|I can't wait. One more from one of the greatest movie series ever. Balboa gets back in the ring and I re-live my childhood. Wow!|
The Nativity Story has been out here in Hong Kong for a couple of weeks but I waited until yesterday to take my seat at the theatre. It is after all Christmas on Monday and so I thought it was approrpriate to see Hollywood's version of the birth of Christ this week. It's a good thing I know the full story underlining the focus of this movie, otherwise I would not have enjoyed it much. Overall I thought the film was flat, slow, and lacking any real zeal that I was expecting.
Therein lies my problem, doesn't it? My expectations were too high. Now before I get too down I did think Keisha Castle-Hughes put in an above average performance as Mary. Actually, I mean to say she was very good. The Three Wise Men, used as comic relief over the two hours, were also a highlight. For some reason these three men struck me as believable. But other than this I wouldn't recommend the story... in this version. People would be better off reading the first account from the Luke chapters 1-2 in the Bible. (Read that here.)
My main question is this: how did Hollywood manage to make the birth of Jesus boring? Mel Gibson nailed (wrong analogy!) The Passion of the Christ about the end of Jesus' life, but this account of the beginnings of his life failed. As usual, the book is better than the movie. And nothing beats our imaginations. What our minds are capable of should not be underestimated. Not when it comes to The Nativity Story anyway.
Christmas is typically a season for lists. Here's one I found amusing.
33 Things That You Never Knew Had Names
1) AGLET - The plain or ornamental covering on the end of a shoelace.
2) ARMSAYE - The armhole in clothing.
3) CHANKING - Spat-out food, such as rinds or pits.
4) COLUMELLA NASI - The bottom part of the nose between the nostrils.
5) DRAGÉES - Small beadlike pieces of candy, usually silver-coloured, used for decorating cookies, cakes and sundaes.
6) FEAT - A dangling curl of hair.
7) FERRULE - The metal band on a pencil that holds the eraser in place.
8) HARP - The small metal hoop that supports a lampshade.
9) HEMIDEMISEMIQUAVER - A 64th note. (A 32nd is a demisemiquaver, and a 16th note is a semiquaver.)
13) and QUIMP - Various squiggles used to denote cussing in comic books.
14) KEEPER - The loop on a belt that keeps the end in place after it has passed through the buckle.
15) KICK or PUNT - The indentation at the bottom of some wine bottles. It gives added strength to the bottle but lessens its holding capacity.
16) LIRIPIPE - The long tail on a graduate’s academic hood.
17) MINIMUS - The little finger or toe.
18) NEF - An ornamental stand in the shape of a ship.
19) OBDORMITION - The numbness caused by pressure on a nerve; when a limb is `asleep’.
20) OCTOTHORPE - The symbol `#’ on a telephone handset. Bell Labs’ engineer Don Macpherson created the word in the 1960s by combining octo-, as in eight, with the name of one of his favourite athletes, 1912 Olympic decathlon champion Jim Thorpe.
21) OPHRYON - The space between the eyebrows on a line with the top of the eye sockets.
22) PEEN - The end of a hammer head opposite the striking face.
23) PHOSPHENES - The lights you see when you close your eyes hard. Technically the luminous impressions are due to the excitation of the retina caused by pressure on the eyeball.
24) PURLICUE - The space between the thumb and extended forefinger.
25) RASCETA - Creases on the inside of the wrist.
26) ROWEL - The revolving star on the back of a cowboy’s spurs.
27) SADDLE - The rounded part on the top of a matchbook.
28) SCROOP - The rustle of silk.
29) SNORKEL BOX - A mailbox with a protruding receiver to allow people to deposit mail without leaving their cars.
30) SPRAINTS - Otter dung.
31) TANG - The projecting prong on a tool or instrument.
32) WAMBLE - Stomach rumbling.
33) ZARF - A holder for a handleless coffee cup.
This week I highlight an article from The Economist which I was drawn to since it involves one of my favorite themes: innovation, particularly in the life of a leader taking over a new position. In this case it's a story about Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation.
Dec 13th 2006
From The Economist print edition
Judith Rodin is shaking up one of the world's most venerable charitable foundations
“I AM not a ‘steady as it goes’ sort of person,” says Judith Rodin, with admirable self-awareness. In the 21 months since she became president of the Rockefeller Foundation, Ms Rodin has shaken to its core the charitable foundation established by John D. Rockefeller, an oil tycoon, in 1913. The 58 people who have left the staff, about one-third of those she inherited, are but the most visible evidence of the thorough change in culture over which she is presiding—or, rather, the most audible evidence, judging by the vociferous public complaints of some of the departed.
Ms Rodin is helping to answer one of the questions raised by a new generation of business-minded philanthropists, led by Bill Gates: whether the older philanthropic institutions would respond, and if so, how. Few institutions are less accountable than charitable foundations, which face no meaningful market pressure to keep them on top of their game. Yet who wants to work for, let alone run, an outfit widely seen as out of date and out of touch, not least by the fashionable new entrants to the industry?
Certainly not Ms Rodin, who joined Rockefeller after a successful career at the top of American higher education—one that briefly established her as the world's highest-paid university president. She is determined to make the foundation fit for the 21st century. She now talks of the “new Rockefeller”, while deploying the favourite buzzwords of the new philanthropists, stressing the importance of being “strategic”, of “leveraging” the relatively small sums of money at its disposal (it makes grants of around $100m a year) through partnerships, and, above all, of achieving “impact”.
As reformers often do, she describes her revolution as returning the Rockefeller Foundation to its roots—in this case to the “scientific philanthropy” of its founder, who said that the “best philanthropy is constantly in search of the finalities—a search for a cause, an attempt to cure evils at their source.” Among other historic achievements, the foundation played big parts in developing a vaccine against yellow fever and in the “green revolution”, which spectacularly increased farming productivity and reduced poverty in many poor countries in the 1960s.
By the early 1970s most of the Rockefeller Foundation's greatest achievements were in the past and a long period of drift had begun. Ms Rodin inherited a foundation that was no longer the best nor the biggest—in its early years it gave more foreign aid than the American government. There was a danger of “becoming marginal in our impact”, says Ms Rodin. “Impact needed to be reasserted as a fundamental criterion for everything we do.”
This was not easy, partly because the foundation had been divided into several fiefs (health, arts and so on), each defended with the vigorous politicking at which the charitable sector excels. Several of Ms Rodin's predecessors had arrived expecting to reform the foundation, only to leave disillusioned a few years later. For her part, Ms Rodin was confident of her ability to change an ossified organisation and see off vocal critics, thanks not least to her successful ten-year reign as president of the University of Pennsylvania. There she returned the loss-making medical centre to profit and revived the impoverished community on the university's doorstep.
At Rockefeller, she promptly reviewed its programmes and their effect. She consulted experts, including two former treasury secretaries, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, to identify the big 21st-century trends that the foundation could hope to affect. She also sought advice from groups that are helping the new philanthropists foster a more businesslike approach, including Bridgespan, a management consultancy for non-profit organisations, and the Centre for Effective Philanthropy. The centre's survey of the organisations funded by Rockefeller revealed a high cost structure relative to its peers, cumbersome decision-making and a culture that did not expect high performance or reward it.
Ms Rodin decided that the separate fiefs had to go. Instead, Rockefeller would pursue big strategic projects with specific goals that would bring together people from all the different programme areas as well as outsiders. The change caused alarm and misunderstanding. An article in the Lancet, a medical journal, asked if it meant that the Rockefeller Foundation planned to “reduce or even withdraw its long-standing commitment to public health”—prompting a swift denial from Ms Rodin.
Teaching an old dog new tricks
What her new approach means in practice is becoming clearer. Rockefeller has teamed up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to promote a new green revolution in Africa—the first time two such groups have announced the sort of “strategic partnership” that is increasingly common in the for-profit world. Rockefeller has also bucked up the planning for New Orleans's reconstruction, which had stalled amid political conflict in the hurricane-devastated city. Rockefeller has provided staff to get the politicians talking to each other, sent Ed Koch, a former New York mayor, to advise on building low-cost housing, and provided finance for Spike Lee to make his documentary, “When the Levees Broke”. This could not have happened under the old programmatic approach, says Ms Rodin.
Even more striking for an organisation that has suffered from “not invented here” syndrome, Rockefeller is teaming up with InnoCentive, an online business that posts problems and offers rewards to innovators who solve them. Rockefeller will provide funding to adapt this “open innovation” model to helping the poor. Next are likely to be projects on climate change and on the growing economic insecurity that many people experience. Whether all of this will accomplish as much as Ms Rodin hopes remains to be seen. But in the battle to reinvent the philanthropy business, she is giving the new crowd a run for their money
As you will remember, if you read regularly, I own two fantasy football teams. (If you have no idea what these are, read about them here.) The Pearls of the Orient has been a part of the BTL League since its inception five seasons ago. Every year my season starts with great hopes. I have won 4 straight games before, but each year like a sagging elm when New Year's rolls around my team hits the ground and needs to be taken to the trash. That was until THIS year!
Folks, yesterday my Pearls beat the Evil Buckets 107-100 and that win sends me to the Superbowl next weekend! That's right. The Pearls of the Orient are Superbowl bound. And, I got those much needed points during last night's Monday Night Football game (the last game of the week) when one of my receivers caught three, count them three, touchdown passes. Is this an early gift from Santa or what?!
Anyway, I thought you'd like to know. And now back to my wireless apartment. So long, Starbucks.
(NOTE: Friday Is For Film returns next week.)
Well, we're all moved into the new abode, but we are without our Internet access, phone, and television until after Christmas. This is one of those nasty little glitches that snuck up and bit me square in the face the other day. My beloved had been asking me to call the broadband folks for weeks and, of course, I let it slip off the ever increasing to-do list day after jolly day. When I finally got around to having the wires transferred over the customer service agent on the other end of the tele tells me, "OK, Mr. Shallow [Chinese customer service people often say it this way] we can come on the 25th to make the installation."
ME: "Excuse me."
CUSTOMER SERVICE (CS): "We can come on the 25th of December."
ME: "The 25th?! That's Christmas Day!"
CS: "We can come after that."
ME: "Why does it take until Christmas to install this?"
CS: A very long ramble about the reason, more than 50% of which I blocked out.
To make a long story short I am dependent on Starbucks connectivity between now and the 27th. So, I may be a bit of a bloser (blog+loser=bloser) over the next 10 days. I say may because as we all know, if we bloggers let too many days slip by without a post then we might as well pack-up and never write again. I mean who goes back to a blog that doesn't post most days?
So, back to my short Hot Chocolate and about 30,000 e-mails that need a reply. Then again, do they really? Oh! I am starting to think not having Internet access at home will be the best Christmas present a man could ever have. Imagine this? Checking e-mails once a day or even once every other day? Ahhh...this is starting to feel g-r-e-a-t.
These are ten very random questions that came through my mind today. If you don't live in Hong Kong you will miss some, but not all, of the meaning.
#10 Why do large people wear spandex?
#9 Why do people hit the close door button on the elevator even when the door has already started to close?
#8 Why are Americans generally but almost always without exception so loud?
#7 How is it possible that Deborah Kahn can hold down the job as "principal anchor" of Star News Asia?
#6 Why do people walk on an escalator?
#5 Why does Swindon bookshop keep office hours (10-7) on weeknights even during the holidays?
#3 Why do doctors and nurses smoke?
#2 Why are heart attacks more common in the winter months?
This week's Weekly is Time Magazine and you should take a moment to check out their Best Photos of the Year 2006 here. What you will see is mostly sad, but perhaps that reflects the state of our world as the year comes to a close? My favorite is #10 - Mount Merapi in Java, Indonesia. Which photo moved you the most?
It's that time of the year, a marvelous time to be honest! Suddenly as we near the Christmas season (read: presents) and prepare for the end of the year it is time for newspapers and magazines to publish their best books of 2006 lists. I'll hunt down as many as I can and post them here. To begin with check out this and this. If you've read and enjoyed any of these, write to me here and make your recommendations! I am readying my own list and will have it for you soon.