March 22, 2009
(The return of) American Idol
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So, I've been sucked back into American Idol. Oh sure, I watched some of Hollywood Week for the drama, but I didn't think I'd want to watch the show on a regular basis, much less write about it. But alas, this season features some truly polarizing and talented contestants and now that we're done to the Top Ten, it's time to take a closer look at them and what they need to do to win.
March 16, 2009
Givin' 'Em The Brackets - 2010 Style
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We're planning on hosting another NCAA basketball tourney pool. Look for more details early next week.
March 01, 2009
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I just read Malcolm Gladwell's new book Outliers and my mind is still brimming with ideas. It really is fascinating to learn about the extraordinary chances and opportunities that contributed to the success of some of the world's most extraordinary people.
However, one thing bothered me a bit about the book. Success was defined so narrowly. I think that's fine if you're comparing, for example, upper-crust WASPy New York City lawyers to Jewish NYC lawyers, but the definition gets a little muddled when you're comparing, as Gladwell does, Robert Oppenheimer to Chris Langan, an American with an IQ between 195 and 210. Gladwell's theory is that Langan's personal story is "heartbreaking" because his background of poverty and a broken home didn't afford him the opportunity to learn practical knowledge (basically, social skills). This lack of social skill prevented Langan from getting a college degree and a prestigious position with a university. But here's how Gladwell describes Langan's life now:
Today, Chris Langan lives in rural Missouri, on a horse farm. He moved there a few years ago, after he got married. He is in his fifties but looks many years younger. He has the build of a linebacker, thick through the chest, with enormous biceps. His hair is combed straight back from his forehead. He has a neat, graying moustache and aviator-style glasses. If you look into his eyes, you can see the intelligence burning behind them.
"A typical day is, I get up and make coffee. I go in and sit in front of the computer and begin working on whatever I was working on the night before, " he told me not long ago. "I found if I go to bed with a question on my mind, all I have to do is concentrate on the question before I go to sleep and I virtually always have the answer in the morning. Sometimes I realize what the answer is because I dreamt the answer and I can remember it. Other times I just feel the answer, and I start typing and the answer emerges onto the page."
He had just been reading the work of the linguist Noam Chomsky. There were piles of books in his study. He ordered books from the library all the time. "I always feel that the closer you get to the original sources, the better off you are," he said.
Langan seemed content. He had farm animals to take care of, and books to read, and a wife he loved.
Wikipedia says that "articles and interviews highlighting Langan appeared in Popular Science, The Times, Newsday, Muscle & Fitness (which reported that he could bench 500 pounds), and elsewhere. Langan was featured on 20/20, interviewed on BBC Radio and on Errol Morris's First Person, and participated in an online chat at ABCNEWS.com. He has written question-and-answer columns for New York Newsday, The Improper Hamptonian, and Men's Fitness."
Other than the reading Chomsky thing, that sounds like a great life to me. Maybe it's because I come from a long line of people with authority issues, but I know that some people aren't meant for institutions of higher learning and corporate America. I don't think that's a tragedy or heartbreaking. I think it's great. We're not all of the same. While some define "success" as having wealth or prestige, for others it's having a happy family and a good network of friends. I suspect that for someone like Langan, success is defined as doing exactly what you want.
I sure people will think I'm lying, but I'd rather do exactly what I want than be Bill Gates or Robert Oppenheimer.