AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

31 December 2019

Strauss II, Die Fledermaus

Featuring Kiri Te Kanawa, Plácido Domingo conducts Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus ,,,

Read.

Remember, it's Amateur Night, kids; best to follow Mr. Norrell's advice ...

Ring.


IN MEMORIZE

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Feast.

Protecting.


@LindseyGraham: This is your moment to convince the American people the US-Iraq relationship is meaningful to you and worth protecting. 

Protect our American personnel. You will not regret it. 

@realDonaldTrumpHeading back to The Southern White House (Mar-a-Lago!). 

Dwight D. EisenhowerThe supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office ... (or on a golf course - Ed.).

Everything.


He went to the church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and for, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed of any walk, that anything, could give him so much happiness.

Charles Dickens, from A Christmas Carol

Excellent.

An excellent album ...

Communications.


Having a plan counts for nothing unless those above you are made confident that you can execute. As the leader, you maintain communications connectivity up, not just down.

General Jim Mattis, from Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead

Happy Birthday, Summers


Andy Summers was born on this date in 1942.

The Police, "Bring on the Night" ...

Play.


Happy Birthday, Matisse


Henri Matisse was born on this date in 1869. 

Exactitude is not truth.

Henri Matisse

Matisse, Self-Portrait of the Artist Etching, 1903


Henri Matisse: A Modern Master ...

Jethro Tull, "Life's a Long Song"

Value.

An intimate account of the relationship between young composer and pianist Kit Armstrong and the world renowned Alfred Brendel, Set the Piano Stool on Fire captures both the creative process and champions the value of teaching and collaboration and features the only filmed footage of Brendel during his farewell tour ...

Concrete.


Problems which bear directly on the future of our civilization cannot be disposed of by general talk or vague formulae—by what Lincoln called "pernicious abstractions." They require concrete solutions for definite and extremely complicated questions.

General James Mattis

30 December 2019

Vanished.


SLEEPING in the FOREST

I thought the earth remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

Mary Oliver

Technique.


Technique is the proof of your seriousness.

Wallace Stevens

Auftragstaktik.


Auftragstaktik was developed as a military doctrine by the Prussians following their losses to Napoleon, when they realized they needed a systematic way to overcome brilliant commanders. The idea that developed, the brainchild of Helmuth von Moltke, was that the traditional use of strict military hierarchy and central strategic control may not be as effective as giving only the general mission-based, strategic goals that truly necessitated central involvement to well-trained officers who were operating on the front, who would then have the flexibility and independence to make tactical decisions without consulting central commanders (or paperwork). Auftragstaktik largely lay dormant during World War I, but literally burst onto the scene as the method of command that allowed (along with the integration of infantry with tanks and other military technology) the swift success of the German blitzkriegin World War II. This showed a stark difference in outcome between German and Allied command strategies, with the French expecting a defensive war and the Brits adhering faithfully and destructively to the centralized model. The Americans, when they saw that most bold tactical maneuvers happened without or even against orders, and that the commanders other than Patton generally met with slow progress, adopted the Auftragstaktik model. [Notably, this also allowed the Germans greater adaptiveness and ability when their generals died–should I make a bad analogy to Schumpeter’s creative destruction?] These methods may not even seem foreign to modern soldiers or veterans, as it is still actively promoted by the US Marine Corps.

All of this is well known to modern military historians and leaders: John Nelson makes an excellent case for its ongoing utility, and the excellent suggestion has also been made that its principles of decentralization, adaptability, independence, and lack of paperwork would probably be useful in reforming non-military bureaucracy. It has already been used and advocated in business, and its allowance for creativity, innovation, and reactiveness to ongoing complications gives new companies an advantage over ossified and bureaucratic ones (I am reminded of the last chapter of Parkinson’s Law, which roughly states that once an organization has purpose-built rather than adapted buildings it has become useless). However, I want to throw in my two cents by examining pre-Prussian applications of Auftragstaktik, in part to show that the advantages of decentralization are not limited to certain contexts, and in part because they give valuable insight into the impact of social structures on military ability and vice versa.

CONNECT

An army survives and grows, physically, intellectually and spiritually through its risk-takers. I do not here support the breaking of regulations, or the placing of soldiers in training under unnecessary, or unjustifiable, risk. We have, however, lost our capacity to seek the edge of the allowed envelope. Take, for example, the infantry. I have met over the years many of my own peers who avoid anything to do with field firing, the live fire training of soldiers in tactical scenarios. They achieve this by allowing their own skills to degrade and permitting the willing and capable few to always step in. Field firing ‘by the book’ is not dangerous; it can be the best training a soldier will experience. These officers avoid the challenge not because of the risk to the soldiers, but because of the perceived risk to their own careers if something goes wrong. Risk-takers challenge the comfortable warmth of the status quo; they are willing to trade their potential within the hierarchy for accepting a degree of responsibility the bureaucracy has decided to find distasteful. Even legitimate risk-takers disturb the hierarchy because they refuse to "stay in the box." And there’s no risk-taking, or Auftragstaktik, in the box.

CONNECT

New.


The success of a commander does not arise from following rules or models. It consists in an absolutely new comprehension of the dominant facts of the situation at the time, and all the forces at work. Every great operation of war is unique. What is wanted is a profound appreciation of the actual event. 

Winston Churchill

Echo & The Bunnymen, "Never Stop"

Studying.


The book showcases a multitude of moments that an institutional insistence on studying history paid off for Mattis and his Marines. During the first Gulf War, Mattis adapted a technique used by Roman legions, which built rectangular camps. He organized his camp in a triangular shape so that every man knew where he fit. “The triangle always pointed north toward the enemy,” Mattis remembers. “We continued this routine for months, sleeping on the ground without cots. At night we sat together like Horatio Nelson’s lieutenants, arguing tactics by moving rocks to simulate units. …

“Sitting on sand dunes, I pulled out books I carried in my rucksack that revealed how others had handled desert warfare,” he adds. “Using a technique I had found in my reading, I intended to gather information that bypassed normal reporting channels by means of ‘focused telescopes.’ I copied this from Frederick the Great, Wellington, and Rommel, among others.”

CONNECT

General Mattis' reading list is HERE.

Never.

Mozart, Clarinet Concerto in A major, K.622

Arngunnur Árnadóttir performs with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, good ol' "Yukon" Cornelius Meister, conductor ...

Echo & The Bunnymen, "My Kingdom"

Top.


If the risk takers are punished, then you will retain in your ranks only the risk averse.  Risk aversion will damage the long-term health, even survival, of the organization, because it will undercut disciplined but unregimented thinking.  Without mavericks, we are more likely to find ourselves at the same time dominant and irrelevant, as the enemy steals a march on us. Further, calculated risk taking is elemental to staying at the top of our competitive game.

General Jim Mattis, from Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead

Dog.

Triggered.


For women and LGBTQ people at the workplace, hearing phrases like "dramatic," "over the top," and even "pillow fight" . . . fosters negative stereotypes.


Thanks, Kurt.

Happy Birthday, Kipling


Rudyard Kipling was born on this date in 1865.

IF

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Music.

29 December 2019

Recognition.


The case for individual freedom rests largely upon the recognition of the inevitable and universal ignorance of all of us concerning a great many of the factors on which the achievements of our ends and welfare depend.

Frederick Hayek

Thank you, Kurt.

Wagner, Wesendonck-Lieder

Anna-Caterina Antonacci performs with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Yannick Nézet-Séguin ...

Books.

Language.

Stephen Fry "bubbles and froths and slobbers and creams with joy at language" ...



Thank you to The Happy Curmudgeon.

Aspire.


If you aspire to a collection like Manguel's, and have the shelf real estate, here are some tips to kick you off.

Step one? Don't lend books.

"I never lend a book. To lend a book is to tempt the reader with theft. Books are seldom returned," Manguel says.

"If I want somebody to read a book I would buy the book for that person and give it to that person.

"I believe in Polonius's advice to his son — I've got [Shakespeare's Hamlet] in my library: 'Neither borrower nor lender be'.

Step two: follow your nose.

Manguel says his collection reflects his "cornucopia of interests".

He has thousands of detective novels, but very few spy stories, more Plato than Aristotle, the complete works of Zola, hardly any Maupassant, all of John Hawkes and Cynthia Ozick, but few authors on the New York Times bestseller list.

"I don't feel forced to own any book. I don't feel forced to read something because I'm told it's a classic or because I hear that it's on the bestseller list," he says.

And he rubbishes the notion that you shouldn't judge a book on its cover.

"I let myself be guided by my taste. I'm interested in the title or the cover of a book, or something I've heard about the author," he says.

"I bought a book that I loved that has this irresistible title: Dostoevsky Reads Hegel in Siberia and Bursts into Tears.

"How can you not read a book with that title?"

CONNECT

Majestically.

Vladimir Horowitz performs majestically ...

Sum.

Bunnymen.

Hook.

Replacements.

Excellent.

An excellent album ...

Reborn.


Work helps prevent one from getting old. I, for one, cannot dream of retiring. Not now or ever. Retire? The word is alien and the idea inconceivable to me. I don’t believe in retirement for anyone in my type of work, not while the spirit remains. My work is my life. I cannot think of one without the other. To “retire” means to me to begin to die. The man who works and is never bored is never old. Work and interest in worthwhile things are the best remedy for age. Each day I am reborn. Each day I must begin again.

For the past eighty years I have started each day in the same manner.  It is not a mechanical routine but something essential to my daily life. I go to the piano, and I play two preludes and fugues of Bach. I cannot think of doing otherwise. It is a sort of benediction on the house. But that is not its only meaning for me. It is a rediscovery of the world of which I have the joy of being a part. It fills me with awareness of the wonder of life, with a feeling of the incredible marvel of being a human being. The music is never the same for me, never. Each day is something new, fantastic, unbelievable.

Pablo Casals

Art.


The art of not playing in tempo--one has to learn it. And the art of not playing what is written on the printed paper.  The main thing in life is not to be afraid to be human.

Pablo Casals

Happy Birthday, Casals


Pablo Casals was born on this date in 1876.

Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.

Pablo Casals

Casals performs Bach's Cello Suite No.1 in G major, BWV 1007 ...

Important.


The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

Theodore Roosevelt, Kansas City Star, May 7, 1918

Must.


A man does what he must - in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures - and that is the basis of all human morality.

Winston S. Churchill

Excellent.

An excellent book ...

28 December 2019

RUSH, "The Pass"

Trigger.

Repairing Willie's guitar, Trigger ...

Part 1


Part 2



Thank ya, Randy!

Frightful.

Levitan, Winter Village, 1888


It is a frightful satire and an epigram on the modern age that the only use it knows for solitude is to make it a punishment, a jail sentence.

Soren Kierkegaard

27 December 2019

Mukwa.


Mukwa, bear medicine.

Free.


Secrecy is the keystone to all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy and censorship. When any government or church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, "This you may not read, this you must not know," the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man who has been hoodwinked in this fashion; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, whose mind is free. No, not the rack nor the atomic bomb, not anything. You can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.

Robert A. Heinlein

George Strait, "Every Little Honky Tonk Bar"

WOO-HOO!

HAPPY FRIDAY!

 

Rubén González, "Siboney"

Technique.


Technique is the proof of your seriousness.

Wallace Stevens

Something.


If I had five million pounds I'd start a radio station because something needs to be done. It would be nice to turn on the radio and hear something that didn't make you feel like smashing up the kitchen and strangling the cat.

Joe Strummer

Standing.

26 December 2019

Wagner, Siegfried Idyll, WWV 103

Hans Knappertsbusch conducts the Vienna Philharmonic ...

Simple.

Dalrymple, Water House & Brethren’s Bath House, Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, 2006


Possessions, outward success, publicity, luxury - to me these have always been contemptible. I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best for both the body and the mind.

Albert Einstein

Buffonery.


Formerly the youth of the whole district combined as wren boys, but now they go in bands of from two to six, and the wren bush is often a mere branch with a few rags and no wren. A structure of  evergreens, in general design like a crux ansate, covered with streamers and with the dead bird hung up or in a sort of cage, was till lately carried around. There is still to be found tolerable dancing and singing, as a break in the weary succession of small begging parties, shuffling and playing stupid buffoonery.

Colter Wall, "The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie"

Privileged.


Our Heavenly Father, Creator of all that is nature,
We humbly come to you in the midst of nature’s splendor,
To thank you that as Americans we are free
To worship as we please, work as we please,
And move about as we please to enjoy all that is nature:
Its mountains, its hills, its valleys, its lakes,
Its streams, and the living things that dwell therein;
We pray unto You that someday the world may be at peace
And all men be free to enjoy nature’s abundance.
We ask you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
That we be guided to protect this priceless heritage
Which we, in America, are privileged to enjoy. Amen.

Prayer from The Chapel in the Woods, Hartwick Pines State Park, Graying, Michigan

Excellent.

An excellent stout ...


It's sandwich time.

Casually.


Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
casually.

Issa 

Judged.

You're judged by that third or fourth try in life ...

25 December 2019

Frank & Bingo, "White Christmas"

Decision.

Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851


In the early hours of the morning on this date in 1776 ...

Once Washington made his decision to cross the Delaware and attack, he never wavered. As soon as the order was disseminated through the ranks, leaders were hit with a barrage of “but sirs.”
  • “But sir, the river is filled with ice.”
  • “But sir, these boats weren’t designed to transport cannons.”
  • “But sir, my men haven’t eaten in three days, they won’t survive the march.”
  • “But sir, the British are well-rested and well-fed, what chance do we have in battle?”
But sir, but sir, but sir. As a leader, how often do you deal with resistance to a tough decision? Washington responded by increasing the level of communication so that everyone had better understanding of his decisions, as illustrated in this brief aside to his officers:

“If we do not win soon, there will be no army left. When there is no army left, the rebellion will be over. When the rebellion is over, we will all be hung. Therefore we have little to lose.”

Abandoned.


After the dance was concluded, the whole party was entertained with brawn and beef, and stout home-brewed. The Squire himself mingled among the rustics, and was received with awkward demonstrations of deference and regard. It is true I perceived two or three of the younger peasants, as they were raising their tankards to their mouths when the Squire's back was turned, making something of a grimace, and giving each other the wink; but the moment they caught my eye they pulled grave faces, and were exceedingly demure. With Master Simon, however, they all seemed more at their ease. His varied occupations and amusements had made him well known throughout the neighbourhood. He was a visitor at every farm-house and cottage; gossiped with the farmers and their wives; romped with their daughters; and, like that type of a vagrant bachelor, the humble bee, tolled the sweets from all the rosy lips of the country round.

The bashfulness of the guests soon gave way before good cheer and affability. There is something genuine and affectionate in the gaiety of the lower orders, when it is excited by the bounty and familiarity of those above them; the warm glow of gratitude enters into their mirth, and a kind word or a small pleasantry, frankly uttered by a patron, gladdens the heart of the dependant more than oil and wine. When the Squire had retired the merriment increased, and there was much joking and laughter, particularly between Master Simon and a hale, ruddy-faced, white-headed farmer, who appeared to be the wit of the village; for I observed all his companions to wait with open mouths for his retorts, and burst into a gratuitous laugh before they could well understand them.

The whole house indeed seemed abandoned to merriment. As I passed to my room to dress for dinner, I heard the sound of music in a small court, and, looking through a window that commanded it, I perceived a band of wandering musicians, with pandean pipes and tambourine; a pretty coquettish housemaid was dancing a jig with a smart country lad, while several of the other servants were looking on. In the midst of her sport the girl caught a glimpse of my face at the window, and, colouring up, ran off with an air of roguish affected confusion.

Washington Irving, from Old Christmas