a very successful businessman based in Atlanta. As Alex and I got to know each other, our phone conversation covered a wide range of topics. One of those topics prompted him to quote from his “friend and fellow Board member, Frances Hesselbein.” Coincidence? I don’t think so. So, I told him about my recent dialogue with Lisa. Alex was kind enough to offer to check with Mrs. Hesselbein’s secretary to arrange for a meeting.

And so it was that Lisa and I found ourselves being ushered into Frances Hesselbein’s office on Park Ave. She serves as Chairman of the Leader to Leader Institute, formerly the Drucker Foundation - an organization that seeks to develop leaders in the non-profit sector. For the next hour, Lisa and I sat enraptured as Frances led us through a series of surgically precise diagnostic questions about Lisa’s organization and her vision for the future. Interspersed among her questions were comments and anecdotes from her own experiences in building successful organizations on a national scale. While I listened with my ears and with my heart, my eyes swept around the room to take in the 20 honorary doctorate sheepskins she has been awarded, the Presidential Medal of Freedom that President Clinton presented to her and numerous other awards. In her typical self-effacing manner, she commented: “I am somewhat embarrassed by all these awards hanging on the walls, but I think it would be ungrateful to accept a gift and then stick it away somewhere to gather dust.”

Three things stand out in my mind from the hour that Lisa and I were privileged to sit at the feet of this great leader. The first would be her personal warmth and graciousness. She made it clear that this was one of the busiest times of the year for her and her organization, but that because her friend Alex had made the request for the meeting, she was pleased to squeeze us in. I told her that we were delighted “to be squoze!”

My second strong impression is of how often in the course of our conversation she returned to the theme of the absolute and supreme importance of distilling the vision of the organization into a concise Mission Statement. She gave examples from her own work and suggested how it might work for Lisa’s organization.

Finally, I was awe-struck by the wisdom that she demonstrated when she responded to my question about how she had been able to achieve diversity within a tradition-bound organization like the Girl Scouts of America when she served as their CEO. She talked about the importance of her learning to really listen to each of the communities they were trying to reach out to – and how important it was to tailor the message to fit the sensitivities of each community. She talked in detail about how they reached out to make Black Americans and Hispanic Americans feel truly welcome – as scouts, as volunteers and as leaders. Then she spoke of her special desire to make sure that the organization effectively was able to reach out to the Native American community. She quoted the poster that was developed for use in reaching Native Americans and making them feel truly welcome in the Girl Scouts: “Your names are on our rivers”! What a brilliantly poetic way to build a bridge to a community that is often left out of the main stream of American society.

As we prepared to leave, Frances made Lisa a gift of a book that she had written and then she gave me a copy of a recently published book that she has edited: “Leader to Leader – 2” In an upcoming posting, I will review that book, which I am finding to be as full of nuggets of wisdom as was the hour that Lisa and I spent with Frances - in the presence of greatness. It was an hour than neither one of us will ever forget.