Donald Soprano

Or Tony Trump if you like alliteration.

Sometimes political pundits use mobster metaphors to describe the President’s behavior.

The metaphor makes increasing sense. Consider that the President wanted to repeal an anti-corruption law so US businesses could bribe foreigners. Consider that the President directed his “associates” to “take out” Marie Yovanovitch, Amabassador to Ukraine. Consider how quickly he turns on “associates” like Tillerson, Mathis, or Bolton who “rat him out”. Or how he denies knowing “associates” who run afoul of “the family”.

There are numerous other examples, but when it comes to Donald Soprano and Tony Soprano, there are two differences, one more obvious than the other. The obvious, Donald Soprano has never whacked anyone. The less obvious, Tony Soprano had just enough of a conscious to seek out a therapist. Consequently, he reflected on his criminality. In that regard, Donald Soprano is no Tony Soprano.

Live As If Life Is Fragile

I spent the 1980s in Los Angeles. I was down with the Purple and Gold, even buying a scalped ticket one June day mid-decade outside the Fabulous Forum for a decisive championship victory against the Celtics. Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Cooper, Wilkes. Showtime.

But I was never really a Kobe guy like my mom.

Partly because of Colorado.

And I didn’t understand how he couldn’t get along with Shaq.

And I didn’t like his final, post achilles seasons, as the franchise spiraled downwards.

But since Sunday, I’ve read a lot and learned many things that I didn’t know. I deeply respect that he inspired way more people way more than I realized.

I especially liked this. “A Lasting Friendship: Kobe Bryant and His High School English Teacher”.

And, as a fellow “girl dad”, this.

My mom was wise, she probably saw things I didn’t or wasn’t able to. It’s sad she barely out-lived him.

Nine lives ended too soon. The only way to respond is to not take for granted whatever time we have left. Live as if life is fragile.

Improving One’s Social Skills

Eric Ravenscraft of The New York Times has “An Adult’s Guide to Social Skills, for Those Who Were Never Taught.”

Very interesting idea for which I give Eric a “B”. It’s fine, some good ideas, but they aren’t fleshed out very well. Ultimately, I can’t imagine anyone making a significant leap forward in their social life as a result of reading it.

Which begs some questions, first, can adults improve their social skills when they are so ingrained? Let’s think positively and say they can to some degree. But how, if not by reading The New York Times guide?

Have you learned to get along with more people over time? If so, what might others do to replicate your success?


Weekend Assorted Links

1. “Jaywalking” Shouldn’t Even Be A Thing.

“Jaywalking isn’t dangerous in itself. Fast-moving cars are dangerous. And in fact, just as people are the indicator species of a strong town, rampant jaywalking is most often a sign of a vital place and a successful urban street.”

Amen brother.

2. On starting ballet at age 62. DIG the ironic first sentence (in light of #1). Such a beautiful essay.


“Maybe I wouldn’t hate it. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t hate it so much that almost right from the beginning I was in tears—that peculiar sort of crying that comes from joy that surprises you.”


“I’m surrounded by people who are not ‘dancers’ but have made dance a significant part of their lives. Judith is an epidemiologist, 10 years older than I am. Mallory is a pediatric nurse, Lindsey a clinical social worker. Charity homeschools her five children. Danielle is teaching 10 classes this year in seven different university departments and has a 5-year-old daughter. Rian is a fashion model, manages a grocery store, and runs a business out of his home. All of my dance friends have busy, interesting, complicated lives. And yet here we are, day after day, leading with our hearts. . . ”

Very end:

“Sometimes, for a moment, I make precisely the shape I have been seeking to make for months, years, and it is a kind of holy experience, something that goes even beyond the surprise that I am fully living in my body for the first time in my life. I am in balance: entirely at one with myself, body and mind, never posing, always in flux, poised for the next thing.”

3. How Frank Vogel won over the Lakers. Really well written case study on leadership. Too bad Domingo, a friend who mentors leaders for a living, won’t read it because he has some sort of hangup with the NBA.

“Poll any NBA roster — particularly a veteran one — for the most important attribute for a head coach, and accountability will likely rank second to trust. Players want to know that the staff will set standards for performance and will enforce those standards with consistency, from superstar to the end of the bench.

After a lackluster defensive performance earlier this month against the New Orleans Pelicans in which the Lakers allowed 68 points in the paint on 67% shooting, Vogel unleashed his fury in an exhaustive film session featuring a sequence of defensive snafus.

“He got on all of us — me, LeBron, everyone. A lot of coaches don’t get on their superstars, but he does,” Davis says. “What’s impressed me the most is that even when we win, he holds us accountable. When a team sees a coach getting on LeBron or me, the other guys respect him more and know they’ll be held accountable too.”

In their next game, the Lakers set a franchise record with 20 blocks in a win. . .”

4. The Quinceañera, Redefined. Pick your metaphor, melting pot or mosaic; either way, multiculturalism rules. 

“In Bakersfield, Calif., on the same day as Jayla’s quince, Amina Sherif Hamza, 14, had a quinceañera that honored her Muslim faith. Underneath her embroidered black dress she wore a long-sleeve shirt to cover her arms, and she ditched the tradition of having a chambelán and celebrating a Catholic Mass.

Amina, whose father is Egyptian and whose mother is of Guatemalan, Honduran and Native American descent, is part of a horse riding club that competes in escaramuza, a form of traditional Mexican riding and performance done only by women.

So she incorporated that too, appearing at the beginning of the ceremony astride her mother’s horse Chispa. ‘My dad speaks Arabic and my mom speaks to me in Spanish,’ she said. ‘It’s a taste of both worlds.'”

See the beautiful picture of Amina and her horse.

5. Cottage Grove church to usher out gray-haired members in effort to attract more parishioners. All I have to say to this is, yikes! However, I’d probably make the cut since I have very little gray hair. Granted, very little hair at all.

“The church wants to attract more young families. The present members, most of them over 60 years old, will be invited to worship somewhere else. A memo recommends that they stay away for two years, then consult the pastor about reapplying.”


Fall Of The United States

Few citizens are sufficiently objective to see that the United States is in steady decline. Even when they see explicit evidence of it, they’re psychologically unable to acknowledge it. 

Trumpeters in particular are in serious denial.

Which is why Frank Bruni’s insight in, “Let Us All Now Weep for Donald Trump”, is so perceptive.  

Of Trump, Bruni writes:

“He has turned himself into a symbol of Americans’ victimization, telling frustrated voters who crave easy answers that they’re being pushed around by foreigners and duped by the condescending custodians of a dysfunctional system.

He’s their proxy, suffering on their behalf, and in that way he collapses the distance between a billionaire with multiple golf resorts and displaced factory workers struggling to hold on to their one and only homes.”

That’s the most convincing description of Trump’s appeal to his base that I’ve read.

The Path Less Followed

Last Saturday morning, approaching the mother of all hills at the end of West Bay Drive, Dan, Dan, The Transpo Man posed a question. Why did our small group become runners?

I detailed my personal fitness journey in the early days of the humble blog, but I’ve continued to think about the question during recent solo efforts.

I suspect we’re runners because we inherited above average self-discipline from our parents. They modeled it day-in and day-out in myriad ways separate from running. They woke up early. They went to work. They dedicated themselves to their work. They saved their money.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we run at 5:45a.m*. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. We were fortunate, our parents were Redwoods.

*except Saturdays, when we ease into the day and start at 7:30a.m.

Books That Change Lives

Several submissions from readers of the New York Times.

Two standout write-ups.

1. Go, Dog. Go! 

“Go, Dog. Go!” — that epic by P.D. Eastman — has it all: Drama — where are those dogs going? Humor — dogs on scooters, flying helicopters and driving cars! Existential angst — why doesn’t he like her hat? It’s multicultural — blue dogs and red dogs and green dogs! It’s a love story — why yes, he does end up liking her hat!

From “Go, Dog. Go!” — my first book way back in prekindergarten — it was only a short skip to the poems of William Butler Yeats; “The Myth of Sisyphus,” by Albert Camus; the guerrilla ontology of Robert Anton Wilson; and the 10,000 mostly nonfiction books in my home library on Irish history, African-American history, my Pagan spiritual path, world religions and metaphysical matters, the Middle East, quantum physics, the Beatles and rock music. . . .

O.K., maybe that wasn’t a short hop. But my love of reading — as a way to have adventures, explore life, lives and ideas, and satiate my curiosity about the world — began with dogs driving fast cars. I still reread “Go, Dog. Go!” to this day.

Rick de Yampert
Palm Coast, Fla.

2. Atlas Shrugged

When I first read “Atlas Shrugged” for a high school assignment, I was so impressed with Ayn Rand’s philosophy of strength, independence and forging through life on one’s own that I reread the book a few more times in the next few years. The final time I was a young mother and as I read, I realized that there were no children in Rand’s cast of characters, no old people; no one was sick or disabled. Where were they? How were they supposed to manage on their own?

That’s when I became a Democrat, even a socialist. It finally dawned on me that total self-reliance is fine, as long as you’re young, healthy and strong. But no one gets through this life on her own. It takes a village to support a community, to raise and educate children, to care for the sick and elderly. Who wants to live in a world where the weak are thrust aside and forgotten? Rand’s philosophy could never be mine. Her words allowed me to crystallize my own thinking. I grew up.

Barbara Lipkin
Naperville, Ill.

My pick? Maybe John Bogle’s Common Sense on Mutual Funds which has helped me invest more wisely than I otherwise would’ve. Or Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart for similar reasons as to Rick. It was the first of many Achebe, and other, African novels. They have been incredible windows into places and people the West pays little attention to and does not understand or appreciate. My life is richer because of their artistry.

And you?