Sunday, December 11, 2011

EC for kids, too

We were guests of an old friend this holiday season. We go back a long way, and I always look forward to reconnecting this time of year, especially. When I took up tennis in mid-age some years ago, George was the most welcoming member of the local tennis center. He forbear my ineptitude, and even partnered in doubles with me. With him as my teacher, I learned fast. We had many great matches as doubles partners; even came "that close" to winning a club championship one time. In addition to being a gracious, and warm person, he was a superb tennis player with joie de vivre. When he hit a winner, he would punctuate the moment with an "ole!"

Today we had the pleasure of meeting his son, Jim, wife Ann, and their two charming daughters, Elizabeth, 8, and Olivia, 6.

Turns out Jim had borrowed his dad's copy of Extraordinary Comebacks. He had been reading it to his daughters, who shared some of their favorite stories with me, notably Abraham Lincoln, among others. (What intelligent children....and what could flatter an author more --- than familiarity with his work?)

Basking in this bit of unexpected recognition, and storing some of the vibe away for fuel as I work on volume 3, I soon thought of another great good friend's words, when I asked him for a comment:

"......This should be required reading for young people about to get "smacked upside the head" a few times by life. This book will give them 201 reasons to get up off the canvas and keep on keeping on. Older readers will be nodding in agreement -- wishing they had read this book forty years ago."

Tim Kazurinsky, screenwriter, actor, former cast member, "Saturday Night Live"

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Handel's comeback story and the background of his Messiah

It’s humbling to fail anytime, but approaching your sunset years, poor, in debt, with the prospects of going to prison for your remaining days ---- especially bitter to take.

That was the fate facing someone who would be remembered later as one of the greatest composers who ever lived: Handel himself.

Dark days in 1741 for him, age 56. His biblical dramas like Esther and Israel in Egypt competed with rival opera companies. It was an up and down career for Handel, but the downs were winning out. By 1741, he was deep in debt, overworking to get out, and losing his health as a result.

Back then, there was scant welfare, and no creation of fiat money to bail out broke governments and banks. You went bust, you paid for it by going to debtor’s prison. That prospect haunted Handel.

He was preparing for the worst. On April 8, 1741, he gave his farewell concert. He planned to retire from public activity. Then, seemingly out of the blue, two events converged. Handel had a wealthy friend who gave him a libretto based on the life of Christ. A Dublin, Ireland charity commissioned him to compose a work for a benefit performance – to help raise funds to release men held in, yes, debtor’s prison.

Handel could not turn it down.

So he went to work in his house on Brook Street, London. He started on August 22, and it was if a trance overtook him. He wrote Part One in just six days. Then Part Two, nine days. Then Part Three, six days. Orchestration, two days. Some 260 pages of manuscript had been produced in just 24 days.

The work: Messiah.

Handel realized he had never left his house in those three weeks. In fact, he had barely eaten. He had a visitor from time to time, one who reported seeing him sobbing with intense emotion. Later, to try to explain, he paraphrased apostle Paul: “whether I was in the body or out of my body when I wrote it I know not.”

The work had its first performance the next year, April 13, 1742, in Dublin as planned. The charitable benefit raised £400, enough to free 142 men. One year later, it was produced in London. The King of England himself was in attendance. When the Hallelujah chorus sounded, he rose. The entire audience was obliged to, as well, thus starting a tradition that has carried to this very day.

With this superb recognition, Handel’s fortunes turned for good. He remained in demand until his passing 16 years later. He personally conducted some 30 performances of his powerful work, often for charity.

One writer said: “Messiah has fed the hungry, clothed the naked, fostered the orphan….” Another opined that no other musical work had so alleviated the suffering of man. Yet another said that no other work had done so much to convince listeners that there is a God, with mercy for all who believe.

Handel passed on to meet the one of whom he wrote April 14, 1759, Easter Saturday, as it turned out. Some 3,000 attended his funeral in Westminster Abbey, where the greats of England were laid to rest. There a statue of Handel shows him holding the manuscript, Part Three, which begins with the solo, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Leadership, and our cruise on the Titanic

If a corporation were facing bankruptcy, and the CEO took a "hands off" stance, and left the management of the crisis to middle managers, and they failed, and he did nothing, would he be deemed a hero?

Would he be a 'lion of business and commerce,' like the recently departed Steve Jobs?

Or would he be tossed by the board of directors for incompetence?

What will Pres. Obama's legacy be then?

The sending of 2500 Marines to Australia while the ship of state careens, like the Titantic, careens towards the glacier of debt crisis?

In last night's debate, only Ron Paul grasped the urgency.

If the Occupy Wall Street protesters want radical change, why would they not join hands with Ron Paul? He called their movement "healthy."

Someone, please explain....


Btw, from the Huff. Post, Jobs to Obama: 'you are failing'

Quoting from a book review of his new biography:

Jobs, who was known for his prickly, stubborn personality, almost missed meeting President Obama in the fall of 2010 because he insisted that the president personally ask him for a meeting. Though his wife told him that Obama "was really psyched to meet with you," Jobs insisted on the personal invitation, and the standoff lasted for five days. When he finally relented and they met at the Westin San Francisco Airport, Jobs was characteristically blunt. He seemed to have transformed from a liberal into a conservative.

"You're headed for a one-term presidency," he told Obama at the start of their meeting, insisting that the administration needed to be more business-friendly. As an example, Jobs described the ease with which companies can build factories in China compared to the United States, where "regulations and unnecessary costs" make it difficult for them.

Jobs also criticized America's education system, saying it was "crippled by union work rules," noted Isaacson. "Until the teachers' unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform." Jobs proposed allowing principals to hire and fire teachers based on merit, that schools stay open until 6 p.m. and that they be open 11 months a year.

Good news bad math - Financials - Futures Magazine

Good news bad math - Financials - Futures Magazine

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Our friend Dean Karnazes website is NEW

Looks great, see for yourself.

(We featured Dean in "Extraordinary Comebacks"... )

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hats off to the St. Louis Cardinals

Comeback Kings they have been called:

  • 10 and 1/2 games back at end of August
  • Given a 500:1 just to make the playoffs
  • Down to their last strike in game 6 World Series but rally to win in extra innings
  • David Freese, 3b, series MVP, game 6 HR hero, had quit baseball after high school, walking away from a Mizzou baseball scholarship.
  • Manager Tony LaRussa coming back to the game after an undistinguished career as an infielder, and then earning a law degree, to achieve immortality as one of the best managers in the history of baseball.
Writers called it the greatest comeback in baseball history.

Comeback upon comeback upon comeback, layer upon layer. An entire education in human endeavor in this one season of this one team. Hats off to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


One must go further, one must go further.

Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs 1955-2011, greatest comeback in business history

We wrote about Steve Jobs in "Extraordinary Comebacks".
Was there a bigger comeback in the business world than his?
We are sorry to see him go, this Mozart of technology, gone
much, much too soon....

Excerpt from "Extraordinary Comebacks: 201 Inspiring Stories of
Courage, Triumph, and Success"


company he founded, he described it as being punched in
the stomach, getting the wind knocked out of him, and not
being able to breathe.

The firing was not “just business” either—it was personal.
He was ousted by the man he had hired to run the
company, John Sculley, former president of Pepsi.
While recruiting him, Jobs threw down the gauntlet by
asking Sculley if he wanted to “sell sugar water” the rest
of his life or change the way people live and work.
Phrased this way, Sculley could not turn down the challenge;
he came to run Apple in 1983.

By 1985, the relationship had gone south. In July of
that year, Sculley told security analysts that Jobs would
have no role in the operations of the company “now or
in the future.” It was the coup de grâce.
Bitter, angry, and defeated, Jobs sold more than $20
million of his Apple stock. Still feeling lost and
betrayed, he tried to relax, to get his breath back, so to
speak. The digital genius spent time bicycling along the
beach and toured Paris and Italy.

After some six weeks of this respite from the corporate
grind, Jobs felt a little better. He started getting
out. He had lunch with Paul Berg, a Nobel laureate in
biochemistry at Stanford University. Berg talked about
the time-consuming trial-and-error methodology he
used to analyze DNA. Jobs suggested computer simulation
to speed things up. Berg said that the necessary
computers and software were not available. He said it to
the right person.

Fueled with this new vision and playing off his
strengths and interests, Jobs created NeXT, a computer
company that manufactured workstations and developed
the NextStep operating system. Its computers
were chic, expensive black boxes that stood out against
the beige PC world. The new operating system featured
“object-oriented programming,” allowing developers to
more easily write programs. The company launched in
1986 (the same year Jobs bought the graphics division
of Lucasfilm for $10 million and named it Pixar), and
sold its first PCs for $10,000 in 1988. The company had
its partisans (educators and financial engineers loved it),
but it was a mixed success. Still, the company was successful
enough that Apple bought it for $400 million in
1996; Apple also got Jobs as interim chief executive officer
in the deal.

Sculley had gotten the boot in 1993, and on his
comeback at the helm of the company he founded, Jobs
was vastly more successful. He introduced new products
such as the iMac, the iBook, and the blockbuster iPod.
These successes cemented his appointment. Apple shares
went from $7 in 2003 to $97 in early 2007, defying the
bear market in the NASDAQ and tech world.
John Sculley? After leaving Apple, he worked variously
in politics, business, and consulting, never achieving
the same prominence he enjoyed while at Apple.
Jobs enlarged his already-mythic status in the tech
world by leading tech giants Apple and Pixar. Disney
announced plans to acquire Pixar in 2006, and Jobs
became Disney’s largest shareholder (6 percent). His
iPod achieved success in consumer electronics that had
eluded the popular but niched Macintosh line. He had
avenged his painful ouster personally and in the marketplace
and achieved one of the most amazing comebacks
in business history, not to mention another type of
comeback in 2004 from a rare but treatable form of cancer.

How did Jobs do it, create products that were, in his
words, “insanely great”? He says creativity is really the
business of connecting things, of seeing and synthesis.
This ability to connect comes from more thinking or
more experience. He also said that design wasn’t something
you put on top of a product but its “fundamental

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Extraordinary Comebacks 3" --
Story ideas solicited

Working on third volume in series, do you have any comeback stories you can point me to? Thanks in advance....

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Susan Lucci not dissuaded

When young, actress Susan Lucci was told she looked "too ethnic" to aim for a career in acting. She persisted in her dream, however, and became a legend in soaps, playing Erica Kane in All My Children for 41 years, which ended its run (on TV, at least, it may yet find a second life) last month.

Nominated many times for best actress in the Emmys, she didn't win for many years, smiled off being an object of jokes for not winning -- and finally won, on her 19th nomination. "I'm going back to the studio and play Erica for all I'm worth" -- were her words on accepting the award, beaming a huge smile.

She lives in the same town she was raised in (Garden City, Long Island), and though Erica Kane had some 11 husbands, Susan Lucci, has had just one. She is a model of persistence and determination. The race is not to the swift, but to the steady....

Monday, September 12, 2011

Glenn Beck comes back online

A interesting business proposition: 10x revenues with 1/10 the audience.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


"It is one of the strange ironies of this strange life that those who work the hardest, who subject themselves to the strictest discipline, who give up certain pleasurable things in order to achieve a goal, are the happiest men. When you see 20 or 30 men line up for a distance race in some meet, don't pity them, don't feel sorry for them. Better envy them instead." Brutus Hamilton

Monday, August 1, 2011

While you are making your comeback, consider:

If your compassion doesn't include yourself, then it is incomplete.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Being James Blake

We told the story of tennis star James Blake in “Extraordinary Comebacks 2”. In 2004, running for a drop shot, he ran headfirst into the iron net pole, broke his neck and nearly died. His recoup was further complicated with shingles, a severe viral infection, and the death of his father. It was a dark time for the young superstar.

But James made a huge comeback – all the way to the top of the tennis world. The very next year, 2005, he played the legendary Andre Agassi to a fifth set in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, and won a new legion of fans.

Since then, he’s been a top player.

Which is why we were a bit surprised to see his name in the USTA Challenger tournament, Winnetka, Illinois, 2011. Just the week earlier, we saw him on ESPN, playing at Wimbledon.

But James’ ranking had fallen to 100 or so, and he was again, on the comeback trail, and not too proud to come back to Winnetka for the $50,000 tournament where he had won, and launched his career way back in 1999. Turns out he had done the same in Sarasota some weeks earlier, and emerged on top.

The Chicago Sun-Times took note of his homecoming in their June 28 edition as follows:

James Blake needed a place to play tennis in the summer of 1999.

Blake, who was 19 at the time, didn’t have a lot of options. He couldn’t get into any of the bigger ATP Tour events, so he accepted a spot in a Challenger tournament in Winnetka when Linda Goodman offered it.

It was during that week that Goodman learned Blake was as good a person as he was a player. When she needed a player to get up at 6 a.m. to do a TV spot for one of the local news stations, Blake
enthusiastically offered to help.

It was a small gesture that displayed Blake’s willingness to assist others, a quality Goodman said he still has today.

‘‘He was out there early, hitting balls with kids,’’ Goodman said. ‘‘I’ll never forget that he did that. He’s just a great human being.’’

Blake will return to Winnetka for the 2011 Nielsen USTA Pro Tennis Championship, which begins today and runs through Saturday. Blake, who is ranked 102nd in the world, lost his first-round match last week at Wimbledon.

From the outside, it might appear that the tournament this week is a step below Blake’s level. For a player who once was ranked fourth in the world, a $50,000 tournament might seem to be insignificant.

But Blake doesn’t see it that way. Not after 2004.

That year, just as Blake was starting his climb up the rankings, everything went wrong at the same time. In May, he suffered a broken neck when he slid headfirst into a metal net post while practicing in Rome. A couple of months later, his father died of cancer. Shortly after that, Blake developed a case of shingles that temporarily paralyzed the left side of his face and threatened to cause nerve damage.

Blake didn’t know whether he would be able to play tennis again. He began looking at other career options, including becoming an
author of children’s books.

When Blake finally did get back on the court six months later, he promised himself he never would take any match for granted.

‘‘I’ve learned to enjoy each aspect of my career, whether it’s rehabbing and getting back or enjoying the time when I’m at the top,’’ said Blake, who attended Harvard for two years.

‘‘He’s doing something he loves, and you never know when that can be taken from you,’’ said Thomas Blake, who has been by his brother’s side throughout his career. ‘‘He loves playing; he loves being on the court. When this is over, he’s never going to have anything like this in his life that he does as well as he does this.’’

Blake’s goals now are the same as they always have been: He wants to get better each day and play the game for as long as possible. He scoffs at the suggestion that, at 31, he’s getting too old to compete with the top players in the world. He has battled things much more destructive than age — and won.

‘‘I want to hang my racket up with no regrets,’’ Blake said. ‘‘When I’m done, I want to know I did my best. I want to know I got everything I could out of my career and I did everything for the right reasons.

‘‘I don’t have any regrets so far.’’

Older, wiser, but still competitive despite $7 million in career winnings, James Blake gave it everything he had in the Winnetka tournament.

He racked up wins in matches one and two, and all was well up to the Friday night semi-finals versus South African Rick DeVoest. Against a somewhat depleted and ailing opponent, James lost the first set, then in set two, Blake found himself down 3-5, 40-40 ---- just two points from elimnation. But somehow, he hung on, won the game, then the set, then the match.

It was an amazing comeback. Your humble author was there to see it live.

In a post-match interview, Blake admitted he thought his chances were cooked, like everyone else, but he pressed on.

James Blake taught us all a lesson the past week in Winnetka. When your comeback is written up, and entombed in a book, it is only a prelude to the next comeback you’ll have to make. And the next.

Life is nothing more or less than a series of comebacks. We use whatever mental devices we favor, or have at hand. We believe, sometimes more, sometimes less, or hardly at all. But in any case, being human, we press on. It’s all we can do.

And sometimes good things happen. That’s what James Blake reminds us. Sometimes there is a reward for pressing on.

James Blake won the 20th annual Winnetka USTA tournament the next night, 6-3, 6-1, over a red-hot Bobby Reynolds. It took a bit of “blood,” and "sweat," we don't know about any tears. During one very long point, Blake came forward to end it, Reynolds attempted to pass him, Blake dove to make a defensive stab volley, and then Reynolds did the same. Two warriors down on the court, both bleeding from the scrapes they took to try to win the point. You see a bit of diving like at the French Open (on clay), a bit at Wimbledon (on grass), but very, very rarely on hard cement courts (US Open) for obvious reasons. Blake won the point, more admiration and a bit of awe from the sold out crowd. After the match, Blake said “I left a little bit of myself on this court,” he said pointing to Winnetka’s stadium court, outdoor no. 2.. “But it was worth it.”

The tournament itself was a bit of a comeback. After hosting the likes of a young Pete Sampras in its salad days, it fell on hard times, and “went dark” from 2001-2005. But now it was back, celebrating its 20th year, several top USTA officials flying in from New York to mark the occasion. At 20, it was now one of the oldest USTA tournaments – because it pressed on, like its 2011 champion himself.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Extraordinary Comedown:
Ohio State's Jim Tressel

Pains me to share this, as an Ohio native, holder of two degrees from Ohio State University, and an author who featured Jim Tressel in one of his books, but we call this blog "Digging Deeper," and we go the mines every day, whatever our feelings.

Dig a bit below the gridiron glory of "More than a Coach" Tressel, Ohio Stadium, Buckeye football, and read the inside story on what took Jim Tressel down at Sports Illustrated. The fourth estate is the counterbalance to the illusion and misdirection that institutions -- seemingly nearly all of them -- put forth, and we are grateful for it.

Btw, to balance the ying and yang of these things, we also have a book "Extraordinary Comedowns." Not just for those afflicted with severe Schadenfreude, but for those who want to learn how things really work. It's hard to make it to the top of the mountain, yes, and even harder to stay there......

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sometimes we have to realize:
Not everyone makes a successful comeback

And the end of
America’s childhood by Jane Leavy

When baseball soaked up much of America’s consciousness in the 1950s, before there were 500 cable channels, video games, soccer, and all the rest, there was a god who ran the ballfields and basepaths among the mere mortals and his name was Mickey Mantle. Raised by a pro baseball wannebe, dad Mutt and Mom, and named for old-time player Mickey Cochrane so even his name would have the right pop of an icon, he was Mickey Mantle, (MM, like Marilyn Monroe, get it)? We all did.

He backed it all up as a 18-year-old with a 3.1 second burst to first base, and 550 ft. home runs. Strength, speed, power – there was none like Mickey Mantle. For those of us who were boys then, we formed an attachment to him, to his name, to his capability that ‘defied logic,’ as Bob Costas put it, It was based solely on his speed, HRs, and the confident smile. We didn’t need to know more, and it’s a good thing. Because MM was no god, he was Esau selling his birthright out the back door, and author Jane Leavy deftly dis-mantles the legend. It is said ‘weary is the head that wears the crown,’ and in this case, one could add the word ‘cynical.’

What he did to himself with alcohol and womanizing, chronicled meticulously here, unforgiveable. What he did in promulgating his vices among his four sons, being “their friend,” sharing his drink, women, and dissolute ways, unspeakable. When told by someone he wished MM was his father, one of his sons quipped, ‘me, too.’ Their father was distant, away, uncommunicative, uncaring. But that wasn’t the half of it. Following in his steps, they led lives of alcoholism, drugs, dissolution, and even death wish. One played live Russian roulette, and only chance kept him from an untimely end.

Back in the 1990s, when pop Christianity still held some sway over pop culture, much was made of the cancer-ridden, liver-depleted Mantle’s deathbed conversion. Leavy is less than convincing on that score; read the passage there closely: without saying so per se, she’s not buying it. I hope I’m entirely wrong on this count, btw. I chronicle comebacks in my series of “Extraordinary Comebacks” books, and besides volunteering a bit for organ donation at the end, which resulted in some backfire for the cause since some claim he jumped the line to get a new liver (he didn’t), there isn’t much of one here.

In the end, an extremely sad tale, the ultimate cautionary tale for certain, we now have one less hero, when the larder, once stocked with the likes of Brett Favre, Tiger Woods, OJ Simpson, et al, was already pretty thin by now. Mickey Mantle we hardly knew ye, and maybe for the fact that such a great, great star was so fallen from the skies, maybe wished we hadn’t at all.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The soldierly aspects of making a comeback

We are quite taken with the new classical program, THE PIANO MATTERS, by David Dubal. (Well worth your time.) So much so, we got a copy of an older (1984) book he had written and were struck with the comeback application of some comments by pianist Ivo Pogorelich.

See if you agree....

From REFLECTIONS FROM THE KEYBOARD by David Dubal, Summit Books, New York, 1984 Interview with pianist Ivo Pogorelich

DAVID DUBAL: When did you know that you would devote your life to the piano?

POGORELICH: I don't remember exactly when I realized that the piano would be for me. But I knew relatively early that I wanted to bring alive the part of my personality that needs to give. I knew I would become an artist of some kind.

DUBAL: What was your childhood like?

POGORELICH: It was a difficult life. I was always committed to practicing the piano, yet it was a hardship because I saw all the other children enjoying themselves after school. A child who wants to be a pianist doesn't necessarily understand how much he will benefit from all the work that is done rather effortlessly in childhood.

DUBAL: When did you really get motivated about your piano playing?

POGORELICH: When I first discovered how difficult it was to be really good at it, and how much you had to work and fight for real mastery. This happened when I went to Moscow to study, at age eleven. I studied at a special school for five years before I studied at the Moscow Conservatory. I was with children who had excellent training and who played well.

DUBAL: Which composer attracted you most at that point?

POGORELICH: Right at the beginning I fell in love with Prokofiev's music. I was given two pieces from the Romeo and Juliet cycle that Prokofiev transcribed for piano. They were wonderful character pieces, and I made a successful performance with them.

DUBAL: Have you retained your admiration for Prokofiev?

POGORELICH: Yes, I have, and as you know I have recorded the great Sixth Sonata, which Richter played often, and which Prokofiev premiered. And eventually I want to play all the piano concerti. I think some of the most valuable music of this century is by Prokofiev, and I do not mean just the piano music. His range is outstanding. I put him above Stravinsky. But I worry that Prokofiev is getting lost. Too many pianists play his music without looking at its meaning. They are content with the superficial effects of percussive brilliance. Suppose you participate in a competition-the Seventh Sonata has become a war-horse at these events. If you can play it cleanly you can get good marks. But the tragic and ironic aspects of that work are ignored.

DUBAL: Speaking of competitions, although you have won some, your career really took off as a result of the Chopin Competition, which you lost, but which created a furor among the judges.

POGORELICH: Yes, in one minute I was a star, and in three minutes I hit superstardom. Some of what happened was nonsense, but the main thing is I am playing concerts, which is what I always intended to do. You can't have a big career unless you play the competitions, which then spawn management, concerts and recordings.

DUBAL: Not everyone has the stamina for competition life.

POGORELICH: To be an artist requires more than talent. You need to have a bit of the soldier in you, not just for the performance but for facing all those who smile at you, but who speak behind your back.

DUBAL: Your concerts are packed, your records are hits; have you encountered much jealousy?

POGORELICH: Very much so, from colleagues who are challenged by my ability and fear it. And I've had particular trouble because of my age, because I am artistically mature and some people think that what I do can't be accomplished by someone only twenty-five.

DUBAL: Has this made you suspicious of people?

POGORELICH: No. This is a reality. I don't pay any attention to my detractors. I have always followed my own rhythm in life, and I do so now. But I wonder if some very valuable people are not victims of small people because they may not be as much of a soldier as I am. For instance, Glenn Gould, who was one of the greatest talents of the century, was just too sensitive to take part in the brutal competitiveness of concert-giving. Although I was not fortunate enough to have ever talked to him, I suspect that Gould was not aware of his weakness. He was not a soldier, he was a very delicate personality.

DUBAL: I think he was very self-aware and that he truly hated concert giving .... When did you get to know Gould's art?

POGORELICH: In Moscow, where he was considered the greatest of the great. Unfortunately, like all of my generation, I never got to hear him in concert. But his records had a purity and clarity that I could find only in his playing.

DUBAL: Was there a particular recording which had a great impact on you?

POGORELICH: I think the most stupendous interpretations are the Bach

Three-Part Inventions. There he achieves a piano sound previously unknown to pianists. Neither Horowitz nor any of the other famous pianists of this century were ever able to produce anything like it, at least in my opinion.

DUBAL: Did any other of his records make that kind of impact?

POGORELICH: Nothing quite like that. I am of the opinion that his last recordings show a great decline, especially his second recording of the Goldberg Variations.

DUBAL: I think it shows an advance over his earlier version, the one that made him an overnight success. The later one has an inwardness revealing new aspects of the score.

POGORELICH: I feel it is done with a lack of structure and without Gould's wonderful rhythmic sense. I just don't find the wisdom in his playing that I do in the later playing of Gilels. But still, Gould added more to the development of piano playing than almost any other pianist. In virtually any piece he plays you can discover more beauty than in the entire output of most other artists.

DUBAL: What do you consider the criteria of great interpretation?

POGORELICH: A great interpretation must sound inevitable. But to make that occur, you must be the creator of a whole set of musical circumstances, in which the actors are rhythm, timing, agogics, accentuation, phrasing, pedaling and so forth, as well as an understanding of the aesthetics of the score. The musical line, the essence must be inevitable. In a sense you have to become a creator of the composition. Everything must blend into a perfect form. Look at Picasso's Guernica, where you have three noses and four eyes, or an ear where the nose is supposed to be, or the eye where the ear is supposed to be. You may think it possible to add another eye, mouth, or three more teeth without spoiling the composition of the painting. But no. It must be the way Picasso made it. It was all inevitable.

DUBAL: You have told me that your wife, Alice Kezeradze, with whom you studied, has been the great musical influence of your life.

POGORELICH: Oh, yes, my wife has been my biggest influence. We say she was related to Franz Liszt because her teacher was a student of Liszt's pupil Siloti.

DUBAL: How did you meet your wife?

POGORELICH: It was like a Hollywood movie. I was at a beautiful reception, in a lovely home filled with antiques and paintings. I noticed a Steinway piano, but thought it was probably not ever used. I sat down and played and soon someone made a very simple remark to me about my playing. Yet I could tell that there was great knowledge behind that remark. It was Alice who made it. I immediately asked her if she would give me lessons. She said, "Why not?" In October I started with a Beethoven sonata. I well remember that the first bars took us three and a half hours. The world's treasures began opening for me at that lesson. This was especially important for me because at that moment I felt that I wasn't getting enough from my teachers at the Moscow Conservatory.

DUBAL: Wasn't that during the black period at the Moscow Conservatory when so many great teachers died?

POGORELICH: That's right. They started to die off there left and right. Each day we went to the Conservatory expecting to discover a new black poster telling us of the next funeral service. During that time there was a terrible atmosphere of loss at "the House," as we called it, and it began to lose its importance for me.

DUBAL: How do you practice and how much?

POGORELICH: I do five hours a day if possible, but it's getting more and more difficult with my engagements. For me the best practice is when I have a practical task to accomplish. If I manage to fulfill it, then I've had a good day's work. Of course there are many different levels of work. Sometimes there is that deceptive level when you think, "Oh, how easy this is going to be)" But sometimes it's the opposite. When I first looked at Ravel's "Scarbo," from Gaspard, I could hardly read the text and I thought, "I have to have a third hand to accomplish this!"

DUBAL: I think your" Scarbo" is amazing piano playing.

POGORELICH: Thank you; I am pleased with the outcome of the recording. But what I went through to make it happen!

DUBAL: Have you ever terminated a relationship with a piece that you performed often?

POGORELICH: Yes, I'm not going to play the Schumann Symphonic Etudes any longer, although I've recorded it, and it was one of my best stage works. I just don't have anything to say about it anymore. It's dry for me. Maybe I will come back to it in some years.

DUBAL: What repertoire are you working on now?

POGORELICH: I am working on a Haydn sonata. For generations Haydn has been considered a lesser genius than Mozart. But I say no, not true. Even in his piano sonatas, Haydn goes higher and deeper than Mozart does in his sonatas.

DUBAL: Are you asked to play a large repertoire each season?

POGORELICH: I choose to play very little in public. Usually no more than two concerti per season, much less than my colleagues, and only one and a half or two recital programs per season. I try to keep my concert programs separate from what I work on at home.

DUBAL: What is the most crucial aspect of playing on stage?

POGORELICH: For me it is always one thing, that it should be as effortless as possible. You must know everything about a work in order for it to go easily under whatever circumstances-bad hall, bad audience, bad digestion.

DUBAL: Have you ever felt so exhilarated on stage that you became careless, or lost control?

POGORELICH: No, the control must never be lost. You are not there to be personally exhilarated. You are up there only to create art. You must be king on stage and dominate it.

DUBAL: In your preparation, what do you concentrate on most?

POGORELICH: I research every sound. By that I mean being constantly attentive to what I am playing at the moment. This involves using the ears as much as the hands.

DUBAL: Speaking of hands, yours are huge.

POGORELICH: My hands are very large, but that is not essential. Hands really should not be big. The important thing is a compact, flexible hand, and it's best if they are not too bony, but with pads on the ends of the fingers.

DUBAL: Have you ever had any curious things happen to you on stage?

POGORELICH: Oh, plenty of things. For example, I was on stage playing the Schumann Toccata once when a fly landed on my hand and started walking on it through the most difficult tightrope passages-and it held on! Suddenly it flew away and I was relieved, but just as I started the octaves in the other hand it descended upon me again. Perhaps the fly loved Schumann.

DUBAL: Do you know the charming episode in Paderewski's memoirs about the spider that came down its web only when he played the Chopin etude in thirds? As soon as he finished it the spider would climb back up. It happened this way for months. Do you know Paderewski's music?

POGORELICH: No, I don't, except for the Minuet in G, though I do know that he mesmerized audiences.

DUBAL: We have often heard of the demonic forces that possessed Paganini and Liszt when they performed. Goethe defined the demonic as "that which intelligence and reason cannot account for. It is something external to my nature, but to which I am subject."

POGORELICH: If the artist on stage has this quality he must let it escape. But this can be very draining, even dangerous, because the performer must release all of his personality and being, the way Horowitz could. He was white-hot-his passion and vo1canic power, his ability to excite, the fire of his temperament dominated the piano-playing world. I only wish he had not gone to play in Japan, where I heard him. Someone wrote of this performance that "Horowitz appeared in Japan as a beautiful antique vase, unfortunately broken in many parts." Because he didn't play his best he killed his legend.

DUBAL: How difficult it must be for such powers, such force to succumb to age. The world thinks of you as a god, and you're only human.

POGORELICH: The frustration must be terrible. To know that you once scaled the heights, but that the bull will finally defeat you.

DUBAL: I know you love to play in Japan.

POGORELICH: Yes, I do. I've played several times in Hiroshima. There are no more beautiful or appreciative young people in the world than in that city that was destroyed in seven seconds.

DUBAL: When do you think one is most receptive to great music?

POGORELICH: You never know when you are ready to begin to love music. Many don't get the chance in childhood and then they must wait. It's like falling in love with someone. You only know you're ready when it happens.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

EC2 comeback story ends with criminal comedown

Update Barry Minkow

We featured his story as no. 100 in "Extraordinary Comebacks 2" as follows:

100. Minkow, Barry
A precocious sixteen, Barry Minkow started ZZZZ Best Carpet
Cleaning. Next, he sold franchises, and then sold shares to the
public. By twenty, he was a Ferrari-driving CEO of a $300 million
company, lionized on Wall Street, hailed on Oprah.

But turns out it was all fake: false accounting statements, fake
contracts, fake. It all came crashing down, and investors lost
millions. Minkow, twenty-two, was convicted of 57 counts of
fraud. He traded his executive suite for a federal prison cell.
During one particularly bleak Thanksgiving behind bars at
Terminal Island, Los Angeles, he had what the Zen crowd calls a
“satori” – an enlightenment. He realized that if society took such
pains to lock him up, he was the problem. He took responsibility
for his business dealings, his crimes, his life. He decided to

After seven years and four months in the slammer he got out and
earned master’s degrees in religion and divinity. He became a
preacher, leading some 1,400 members of a community Bible
church in San Diego.

And, in his mid-thirties, as energetically as he worked to commit
fraud in the past, now he worked just as hard to expose and end it.
It started with a friend’s request: what did he think of a certain
investment opportunity? Minkow went to work and found it to be
a $35 million fraud. He contacted the federal government, and
they took action.

More cases followed, the largest being against Financial Advisory
Consultants; as a result of Minkow’s work they were charged with
scamming some $300 million in retirement funds. Another was
something called the Nehemiah Fund, backed by Genesis Capital
Management and Genesis Alliance. This investment company
claimed to generate 100 percent returns to churches who deposit
more than $500,000 with them.

From these activities, Minkow founded the Fraud Discovery
Institute; he writes and speaks to various law enforcement agencies
on the subject. His work earned him an early release from

Minkow wrote about his experiences in Cleaning Up: One Man’s
Redemptive Journey Through the Seductive World of Corporate
Crime (2005). His agent is trying to gin up a film deal from it.
Minkow’s motivation? Fueled by his conviction and personal
experience that people can change, he says he wants everyone who
ever failed to know they can make a comeback.


Now, he might be as widely known for letting people know they are always prone to a comedown as well, in his case, a rather public and spectacular one.

This, from the Tuesday, April 05, 2011 Wall Street Journal:


MIAMI—Barry Minkow, a stock-fraud investigator who spent 10 years uncovering corporate misdeeds, on Wednesday entered a federal courthouse here and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit stock fraud, a charge that could put him in prison for five years.

It was an ignominious turn for Mr. Minkow, 45 years old, who became a stock-fraud investigator only after serving seven years in prison on a 1988 stock-fraud conviction for bilking investors out of tens of millions of dollars through a phony carpet-cleaning company called ZZZZ Best.

Mr. Minkow emerged from prison as a Christian pastor and launched his new career, arguing that it takes a fraudster to know one. He worked closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission to expose corporate misdeeds, including successfully unmasking that an executive at weight-loss company Herbalife Ltd. had lied about earning a business degree. The executive resigned.

Now Mr. Minkow is charged with the very crime he tried to expose. In court on Wednesday, he conceded that the information he published in 2009 about Miami home builder Lennar Corp. was "false and fabricated."

The guilty plea comes amid a broader push by regulators and prosecutors to investigate stock-market manipulation. The trial of hedge-fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, the biggest alleged insider-trading trial in a decade, is well under way.

Mr. Minkow has declined repeated requests for comment, but his lawyer says he crossed the line and acted recklessly out of zeal for a client's cause against Lennar.

"Sometimes you begin to believe your own press, that you're a genius and you can do no wrong," said Alvin Entin, Mr. Minkow's attorney.

Lennar viewed Mr. Minkow as a short seller who was trying to extort money from the company. The court agreed and found that the report he produced, which along with several follow-up reports caused the company's stock to lose more than $583 million in market value in just three trading days, was clearly false.

An aggressive adversary, Lennar hired famed Los Angeles defense attorney Daniel Petrocelli, a partner at O'Melveny & Myers. Stuart Miller, Lennar's chief executive, said he was particularly offended by the report, which compared Lennar to Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. The company, founded in 1954, was headed for four decades by Mr. Miller's father.

"All individuals responsible for this illegal conduct must be brought to justice," Mr. Petrocelli said, speaking for Lennar.

Mr. Minkow's tangle with Lennar began in late 2008 when he met San Diego-based real-estate developer Nicolas Marsch III.

Lennar CEO Stuart Miller said he was offended by Barry Minkow's report, which compared Lennar to Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

In Wednesday's ruling in Miami, the court found that an individual described as Conspirator A—who has been identified by Mr. Minkow's attorneys as Mr. Marsch—had "decided to employ extortionate means to induce Lennar Corp. to pay the demanded sum of money."

Mr. Marsch hasn't been charged with a crime, and his attorneys said he hasn't been contacted by federal investigators.

In two lawsuits, Mr. Marsch had accused Lennar of cutting him out of a real-estate partnership and separately misappropriating more than $200 million from a joint venture they had formed to build a high-end residential community, the Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe. He would eventually lose the first case, which is being appealed; the other awaits legal action in California state court.

But by mid-2008, Mr. Marsch said in an interview, he was becoming desperate. Facing steep legal bills, he sent a letter to Lennar's board of directors, accusing the company of "disgraceful" conduct and warning that he was prepared to air "dirty little secrets" about Lennar executives, Mr. Marsch says. Lennar sued Mr. Marsch for defamation.

"By that time I was so frustrated I'd do just about anything to get these guys to stop calling me names," Mr. Marsch said in an interview last week, referring to his ongoing legal battle with Lennar which he said frustrated him. "I eventually just blew up and wrote a letter. But it wasn't to extort."

But in late 2008, after failing to settle with Lennar, Mr. Marsch hired Mr. Minkow to investigate the company. In a Nov. 30, 2008, email to his client, Mr. Minkow laid out a plan to compile damaging information about Lennar that would have "a devastating impact on their stock price." The goal, Mr. Minkow wrote, was to "rightfully villainize Lennar" to push Lennar into a lucrative settlement with Mr. Marsch.

The report, titled "Top Ten Red Flags for Fraud at Lennar Corporation," was released on the Internet on Jan. 9, 2009. In it, Mr. Minkow wrote that Lennar steals money from its joint-venture partners and misrepresents its true financial condition. The company has refuted each of the 10 claims, and judges have found the contents of the report to be false.

According to email messages between Mr. Marsch, Mr. Minkow, and attorneys for both sides, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Marsch's lawyers repeatedly offered to meet with Lennar's lawyers to settle. One message, dated Jan. 18, 2009, from Mr. Marsch's lawyer to Mr. Petrocelli, offered to reverse the damage done by Mr. Minkow's report, noting that positive statements Mr. Minkow made about companies he formerly criticized have resulted in "substantial recoveries." His former lawyer, who wrote the message, declined to comment.

Mr. Marsch said that he still believes that the allegations in Mr. Minkow's report are true; he disputes that he hired Mr. Minkow to pressure Lennar into a settlement.

"I'm not in the extortion business," Mr. Marsch said. "I'm in the real-estate-development business."

Friday, March 18, 2011

"Extraordinary Comebacks" -- Turkish edition

Just received from our publisher, Sourcebooks....

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Inside baseball: Making the film Casablanca was just one comeback after another

Casablanca is one of the most revered and famous movies of all time.

But the only reason it got made was because of the passion of producer Hal Wallis. He had to fight the studio, he didn't get the director he wanted, he didn't get the lead actress he hoped for, the script didn't quite work, and even deep into the shooting, he didn't have an ending.

But Hal Wallis believed in the picture, and risked his reputation to save it.

The rest, as they say, is Hollywood history

The above, from CBC program Age of Persuasion with Terry O'Reilly.

Better yet, listen to the amazing program, get the mp3.

Monday, February 7, 2011

THE POWER OF STORY, by Jim Loehr, reading notes

THE POWER OF STORY, Rewrite your destiny in business and in life, Jim Loehr

A rather remarkable book we stumbled across not long ago. Here are some salient quotes for your consideration.

Story is everywhere. Your body tells a story. The smile or frown on your face, your shoulders thrust back in confidence or slumped roundly in despair, the liveliness or fatigue in your gait, the sparkle of hope and joy in your eyes or the blank stare, your fitness, the size of your gut, the tone and strength of your physical being, your overall presentation – those are all part of your story. P 7

The most important story you will ever tell about yourself is the story you tell to yourself. P 14

If an idiot were to tell you the same story every day for a year, you would end by believing it. p 15

Jot down 10 moments of joy you had in the last 30 days. P 32

I want to be sunshine. (vis-à-vis no. 1 tennis player in the world) -- importance of choosing the right goal. p 50

When Steve B., the man at the start of this chapter who seemed to have it all, recognized, at age fifty-three, the fundamental flaw in his story – that his private voice was not his own but his father’s, that for decades he hadn’t really lived his own life, that he had experienced so little joy in a life that should have been overflowing with it – he broke down. P 106

Monday, February 07, 2011.

Monday, January 24, 2011

RIP Fitness Pioneer Jack LaLanne

One of the great comeback stories, his interest in fitness sprang out of his chronic sicknesses as a teen. Set many records, broke many barriers along the way. He was 96. More....

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pianist plays despite pain

From CNN. I had the honor of hearing Mr. Janis perform in Orchestra Hall, Chicago, back in the 1970s, as part of the Allied Arts series. He is still productive, in spite of his arthritis, now at 83....

NY TIMES says JS Bach No. 1

Top 10 composers list of all time.

Gratifying that JS Bach was named to the honor; we covered his story in "Extraordinary Comebacks". During his lifetime, he was regarded as "not good enough" by the locals when they were considering who to hire for town composer.

Amazing, but true....what a comeback.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Comes back to the same job -- 28 years later

Hats off to new Gov. of California, Jerry Brown, who comes back to the same job he had 28 years ago. With an unimaginable deficit, however, it's not really the "same job," is it? Here's a rather downbeat look at his prospects to stem the tides of financial destruction facing California (and most other states). One might ask, is he 'worried,' or is he counting on his (formerly) rich Uncle Sam to bail him out? And, who, pray tell, bails out Uncle? His Asian friends? If so, for how long? These are the questions, dear reader, that must be grappled with this new year, 2011, and we think, for years to come.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Posture Matters! Who Knew!

In one of the more interesting stories that came out in the last quarter of 2010, TIME magazine reports on studies showing an increase in testosterone from merely standing or sitting in a "power position."

Quoting from TIME:

More powerful people — i.e., those who make more money and have higher-status jobs — reliably show higher levels of testosterone (no matter their gender) and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than people lower on the totem pole. The researchers reasoned that if you put low-power people in high-power postures, their hormones might respond accordingly.

To see if the researchers were right, I went to a Columbia lab, sat down in my typical slouch and spat into a little tube. Have you ever tried to spit on demand? It's harder than you think. Columbia assistant professor Dana Carney gave me a piece of gum to help. Then Carney put me in the hawk and feet-on-the-desk power postures, and 15 minutes later, I spat into another tube.

Carney sent both spit samples to a lab at Penn State. When the results came back a couple of weeks later, it turned out my testosterone had doubled in the short amount of time I spent in the power positions.