Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nothing's Sacred by Lewis Black

I enjoy Lewis Black's riffs and rants a great deal (particularly on the The Daily Show), so I was excited when I neighbor dropped off one of his books, Nothing's Sacred.

Having enjoyed written material from other stand-up comedians (George Carlin and Bill Maher), I was expecting funny variants of Lewis Black's comedic material. I was mistaken.

Nothing's Sacred is instead a pretty underwhelming autobiography. While Black tried to intersperse some stand-up bits and emulate them in prose with vulgar language, sarcasm, and anger, the presentation that makes him funny when he's speaking was absent and the result was a big miss.

Pass on this one but still tune to Lewis Black on Comedy Central.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Scrubs Finale

I was pretty critical of the Scrubs finale, so I thought it only fair that I put up and describe the Scrubs series finale I hope to see next season, when the show finishes its run on ABC.

Here are the major elements I think the finale has to capture:
  • The finale has to bookend the pilot, "My First Day", when Dr. John Dorian (J.D.) clocked in for his first day at Sacred Heart Hospital. Fittingly, the final episode should be titled "My Last Day" and feature J.D. working his final shift.

  • The daydream sequences should include riffs on finales from other shows, like M*A*S*H, Seinfeld, and Cheers.

  • The finale should combine the show's signature broad comedy elements with at least one serious arc. Perhaps the final act on the show should be Bob Kelso (now retired) getting rushed in after a medical emergency and the Sacred Heart doctors scrambling to try and save his life.

  • The soundtrack has to be strong and representative of the pop and indie montages the show has featured throughout its run.

  • Unlike some other series, the Scrubs finale should not bring J.D. and Eliot together. They could have one last roll in the hay, but nothing like Ross and Rachel, please.

  • There has to be a moment of reconciliation between J.D. and the janitor (although there should be no such moment between J.D. and Dr. Cox), and we should learn the janitor's name.

  • It would be nice if most of the extended support cast made the finale. This includes the obvious choices, like the Todd and Jordan, but also some of the lesser supporting characters, like Lloyd, the ambulance driver.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert

I was very saddened to learn today of the sudden passing of Tim Russert.

In a media saturated age when it is sometimes difficult to discern the talking head journalists from political lobbyists, Tim Russert always seemed to rise above the fray, and ask the tough questions while maintaining professionalism.

It seems an especially cruel twist of fate that Tim went this year, at this time, just before the ramp up to what will likely by a historic election.

Besides mourning Tim Russert's loss as a political journalist, I'll also miss him as a fellow son of Buffalo, who always represented his hometown well and never missed an opportunity to cheer on the Bills or the Sabres.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Rhetorical Occasions by Michael Bérubé

Rhetorical Occasions collects twenty-four Bérubé essays and presents a good showcase of the author's wide range, spanning literary theory and criticism, cultural studies, academic life, politics, and even scholarly blog writing.

This was the first Bérubé text I read, and I purposely spread out the essays and read them over a year, to allow the material to distill.

Good stuff and definitely recommended, although readers with little interest in scholarly writing might want to steer toward some of Bérubé's archived blog writings instead.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Obama-Wan Kenobi

If the Democratic victories in Congress and the Senate in November 2006 represented a new hope, then Obama's ascension as the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party no doubt indicates that the Jedi has indeed returned and is preparing to confront the Emperor.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton

I heard of Now, Discover Your Strengths from my wife, who read it for one of her MBA classes. I thought the conceit -- that a focus on enduring strengths is more important than eliminating weaknesses -- was interesting and seemed to match up against my experiences in various workplace roles.

So even though I knew the book was wrapped around some product that the authors were pitching, I gave it a try.

While I've not read a lot of the contemporary titles about effectively managing personnel, I felt from the start that what the authors were proposing was bold, different, and against the grain.

Their model consists of the following core arguments culled from Gallup data:

- All people have areas of talent.
- The greatest room for growth for people is in an area of strength.

From this premise, the authors argue that it makes more sense for individuals to build up their strengths and manage around their weaknesses than it does to focus on remedying shortcomings. Likewise, organizations are advised to match employees to the right roles and build up strengths rather than trying to plug skill gaps. Organizations, the authors argue, also need to devise ways -- beyond promotion -- to help employees grow in their careers and continue to utilize their strengths.

Overall, I finished the book interested in learning more about strengths-based approaches to management.

One postscript. Though I was intrigued enough by the premise of the strength product the authors were promoting to want to take a look, I was unable to take the online assessment because I was reading a used copy of the book and my book id key had already been used (by my wife). This was not entirely surprising. What was, though, was that there was no way to take the test save buying another book and using a new key. No one time fee for readers like me who've read the book second-hand. I don't know, but it seems like a narrow marketing strategy for their product. What if I'm a manager and want all my employees to take the test but not read the book?