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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Not-So-Magic Bullet

I've sincerely lost count how many times others have asked what technique I use to remember names. Almost without exception, those who ask me that question also say they are "... so bad with names ..." And it always mystifies me when sincere people who want to remember names cannot see the way they've defeated themselves before any new person they're meeting gets a name out of their mouth.

When an internal conversation about any ability is set to a negative default, what would you guess is the likely outcome? My "technique" for remembering names is ludicrously simple; I give the person new to me 100% of my attention when they say their name. I'm not focused on the past (e.g. I was so embarrassed the last time I didn't remember someone's name, I've never been good with names, etc.), or the present (e.g. How do I look? Is there a booger hanging out of my nose?, etc.), or the future (e.g. What will say next? Will I remember their name five minutes from now? etc.) In other words, all my focus in that brief second is on one thing - that name.

Then ... you can use techniques we've all read and heard a thousand times. Say the person's name at the next conversational moment that presents itself, use a mnemonic  - if those work for you, connect the name to someone you already know with the same name and visualize that more familiar person as you speak to this new person, etc., ad nauseam. But ...  if you failed to give the other person's first utterance Arthur Ashe-like laser focus, those smarmy sales techniques might not help. In that very first second the person says their name, you must think of nothing except their name.

Try this in your next several encounters and let me and others know how it goes. Remember this: If you get someone's name wrong - as I did in my first attempt with the wife of the last person who told me he had trouble with names - you will be corrected. That's a good thing - it tells the person you just met you're trying and it will help you concentrate even harder the next time you try. Avoid dwelling on your embarrassment, because when you do that you are not thinking about only a person's name when you're introduced. You're thinking about yourself.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A Well Lived Life

What does a well lived life mean for you?

* Loving and being loved.

* Making a difference.

* Following my passions.

Those three things are critical for me. Ask everyone you know this question. Enjoy the riches you collect. Share yours here.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Atlas Geek Merges With Bookworm

Since getting home from Hawaii this past Sunday, your favorite blogger has spent a lot of time with his heavily annotated Atlas - what a geek!

With the notes I'd written on the Road Scholars booklet nearby, I began comparing what the wall-size map at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu showed about the settlement of the thousands of islands that dot the Pacific Ocean with information about many of those same islands in my Atlas. Noticing my obsessive annotations in the Atlas, before long, the geek merged with the bookworm. Imagine my bliss.

I started in Papua, New Guinea, recalling Lily King's terrific novel "Euphoria" (2014), finished not long before my trip. Then I journeyed east to the Solomon Islands and fondly remembered "Mr. Pip", an equally fine novel by Lloyd Jones from 2006. From there it was a "short" leap southeast to a speck called Tikopia, an island so small you need an Atlas like mine to find it. Tikopia was prominently featured - as a success story - in Jared Diamond's 2005 masterwork "Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed".

Using currents, flight patterns of birds, and that trusty Atlas, I traversed northeast, headed toward my final destination - Tuvalu - saving the best for last. That would be "The Tattoo Artist" (2006), Jill Ciment's amazing novel about a woman whose body tells the story of her life in that isolated part of the world; the map at Bishop Museum calls it Remote Oceania. As of today, Hawaii is the furthest I've ever travelled from home, although it's not real isolated. However, Kiribati, Nauru, & Vanuatu beckon.    

Monday, February 19, 2018

#51: The Mt. Rushmore Series

For this iteration of my long running Mt. Rushmore series, I've got to know: Which four musical screams deserve to be enshrined on your mountain? Sorry about the baby boomer pitch on my monument; I welcome hearing from younger folks about their favorite screeches. My four are listed alphabetically by song title.

1.) Levi Stubbs (from the Four Tops) on "Bernadette": No name in music has ever been screamed so memorably as "Bernadette!" at the conclusion of this R&B classic. When Levi wailed he entered the same iconic territory as Stanley Kowalski caterwauling "Stella!" in "A Streetcar Named Desire".   

2.) John Lennon (the Beatles) on "I Want You - She's So Heavy": John had his share of shrieking moments (Paul was no slouch) but his primal scream preceding the long instrumental outro as side one of "Abbey Road" ends is his most blood curdling. This song was definitely about Yoko.

3.) Janis Joplin (with Big Brother & The Holding Company) on "Piece Of My Heart": Like Lennon, Janis could make your hair stand up on end. Just before the last repeated chorus, Janis unleashed one for the ages.

4.) Roger Daltrey (the Who) on "Won't Get Fooled Again": Two for the price of one - Daltrey lets it rip immediately preceding one of rock n' roll's greatest one liners - "Meet the new boss - same as the old boss". Who among us hasn't screamed internally at least once in life while thinking the same? Thank composer Pete Townsend and screamer Roger Daltrey for making your frustration manifest.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ohana - As Promised

Aloha!

Even though using that greeting feels inauthentic because I'm no longer holding a mai tai lounging on a stunning beach, I know you'll forgive me. Had the ship's WiFi cooperated, I might have dazzled you with a description of the cliffs off the coast of Kauai while watching the herd descend on the buffet. Take pity on me and other weary travelers. I planned to issue a bulletin from the National Parks we visited, Pearl Harbor, and the Kaloko Cloud Forest - the lu'au beckoned. Life can be harsh. 

I didn't need to spend the past ten days in Hawaii to realize how fortunate I am. But my gratitude grows each time I travel. If you've been lucky enough to visit this paradise - or do so in the future - I'd enjoy hearing about your experience. Aside from the obvious natural beauty ...

* I will never forget how energized the cultural diversity of this place made me feel.

* With fourteen more letters to work with, I look forward to my first game of Scrabble with someone who knows only Hawaiian.

* Mea culpa: I can no longer assert National Parks as a guaranteed repository of out-of-state license plates - two for two without a single non-Hawaii plate. Actually, even with my obsessive eagle eye searching everywhere - streets of Honolulu, hotel parking lots in Maui, out the window of our tour bus on the way to Pu'uhuona O Honaunau (try pronouncing that - I dare you) - it was the Aloha state without exception.

There's so much more. But to my Road Scholars ohana and anyone else visiting the bell curve today, it's your turn now. What will you most remember about Hawaii?    

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Synaptic Sparks Of Wonder

"Wonderstruck" is a rare example of a film that persuades me I've made good use of my time even though I've been passively looking at a screen for almost two hours.

Though Julianne Moore is the name that will draw most people to this movie, the three child actors forming the core of the film - and Director Todd Haynes - create magic that transcends the need to have a star to recommend it. And though I suspect dislodging the faces of those young actors from my mind's eye will be difficult, I've already added Brian Selznick's eponymous book - which he adapted for the screen - to my "to read" list. Because even if reading a book before seeing a film adaptation is my preference, extending the glow of this story takes precedence this moment.

Meanwhile, synaptic sparks nearly overtook me as I was transported watching "Wonderstruck".  First: I heard Louie Armstrong singing "What A Wonderful World". Next: Several scenes from Simon Van Booy's "The Illusion Of Separateness" (2013) began overlapping with the movie as it toggled from 1977 to 1927. As the film ended, for reasons that will be obvious to any of you that have seen it, I clearly recalled my emotional reaction watching the stage version of "Children Of A Lesser God".

Put this one on your "to see" list. Then, let me know where your mind travelled.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Over And Over, Again

Considering how many people outside of Punxsutawney ever pay attention, does it strike anyone else as odd that of all the movies ever made about holidays few have come close to being as good as "Groundhog Day?"  What would be your nomination for a holiday film that is the equal of Harold Ramis' goofy 1993 masterpiece?

Although I'm not a big Bill Murray fan, "Groundhog Day" is on the short list of films I've watched more than once. Of the several priceless bits in the movie, my favorite is probably Sonny & Cher warbling "I Got You Babe" on the clock radio that awakens Murray's character as he endlessly repeats February 2nd - brilliant choice. What alternative song would you pick as a way to aurally depict a nightmare you can't escape? My top nomination would be one of those treacly ballads Michael Bolton screamed during his brief but painful popularity, closely followed by anything from the repertoire of I-get-paid-by-the-note Kenny G.

Musical snarkiness aside, which bit from this modern-day cinema classic plays over and over in your mind? And, if you were able to repeat a single day from your life which one would you choose?