Saturday, February 28, 2015

Innovation Reverberation How/Now

Review by Bill Doughty

Imagine what it's like to crawl inside the head of a dead sperm whale for days ... Look into how mirrors were the original selfies ... Feel how a ice cubes were harvested before  there was refrigeration ... Hear how sonar and ultrasound became a reality.

These and other insights are presented in Steven Johnson's "How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World."  It's helpful to know how far we've come as we chart where we are going.

That crawling around in a whale's head thing? Johnson describes whaling for spermaceti, a white oily substance that was used by early Americans, including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington even before 1776, in candles that produced a strong white light without offensive smoke.
"Extracting the spermaceti was almost as difficult as harpooning the whale itself. A hole would be carved in the side of the whale's head, and men would crawl into the cavity above the brain – spending days inside the rotting carcass, scraping spermaceti out of the brain of the beast. It's remarkable to think that only two hundred years ago, this was the reality of artificial light: if your great-great-great-grandfather wanted to read his book after dark, some poor soul had to crawl around in a whale's head for an afternoon."
Spermaceti whale of the Southern Ocean, 1833-1843, engraving by Sir William Jardine
Soberly, Johnson reports that about 300,000 whales, "majestic creatures," were slaughtered in roughly a century. "It is likely that the entire population would have been killed off had we not found a new source of oil for artificial light ..." That would be petroleum-based fossil fuels.

This book is built around six areas of innovation and invention: glass, cold, sound, clean, time and light.

The first chapter reminds us of the importance, versatility and strength of glass – in various lenses, including in powerful microscopes and in the biggest telescopes at Mauna Kea in Hawaii, and in fiberglass, fiber-optics, smart phones and computer monitors. Glass supports the entire Internet and networking. And, Johnson shows, glass is at the heart of art.

Author Steven Johnson takes a mirror "selfie."
"It's easy to make fun of our penchant for taking selfies, but in fact there is a long and storied tradition behind that form of self-expression. Some of the most revered works of art from the Renaissance and early modernism are self-portraits; from Dürer to Leonardo, to Rembrandt, all the way to van Gogh with his bandaged ear, painters have been obsessed with capturing detailed and varied images of themselves on the canvas. Rembrandt, for instance, painted around forty self-portraits over the course of his life. But the interesting thing about self-portraiture is that it effectively doesn't exist as an artistic convention in Europe before 1400. People painted landscapes and royalty and religious scenes and a thousand other subjects. But they didn't paint themselves. The explosion of interest in self-portraiture was the direct result of yet another technological breakthrough in our ability to manipulate glass."
Johnson goes into the history and even some "bizarre sacred rituals" surrounding mirrors. It makes for an interesting story on which to reflect.

Sawing ice for harvest
Johnson's combination of art, science and history shows how belief, commitment and perseverance can pay off in his story of Frederic Tudor of New England, who had the idea in the early 1800s – seemingly crazy at the time – of harvesting ice from lakes in New England in the winter and taking it by sailing ship down to the Caribbean and over to Asia.

Ice trade, as depicted by F. Ray, Harper's Weekly, 30 August 1884
Tudor's insight, Johnson shows, was an understanding of the science of energy in a changing world economy.
"Tudor's triumphant (if long-delayed) success selling ice around the world seems implausible to us today not just because it's hard to imagine blocks of ice surviving the passage from Boston to Bombay. There's an additional, almost philosophical curiosity to the ice business. Most of the trade in natural goods involves material that thrives in high-energy environments. Sugarcane, coffee, tea, cotton – all these staples of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century commerce were dependent on the blistering heat of tropical and subtropical climates; the fossil fuels that now circle the planet in tankers and pipelines are simply solar energy that was captured and stored by plants millions of years ago. You could make a fortune in 1800 by taking things that grew only in high-energy environments and shipping them off to low-energy climates. But the ice trade – arguably for the only time in the history of global commerce – reversed that pattern. What made ice valuable was precisely the low-energy state of a New England winter, and the peculiar capacity of ice to store that lack of energy for long periods of time. The cash crops of the tropics caused populations to swell in climates that could be unforgivingly hot, which in turn created a market for a product that allowed you to escape the heat. In the long history of human commerce, energy had always correlated with value: the more heat, the more solar energy, the more you could grow. But in a world that was tilting toward the productive heat of sugarcane and cotton plantations, cold could be an asset as well. That was Tudor's great insight."
Galileo looks into the Cosmos
Johnson references people and groups as diverse as Jack the Ripper, Joe Biden, Ella Fitzgerald, Aristotle, H. G. Wells, Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, Ike and Tina Turner, and Led Zeppelin.

Of course most of the focus is on innovators and inventors such as Galileo Galilei, Thomas Edison, Lee De Forest, Ellis Chesbrough, Reginald Fessenden, Jacob Riis, Lufkin Dennison, and Augusta Ada, Countess Lovelace.

Johnson tells the story of music ethnographer Iegor Reznikoff from the University of Paris, who discovered new sound revelations in the Arcy-sur-Cure caves, where you can hear seven distinct echoes of your voice if you utter a sound while standing under Paleolithic images. "Reznikoff's theory is that Neanderthal communities gathered beside the images they had painted, and they chanted or sang in some kind of shamanic ritual, using the reverberations of the cave to magically widen the sound of their voices."

Where Neanderthals once stood and created art – visual and aural?
Johnson says there's a hopeful lesson in the story of the science of sound and story of development of sonar and ultrasound, "which is how quickly our ingenuity is able to leap boundaries of conventional influence."
"Our ancestors first noticed the power of echo and reverberation to change the sonic properties of the human voice tens of thousands of years ago; for centuries we have used those properties to enhance the range and power of our vocal chords, from cathedrals to the Wall of Sound. But it's hard to imagine anyone studying the physics of sound two hundred years ago predicting that those echoes would be used to track undersea weapons or determine the sex of an unborn child. What began with the most moving and intuitive sound to the human ear – the sound of our voices in song, in laughter, sharing news or gossip – has been transformed into the tools of both war and peace, death and life. Like those distorted wails of the tube amp, it is not always a happy sound. Yet, again and again, it turns out to have unsuspected resonance."
This book, which is filled with great photos and art, is a companion to a PBS Special that aired in late 2014 and continues to reverberate. Author Walter Isaacson, author of "The Innovators," said, "Steven Johnson is the Darwin of technology. Through fascinating observations and insights, he enlightens us about the origin of ideas."

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Navy Musician, Jazz Great Clark Terry RIP

by Bill Doughty

Clark Terry, like John Coltrane, was one of the greatest and most well-known musicians to serve in a U.S. Navy Band.

Terry died yesterday and is remembered for his joy, passion and willingness to teach others.

In 1942, Clark Terry Joined the U.S. Navy after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt authorized recruitment of 5,000 musicians during World War II.

Terry was part of the Great Lakes Band.

"From 1942 to 1945, the Great Lakes Band became a stew pot for up and coming jazzmen," according to
Clark Terry and Quincy Jones.
After the war, Terry continued to play music with some of America's great jazz musicians and bandleaders, including Duke Ellington and Count Basie. Both Miles Davis and Quincy Jones said they were influenced by Terry.

According to Mark C. Gridley, author of "Jazz Styles: History and Analysis":
"One of the first Ellington sidemen to show the influence of modern jazz, Terry invented a unique style that bridged the gap between the swing era approaches and the new bop style of Dizzy Gillespie. He displayed seemingly effortless command over his horn, no matter how fast or intricate a figure he chose to improvise. He had a talkative, swinging style that is easy to recognize. It spontaneously unfolded catchy melodic lines and conveyed an enthusiasm that seemed to bubble through every note."
Gridley notes that Clark Terry helped popularize the flugelhorn, "a kind of oversized cornet." According to Gridley, "No other brass player sounds like Clark Terry."

Thirteen years ago, Feb. 28, 2002, Terry appeared, along with Gerald Wilson, during a Black History commemoration at Naval Station Great Lakes.

Judy Lazarus, a public affairs specialist at Great Lakes, reported: "Twenty-two of the original musicians, who served in the years between 1942 and 1945, and family members, attended the event presented in conjunction with Black History Month."

Rear Adm. Ann Rondeau, commander of Naval Service Training Command, who presented Navy ballcaps to the honored guests and said, "What a great way to celebrate our Navy and our nation. These are great artists who all began like us – as Sailors." Rondeau said. "Thanks for what you have done for our country." 

Clark Terry, who had not been back to Great Lakes since the 1940s, said, "It was fantastic being here (playing with the Navy Band). "It was great playing with this band."

Serving as a Navy musician was an opportunity, Terry noted. Because of the war FDR created more opportunities for African Americans in ratings other than just mess attendants. "Instead of coming in as cooks, we could come in as yeoman and other ratings. It was all open," Terry said.

"I had a chance to indulge in camaraderie with so many beautiful musicians who had mastered their craft. I was a 22 year-old and had a chance to hobnob with great guys. There was a lot of jamming going on, and it was an opportunity to learn a lot, to interpret the jazz language."

Felix Contreras of NPR reported today that, "He devoted the last part of his career to sharing his immense knowledge through jazz education in colleges and universities. Trumpeter Jimmy Owens says jazz has lost a direct link to its earliest history — and a 'natural-born educator.'"

Terry's website features an announcement by his wife, Gwen Terry, that says, in part: 
"Clark has known and played with so many amazing people in his life. He has found great joy in his friendships and his greatest passion was spending time with his students. We will miss him every minute of every day, but he will live on through the beautiful music and positivity that he gave to the world. Clark will live in our hearts forever. With all my love, Gwen Terry."  
Ms. Terry invites anyone whose life was touched by Clark Terry to share their story at the site's guest book or on Clark Terry's Facebook page. Click to hear some great Clark Terry music.

[Photo at top – Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill. (Feb. 28th, 2002) -- Legendary Jazz Trumpeter Mr. Clark Terry, plays alongside the Great Lakes Navy Band Jazz Ensemble during a special concert Great Lakes Experience. Terry played in the all-star Navy band at Great Lakes from 1941 to 1945, and was one of the first black Navy musicians.  Approximately 20 other former African American Navy musicians, including Great Lake alumni, and guest conductor Gerald Wilson, were recognized for their dedicated service during the concert. U.S. Navy photo by Photographers Mate 1st Class Michael Worner.]

Monday, February 16, 2015

'Pillar of Fire,' FBI Smoke – American Apartheid

Review by Bill Doughty
Shouts of "Allah-u Akbar!" and gunfire on a street in Los Angeles... Peaceful marches in the heart of the south... Violent extremism against white and black civil rights leaders... Police brutality, FBI surveillance and voting suppression...

Taylor Branch's "Pillar of Fire" opens with a fiery confrontation in South-Central LA in 1962 as Nation of Islam followers, police and civilians clash. Threaded throughout this book are themes of race, religion, war, abuse of power and assassination.
This second book in the trilogy about the history of the Civil Rights Movement continues Martin Luther King Jr.'s struggle and is interwoven with the life and death of Malcolm X. America was at a crossroads in the 1960s; the choice was between violence or nonviolence to bring about social change in the midst of fear of communism, growing conflict leading to war in Vietnam and misguided surveillance by the FBI. The surveillance was condemned by FBI Director James Comey in a very public and nuanced way last week.
Most of Branch's book centers on events in Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and Alabama, including Birmingham and Selma and in other key locations in the Deep South.
In the face of hate, beatings and murder, King, unlike Malcolm X, preached nonviolence:
"King urged his Savannah audience not to panic. 'We are on the move, and the burning of our churches will not deter us,' he cried. 'The bombing of our homes will not dissuade us. The beating and killing of our young people will not divert us ...' He preached a full rhythmic litany on marching that paused near ancient Jericho for a word of caution. There were 'no broad highways' or 'quick solutions' ahead, and 'it would be irresponsible' to say there were. 'Instead, the course we must follow lies through a maze of interrelated demands and counter demands, hopes and aspirations, fears and hatreds,' King said. 'But difficult and painful as it is, such a course must be charted.'"
Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad and then disciple Malcolm X.
Malcolm X ridiculed King and the peaceful course he charted, calling him a "traitor to the Negro people" and mocking King's peaceful demonstrations. Malcolm X celebrated the crash of an Air France jetliner in June 1962 that killed more than 100 prominent white citizens, referring to them as "white devils," a term used by Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad, in what Branch calls his "concocted version of Islam."
Seeking to understand and overcome hate, King said the growing calls for violence fomented by Black Muslims "gives me greater responsibility to help get rid of conditions that created such misguided and bitter individuals." Bitterness, hate and violence would lead to the assassination of Malcolm X by Nation of Islam followers, ironically after Malcolm had turned away from some of his earlier vitriol against King.
Branch works chronologically through the history and personalities of the era concurrent with the Civil Rights Movement: Cuba and the Soviet missile crisis, JFK's assassination, LBJ's "hypersensitive and erratic" behavior, changing politics in the South, and the growing disparity of haves and have-nots as voting rights are curtailed. Speaking in Berlin, Germany, a city then still divided by communism, King said, "We see the giants. We see massive urban societies, dominated by well-entrenched political machines that see new voters as a threat to their power."
King at the FBI after meeting with J. Edgar Hoover in 1964.
Communism was viewed by some as the greatest threat to the United States. Fear of communism (and racism) fueled J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI in their persecution of King. Simultaneously, fear of communists drove international policy in the Cold War that included covert raids in Southeast Asia, coups in South Vietnam and surveillance off the coast of North Vietnam in the mid-60s.

Confrontation in the Gulf of Tonkin involving USS Maddox (DD-731), joined by USS C. Turner Joy (DD-951), led to "police action" overseas. National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy went to Vietnam and cabled LBJ that the country appeared to be "a civil war within a civil war."
Fifty years ago, at the same time that local actions by police in some southern states actively suppressed voting rights and freedom of assembly, "police action" in Vietnam, ostensibly in the name of freedom, continued to escalate.
A fake letter created by the FBI suggesting King commit suicide.
King, who opposed the Vietnam War, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali, a follower of the Nation of Islam, was stripped of his title for his refusal to fight in Vietnam. Ali, originally closely tied with Malcolm X, eventually grew close to MLK. FBI wiretaps against Ali and King were revealed by newspaper columnist Carl Rowan.
On the first anniversary of JFK's assassination, the FBI attempted to kill King's character with a "recording of sex groans and party jokes, together with a contrived anonymous letter calling King 'a great liability for all of us Negroes.'" The fake letter by the FBI urged King to kill himself. Ben Bradlee, editor of Newsweek at the time, became locked in the middle of Hoover's FBI war against King and a burgeoning scandal when he refused to name his sources.
Branch writes, "Not until 1975, three years after Hoover himself was dead, did congressional investigations begin to uncover in retrospect the outlines of the FBI's covert crusade."
Last week, FBI Director James B. Comey spoke "hard truths" involving race and law enforcement. His remarks were delivered at Healy Hall, named after the university's 29th President, Patrick Francis Healy, who was born into slavery, in Georgia, in 1834.
Comey said:

"There is a reason that I require all new agents and analysts to study the FBI’s interaction with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and to visit his memorial in Washington as part of their training. And there is a reason I keep on my desk a copy of Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s approval of J. Edgar Hoover’s request to wiretap Dr. King. It is a single page. The entire application is five sentences long, it is without fact or substance, and is predicated on the naked assertion that there is 'communist influence in the racial situation.' The reason I do those things is to ensure that we remember our mistakes and that we learn from them.

"One reason we cannot forget our law enforcement legacy is that the people we serve and protect cannot forget it, either. So we must talk about our history. It is a hard truth that lives on," Comey said.
Watts riots in Los Angeles, 1965. (Photo from Library of Congress)
"America isn’t easy. America takes work. Today, February 12, is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. He spoke at Gettysburg about a 'new birth of freedom' because we spent the first four score and seven years of our history with fellow Americans held as slaves—President Healy, his siblings, and his mother among them. We have spent the 150 years since Lincoln spoke making great progress, but along the way treating a whole lot of people of color poorly. And law enforcement was often part of that poor treatment. That’s our inheritance as law enforcement and it is not all in the distant past.
"We must account for that inheritance. And we—especially those of us who enjoy the privilege that comes with being the majority—must confront the biases that are inescapable parts of the human condition. We must speak the truth about our shortcomings as law enforcement, and fight to be better. But as a country, we must also speak the truth to ourselves. Law enforcement is not the root cause of problems in our hardest hit neighborhoods. Police officers—people of enormous courage and integrity, in the main—are in those neighborhoods, risking their lives, to protect folks from offenders who are the product of problems that will not be solved by body cameras.
J. Edgar Hoover (photo art from
"We simply must speak to each other honestly about all these hard truths.
"In the words of Dr. King, 'We must learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.'
"We all have work to do—hard work, challenging work—and it will take time. We all need to talk and we all need to listen, not just about easy things, but about hard things, too. Relationships are hard. Relationships require work. So let’s begin that work. It is time to start seeing one another for who and what we really are. Peace, security, and understanding are worth the effort."
The full transcript of Comey's historic speech is available at
As for Taylor Branch's masterful presentation in "Pillar of Fire," this review can only scratch the surface.

The Navy is mentioned several times in Branch's book. President Johnson ordered Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to deploy military helicopters and Navy Divers – "Navy Frogmen" – to assist in a search for three missing civil rights workers.
Some other revelations and insights within its pages:
  • One of the last books Medgar Evers read before he was assassinated was Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird."
  • Birmingham, Alabama became known as "Bombingham." Violence there was condemned by Russia and the Vatican, especially after four girls were killed in a church bombing by white supremacists.
  • Author and activist James Baldwin called Selma, Alabama "one of the worst places I ever saw."
  • Alex Haley, U.S. Coast Guard veteran and Malcolm X biographer, developed a bond with Malcom X over a "mutual love of Shakespeare."
  • Malcolm X disparaged baseball great Jackie Robinson for not being more strident; Robinson returned the favor, saying Malcolm X was only interested in revenge and retaliation.
  • Around the same time MLK was named for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, Malcolm X was studying Islam at the University of Saudi Arabia, tutored in Sunni Islam.
  • LBJ zealously read "The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations" by Barbara Ward, which inspired his slogan, "Great Society" focusing on poverty, education and environment.
  • Civil rights demonstrators were tortured: hung by handcuffed arms at Parchman Penitentiary; put in concrete sweatboxes, chicken coops and miniature cells in St. Augustine, Florida; and beaten with blackjacks, kicked and shocked with cattle prods by police and sheriffs.

In 2011 Navy Reads featured a review of the first book in Branch's trilogy, "Parting the Waters," entitled "Deeply Rooted in the American Dream."

Friday, February 13, 2015

From Street Gang to WWII Veteran

by Bill Doughty

In "Counting My Blessings: The Autobiography of a Native Hawaiian Pearl Harbor Survivor," "Uncle Herb" Weatherwax tells his story of humble beginnings – from homeless street gang to life in the military during World War II, then success as a business owner.

As to his humble beginnings as a child raised on the outskirts of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii:
"There was no stove in our house. Instead, we had a couple of rocks placed outside with metal bars across them. We would build a fire underneath and place the food across the bars. We didn't have running water, either. In those days, one of the staple foods was salted salmon from Alaska, which was shipped in large barrels. We used the barrels to collect water ... Our outhouse was built over underground lava tubes. All you had to do was locate one of those tubes, knock a hole in it, and put the outhouse over it! There would be spider webs in there and it wasn't too pleasant."
Hilo, Hawaii in 1928.
Weatherwax picked up the nickname "Spider" when he subsequently ran the streets with the Hotel Street Gang and later the Bethel Street Gang as a young man who became addicted to alcohol and spent "numerous nights in jail."

His first steady job was with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps, building roads around Mauna Kea, home today of the world's largest astronomical observatory.

He also worked for Hawaiian Electric as an apprentice electrician for 30 cents an hour. It was a trade that would help him in the Army and later as a veteran.

Weatherwax was drafted into the Army in June 1941 and was stationed at Schofield Barracks in Wahiawa. He was on a weekend pass in Honolulu on December 7, 1941 and heard the thunderous attack in Pearl Harbor. He was recalled to his duty station during the attack and ordered to prepare an invasion of the islands.
"As the bus was passing above Pearl Harbor I saw the whole thing. The attack was still going on and there was confusion everywhere. The USS Arizona was enveloped in flames; the USS Oklahoma was on its side. Those who managed to escape from being trapped inside those ships were up on the hull, but the ocean was on fire from the spilled oil and fuel. Those men couldn't even go into the water. There was smoke all over and a lot of commotion."
The invasion never came, but war was declared the next day. President Roosevelt called it an "unprovoked and dastardly attack" and "a day of infamy."
U.S. Army troops move through the "dragon's teeth" of the Siegfried Line.

"Counting My Blessings" tracks Weatherwax's journey during the war from the Pacific to the Atlantic, landing in Europe and facing Germany's Siegfried Line where "the sound of strafing was like 1,000 stampeding horses." He said his 272nd Regiment advanced into Germany and freed dying prisoners in labor camps. A highlight was meeting up with then-Allied forces from Russia who, instead of the Americans, marched into Berlin.

In August 1945 Weatherwax was preparing to redeploy to the Pacific Theater when word came that Japan had surrendered. In the years that followed he reflected on the death and destruction he witnessed, he said, and "the lasting effects of combat experience."

After the war, the Army veteran worked at Kwajalein and Subic Bay in the Philippines in harbor dredging and runway construction jobs before starting businesses back in Hawaii and running unsuccessfully for political office. His association with Alcoholics Anonymous helped him, he said.

As a member of the 69th Infantry Division veterans, Herb along with his wife, Lehua, traveled back to Europe to see former battlefields in 1995. "The highlight of the whole trip was meeting up again with the Russian veterans at the Elbe River on the 50th anniversary of the original meeting."

("Uncle Herb" and Lehua played cupid with a Russian immigrant in Hawaii, which is a nice aside in the book.)

Weatherwax lost his brother Eddie at a relatively early age to the scourge of Hansen's Disease, leprosy. The experience had a profound effect on Herb and his outlook on life.
"Towards the end, when I visited him in Kalaupapa, he was hospitalized and had his own room. They had operated on him to remove his eyeballs ... When I visited him, we'd talk and despite his unfortunate circumstances he had a good sense of humor and philosophy. I gained a lot from him by observing what he had to go through. It made me appreciate what I had. Despite his affliction, he never seemed despondent or depressed. He gave me the impression that he was living each day as best he could. I began to count my blessings. I knew that It could just as easily have been me. Why he got it and not me, no one will ever know. Realizing that fact gave me the fortitude to carry on and realize how fortunate I was in comparison to other people. I realized that I should be more grateful for what I had."
"Uncle Herb" has been a familiar, perpetually smiling presence at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center," where he has volunteered and where his autobiography, published by Pacific Historic Parks, is available for purchase.

"It is up to Survivors to perpetuate the history until we are gone," he said. "I am always learning from others and thought that someone might pick up one or two little things from what I have gone through."

Special thanks to retired Master Chief Jim Taylor, Pearl Harbor Survivor Liaison, who made me aware of Uncle Herb's book!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Coach K on Dean Smith: 'Integrity, Honor, Purpose'

Duke University issued a statement from Coach Mike Krzysewski today on the death of Coach Dean Smith, former coach of the University of North Carolina and one of the greatest coaches of all time:
“I am incredibly saddened to hear of the passing of Coach Dean Smith. We have lost a man who cannot be replaced. He was one of a kind and the sport of basketball lost one of its true pillars. Dean possessed one of the greatest basketball minds, and was a magnificent teacher and tactician. While building an elite program at North Carolina, he was clearly ahead of his time in dealing with social issues. However, his greatest gift was his unique ability to teach what it takes to become a good man. That was easy for him to do because he was a great man himself. All of his players benefited greatly from his basketball teachings, but even more from his ability to help mold men of integrity, honor and purpose. Those teachings, specifically, will live forever in those he touched. We offer our deepest sympathies – and gratitude for sharing his incredible life with us for so long – to Linnea, his children and the entire North Carolina family.”
In his "Leading with the Heart," Coach K mentions what it was like coming up as a young coach in the shadow of Smith. Krzyzewski writes about his friendship with the late Coach Jim Valvano of North Carolina State and shares an anecdote about how he and Valvano played a gentle prank on Coach Dean Smith at a stodgy Atlantic Coast Conference. 

("Leading with the Heart" is on the CNO's Professional Reading list.)

All three coaches shared a common trait for success: being "very passionate about what we did," in Coach K's words.

Smith (1931-2015) is remembered for his national championships, his leadership strategies and his stand for civil rights as early as the 1940s. 

Navy Reads featured a commentary about Coach Smith and Coach Red Auerbach last year in "March Madness – Coach Reads."

Saturday, February 7, 2015

'Redeployment' on Obama's Shelf

by Bill Doughty

The Commander In Chief appeared on Fareed Zakaria's GPS show last Sunday and revealed that while on vacation he read "Redeployment" by Phil Klay, a book of stories inspired by Klay's personal experience as a formerly forward deployed Marine.

Klay's short stories about individuals serving in diverse roles in Iraq and Afghanistan offers an opportunity "to step into very different heads," as Klay describes it in an interview for the National Book Foundation. "What was the war like for a mortuary affairs specialist? For a chaplain? For an artilleryman, who never sees the bodies of the enemy he has killed?"

Obama called Klay's work, "a quick but powerful and, for me, painful set of stories about the experience of ordinary soldiers in Iraq." He called it a reminder that "the antiseptic plans and decisions and strategies and the opining of pundits that take place in Washington, you know, is very different from war and conflict as it’s experienced by people on the ground."

A somewhat similar message is conveyed in Clint Eastwood's blockbuster "American Sniper."

In the interview by Rebecca Rubenstein about his book, Klay said, "I think this is a general problem for all wars—the gap between public mythology and lived experience," noting that's particularly true with an all-volunteer military often far-removed from civilians' everyday experience.

"Only a small percentage of the population serves, and so those mythologies, whether about idealized heroes, or passively-suffering and possibly dangerous victims who probably signed up because they had no other options, don't get checked by reality as often." Klay said the challenge is to confront the mythology and try to have an honest conversation about the experience of war.

President Barack Obama on CNN with Fareed Zakaria GPS in New Delhi.
On CNN, Zakaria asked President Obama a number of foreign policy questions including about China, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and India. He also asked about calls from some quarters for direct military action in Ukraine and against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (also referred to as ISIS and ISIL). The interview is recommended for anyone interested in the possibility of further deployments or redeployments.

Calling the violent extremists of ISIL a "death cult," Obama said he is "mindful of the terrible costs of terrorism around the world," adding, "What I do insist on is that we maintain a proper perspective and that we do not provide a victory to these terrorist networks by over-inflating their importance and suggesting in some fashion that they are an existential threat to the United States or the world order."

A key point related to reading, education and free access to the Internet came in a question about authoritarian rule. President Obama said:

"What I continue to believe is that an authoritarian model, in this day and age, is going to be less and less sustainable. And I think we've seen evidence of that around the world. Part of it is just the flow of information. Authoritarian to some degree depends on the ignorance of people, and the Internet and social media means people have access to information."

President Obama visits troops in Bagram, Afghanistan in May 2014. Photo by Pete Souza.
The discussion about what's on President Obama's reading list lately came at the end of the interview, and in that context, after mentioning Klay's "Redeployment," he said:

"And part of the reason that I am deliberate about decision-making when it comes to foreign policy, and part of the reason that I do think it’s important to aim before you shoot, is because I’ve met enough young men in Walter Reed and talked to enough families who have lost loved ones to remember that there are costs to the decisions that we make. Sometimes we have to make them, but they’re real and they’re serious, and you know, we don’t – we can’t play political games and we can’t engage in bluster or reaction or, you know, try to beat our chests when we make these decisions. If we’re going to deploy folks to war, it better be for a darn good reason, and we better have a very clear objective that is worthy of the sacrifices that these folks make."

Holiday shopping for books in 2014. Photo by Pete Souza.
Fareed Zakaria's interview with President Obama is posted at CNN Press Room.

Last November Bloomberg reported on book purchases by the President and his daughters. The list included: “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, "Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End" by Atul Gawande, “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” by Richard Flanagan, “The Laughing Monsters” by Denis Johnson, “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, "Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China" by Evan Osnos and “Nora Webster” by Colm Toibin.

Phil Klay cited influential authors in a discussion about favorite books and works of fiction and poetry: Billy Lynn, Shusaku Endo, Homer, Tolstoy, Poe, Hemingway, Crane, Dahl, Silverstein, Bernanos, Nathan Englander and Edward P. Jones.
Phil Klay, former U.S. Marine public affairs officer, 2014 National Book Award winner for "Redeployment."