Sunday, April 02, 2006

Choirs, Wild Man Blues and an 8th Habit!

This weekend Krista has been out in Saskatoon for the 10th anniversary of the Cecilian Singers and also for Rachel's wedding shower. The Cecilian Singers are a Saskatoon choir directed by Michelle, who is a good friend and music colleague of Krista's mom, Barbara. I think almost everybody in Krista's family - except maybe Annika - has been involved in this choir at one time or another, so they were all invited to come sing at this anniversary. Rachel and her mom are also involved with the choir too. I just talked to Krista on the phone, and she said she'll be home in between 11 and 12 tonight... so I can start counting down the hours.

So amidst all the music and festivities of Saskatoon, I decided to stay home as I'm starting a new position tommorrow with the Municipal Hertitage Partnership Program for the Province of Alberta. I get to head off to Red Deer tommorrow for the Alberta Planning Conference, to learn about civic planning issues in the province.

In order to pass the time, I rented a movie from our local Parkallen Video Gallery, and had a nice talk with Jeff, who owns the place. He's a filmmaker himself, and a great guy to talk to. Jeff, somewhat to my surprise, is a fan of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I was mainly surprised by this because Jeff is sort of hippie-esque (while at the same time running a successful small business). I mentioned I'd taken a 13-week course on the 7 Habits, and despite being put off by the jargon, benefited from much of the actual material. He then showed me a book by Buckminster Fuller that he said was the origin of the concept of "synergy," and also nearly knocked my socks off by announcing that - lo and behold - Covey has now identified an 8th habit! The 8th habit is all about encouraging "greatness" in others and in the world.

Krista and I have been enjoying the brilliant sit-com Arrested Development. But I also felt like a little music-travel documentary, so I picked up Wild Man Blues which is a documentary film about Woody Allen's jazz band. Not very many people know that Allen has been accomplished clarinetist since the early 1960s. As a young stand up comedian, he'd ask to sit in with the band in the clubs. His vernacular is the primitive New Orleans jazz style popularized by people like Sidney Bechet, and he's really good. Apparently Allen plays every Monday night in Manhattan at a little place called Michael's Pub. In 1997 he took his band to Europe, playing packed concerts all over the continent. Wild Man Blues documents this tour. At the end, Woody goes and visits his parents, who are in their late 90s. A great scene. At one point, his dad says, "maybe you think just because you wrote a script, and everybody liked it, you think you're some kind of bigshot, well that's a bunch of hokum!"

As I was listening I was shocked to hear one particular tune. I recognized it immediately as The Old Rugged Cross, done in a New Orleans jass style. I can remember Grandpa Russ singing this song. But doesn't this seem incongruous for some reason... a famous Jewish comedian playing this incredible tribute to the Cross? Was this an ironic statement, or is "The Old Rugged Cross" simply a standard of New Orleans jazz? I was struck by Allen's incredible clarinet on this tune - breathy and full of emotion, almost, to use Abraham Heschel's word "pathos." It was both wierd and also so 'right' at the same time. Allen to me, though of course lacking the whiskers, embodied something of the strange beauty of the Hebrew prophets. They also did Rock of Ages.



Blogger Browler said...

I've devised an alternative eight habits of highly successful people.

1. Be ruthless.

2. Don't let the weak pull you down.

3. Don't waste time on losers.

4. Think success = be success.

5. Put putting first things first first.

6. A good loser = a loser.

7. Maximise yourself by understanding your core profitability ratio.

8. Don't undervalue money or money will undervalue you.

Ok, so numbers seven and eight
aren't quite as snappy as they ought to be, but there you go.

5:48 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

guess it all depends on your definition of success. Is it to be rich and famous, or to be content at where ever your at and surrounded by those you love? On any account, #5 IS especially snappy. Slogan material, I'd say.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

How about "The 7 Habits of Highly Uninfected PC People" - a handbook for folks inundated with those smarmy "Send to ten friends and you will all be delirious in one hour" type e-mails?
1. Be Protective
2. Begin with the Delete in Mind
3. Put away "Fwd" Things First
4. Think (Recycle)Bin-Bin
5. Seek First to Withstand, Then to be Misunderstood
6. Scrutinize
7. Sharpen the Symantec Saw

1:28 PM  
Blogger Browler said...

Rachel, you're right. I didn't effectively define my terms.

Success is about being successful. Being great. Being rich. Being effective. Being YOURSELF! Uncovering the unique expression of uniqueness that lurks inside all of us.

I would also sugggest that to extend his profitability ratio, Mr Covey would do well to find a ninth habit in a few years.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Simply Victoria said...

i've long been suspicious of that book (sort of a purpose driven life thing?)
but mebbe I'll give it a try. try to get past the speakeasy.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Browler said...

Simply Victoria,

Life is too short.

Isn't there a pot of yoghurt in your fridge that needs to be eaten before it goes out of date? Or some paint to watch dry?

I'd venture that there are thousands of other more worthy things than reading 200 pages of platitudes.

1:54 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

Platitudes? Not the best choice of words if you mean dullness or triteness. Isn't the Book of Proverbs also a similar collection of well known maxims that need to be read over once in a while?

The principals apply to families and churches as well as individuals. I would recommend 7 Habits to anyone - even those who already know it all. A little review never hurts.

11:50 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

Sorry, I meant "principles."

12:01 PM  
Blogger Simply Victoria said...

I hate yogurt, but maybe it's preferable??
hahahaha... still laughing.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Sasha said...

Hmmmm.... Proverbs... Covey... Proverbs... Covey - hard one, but I think I'll stil opt for the former.

10:27 PM  
Blogger KP said...

my favourite plt: "sharpen the saw"

. . . brilliant

8:46 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

Sasha, you are so right. Not exactly the best comparison. Yet, if we believe that all wisdom is a gift from God, more recent writings on the importance of fairness, humility, loyalty, and concern for the poor and needy shouldn't be considered trite. They don't say that about the Declaration of Independence when it begins with, "We hold these truths to be self-evident."
Anyway, these 319 pages contain a lot of practical advice and examples for everyday living. They conclude with this quote from T. S. Eliot:
"We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time."

12:48 PM  
Blogger Browler said...

Ken, I guess the question is whether Covey is teaching wisdom or spewing trite platitudes.

Or whether he's just a fraudster who has repackaged a wad of cliches and managed to make a fortune for himself in the process.

Also, what happens if you don't care about how "effective" you are?

10:48 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

Another question might be, have you ever read any of his books...with an open mind?

A fraudster? I always thought he was careful about revealing his sources.

What happens if you don't care about how effective you are? I guess you wouldn't want to be an efficient or influential person. I doubt if this is the case.

12:54 PM  
Blogger KP said...

I like the chainsaws and tools out at the cabin to be effective and efficient.
Me? naw, I'd rather be smelling the roses and talking shite/singing hymns with the boys :)

3:48 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

Sharpening the saw is all about smelling the roses, singing...and much more. A good quote from that chapter fits right in with this conversation:

"If we use our own autobiography to make early judgements before we really understand what an author has to say, we limit the benefits of the reading experience." I know, I know; you already knew that.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Browler said...

Efficiency, influence, effectiveness...

All sounds a bit like the corporate world to me.

Didn't someone say something about losing your life to gain it, or something? Was that Covey?

11:29 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

Actually, not knowing much about corporate speak, those words came straight from the dictionary - in an attempt to get back on track after the 7 Habits book title was misquoted.

And, no, Covey doesn't seem to quote Jesus much. He does quote others who have been influenced (btw the corporate world didn't invent this word) by the Teacher. How about this one by George Bernard Shaw: "...instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances....I want to be thoroughly used up when I die....a sort of splendid torch...and I want to make it burn...before handing it on."

I dare you to open the book one more time, if only to read Arthur Gordon's story, "The Turn of the Tide" (pp. 292-4)

I rest my case.

12:16 PM  
Blogger almost christian said...

browler asks two questions...i think i know the answers...oh the hell with false modesty, i do know the answers.

What if you have no interest in being effective? Answer: absolutely f-all. good luck with that.

who said "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies...etc."? Why everyone knows that Covey stole that from Dostoevsky! It's right there at the beginning of Brothers!

8:09 AM  
Blogger almost christian said...

ken, you're a true believer. are you a mormon? anyways, Covey should hire you in marketing. I think Covey is quite good--he gets punished for making profound things accessible to the masses. basically he says the same thing as (the late) Peter Drucker, only you don't need an MBA to understand him. i guess gnosticism will always be with us. As Dilbert's pointy-haired boss says, "Let's form proactive synergy restructuring teams."

8:17 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

Not the first time I've been mistaken for a Mormon. That's why I stopped wearing my dark suit - except for weddings and funerals, of course. Nice people. But, no, I am not. Do you have to be one in order to appreciate Covey?

Yup, that Dostoevsky has also stolen some stuff from the Bible. I like him too.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Browler said...

Dostoevsky, Proverbs and Covey in the same conversation.

I really have seen it all now.

4:39 AM  
Blogger almost christian said...

...and Dilbert.

10:41 AM  

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