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Stay Your Course

Ruth Bader Ginsberg once said something along the lines of, “Everyone calls me a liberal, but I’m a moderate.  I was appointed a moderate, but the court shifted conservative, so looks like I’m a liberal.  I haven’t changed, the court did.”

This is true for many great leaders.  They stay their course.  The prevailing winds may shift, popularity may move, but they stay strong in their convictions and become great leaders.

Colin Luther Powell (April 5, 1937 – October 18, 2021) was one such great leader.  He served under four Presidents in three national positions.  The Presidents were three (old school) Republicans and a Democrat.  All his positions were appointed, not elected.  Until President Obama took office in 2008, he was the first highest ranking African American in the U.S.  The office of Secretary of State is fourth in line for President. 

As the Republican party shifted right, Powell endorsed Democratic Presidential candidates, which greatly upset many Republicans.  Powell didn’t change, the party did.  He still believed in the same things he always did.  Many thought it’s strange that a military man would be so anti-war, and he was called undeserved slurs for not supporting wars.  However, you can’t argue with his unwavering logic.  “All wars are bad,” he would say.  “I’ve lost friends and colleagues in wars.  No one should want to go to war.” 

His other steadfast convictions were based on his 13 rules of life, as stated in his 1996 biography, My American Journey.  You’ve probably already seen them, but they bare repeating. 

Colin Powell’s 13 Rules of Life

  1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
  2. Get mad, and then get over it.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
  4. It can be done!
  5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
  6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
  7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
  8. Check small things.
  9. Share credit.
  10. Remain calm. Be kind.
  11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
  12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.


Think? Think, Again!

You know the name Ken Jennings, you know the name James Holzhauer, and now you know the name Matt Amodio; not to mention my personal favorite Buzzy “Mr. Personality” Cohen.  

However, do you know the names: Nancy Zerg, Emma Boettcher, and now Jonathan Fisher?  Probably not.  After ending Ken’s 74 game winning streak Nancy was a one-time champion.  After ending James’ 32 game winning streak Emma was a three-time champion.  It’s too soon to tell how many turns at the podium closest to the host Jonathan will have, but he’ll have to win at least 11 games to make the top 10 list. 

These examples are proof-positive of the old publicity adage:  frequency and repetition.  Excitement breeds excitement.  The more times you do something, the more the public notices you.  The algorithms of social media platforms are the same.  The more a post gets “liked,” or any type of response, the more people (connections or strangers depending on your privacy settings) the platform will show it to, which gets more likes; so it’s shown to more people and so on and so on.  It’s like that old shampoo commercial.  Familiarity breeds familiarity, as well.

The same principle applies to bad deeds as well.  You can rob one bank, and maybe get away with it, but it won’t make you famous.  You have to rob dozens of banks to be considered with the likes of a John Dillinger or a Baby Face Nelson or a Bonnie and Clyde.  Of course, the exception to the rule is Patty Hearst, who only robbed one bank, but was famous for other reasons, so one is all it took.

So, here’s to Jonathan Fisher.  I hope he gets everything he wants out of being a Jeopardy champion.  If it’s fame and fortune, I hope he has a long and fruitful run.  If it’s just the self-satisfaction of playing his personal best then he has probably already achieved that. 

The Good and the Bad of the Ups and the Downs

There’s an old phrase that says if you sit in one place in New York City long enough the whole world will walk by.  When it does, you can then say, “Well, now I’ve seen everything.”

In the same vein, fiction becomes reality as William Shatner, most famous for purposes of this blog for his portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise, in what has become to be known as Star Trek: The Original Series, will be going into space (for real).  The original series and I are the same age (you can look it up for yourself), which is why most people thought something like this would never happen!  Man hadn’t even walked on the moon yet when the original series was canceled. 

It was fortunate for Shatner that Lucille Ball, co-founder of Desilu Productions, the original producer of Star Trek, thought the show was about a group of touring actors when she green-lit it.  History might have been very different if she’d actually read the script.  It’s also a good thing that NBC hated the pilot episode and had series creator, Gene Rodenberry, re-work it, getting a new Captain and Shatner a job that would turn into a lifetime. 

Calling it “Star Trek: The Original Series” reminds me of World War I or what they called “The Great War” or “The War to End All Wars” until World War II came along.  To me it will always be just Star Trek.  

I guess it’s also fortunate for Shatner that founder Jeff Bezos amassed hundreds of billions of dollars and doesn’t pay his fair share of taxes, so instead of giving his employees a living wage and healthcare, he can fund trips for civilians to go into space.  If it really happens, who will Scotty be beaming up next?

No Debating During The Movie

There’s always the big debate – does a movie taking place at Christmas make it a Christmas movie?  I fall on the “not” side of this argument when the 1988 movie Die Hard comes into question. 

It’s not just the jolly holiday to which this quandary applies.  Since October starts at the end of this week, I recently came across a list of the Top 10 Halloween movies and began to wonder, just because it came out at Halloween is it a Halloween movie?   The answer is:  YES!!!  The reason is:  they’re (mostly) scary!!!

Personally, I love a good suspense film.  Hitchcock was the master, but there are many good modern ones.  I really hate slasher films.  Call me old-fashioned, but I really don’t think you need to see someone’s spurting blood or grey-matter splattered to have a Halloween film.  Most people don’t realize it, and will deny it when asked about it, but you never see the knife enter Marion Crane’s (Janet Leigh) body in 1960’s Psycho.  You see the knife, you see Crane screaming, you see the torn curtain, and you see the blood (chocolate syrup) run down the drain, but you never see an actual stabbing. 

One of the movies on the list that brings up the original debate is:  The Nightmare Before Christmas (also known as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas).  The stop-motion animated musical dark comedy was released on October 13, 1993 making it a Halloween movie.  But, it centers around characters wanting the feeling of Christmas.  So, which is it? 

I’ll let you continue the debate for yourself.  As for me, the #4 on the list is my #1 – It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!  There’s no debate that it’s the most sincere. 

Do You Remember?

Tonight is the 21st day of September, which, of course, brings to mind the Earth, Wind & Fire hit song September.  Today is also the last day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, which, according to the legend, is the only reason Earth, Wind & Fire members and song writer Allee Willis chose that date to write the song about.  Released in 1978, the song reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart, #8 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and #3 on the UK Singles Chart. 

The lyrics are clean and clear and easy to understand, but whenever you talk about famous songs, you have to include those that got famous more for the lyrics people didn’t understand than the song itself.  Would the Elton John song Tiny Dancer have been as big of a hit for him if most people didn’t think the lyrics went: hold me closer “Tony Danza”?  Well, that’s a bad example, it’s Elton John after all, of course the song would have become famous.

Misheard lyrics are as old as songs themselves.  On a list of the Top 30 Misheard Song Lyrics Everyone Gets Wrong, you’ve got modern songs and songs that are now playing in elevators and grocery stores.   

In our house, the misheard lyrics goes beyond full songs it applies to commercials, too.  How many remember the Heinz Ketchup commercial that used Carly Simon’s hit Anticipation?  Well, a young Russell would have put money down that the lyrics were: “Heinz is the patience.”  It still cracks his sister up 43 years later.