‘Prepare to Lose’. Astonishing claims about Jose Mourinho by Spanish journalist

December 11, 2015

Jose MourinhoBook Review of The Special One: The Secret World of Jose Mourinho

In the spirit of a work of fiction, this book begins with a bang. The first paragraph describes vividly how Supercoach Jose Mourinho broke down uncontrollably, on learning he would not become the next Manchester United Manager

The Author Jose Torres is a well-respected Spanish journalist, and not to be confused with a former Chelsea forward Fernando Torres, who might also have been included in such a biographic work. If the book is essentially more fact than fiction, it undermines Mourinho’s repeated claims of his unwavering love of Chelsea Football Club.

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Tennis Matters: The dream of a perfect forehand

August 14, 2015

 

Tennimageis Matters is an account of the author’s obsession with tennis from his schooldays through his working career as a scientist and a Business School Professor. It documents his fruitless search for a respectable tennis forehand shot

Tennis Matters was published in E book format in August 2015. It is part biography, part based on tennis stories updated from over a thousand published in Leaders We Deserve over the period 2007-2015. It lists the mostly unsuccessful attempts of the author’s coaches to help him develop a workable forehand. It also includes Tennis Teasers (‘because they were the parts of my lectures the students liked most’).

“Hit past the baseline not into the net”

The story unfolds as the author recalls boyhood experiences: “My first coach was Tad the Geography master, a powerful bantamweight of a man, blessed with a natural tennis game, and in the classroom an unerring aim with a piece of chalk to gain the attention of an errant pupil. He did nothing to set me up with an educated forehand. But I do remember one piece of his advice. Better to hit the ball out past the baseline he insisted than into the net. I cannot say I have fully mastered the principles required for this tricky procedure”.

Tennis fashions

He watched his first films about the glamourous and exciting lives of tennis professionals: Hitchcock’s classic ‘Strangers on a Train’ and the lesser known ‘Pat and Mike’ starring Gussie Moran and Katherine Hepburn, noting the impact that Katherine Hepburn’s shorts and Moran’s frilly knickers were eventually to have on tennis fashion.

At the start of the 1960s, he recalls, the genteel ineptitude of tennis officialdom was still accepted. One match at Wimbledon ended in chaos when a line official nodded off and was unable to confirm that the match was over on a match point.

The modern era

Then came professionalization, and the modern era. The Australian Lew Hoad became to tennis what Stirling Moss was to racing, Bobby Charlton to football, and Arnold Palmer to Golf.

By the 1970s the great tennis tournaments were available to mass audiences. There were epic contests between two dominant figures of the era, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. A similar series of breath-taking battles were to take place in the 1990s by battles between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

Into the 21st century

As the 21st century approached, the young Roger Federer began to rewrite the record books. He was later to face intense competition from Novak Djokovic, and from the king of clay Rafa Nadal.

An era of America supremacy led by the iconic figures of Navratilova, King, McEnroe, Sampras and Agassi was coming to an end. Another golden age was emerging in which ‘the American (Bryan) brothers and (Williams) sisters were supreme and yet were not receiving the wider recognition they deserved’.

The author began recording his notes on every match played by Andy Murray, having watched him first as a junior playing on an outside court in a regional tournament. He discovers that changes in the game have not all been to his liking. He learns of the impact of branding as he miserably fails to trade up his 1970s racquet for a modern one. His forehand continues to frustrate the best efforts of various coaches, even one who had helped players such as Martina Navratilova.

Subsequent tales bring us to the highs and lows of today’s superstars, and the pratfalls of TV pundits.

The dream of a perfect forehand

The author remains optimistic. Drawing inspiration from the great orator Martin Luther King, he concludes that however modest the achievement, he still has a dream that one day he will play the perfect forehand.

Note to subscribers

Note the price is quoted currently at $3.99 or £1.99. It is a Kindle product, but you can download a free App via Amazon if you don’t have a Kindle.


Book review: Seeing What Others Don’t

June 7, 2015

Bisociation KoestlerOne of the most contested aspects of creativity is the act of creation itself. Research psychologist Gary Klein is the latest author to examine the process

The act of creation has been associated with insight arguably since the origins of the myth of Archimedes and his eureka bathtub moment. Even the prestigious and very serious American Association for the Advancement of Science calls its breaking news site EurekAlert.

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Paul McKenna and the search for self-fulfillment

January 12, 2015

Until last week I had never heard of Paul McKenna. Now I have become aware of his claims to help me change my destiny, which seems a bit of an oxymoron

The whole thing about destiny, I used to think, is that it’s what fate has arranged to happen to you, come what may. So I listened up, when I heard somebody called Paul being interviewed on BBC Radio Five who claimed to have cracked the destiny business.

Paul spoke with the authority and conviction of a prophet bringing good news to the previously unenlightened. He wanted listeners to buy his new book, plus assorted multi-media aids to enlightenment.

At first, I wondered if Paul was one of those callers with a bee in his bonnet, and whether the interviewer had allowed him to rant on during an afternoon in which callers were scarce. Then he said there was scientific evidence and research backing up his system of do-it-yourself destiny control. I must find out more about Paul, I thought.

It’s all in the Daily Mail

It was a simple matter to track down Paul. He obligingly mentioned the title of his new book several times during the interview.

I found that Paul had outlined quite a bit of his approach in The Daily Mail just a few weeks earlier.

A few sentences will be enough to indicate what he is about:

Congratulations — today is the day you are going to alter your destiny. In just a few hours, the entire direction of your life will change for the better.

A dramatic claim? Certainly, but with just a little input from you, I know we can make this happen.

It may seem like magic, but it’s actually grounded in some astonishing recent breakthroughs in science, psychology and spirituality.

Cynicism and rejection

A few comments on his article were from those who had begun the few hours of effort and had begun to see their destiny changing.

But as happens with charismatic thought leaders, Paul also faces cynicism and rejection. Quite a few comments were hostile to the point of abuse. But that’s the nature of denial and the right to express views on the social media, isn’t it?

How I overcame my fear of flying

Paul mentioned the influence of his training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. I can offer testimony to the effectiveness of applying these principles, although that was quite a few years ago, and I have not caught up on the astonishing breakthroughs Paul mentions.

What works for me is deep breathing. There you have it. A philosophy in a phrase. Deep breathing.

Deep breathing and visualisation

Paul also mentions brain-calming through visualisation. Yes, that works for me too, even that stuff about imagining you are on a sunlit beach. Lesson two. Visualisation.

Paul’s new book is called …

The Daily Mail did not mention the title or publisher of Paul’s book. This puzzling oversight was quickly remedied through a visit to the mighty Amazon. The book is called The 3 Things That Will Change Your Destiny Today !

Paul has also written books about wonderful things to do with gastric bands, and has helped smokers to quit, losers to stop losing, and the poor to become rich.

It works

I quickly found more evidence of how his methods work. A remarkable number of reviews have been submitted to the Amazon site within weeks of publication of The 3 Things That Will Change Your Destiny Today !

There was little of the cynicism of the Daily Mail readers. These Amazonian reviewers had been compelled to write in within days (sometimes hours) of receiving their copy of Paul’s book and tapes to say how they were finding their destiny. They could not restrain themselves from sharing the good news with others.

If that’s not evidence of the powers of Paul’s message, I’d like to know what is.


Peter Carey’s Amnesia is more than Wikileaks without Assange

January 1, 2015

Amnesia
Book Review

I bought Amnesia by Peter Carey for Christmas reading, partly on the author’s track record. Also because the blurb promised a tale of a cyber-hacker which a back story of political intrigue in Australia including the revolutionary events of 1975, and current controversies around the treatment of boat people, a version of a wider issue of immigration policy confronting so many countries.

Release of The Angel Worm

Cyber-hacker Gaby Baillieux’s actions have been shaped by a turbulent childhood with politically and socially active parents and diverse group of mostly hostile school mates. Her acts of rebellion with super-hacker boyfriend Frederick culminate with the release of the Angel Worm, which also results in the release of assorted prisoners detained in Australia’s prison system. Worse, the effects are felt around the world wherever American organisations are responsible for security, which naturally gives a new meaning to The Land of The Free. Frederick and Gaby become public enemies Nos 1 and 2.

A plan is hatched

A plan is hatched by Gaby’s glamorous mother Celine and Felix Moore, a discredited journalist and formerly a besotted admirer of Celine. The plan is bankrolled by Woody Townes, a left-wing property developer (implausible, but not quite unbelievable), who is a more recent member of Celine’s entourage. Felix is to write an account of Gaby’s life that will save her from extradition to a place where no Angel Worm will gain entry.

Amnesia indeed

Carey chosoes words carefully. The Amnesia of his title indicates the way in which unpleasant and inconvenient truths are denied and forgotten. It was certainly the case for me, and the book sent me back to the story which has scarcely been referred to for half a century. The forgotten crisis demonstrated for perhaps the last time the ultimate control exercised by The British political system in resolving Australian internal affairs. It remains a live issue in Australia, and is a backdrop to the tensions towards self-determination so important today around the world, not least in the United Kingdom in the devolution debates in Scotland and elsewhere.

In Amnnesia, the story unfolds from the perspective of Gaby, as related to Felix, who reverts to type by stubbornly refusing to write anything but the truth. Various factors including the motives and intentions of Gaby, Celine, and Woody make Felix’s task increasingly difficult and dangerous.

More than Wikileaks without Assage

The book makes no mention of Australia’s most notorious hacker. But it is, anyway, more than Wikileaks without Assage. I chose to leak no further, beyond noting that the book was by far the most interesting one I read over the festive season.


Wittgenstein Jnr by Lars Iyer isn’t Sophie’s World 2. Or is it?

October 22, 2014

Wittgenstein jnrBook Review

It is quite appropriate that I obtained a copy of Wittgenstein Jnr under the mistaken impression that the book is a follow-up to Jostein Gaarder’s classic Sophie’s World. It isn’t. Written by that Norwegian philosopher. But by the English one with a Norwegian name. Who writes campus philosophy books among which Dogma is my favourite.

My false premise

My false premise was at least in keeping with one of the themes both of Sophie’s World and Wittgenstein Jnr: the nature of reality (of course). Gaardner charms us into an overview of Western philosophy through a story of young Sophie and her journey of discovery through a world of the imagination. Iyer draws us into the world of undergraduate Peters, and his journey of discovery through a world of the imagination, set in the context of the simulacrum Cambridge (about as real as the Oxford in the Morse stories, which come to think of it is very real for a generation of admirers of the TV versions of the stories of Colin Dexter).

Wittgenstein Mark 2?

The central character of Wittgenstein Jnr is a philosophy lecturer who is referred to by his students as a latter-day Wittgenstein. This Wittgenstein Mark 2 indeed resembles the character portrayed by Monk in his biography of Ludwig the first.

The obsessive search for philosophic closure through symbolic logic or its destruction is here. The larger than life student characters of earlier work are here, but reworked away from hapless but cheerful inhabitants of a philosophic underworld to an equally hapless and cheerful bunch of privileged inhabitants of Camalot / Cambridge.

Ludwig is here, although Ludwig the second is even more clinically depressed and doomed than Ludwig the first

Highly readable in a creative slippery literary way

There is much to enjoy about the book. It is highly readable, and stylistically creative in a subtle slippery literary way. Lyer has honed his prose into a tight personal style. It works, like many works of art, by concealing the labour that goes into final text. when I tried extracting an example, it became clear to me just how crafty the writing is.

Crafty writing

Here’s an example chosen selected almost at randomm, a scene in which EDE, one of students announces his split with his girlfriend Phaedra. Lyer sets the scene in two one-line paragraphs. It might have been four or five lines of poetry.

Saturday Night. Ede texts. You up? I split with Fee.

Ede, in the communal kitchen, emptying a tub of mushrooms onto the counter.

Readable?

A cautious endorsement. I enjoyed it. When I tried explaining it to a friend, my description left him unconvinced. Which suggests the test might follow a visit to one of those old fashioned pre-Amazon  book vendors,  and a quick scan of the book’s contents.


Is Narcissism always a bad thing?

August 12, 2014

NarcissusNarcissism is often associated with ‘the dark side of leadership’. Recent studies offer a revised perspective

A review in The Economist [March 22nd, 2014] was entitled Narcissism: Know thy selfie. It reviewed two recent books on Narcissism: Mirror, Mirror: the uses and abuses of self-love, by Simon Blackburn, and The Americanization of Narcissism, by Elizabeth Lunbeck.

Lasch and the Culture of Narcissism

In examining these books it is worth going back to the psychodynamic treatment of Narcissism by Christopher Lasch. It is worth revisiting this classic study as the critic As Siegel summarized the work:

in “The Culture of Narcissism,” Lasch took what was still mainly a narrowly clinical term and used it to diagnose a pathology that seemed to have spread to all corners of American life. In Lasch’s definition (drawn from Freud), the narcissist, driven by repressed rage and self-hatred, escapes into a grandiose self-conception, using other people as instruments of gratification even while craving their love and approval. Lasch saw the echo of such qualities in “the fascination with fame and celebrity, the fear of competition, the inability to suspend disbelief, and the shallowness and transitory quality of personal relations.

The full-on connection between narcissism and many of the evils of modern society was always likely to attract a revisionary accounts such as those of Blackburn and Lubeck.

Narcissism and balance

Blackburn argues that a ‘healthy’ self-image is bounded at one pole by excessive self-regard, and at the other pole by lack of adequate self-image. This adds needed nuance to the Lasch position, as well as to the popular connection between narcissism and the dark side of charismatic leadership. His plea is for positioning the individual more carefully in their context. The prevailing view of egotistical leaders may have slipped too much into polarisation. Where he is closest to Lasch is in his cutting observations of advertising which seeks to bolster the self-image of the consumer (Blackburn takes the ‘because you are worth it’ message of L’Oreal as an example]

‘Good narcissism’

Lunbeck adds the point that the neo-Freudians have tended to focus on narcissism as bad, and that Lasch contributed this cultural belief. Freud, she argues, saw the development of self-regard as a form of ‘good narcissism’.

Narcissism as a dilemma

Both Blackburn and Lunbeck show us that narcissism may be more of a dilemma to be understood than a universal curse.

Suggestion to leadership tutors

Essay question: Is Narcissism a bad leadership characteristic? Discuss, drawing on the work of Simon Blackburn and Elizabeth Lunbeck