Saturday, January 31, 2009

Our Favorite Book Title, Part 15

Listening Is An Act of Love is a book of collected stories from NPR's splendid Story Corps project. This is oral history as prose poetry, and I'm still kicking myself (just a little) for not hauling a couple of friends who are particularly well-stocked with interesting personal narratives down to the mobile audio booth when it passed through Cleveland a couple summers ago. You can review earlier favorite book titles here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sign of the Times?

An odd piece of clothing--a blanket with arms--that looks like something a Franciscan monk might wear around the abbey, momentarily becomes the "raiment of the zeitgeist," according to Advertising Age. Surely this means something about the state of the country. But just what might that be? We'd love to hear your take, gentle readers.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Be Free to Be Yourself

'The creative individual frees himself from the web of social pressures in which the rest of us are caught.'
--the late John Gardner, founder of Common Cause. You can learn more about his life and his work here and review an earlier mention of him here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Some Things Are Simply Just
Too Horrible To Comprehend

Like this story.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Have a Bias Toward Action

'The way we get started is to quit talking and begin doing.'
--Walt Disney

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sometimes You Can Be Struck By a Sentence
Even When You're Reading it a Second Time

'Men are accomplices to that which leaves them indifferent.'
--A powerful quote I recently came upon, or rather came upon once more, which my thoughtful friend Roldo left me here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

This is How It Should Be Done

Western Reserve Public Media, the Akron/Youngstown PBS affiliate, aired one of the best documentaries today that I've ever seen about a regional subject. Great Erie: Ohio's Great Lake nicely covered the subject from both an historical and contemporary angle, calling upon a wide mix of well-informed talking heads (including my friend Carol Poh) to patiently tell the story. It was produced by the Toledo PBS affiliate, WGTE, with funding from the Ohio Humanities Council. I hope you get to see it in full somewhere (I'll try to check listings and let you know), but even if you only watch the substantial clip in the link I've provided, you may perhaps have the same two reactions I did: what a nice piece of work, and why can't WVIZ, with its larger budget, produce such wonderful programs? For years, the station's local and regional documentaries have inevitably seemed amateurish. I hope the folks at WVIZ have seen this program and reacted by vowing to try to match its quality.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Okay, You Heard the Man...

'Use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English ...'
--Mark Twain. For earlier mentions of the immortal bard, you can go
here and here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

It All Depends on How You Look at It

'Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.'
--Henry J. Kaiser

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Long Jump: From GE to Startup

Not everyone is cut out to jump from one of the world's most-admired companies to a rapidly growing start-up, however promising it might be. But Tim Held did precisely that when he joined reXorce Thermionics, a JumpStart portfolio company, as Vice President of Engineering.

After earning a doctorate in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University in the mid-1990s, Dr. Held spent the next 13 years at GE Aviation - creators of America's first jet engine - designing world-class combustion systems. Still, he wanted something more. "I was at a point in my career where I wanted to contribute more directly to energy efficiency and the environment," he says. He remembers getting a call from a headhunter last year about an attractive job offer, which he ultimately turned down. "I told them that where I would fit better is with a company that's actually doing thermal energy. And sure enough, a couple months later, I got this call."

The call came from Akron-based reXorce, a company developing NASA technology that was once used to cool spacecraft, into devices that capture thermal energy for use in power generation. reXorce was rapidly growing and needed someone to lead its expanding engineering group, which included six professionals last summer but today comprises nearly a dozen.

"We were attracted to him by his experience managing large teams and by the fact that he had worked for GE, obviously a very reputable company," says Michael Gurin, co-founder, CEO and CTO of reXorce. Dr. Held spent three weeks talking with reXorce's leadership team and doing due diligence on its underlying technology. "I really liked their commitment to renewable energy and the environment, and I thought they also had the business sense to pull this off." He joined the company last October, relocating his family from the Cincinnati area.

His challenge for the year ahead is significant: he'll be overseeing the conversion of the company's heat engine prototype into a working, power-generating beta system for installation in actual industrial sites. It's a challenge for which he's been diligently preparing his entire career, and one that will reflect another milestone for reXorce as it continues its rapid growth.
--a newly published article from the latest JumpStart Connect e-letter (which you can subscribe to here). I've promised myself that in the new year, I'll remember to finally begin sharing more examples here of my corporate and institutional writing, wherever possible, in addition to the strictly journalistic stuff.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dear NEOhio readers, please consider joining us
on Saturday morning at the Westlake Porter Library.
Anyone who writes or communicates for a living
in this perilous economic climate will likely benefit.

Careers Beyond the Newsroom

A workshop for journalists, journalism students
and anyone interested in exploring related communications fields.
Organized by the Society of Professional Journalists – Cleveland Chapter

When: 10 a.m. Jan. 24 (Saturday)
Where: Porter Public Library (
27333 Center Ridge Road, Westlake 44145
Fee: $10 per person.

Program schedule

10 - 10:45 a.m.
Job Opportunities for Journalists
Presenters: Doug Levin, of the marketing communications recruitment company Torch Group, and Kelly Blazek, founder of the popular Northeast Ohio Communications Job Bank list.

11-11:45 a.m.
Making the Switch from Journalism to Public Relations
Presenters: Mary Anne Sharkey, veteran Ohio print reporter, former Plain Dealer editorial page director and former communications director for Ohio Governor Taft; and Mike Conway, a longtime reporter for Cleveland TV station WJW and now director of corporate communications & investor relations for Sherwin-Williams.

12 to 12:45 p.m.
Entrepreneurship and Branding
Presenter: Pat Cirillo, Cypress Research

For reservation, contact Tom Moore at
The event is open to the public. Walk-ins are welcome.

UPDATE: We're now expecting at least 50 folks for this event, and it could well be a good bit more with last-minute walk-ins. That's due to two chief reasons, one happy and one sad. The sad news is that in this economy and this troubled industry, so many people feel an even greater need than usual to investigate their next thing. Happily, so many wonderful folks have pitched in to get the word out--via everything from blogs to their Twitter updates (a special thanks to George the uber-connector and our favorite Infoman)--that we'll be attracting two or three times the crowd that would normally come to such an event. Looking forward perhaps to seeing you there.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

On the Egregious Ann Coulter, We Agree:
She's a Circus Act That Should Be Ignored

One good thing about the new cultural environment (a challenging economy that's ushering in a return to basics and the restoration of a progressive majority in the federal government) is that we can perhaps, at long last, begin to ignore the idiot fringes of the right wing (okay, we should ignore the idiot left also). That includes such distasteful figures and institutions as Rush Limbaugh, the Drudge Report and Fox News. But most of all, we should ignore the raving lunatic Ann Coulter.

We haven't mentioned her since 2003, and there's a reason. Just as I rarely complain about Fox News (because to do so gives it credit for being a news organization when it's really merely a propaganda outlet), I try not to give the oxygen of attention to these other avatars of the lunatic right. So I loved how Portfolio Magazine media columnist Jeff Bercovici scornfully called out NBC News for the way it cynically used the harpie "author" to bump up its ratings with her empty latter-day McCarthyite theatrics. For that strong and principled statement, he's just been named our man of the weekend.
UPDATE: LA Times columnist James Rainey touches on how Coulter's paleo right pal Rush Limbaugh feels energized by having a new president to lambaste.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Three Good Reads

Seed Magazine isn't exactly a household name, but perhaps it should be. In
this article, it offers up a great look at Craig Venter, the strongwilled (some would say imperious) man behind the sequencing of the human genome project. Rolling Stone magazine is, of course, a household name, and while at a month old, this piece on the struggle over the Minnesota senatorial recount is dated, it's still quite worthwhile. Here, The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn wonderfully describes how the American auto industry has reached its current sad state, by tracing the real history of the Big Three and the 58-year-old "Treaty of Detroit," which helped create the American middle class. Finally, as a new year bonus, we bring you our sentimental favorite, this lovely little piece about a struggling small-town newspaper, from Dan Barry's routinely wonderful This Land series in the New York Times. If you can stand any additional reading, you're welcome to review earlier TGRs here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

They're Off...

This is perhaps the best post ever from Mister Sugar, a.k.a. our friend Anton Zuiker. It's also a timely reminder that despite all his other accomplishments, he remains a family man first. His annual gathering of science bloggers begins today in North Carolina's Research Triangle. Good luck, AZ. For earlier entries on this special person, who's perhaps been mentioned more often in this space than anyone else (for all the right reasons) you can go here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chicago Tribune's Bankruptcy Filing
Hits Home in the Most Visceral Way

My friend Afi Scruggs, an incredibly talented writer, teacher, author, radio commentator, multimedia storyteller, designer (and even accomplished pianist) who left the Plain Dealer in 2003 for teaching and independent writing, found out recently that the Chicago paper's crisis isn't a remote issue. It hit home for her in the most vivid way when the paper stopped payment on her check, issued for an editorial contribution. Anyway, I hope you'll take a close look at both her blog and her website, and keep an peeled for her byline, which is inevitably attached to an interesting piece of writing, like this fine piece she wrote last year for Cleveland Magazine, or this moving essay about race and ethnicity in America, published the year before that.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Magazines, Coming and Going

The media industry and at least some of its audience have been obsessing lately over the increasingly difficult plight of the newspaper industry, which just suffered its worst year at least since the Great Depression. But what about magazines? The advertising industry bible Ad Age recently published this quick overview of magazines which have recently gone out of business. Did you have any favorites in this group? (of those mentioned, I only read, and liked, the New York Times sports pub, Play, but it was only a quarterly). Those that remain in business, though, aren't exactly setting the world on fire with advertising support. Folio Magazine, the bible for those who produce magazines for a living, reports that the magazine industry suffered a double-digit decline in ads in 2008, compared to the previous year. Somehow, 42 magazines had increases, though.

No matter how bad the economy gets, however, there will always be new entrants to the magazine field, just as there will always be people who want to open their own restaurant. Why? Because apart from the obvious ego gratification inherent in each, just about everyone's read plenty of magazines and eaten at lots of restaurants, and thus both businesses appear to be easier than they really are (they're also both easy ways to lose an astounding amount of money in a short period if you don't know what you're doing, and sometimes even if you do).

Anyway, CWRU's Weatherhead School of Business has just launched a new magazine, and while we'd love to find something positive to say about it, to find some small silver lining, I'm afraid it's so bad that we're at a loss. We think this is what happens when you give a high-concept designer free reign, with no corresponding imagination on the editorial side. What you end up with is...a mess. It may well win a design award or two, but few will read it much, I predict. Here's hoping they eventually do get the hang of it. What say you, gentle reader--agree, disagree, or no comment?
(Full disclosure: for many years, I wrote for the now-defunct Cleveland Enterprise Magazine, jointly produced by the Weatherhead School and Enterprise Development, Inc., under the watchful & skillful eye of a great editor, Sandy Siebenschuh. It was a lot less high concept, but, we think, a far more substantive piece of work. But then, we're biased, of course).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How The Wonder Bread Delivery Guy
Reminded Me that Attitude Trumps All

For years, the Wonder Bread brand had a stock line in all its advertising: "helps build strong bodies 12 ways." If you grew up in the '60s or '70s, you couldn't have missed it. I hadn't given a thought to that line in years, at least not until this morning, when I was walking into a drug store to pick up my morning newspaper. The snow was coming down fairly hard, with predictions that the temperatures would plunge severely today, leaving it in the single digits by night. Just the kind of weather that tends to prompt strangers to exchange bits of gallows humor as a coping mechanism.

As I entered the store, I nodded hello to the Wonder Bread delivery guy, who was unloading product from his truck. I hadn't recalled ever seeing him before, but even a casual glance from the corner of one's eye suggested there was something extraordinary about his body language. He seemed to be relishing his work, and was wearing one of the widest grins I've ever seen. He returned my greeting with such an infectiously joyful greeting of his own that it left me grinning too. "Beautiful day, isn't it?" he bellowed, his grin growing even wider. This is a man who no doubt spreads positive energy to at least a few dozen people each day, no matter the weather or whatever other challenges they might face. His product may or may not build stronger bodies, but his infectious joy for life certainly has caused me to look at things just a little differently today.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Not Sure We'd Agree With This, But Then
Who Are We to Argue With the Ancients?

'There's nothing in the world so demoralizing as money.'
--the ancient Greek playwright Sophocles

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why Are the Great Teams So Successful?
Because of Coach/Teachers Such as This

His charisma is a kind of anti-charisma, and his favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz. His love and respect for his players is returned many times over. "LeBeau said that as a player, he wanted to be instructed. 'And so I’ve coached the way I wanted to be coached,' he said. 'Players just want to get better, and they will respond to the instructor who is making them better.' Naturally, the Pittsburgh Steelers again seem headed to the Super Bowl, in large part because of people like their defensive coordinator, Dick LaBeau, who commands an extra dose of respect from his players for having been a great player himself. Anyway, do yourself a favor and read this entire piece about what makes a great coach.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Happiness, Part VI

'Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.'
--George Orwell. You can review earlier items on the immortal Orwell here, and earlier installments of the happiness series here.

Friday, January 09, 2009

We Heartily Second the Notion

'We do not write what we know; we write what we want to find out.'
--the late writer Wallace Stegner. We thank the Hawaii-based writer Bruce Schauble for finding that quote. While we've never been so fortunate as to have met him, it has come to our attention that his blog, a lovely reflection on teaching, reading and writing (he calls writing "the most powerful self-instructional tool that we have") nicely bears a link to our own. You can review an earlier mention of Stegner here.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Bit of Ohio History
That We Never Knew

'Best Reminder of the Power of Words: Ohio has birthed many great writers, but none holds the singular place in history claimed by Dayton native Paul Laurence Dunbar: He was the first African-American man of letters to make a living and achieve international fame for his writing. Poems, essays, novels and plays poured from his pen during his brief 33-year life. The red-brick house that sits on a street since renamed in his honor was his home from 1903 until his death in 1906, and is marvelously preserved to look almost exactly as he left it. 219 Paul Laurence Dunbar St., Dayton 45401, 937/224-7061.'
--from the Best of Ohio cover story in the current Ohio Magazine. It also names Cleveland's giant rubber stamp as the best piece of public art in the state.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Picture Worth a Million Words

We were reminded yesterday of the power of great news photography to break through the clutter and tell a story in the most indelible way. This heartbreaking photo ran yesterday with this New York Times story. For us, it illustrated the agony of the never-ending cycle of Middle East violence in a way that perhaps no narrative could.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Reckoning is Now in Order
For the Economics Profession

'The financial crisis has killed the claim that economics deserves to be treated as a science. The measure of a science is its capacity to explain, predict and prescribe. And most economists not only failed to anticipate the nature and evolution of the catastrophe, but their conflicting recommendations on how to stabilize the situation exposed the unreliability of their knowledge. As much as Wall Street and Main Street, the economics profession needs a bailout of its own.'
--from a pungent essay (alas, not online) in the current issue of Foreign Policy magazine, by editor-in-chief Moises Naim.

Monday, January 05, 2009

So Maybe He Didn't
Actually Write Them;
We Still Really Love
Letterman's Jokes

'(With the economy in such trouble) you gotta hide your cash. Here's what I do: I put it all in the stock market, and a week later, no one can find it.' We also loved item #7 from a recent Top Ten list: 'Top ten signs that President Bush doesn't care anymore: He's barely trying to ruin the economy anymore.' Finally, we got a good cackle out of his absurdist explanation of the oft-heard line about how various movies are now playing in selected cities. "And did you know that they're selected by Burt Reynolds?" You can review earlier mentions of the irascible late-night Hoosier here.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Best Lead of the Month

'These are the times that try men's resumés. Maybe it is the swift emergence of Washington as the capital of status anxiety, in the transition's tilting of egos and elbows; or the restoration to prestige of "the best and the brightest," all shadows gone, and the return to power of liberal credentialism; or the fact that Congress could find $700 billion when the mandarins of New York needed it but could not find $14 billion when the workers of Detroit needed it-whatever it is, I am tiring of very important people. I never saw the owl of Minerva fly through Harvard Yard. In a society as wounded as our own, there is something repellent about the assertions of elitism. Its most awful expression, of course, is the acquiescence of almost everybody in the dynastic ambitions of the Kennedys. I can almost not imagine a more obvious mutilation of the meritocratic ideal than the appointment of Caroline Kennedy to the United State Senate. A Senate seat is a fucking valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing. But of course it will not be given away for nothing: the princess and her family will be delighted to pay for it. Ever since this democratic indignity was broached, the really smart talking point has been that she has the money for her eventual campaigns. In Michael Bloomberg's city, this is all you need to know. After all, the next mayoralty of New York will have been decided over breakfast by two billionaires who have their respective uses for term limits and the strategic manipulation of them. Bloomberg appears to regard term limits as an unwarranted governmental interference in a free market: no sooner did he announce that he would prefer not to relinquish his rule than he let it be known that he will spend $80 million on his campaign. If his record in office is so sterling, why does he have to buy it back? More important, when will the authority in American life of the oligarchy of Manhattan finally come to an end? The wantonness of their capitalism was widespread and systematic, and it injured millions of lives. A society may be measured by whom it admires. No class of Americans has done more to damage America than the financial class. A generalization is an ugly thing, but every day's newspaper refreshes my impression that the titans, the insiders, the big players, the boldfacers, the movers and the shakers-the hoshover menschen, as we say where I come from-have been, many of them, fools or thieves.'
--from Leon Wieseltier's thundering back-page Washington Diarist essay in the current issue of The New Republic. It certainly helps our selection process that, in addition to being powerfully written, this article contains sentiments with which we heartily agree. This is not his first time Leon has made it into our BLoM category: as it happens, we chose him for that designation last January as well. Our runner-up this month is this gleaming little gem of an opening paragraph from Vanity Fair columnist James Wolcott. He too is a repeat winner. Anyway, you can review earlier best leads here.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Bringing Science Alive

'In a city full of venerable cultural institutions, the Great Lakes Science Center has been among the most ambitious. Two years ago, the center installed a giant wind turbine, the first on the American shores of Lake Erie, in its front yard. “It gives us a chance to be involved in advocacy for smart public policy, which museums don’t always get to do,” Abraham-Silver says. Last year, the center added a solar panel canopy near the front entrance. It’s now the fourth-largest solar panel installation in Ohio.'
--from my newly published mini-profile of GLSC CEO Linda Abraham-Silver, in the current issue of Continental Airlines magazine.

Friday, January 02, 2009

This May Be Our Favorite
Seinfeld Line Of All Time

'I would have marched on Selma if it was in Long Island.'
--George Costanza, musing aloud over the injustice of a work colleague who thinks he's a bigot. You can review an earlier item on George here and earlier items on Seinfeld here and here.