Monday, November 30, 2009

Go See "The Blind Side"

Last night, Michael Oher, rookie offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, played on "the big stage" in front of a national television audience, as his team defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime. Simultaneously, in cineplexes across the country, the story of how he got to be an NFL player was being projected onto the big screens for enthusiastic audiences.

This is a moving and, ultimately, inspiring film. It is not without its flaws and excesses, but I loved the story. The film represents perhaps the best work that Sandra Bullock has ever done as an actress. I agree with the sentiments expressed in Boston Globe review written by Wesley Morris.

Boston Globe review

You will enjoy this film. It is a great way to give into a pre-Christmas "spirit of giving" mood.



Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mini-Review of "A Mad Desire to Dance" by Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel has been much on the public consciousness for several decades. His memoir, "Night" thrust him onto the public stage. More recently, his name appeared among a list of those whose life savings Bernie Madoff absconded with. In this densely written novel, Wiesel shows that he is continuing to wrestle with and process the personal and universal aftershocks from the Holocaust.

In this work of fiction, Doriel, the protagonist, using his psychiatrist as the screen upon which he projects his memories and fears, recounts the story of his family. His mother was a Resistance fighter who survived World War II, only to die later in an accident. Doriel was a child during the war, and his knowledge of those troubled times is based largely on newspaper and newsreel accounts. As a man nearing the end of his life, he struggles to make sense of all that his family suffered. His dance of pain with Dr. Goldschmidt takes both of them into dark corners of their souls. The agonizing sharing of Doriel's journey beckons the therapist out of the comfort of professional objectivity and shakes her and her marriage to the core.

This is a deeply moving fictional account of a very real journey that Wiesel and countless others have made in the decades that have passed since an attempt at a "Final Solution" was imposed upon humanity.

This is a work of art from the heart well worth reading.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Last Night in Twisted River" - John Irving's Meta-Novel

"The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long."

Thus begins, in media res, John Irving's latest novel. I am calling it a meta-novel, because it reads like a mobius strip of a narrative - fiction and commentary about the process of writing fiction twisting themselves together like the river in the title or the branches of the wind-swept tree depicted on the book's cover. In a uniquely Irvingesque way, the author returns to themes that will be warmly familiar to those of us who perch on the edge of our seats waiting for the next offering from the mind and pen of John Irving. There are the obligatory appearances of bears, Philips Exeter Academy, the University of New Hampshire, Vermont, Toronto, the wrestling room, the Writers' Workshop in Iowa, sexual dalliances in motor vehicles, awkward couplings and uncouplings, the severing of limbs, and the threat of death as a constant companion to the characters and to the reader.

This may be Irving's most autobiographical novel to date, although he takes great pains to have the protagonist, writer Danny Angel, Daniel Baciagalupo, discuss the topic of autobiographical writing. Angel, channeling Irving, makes the point that while there are always autobiographical elements in any novel, the characters take on a life of their own and the fiction is different from the composite figures that spring from real or imagined events in the life of the writer.

Irving returns, as well, to the theme of younger men held in the thrall of older women. Using settings in cook shacks and restaurants in the logging camps of northern New Hampshire, Boston's North end, Iowa, Vermont and Toronto, Irving serves up a bouillabaisse of characters and action that propel the reader forward through the twisted journeys of three generations of men and those who love them and add spice to their lives. Dominic "Cookie" Baciagalupo, his son, Daniel and grandson, Joe form a tragic triumvirate around which revolve countless characters who appear on the stage of the novel in colorful and unexpected ways. Some fall from the sky, snowshoe into the teeth of a blizzard, break through the ice, slip off of logs and drive from New York's Chinatown halfway across the U.S. to the heartland of Iowa.

You will notice that I am not talking much about the plot. Although the plot is as brilliant as any we have come to expect from John Irving, I found myself even more interested in the process by which Irving chose to present the plot. The book's broad themes and the discursive musings about the art of writing added a layer of intrigue to my enjoyment of this story.

This is a wondrous work that tells the story of a writer who is telling a story about his life and his work as a story teller. It is a tantalizingly twisted tale that should delight and "appall" discerning readers.



Thanksgiving in Afghanistan - A Report from 1LT Rajiv Srinivasan

While most of us were enjoying turkey drumsticks, marathon football, and the company of family and friends, some of our troops in Afghanistan were getting up in the middle of the night to respond to the latest IED attack.

In his inimitable way, 1LT Rajiv Srinivasan tells the tale of how he and his soldiers from Attack Company, operating as the RDF (Rapid Deployment Force), spent the morning after Thanksgiving. Continue reading his account of his "direct line to the White House" conversation with the Commander in Chief. These two articles, in juxtaposition with one another, give a poignant glimpse into how one junior officer in today's Army helps himself and his men to cope with the unpredictable rhythms of terror and boredom.

It is two days since we celebrated Thanksgiving here in America, but it is not to late to offer one more prayer of Thanksgiving for the fine men and women who stand in the gap and do their duty in the face of relentless opposition and waning support and political resolve at home.

God bless you, Rajiv, and all of your colleagues.

Thoughts from Afghanistan


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mini-Review: "The Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver burst upon the literary scene with her bestselling "The Poisonwood Bible." That novel told a tawdry tale of missionary zeal run amok. "The Lacuna" is her long-awaited first novel in nine years. It is well worth the wait. Using dual narrative voices - a young male protagonist and his female amanuensis - Kingsolver weaves a saga that travels between Mexico and the United States. Harrison William Shepherd is a young man and aspiring writer who is trapped between two worlds - caught in a series of "lacunae" or empty spaces fashioned from his peculiar lineage as the son of an American father and Mexican mother.

A literal lacuna that leads to a cove hidden with a coral reef on the Yucatan shore stands as a metaphor for the many relational lacunae that serve as potholes in the bumpy road that is Sheperd path in life. As he matures and interacts with a fascinating variety of colorful men and women, he wrestles with his identity and destiny. Lev Trotsky in exile in Mexico appears on the scene, and impacts the arc of Shepherd's life. Years later, that encounter with the Russian revolutionary eventually causes the writer to run afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee and McCarthyism at its most virulent.

Kingsolver, in her inimitable style, exposes the excesses of Anti-communism in Joe McCarthy's America in much the same way that she revealed the ugly underbelly of ill-conceived missionary activity in Africa. She offers her expose, not by preaching at the readers, but by leading them through the series of lacunae - the negative spaces - that define Shepherd's journey through life on both sides of the Rio Grande.

I loved this book, and will be recommending it to many friends.



Talent Alert for Former Military - Consulting Role on the Seacoast of New Hampshire

Some readers of The White Rhino Report are already aware that I have been working with one of my client companies in looking for a Senior Consultant who brings prior military leadership experience. The scope of the position has been re-defined, which means that we are now looking for candidates with broader leadership experience.

The company is a for-profit consultancy that has a focus on servicing the needs of clients that are non-profit organizations. The best candidates for this Senior Consultant position will have military leadership experience, preferably a graduate degree and experience in organizational design and organization development. Prior consulting experience and the ability to communicate professionally with a broad spectrum of stake holders are important considerations.

The position will be located on the beautiful Seacoast of New Hampshire and will require travel to client locations.

Time is of the essence on filling this position. Please forward this notice to anyone you feel may be both qualified and available, and have them contact me at:

Thank you.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Intersection 2.0 - Some Preliminary Feedback and Hearty Thanks

In the coming days, I will be sharing more about the recently completed Intersection 2.0. I want to share with you some early feedback from those who participated.

From Daniel:


I've been creating such a fervor about it at the Office (Close to Home) I think I'm going to do my own presentation on what I learned and inspire some of the other employees to join me at 3.0! Whenever it is!"


From Dale:

"Thank you for creating the Intersection programs. I not only enjoyed attending Intersection 2.0, but I also learned some things to put into play as well as about myself. I also had the opportunity to meet some very nice people I would not normally meet.

Thank you and I look forward to Intersection Cubed. (I will need to learn how to superscript the 3!)"


From Susan:

"Les Miserables . . ..That’s the term for all of us forced to leave your marvelous Intersection 2.0. Thank you.

What a terrific experience, Al. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. And you are so generous to have included a wonderful plug for MyVetwork. And showing the Rajiv video.

Thank you for all that.

I knew you liked to sing, but had no idea you are a SINGER! So have to add that to the increasingly lengthy list of Al Chase skills, experiences, gifts, you name it, that I’ve been building.

Intersection 2.0 was wonderful. And I want to help you in any way I can as you build on this."


From Dmitry:

"I attend numerous events every month so I have some something to compare to Intersection 2.0

Simply put, it was a terrific event. I could tell the enormous amount of preparation involved. I can't, and hopefully won't ever forget Scott and Tiffany Smiley's story. Plus, what an amazing collection friends from all over the country.

Again, great job leaving a meaningful mark on all of us."


From Eric:

"Sully and I really enjoyed being part of the event on Saturday. Scotty and Tiffany Smiley’s story was very inspiring as I admire Scotty’s drive, his faith in god and the devotion of Tiffany to support him every step of the way.

I shared the story with my wife and showed her the YouTube video, which was very moving for both of us!

Well done my friend as I wish I could have spent more time over the weekend!!


I would like to once again extend a huge "Thank you" to all of the speakers, sponsors and Planning Committee members who worked so hard to make Intersection 2.0 happen. I hope I do not leave anyone out of the following list:


Doug Crandall

Diane Darling

Glenn Gaudet

Scotty and Tiffany Smiley

Andreas Widmer



Clearly Creative Marketing

Microsoft - who generously hosted us in their gorgeous facility.



Jake Armerding

Chelsea Brannon

Maggie Daniec

Nathan Scott Hancock - Musical Director

Celia Hottenstein

Ashley Korolewski

Stephen Markarian

Shoba Narayan

Edward Tolve

Nina Zendejas

Planning Committee:

Ashkan Afkhami
Rick Cerf
Bob Cormier
Diane Darling
Joey Fiore
Glenn Gaudet
Dave Gowel
John Griffith
Lisa Guyon
Nathan Scott Hancock
Daniel Hartzheim
Gen Hendrey
Ravi Kudesia
Eric Melin
Phillip Meneses
Keith Murray
Andy Peix
Andrew Russo
Swaroop Samant
Dougan Sherwood
Gita Srinivasan

Stay tuned for information about:

IntersXtion 3 (Intersection Cubed)

Jake Will Be at Club Passim Tonight - Join Me There

Jake Armerding returns to Harvard Square's Club Passim this evening at 8:00. He will be performing with his friend (and mine), Christopher Williams, a Nashville-based musician who loves the Red Sox!

I look forward to seeing some familiar faces in the audience. I can tell you that Jake is in great form. He entertained and delighted the attendees at last weekend's Intersection 2.0.

Club Passim website



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Digital Veterans' Day - Create a Profile on

I cannot think of a better way on this Veterans' Day to honor those who have served and who are currently serving than to take a moment to join MyVetwork and to create a profile on this interactive social network of veterans and those who are committed to supporting veterans.

Be aware that one need not be a veteran to be part of the MyVetwork community. I am not a veteran, but am an active member of MyVetwork, because of my desire to support and encourage our veterans from all generations.

Link to MyVetwork website


Here is a message from my friend, John R. Campbell, Founder of MyVetwork:

"I founded MyVetwork as the first-ever social network built by those who have served, for those who have served, and, for the people who love them.

We want Veterans to know that by joining now, they can access valuable resources like mentors and job matching, and they can bring their values, interests, talents, passions, and dreams to a vital community built just for them.

Our registration process is easy, free, and doesn’t require the “I’ll be your friend if you’ll be mine” of other social networking sites.

After registration, we invite new members to create a profile. This process is fun, and takes less than five minutes.

Once a member’s profile is completed, MyVetwork's matching algorithms go to work, building a visual "pin-view" of the member’s connections in the community.

pin-view Every member’s pin-view of potential connections, is totally unique, like a fingerprint, and can help members navigate the site in any number of ways. Whether they’re searching for a particular person; giving/receiving career advice; accessing exceptional stories, cartoons, polls, pictures, or video; or just looking to connect with someone who has “walked in their boots.”
At MyVetwork, it’s all here: Caring. Connecting. Community."

A Veterans' Day Salute - Donald Champoux (1926-2009)

My Uncle Don, Donald Arthur Champoux, was another silent member of "The Greatest Generation." While serving in World War II in the Army Air Force, he contracted tuberculosis. He spent a long while in a TB sanitorium in Middleton, Massachusetts, and lived for the rest of his life with the use of only one lung. It never seemed to slow him down. He was tenacious in everything he did. I never got to see him in his heyday as a baseball player, but those in the know say that had not the war and illness derailed him, he could have played professional ball.

Like my father, who also served during that time in the Army Air Force, Uncle Don seldom talked about the war years.

He served as Class President of his Newburyport High School Class of 1944, his sister, Arlene Champous Spearin, served as Class Vice-President, and his wife, Isabelle Cooper Champoux, served as Class Secretary. How's that for a political family juggernaut!

On this Veterans' Day, the day before we will bury him, I salute Uncle Don.

You served well and fought a long fight.

SALISBURY — Donald Arthur Champoux, age 83, longtime Salisbury resident, died unexpectedly Saturday morning, Nov. 7, 2009, at his home in Salisbury.

He was the beloved husband of Isabelle W. (Cooper) Champoux, celebrating their 63rd wedding anniversary this past Oct. 20th.

Born in Newburyport, Jan. 29, 1926, he was the son of the late Arthur G. and Ruth (Simmons) Champoux. A graduate of Newburyport High School, Class of 1944, he was Class President and had been an exceptional ball player. He went on to graduate from McIntosh Business College in 1952 and attended Northeastern University.

During World War II, Mr. Champoux served with the United Stated Army Air Force, honorably discharged on Nov. 4, 1945.

Donald had worked as a plant manager at Chase Shawmut; industrial engineer at C.B.S. Hytron and retired as business manager at Governor Dummer Academy in Byfield.

He never lost his love of playing baseball, and he actually was one of the best ball players in Salisbury, playing for the Salisbury Town League; was a Little League Coach for Salisbury and was an avid Red Sox Fan.

Mr. Champoux was an active member of Saint Paul's Episcopal Church, where he served as Senior and Junior Warden for many years; ran the children's services and was a former member of the Choir. He also provided services at Brigham Manor Nursing Home for 29 years and made regular ministerial visits at the Anna Jaques Hospital, bringing comfort to those in need.

In addition to is loving wife, he leaves behind two sons, Donald C. Champoux of Newburyport and Arthur J. Champoux and wife Beverly of Dover, N.H.; three grandsons, Chad of Shelburne Falls and Gary and Keith of Dover, N.H.; two great-granddaughters, Brianna and Courtney both of Dover, N.H.; a sister, Arlene Spearin of Camden, Maine; a brother, Bruce Champoux of Danville, N.H.; as well as several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his sister, Louise Chase.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Mini-Review of First Novel, "Mercury Falls" by Robert Kroese

Considering that "Mercury Falls" is the first effort at this literary form by novelist Robert Kroese, he has done a fine job of crafting a tale of war between heaven and hell. With my recent articles about "Angels the Musical," I guess it is fair to say that I am in spiritual warfare mode these days when it comes to literary and musical tastes.

"Mercury Falls" is a thoroughly engaging tale of the tortuous efforts on the parts of angels - exalted, fallen and everything in between - and a select group of humans to either advance Armageddon or somehow delay its inevitable culmination. Writing in a style that reminds me a great deal of Christopher Moore, author of "Lamb," Kroese offers a sadonic tour through the byzantine and often amusing corners of angelic and demonic bureacracies. I would love to see these taxonomic nightmares of committes, sub-committes, commissions and agencies try to pass a health care reform bill!

The accidental heroine, Christine Temetri, is an End Times correspondent for a religious news magazine. Her foil is a ne'er-do-well nerdy and schlumpy anti-Christ. Together, they stumble their way through a picaresque series of adventures and misadventures that amuse and offer cautionary warnings to those who may be inclined to take themselves too seriously in the pursuit of truth.

This is a book worth reading.



Angels the Musical is about to Take Flight at Boston Conservatory

I mentioned last week the embryonic musical, Angels. In just a few hours, I will be heading to the Fenway section of Boston - not see see the Red Sox play, but to see Angels soar!

Because of a growing friendship with the team of Producers for Angels the Musical, Marcus Cheong (co-author of the book and lyrics with Ken Lai), Dale Smith and Frank Monteleone, as well with as the composer/lyricist, Ken Lai, I have been able to watch this embryo of a musical grow over the course of the past few weeks. It has been a thrilling process to behold as changes are made in the show and the cast members grow into their roles and begin to make the characters truly live to tell their stories.

I wish I could invite you to accompany me this weekend to see one of the performances at Boston Conservatory, but the weekend performances at the theater are already filled to capacity. The excitement about this show is palpable and is growing exponentially. Each person I know who has seen and heard even a small sample of the music and story has been drawn into its powerful gravitational field and has been dazzled by the brilliance of its light. And this is a workshop production, without benefit of full staging, lighting, costumes or special effects. Those elements will be added when the show arrives on Broadway, but the story that has been crafted by Lai and Cheong stands on its own. And the young and energetic cast of Boston Conservatory students animates the tale and carries it on angels wings directly into the hearts of the audience members.

There will be opportunities in the future for you to see this show in more fully realized iterations. There are plans underway for a national tour, and eventually a full-blown Broadway version. While you are waiting, treat yourself to a sample of gorgeous music as offered on the Angels the Musical page:

Angels the Musical Myspace Page

Enjoy! Let me know what you think.

I plan to keep readers of The White Rhino Report aware of continuing developments as the national tour and the eventual Broadway plans mature.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Dr. Scott Snook in the Washington Post - "Greater Love Hath No Man"

My good friend, Dr. Scott Snook of Harvard Business School, had a piece in yesterday's Washington Post that I think is worthy of your attention. Many of the readers of The White Rhino Report will remember Dr. Snook as one of the keynote speakers at The White Rhino Intersection.

Here is the link to his piece.

Great Love Hath No Man

Buried among the comments following the piece are my reactions to what Dr. Snook wrote, reproduced below:


I could not agree more. Everywhere I turn these days, thoughtful writers are connecting selfless service - in the military and in the social sector - with happiness and love. Our mutual friend, Donovan Campbell, in his book, "Joker One," in writing about his Marine Corps unit, makes this statement:

"And I hope and I pray that whoever reads this story will know my men as do I, and that knowing them, they too might come to love them.”

Bill Murphy, Jr., author of the acclaimed “In a Time of War,” an account of West Point’s Golden Class the Class fo 2002 makes a similar point:

“This, for Todd [Bryant], was the essence of West Point. ‘Duty, honor, country’ was the academy’s motto, and everyone talked constantly about honor and commitment, loyalty and patriotism. All that was true and good, but stripped of its pomp and circumstance, the place was really about love. Love of your country, love of your classmates and friends, and love of the future officers you’d someday serve with. Most of all, West Point was about learning to love the soldiers you would someday lead, the privates and sergeants, knuckleheads and heroes alike, who might, just once, in a life-justifying moment, look to you for leadership in some great battle on a distant shore.”

Thank you for shining another light into the shadowy corners of our lives.

Posted by: achase47 | November 3, 2009 10:51 AM


FYI - Dr. Snook will be joining us for Intersection 2.0 on the 14th of November, as will his daughter, Megan, a West Point cadet. His son, LT Sean Snook, will be joining us remotely from his deployment in Afghanistan by way of a video greeting that will help kick off the conference.

If you have not yet registered for Intersection 2.0, follow this link.

Intersection 2.0 Website