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A Futbol Manager’s Philosophy: Jürgen Klopp Channeling His Inner Arsenal

Posted on July 30, 2016

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Arsène Wenger comes in for a lot of criticism about his stinginess. “It’s not even his money,” his critics say as they chastise him again and again for refusing to spend incredible sums of money for the next big thing, the next savior for the team.

But it has always seemed apparent to me that this debate simply indicated a difference in managing philosophy, itself suggesting a profound difference in worldview. Put simply, for Wenger, it is not the result; it is the journey. It is not winning at all costs, but how you win. It is not about a big payday or payoff, but how you got there. Not about achievement, whatever it is, but the life you lead.

Seems that Wenger is hardly along, as words this week by Jürgen Klopp make clear. In quickly commenting on Manchester United’s typically ostentatious purchase of a £100million Paul Pogba, he vindicated Wenger, and he proved that he really should be an Arsenal manager.

Other clubs can go out and spend more money and collect top players.

Do I have to do it differently to that? Actually, I want to do it differently. I would even do it differently if I could spend that money, yes. But if you bring one player in for £100million or whatever, and he gets injured, then it all goes through the chimney.

I want a special team spirit – I don’t feel it is necessary, I want it.

You can’t say at the end, ‘Only 11 best players will play together and let’s see what happens.’ The day that this is football, I’m not in a job anymore. Because the game is about playing together.

That is why somebody invented passes — so these players can play together. It’s not about running with the ball because you can do it all the time.

That is how everybody in football understands it. You always want to have the best, but  building the group is not my unique idea, it is necessary to be successful in football.

If you all swim in the same pool, the pool is too small – you all go for the same players.

There are a lot of players outside that pool — good players on to the next step in their career. We try to find them. The best player of the last season is good to know, but it is more interesting trying to find out who will be the best one next year.

If you knew it now, that would be a really cool transfer! It would be much cheaper too. That is what we work for.

It is not about being creative because creative is cool or something, it is about finding the players who can make the next step with us.

If I spend money, it is because I am trying to build a team, a real team. Barcelona did it. You can win championships, you can win titles, but there is a manner in which you want it.

Talking about the seven players he has brought in this season, Klopp said–

We know more about them than they can imagine.

We had a long trip with scouting so when you go and talk to the player you have already scanned him.

The most important thing is how they can play football: talent, skill, potential but then character is very important. Could we gather all the information on the character side? No.

I met all of them before we made the transfer and then it is about feeling the person behind the player. We tried to do our best and at this moment we feel quite confident it has worked.

The only chance to come into the team or stay in the team is about performing and doing the job,’ he said.

It doesn’t mean showing your best but showing your best for the team.

‘Sometimes it is the same, your best is best for the team but if you only show your best it cannot be the best for the team.

There is a lot of desire and good attitude and the working mentality is good.

We decided to push ourselves from the inside so we brought only quality in, we had only quality, kept only quality and gave (away) quality on loan or sold.

Push ourselves from the inside; only quality brought in; we had quality. Close your eyes, and you would think it was Wenger talking. Now, Wenger would never bring in seven players at once, but Klopp can be forgiven because the just got to Liverpool. My hope is that Jürgen takes over for Arsène, which will be in about four years, after Arsène’s next contract extension. Wishful thinking I’m sure because Klopp does not strike me as a manager who easily moves between League rivals.

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Timmy . . . Go . . . Go

Posted on July 2, 2014

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Tim Howard did all he could to save the United States in a 2-1 loss to Belgium. Credit Jamie Mcdonald/Getty Images (NYT)

“Serious stuff. Howard did all he could to save his team in a 2-1 loss to Belgium, but he may ultimately have a much larger role: as a game-changer for soccer in the United States.

“Why? The answer is simple. Timothy Matthew Howard, a 35-year-old keeper from central New Jersey and a son of a truck driver, elicited more cheers than perhaps any other player in this World Cup for single-handedly holding off Belgium for most of the game. At a basic level, he was out there on his own, sacrificing his body to protect his country’s team when the other lines of defense had caved in.

“Howard could have stopped Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal during the 1986 World Cup. He could have kept Luis Suárez from taking a bite out of Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder. He could have saved Bambi’s mother from dying, or Simba’s father in “The Lion King,” or the Titanic from sinking, or the movie rental company Blockbuster from falling into bankruptcy. He could have spared dinosaurs from extinction by batting away a giant meteor.

“He could have saved your parents’ marriage.

Jose Mourinho on Mesut Özil

Posted on June 26, 2014

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Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho hugs Mesut Özil of Arsenal

Mesut Özil is a player who requires “trust and confidence” in order to reach his best form, according to Jose Mourinho.

Özil, who is currently at the World Cup with Germany, experienced a difficult season first season in the Premier League after joining Arsenal from Real Madrid for a club-record £42.5 million fee.

He scored six goals and managed 11 assists in 37 appearances for the Gunners last season, but his level of performance in games against their title rivals was fiercely scrutinised by fans.

However, Mourinho insists it’s simply a case of providing the 25-year-old with the right man-management, and hinted neither the fans nor Arsene Wenger are doing enough to make his star man feel wanted.

“I learned with him because we were together for quite a long time, that he’s a very sensitive boy,” said Mourinho, who was speaking as Yahoo’s Global Ambassador.

“He needs confidence. He needs trust. He needs to feel that people is with him. When he’s on the pitch, every time he touches the ball, the ball goes beautiful.”

“And he’ll always finds the right man on the right place. So, sometimes, you don’t see him, sometimes he doesn’t go to screen many, many times. But when he goes he is a special player.”

It’s not so much Özil’s ability that was being criticised by the fans, rather it was his tendency to refuse to track back if he lost possession.

But the Portuguese coach finds it hard to understand why critics dissect Özil’s lack of defensive work.

He added: “I think it’s hard to criticise him, because Özil is Özil,”

“If you were expecting Özil to be super aggressive and to be running miles and miles from side to side and to show great enthusiasm and aggressiveness, this is not Mesut.

“If you are waiting for somebody where every time he touches the ball, the ball smiles. Every time he makes a pass, the ball goes with the right direction, the right speed, the right intensity, this is Özil.”

 

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Some Freedom for Lupita

Posted on April 13, 2014

Whether Lupita Nyong’o has permanently, or like past cultural phenomena, merely briefly, expanded conceptions of beauty is still to be played out.  But her arrangement with Lancôme means that she will never have to accept Hollywood drivel as her next project, should that notorious industry do, again, what it has done in the past, with such outside the box wonders.

 

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It goes without saying that when you’re handed the part of a lifetime, you play it to the hilt. In the case of Lupita Nyong’o, the 31-year old Oscar winner — born in Mexico, raised in Kenya, educated at Yale and vaulted to what seemed like overnight fame — the part of the slave Patsey in “12 Years a Slave” was just a preamble for a far larger role.

Unlike many ingénues struck by show business lightning, this one came prepared to turn her allotted 15 minutes into a more durable and moneymaking run. Rather than looking upon the grueling award-show season as a never-ending slog — a “Groundhog Day” loop of dinners and speeches and red carpet treks — Ms. Nyong’o and her management approached the five-month span between the film’s debut at the Telluride Film Festival (and gala premiere a week later at the Toronto Film Festival) and the Academy Awards with what, in retrospect, looks like military precision.

The actress Lupita Nyong’o at the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, Calif., in March. An Oscar winner, she has capitalized on her fame and gained financial power and cachet. George Pimentel/WireImage

The actress Lupita Nyong’o at the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, Calif., in March. An Oscar winner, she has capitalized on her fame and gained financial power and cachet. George Pimentel/WireImage

Few of life’s attainments are as good as an Oscar. But in an age of hyper-media, the ultimate prize may not be a gilded statuette for a single film performance but the career leverage, financial power and cachet to be gained from becoming an individual brand. Not long into the awards-season process, Ms. Nyong’o was snapped up by Miuccia Prada, a canny judge of popular culture and its metrics, and signed to be the face of Miu Miu. It was certainly a plum, and yet fashion ad campaigns are ephemeral, few celebrities lasting more than a season or so.

Lupita Nyong’o at the Marie Claire magazine Fresh Faces party. Credit Valerie Macon/Getty Images

The big prize for a rising star is not a fashion-house deal, but a beauty contract. And last week Lancôme Paris, the luxury cosmetics goliath, announced that it had signed Ms. Nyong’o as its newest celebrity face, adding her to a list of highly paid A-list alumna that have included Kate Winslet, Penélope Cruz and Julia Roberts.

“I’ve always said having this contract is winning the lottery,” said Isabella Rossellini, whose 14-year run with Lancôme allowed the actress, a single mother, to educate her two children and, she said, gave her “the freedom to make only the films that I liked and not the films I didn’t.”

By becoming a brand “ambassadress” for Lancôme, Ms. Nyong’o’s career has “totally changed,” according to Ivan Bart, the head of IMG Models. As the man who took a bosomy teenager with little more than a viral video to her credit and turned her into the branding phenomenon known as Kate Upton, Mr. Bart has a particularly shrewd perspective on the proper deployment of fame.

“The fact that Lupita won the Academy Award means she’s going to be offered more high-profile projects,” he said. “The fact that she has Lancôme means she’s never going to have to do ‘Porky’s 4.’ ”

Seen from afar, the journey of Ms. Nyong’o from unknown to fashion darling looked uncommonly organic and easeful. And without question, say those who have worked with the actress, her intelligence and composure, like her luminous beauty, are true and innate. Yet it takes more than talent and well-distributed pixie dust to seduce the public into viewing a woman who, by her own account, grew up insecure about her African cast of features and dark complexion — prey to the “seductions of inadequacy” — as the cynosure of all eyes.

“Lupita’s stylist and her team should be given a round of applause,” said Bethann Hardison, the modeling agent, fashion industry gadfly and a recently named recipient of the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Founder’s Award, to be presented in June. “They put her right in your face and you couldn’t deny anything she did. That was genius.”

It was, in a way. No other actress within recent memory has commanded the red carpet as confidently as Ms. Nyong’o did during awards season, when usually performers enduring seemingly unending rounds of photo opportunities must consider themselves lucky to escape citizens’ arrest by the fashion police.

From Sept. 5, 2013, when the Toronto Film Festival opened, to the Academy Awards in early March, Ms. Nyong’o appeared at 66 separate events, which in terms of costume challenges is roughly the equivalent of being crowned prom queen three times a week for almost half a year.

“A lot of people think you just waltz onto the red carpet looking fresh-faced and fabulous,” said Micaela Erlanger, Ms. Nyong’o’s fashion stylist and a woman the Hollywood Reporter recently placed near the top of a list of the 25 most powerful in Hollywood. “But there’s a campaign behind it, a business behind it, and you’re focusing throughout on your message.”

No matter how gifted the raw material, Ms. Erlanger added, creating a coherent narrative for a budding star whose every appearance is another opportunity for brand building requires strategy. The challenge was heightened by the reality that filmgoers knew Ms. Nyong’o chiefly for her portrayal of a wretched character defined by slavery and dressed in rags.

“I was working with this brand-new actress who is beyond talented and who was being introduced to the world through this film,” Ms. Erlanger said. “She is multidimensional and has a lot to show.”

In the bigger picture as it evolved over months of microscopic scrutiny and blinding strobe lights, Ms. Nyong’o would be dressed and coifed and made up by a team that also included her hairdresser, Larry Sims, and her makeup artist Nick Barose in ways designed to convey “her sense of whimsy, her sense of glamour, a sense of the different characters she could play,” Ms. Erlanger said.

Almost from the start, reaction to Ms. Nyong’o indicated a star had been born. And high time it was, said Ms. Hardison, a longtime advocate for racial diversity in the spheres of beauty. “Here comes this little girl and she’s dark, you can’t deny it, it’s undeniable,” Ms. Hardison said. “Suddenly everyone is saying: ‘Whoa! Wow! She looks good in this stuff. She is model as muse.’ Once they got her out of the mud and the dirt and rubbed a little soap on her, got her up on the red carpet, everyone could see the girl has ‘it’ naturally.”

Although buzz about Ms. Nyong’o’s performance in the director Steve McQueen’s film reached Lancôme’s executives early, it was only after she became a consistent showstopper — now wearing burnt orange by Givenchy for the N.A.A.C.P. awards; now dressed in emerald Dior for the Bafta awards; now clad in cobalt blue Roland Mouret at the New York Film Festival; now captivating in a red capelet gown from Ralph Lauren at the Golden Globes — that they truly sat up and took note.

“I started checking online and YouTube,” Silvia Galfo, senior vice president for marketing at Lancôme, said by telephone from Paris.

“What was interesting was the build, was what whoever worked with her did, positioning her as a style icon,” Ms. Galfo added. “She came out of nowhere and suddenly you see her being the most coveted ‘It’ girl.”

It was as if, truly suddenly, the mysterious arbiters Ms. Nyong’o referred to in a moving speech written for the Essence Black Beauty Awards as “the faraway gatekeepers of beauty,” had become aware and realized what Lancôme executives also did when they signed Ms. Nyong’o to a contract likely to be worth millions (Lancôme declined to disclose precise terms). They awoke to “the deeper business of being beautiful inside,” as the actress put it in her Essence remarks, and the obvious truth that beauty has no single shade of skin color.

“It’s difficult to say what exactly we look for, though it’s not necessarily perfect beauty,” Ms. Galfo said. “We want women who have their own authenticity, and with Lupita, it was obvious from the first that she was not fake, that she was not someone hiding behind a great dress and great makeup.”

To the credit, in other words, of the people who spent five months putting the actress in that makeup and those dresses, their work remained largely invisible to Ms. Galfo and others. They stayed on the sidelines, allowing, as Ms. Hardison said, “Lupita’s little star to glimmer and shine.”

Fighting the Good Fight: Bethann Hardison

Posted on March 22, 2014

But for individuals like Bethann Hardison, we would be a lot worse off. While the intractable persistence of  racism engenders cancerous cynicism and bitterness, pathological individualism and debilitating insularity, and, yes, self-hate in many, there are those who persist in little, seemingly insignificant steps that do matter, that are impactful, that are largely self-less, and that are just about doing the right thing.

There intense and noble actions seem ill-equipped to win the broader struggle, or even prevail permanently, lasting as long as the hyper-passionate, hyper-articulate individual — how we often we have read of some pioneer, some prior movement that has ultimately left the world little different, except for the few that were touched in their time. But those few lives do matter, and there was, although unfulfilled, a singular moment of revolutionary change. Against all odds, they tried, refusing, like the rest of us, to wallow in the futility of it all. It is the power of faith; it is the strength of leadership; it is the audacity of hope.

So, thanks, Ms. Hardsion. And to those like you.

Evan Sung for The New York Times

Evan Sung for The New York Times

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Men’s Men: George Clooney

Posted on March 20, 2014

George Clooney is the quintessential man’s man, don’t let anyone try to tell you different.  And they’re all really, really happy to see that he might have finally gotten over whatever has been going on to roll with a woman they quite expect him to . . . Amal Alamuddin is an English barrister who has handled cases before various International Courts, been an adviser to Kofi Annan, and represented Julian Assange. Bonafide Babe. Bonafide Brains.

Women We Love (Now): Professor Hill

Posted on March 17, 2014

She was a Yale Grad.  Professor of Law.  Worked in two positions for the government that involved caring about others. And she was treated very, very badly. Vilified does not quite convey it.

If you think about it, she really had no incentive at all to lie. Nada. Zilch. She didn’t even want to testify. Her accused, however, did have this incentive. And he testified with righteous indignation, passion, and the complete absence of shame. In retrospect, there can be no reasonable doubt left. You just don’t come up with that stuff out of whole cloth.

Silent, seething, petty and minor, Clarence Thomas is a man whose integrity few beyond his wife and some clerks still champion. For more than eight years he has said literally nothing on the Supreme Court’s bench, while, as faithfully, attending political fundraisers and events with zeal. In a person, he is everything that’s gone wrong with who we are. He is the epitome of what we have become.

Ms. Hill, for her part, stood her ground for the basic principles of respect and integrity, and transformed the nation in the process. A lot of us did not know it or want to believe it then, but she was very, very right: what Mr. Thomas did, reprehensible in its own right, went to the very question of “his ability to be a fair and impartial judge.”

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Sebastián Piñera: His Greatest Lesson and the Wealthy

Posted on March 14, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 10.14.40 PMOutgoing President of Chile is a smart guy.  He reminds us that even when right, we must still persuade.  And we might fail.  Don’t give up.

He also reaffirms the need for equal education and jobs to end extreme inequality.  Things we know but are vigorously opposed by too many in this nation.

Monocle:What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as president?
Sebastián Piñera: You learn to be more humble, more patient. You realise that you cannot get everything done immediately. That you have to negotiate and compromise. Even if you’re right, you have to spend a lot of time convincing people, arguing and trying to create majority support for your measures. And that’s something you don’t do in the private sector.

M:What level of sacrifice do you think the wealthy can make in Chile?
SP: More than what we have today. I am convinced that the real cause of poverty and extreme inequality is basically two [things]: lack of quality of education for everybody and lack of opportunities for good employment for everybody. That is why we have put our main efforts in those two areas.

The poor have to do their part too and not only rely on government policies. On top of that, of course, the people who have had better opportunities in life have to be more generous in terms of sharing those opportunities with other people who don’t have the same opportunities.

M:What’s the biggest national risk in Chile today?
SP: We might lose our will. I worry that people might start thinking they have a right to everything and start asking the government for everything. Freedom comes with responsibilities. If you teach everyone that they deserve everything for free, we won’t make it.

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10 Things Happy People Don’t Care For | Alden Tan

Posted on March 12, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 9.53.52 PMIn my own personal journey of trying to be a better person, I realised that it was all about aiming to be happy. Nothing more, nothing less. When you’re happy, you’re effectively better in every aspect of your life.

The second realisation is that happiness comes from shedding the unnecessary in life, as in you need to stop caring about certain things.

The third realisation? A lot of these unnecessary things are painfully obvious. More often than not, it’s plain common sense.

Here’s 10 things happy people don’t care for.

1. AGE

Indeed, age is just a number. And happy people know this for sure.

They don’t let this ever-increasing number define who they are and what they do.  They just do whatever it is they want!

Life is short. Before you know it, age catches up. You might as well make full use of life before your body actually reflects your age.

On a more candid note, I know of friends who are happy because they date people younger than them. They actually found true love despite the age gap.

2. CARING ABOUT WHAT OTHERS THINK OR SAY

This is one of the biggest blocks to our happiness.

Happy people don’t care for that. They recognise that the words of others are never accurate and should never judge them for who they are and what they’re capable of.

Instead, they block it out. They don’t allow such false illusions to get in the way of what it is they want to do or how they feel. Only what they think of themselves matter.

3. JOBS

That’s not to say happy people are unemployed.

The key idea is: You’re not your job.

Sure, a job is important for stability survival in today’s society. But other than that, your job scope and status at work should be left at the office. If you don’t, it’s going to seep into your everyday life and you’d end up feeling tired, bored or stressed out.

What matters more is your talent, passion and outlook on life. Allowing your job to take over any of that would only mean you’re allowing a label to define who you are.

4. FEAR

Fear is not real. Happy people know that.

With that, they know that the nervousness and anxiety that supposedly comes with fear are not real. They block it out, get out of their comfort zone, feel a little crazy and just do what they want anyway.

There’s just no point holding back in life just because you feel a little scared.

5. THE NEGATIVE STATE OF THE WORLD

There’s a lot of disturbing stuff going on out there. War, protests, riots, animals going extinct or innocent people having bad things happen to them.

Happy people don’t deny any of these, but they do a good job in making sure it doesn’t affect how they feel.

The happiest people I know simply focus on trying to make the world a better place, one small step at a time. They may not be able to create a revolution overnight, but they know that by showing a little kindness and compassion to our fellow man, the world is that much more positive already.

Don’t let the negative in life get to you. It’s not your fault others have made it this way.

6. TOXIC PEOPLE

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with”.

Brilliant quote.

Ever had to deal with an annoying friend or somebody who’s just really self-destructive?

Dump them. It’s time to create a positive environment for yourself.

Happy people gain happiness from the people they are with and not just from within. This is an amazing life hack that most people overlook. If you’re feeling unhappy, take a look around. Sometimes it’s the people that are just dragging you down.

7. THE PAST OR THE FUTURE

The past does not exist, neither does the future.

If you want to be happy, you’ve got to let go of the past and move on with life. Learn from it and grow from it, then make sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes.

As for the future, happy people pretty much let go of expectations. .

When you let go of the past and future, then you can truly enjoy the present.

8. EXPECTING ANYTHING IN RETURN

Start doing things for the sake of doing things. Help others for the sake of being compassionate. The true reward is knowing that you’ve added positivity in others.

Happy people let go of always wanting something in return. That’s how they never get disappointed.

9. COMPLAINING

Complaining is the result of an unhappy life. Sometimes things don’t go your way. You can’t escape that.

But complaining is useless. Happy people know that. They’re instead, grateful for what they have and then they try to find the solution with a positive mindset.

10. CONFORMING TO SOCIETY’S STANDARDS

Just like age, there’re a lot of labels out there that try to define who we are. Expectations are always thrown at us and it can be pretty overwhelming at times.

Happy people don’t care for any of that. They take time their time. They look within and do what they want in life.

This is how happiness is created: Not doing things you don’t care for.

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About the Author: Alden Tan //  www.alden-tan.com

Alden Tan is both a breakdancer and a writer. He keeps it real at his blog when it comes to personal development and motivation, meaning to say, he’s pretty straight forward and he cuts through the fluff. Check out his free book, 12 Things Happy People Don’t Give a  F**k About.

Sunday Review | The Compassion Gap

Posted on March 9, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 5.12.39 PMSOME readers collectively hissed after I wrote a week ago about the need for early-childhood interventions to broaden opportunity in America. I focused on a 3-year-old boy in West Virginia named Johnny Weethee whose hearing impairment had gone undetected, leading him to suffer speech and development problems that may dog him for the rest of his life.

A photo of Johnny and his mom, Truffles Weethee, accompanied the column and readers honed in on Truffles’ tattoos and weight.

“You show a photograph of a fat woman with tons of tattoos all over that she paid for,” one caller said. “And then we — boohoo — have to worry about the fact that her children aren’t cared for properly?”

On Twitter, Amy was more polite: “My heart breaks for Johnny. I have to wonder if the $$ mom spent on tattoos could have been put to better use.”

“This is typical of the left,” Pancho scolded on my Facebook page. “It’s not anyone’s fault. Responsibility is somebody else’s problem.”

To me, such outrage at a doting mom based on her appearance suggests the myopic tendency in our country to blame poverty on the poor, to confuse economic difficulties with moral failures, to muddle financial lapses with ethical ones.

Credit Audrey Hall/Show of Force

Truffles Weethee has her son, Johnny, 3, in a Save the Children reading program. When her photo appeared in a column a week ago, readers saw reasons to criticize her instead of seeing the caring mom that she is.

There is an income gap in America, but just as important is a compassion gap. Plenty of successful people see a picture of a needy child and their first impulse is not to help but to reproach.

To break cycles of poverty, we have the tools to improve high school graduation rates, reduce teen pregnancies and increase employment. What we lack is the will to do so.

There may be neurological biases at work. A professor at Princeton found that our brains sometimes process images of people who are poor or homeless as if they were not humans but things.

Likewise, psychology experiments suggest that affluence may erode compassion. When research subjects are asked to imagine great wealth, or just look at a computer screen saver with money, they become less inclined to share or help others. That may be why the poorest 20 percent of Americans give away a larger share of their incomes than the wealthiest 20 percent.

The generosity of the poor always impresses me. In West Virginia, I visited a trailer that housed eight people and sometimes many more. A woman in the home, Lynmarie Sargent, 30, was once homeless with a month-old baby, and that discomfort and humiliation seared her so that she lets other needy families camp out in her trailer and eat. Sometimes she houses as many as 17.

Sargent is an unemployed former addict with a criminal record, struggling to stay clean of drugs, get a job and be a good mom. She has plenty to learn from middle-class Americans about financial planning, but wealthy people have plenty to learn from her about compassion.

A Pew survey this year found that a majority of Republicans, and almost one-third of Democrats, believe that if a person is poor the main reason is “lack of effort on his or her part.”

It’s true, of course, that the poor are sometimes lazy and irresponsible. So are the rich, with less consequence.

Critics note that if a person manages to get through high school and avoid drugs, crime and parenting outside of marriage, it’s often possible to escape poverty. Fair enough. But if you’re one of the one-fifth of children in West Virginia born with drugs or alcohol in your system, if you ingest lead from peeling paint as a toddler, if your hearing or vision impairments aren’t detected, if you live in a home with no books in a gang-ridden neighborhood with terrible schools — in all these cases, you’re programmed for failure as surely as children of professionals are programed for success.

So when kids in poverty stumble, it’s not quite right to say that they “failed.” Often, they never had a chance.

Researchers also find that financial stress sometimes impairs cognitive function, leading to bad choices. Indian farmers, for example, test higher for I.Q. after a harvest when they are financially secure. Alleviate financial worry, and you can gain 13 points in measured I.Q.

The tattoos that readers saw on Truffles are mostly old ones, predating Johnny, and she is passionate about helping him. That’s why she enrolled him in a Save the Children program that provides books that she reads to him every day. In that trailer in Appalachia, I don’t see a fat woman with tattoos; I see a loving mom who encapsulates any parent’s dreams for a child.

Johnny shouldn’t be written off at the age of 3 because of the straw he drew in the lottery of birth. To spread opportunity, let’s start by pointing fewer fingers and offering more helping hands.

Putin Will Ultimately Lose — Unless We Prevent Him

Posted on March 5, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 10.05.02 PMJust as we’ve turned the coverage of politics into sports, we’re doing the same with geopolitics. There is much nonsense being written about how Vladimir Putin showed how he is “tougher” than Barack Obama and how Obama now needs to demonstrate his manhood. This is how great powers get drawn into the politics of small tribes and end up in great wars that end badly for everyone. We vastly exaggerate Putin’s strength — so does he — and we vastly underestimate our own strength, and ability to weaken him through nonmilitary means.

Let’s start with Putin. Any man who actually believes, as Putin has said, that the breakup of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century is caught up in a dangerous fantasy that can’t end well for him or his people. The Soviet Union died because Communism could not provide rising standards of living, and its collapse actually unleashed boundless human energy all across Eastern Europe and Russia. A wise Putin would have redesigned Russia so its vast human talent could take advantage of all that energy. He would be fighting today to get Russia into the European Union, not to keep Ukraine out. But that is not who Putin is and never will be. He is guilty of the soft bigotry of low expectations toward his people and prefers to turn Russia into a mafia-run petro-state — all the better to steal from.

So Putin is now fighting human nature among his own young people and his neighbors — who both want more E.U. and less Putinism. To put it in market terms, Putin is long oil and short history. He has made himself steadily richer and Russia steadily more reliant on natural resources rather than its human ones. History will not be kind to him — especially if energy prices ever collapse.

So spare me the Putin-body-slammed-Obama prattle. This isn’t All-Star Wrestling. The fact that Putin has seized Crimea, a Russian-speaking zone of Ukraine, once part of Russia, where many of the citizens prefer to be part of Russia and where Russia has a major naval base, is not like taking Poland. I support economic and diplomatic sanctions to punish Russia for its violation of international norms and making clear that harsher sanctions, even military aid for Kiev, would ensue should Putin try to bite off more of Ukraine. But we need to remember that that little corner of the world is always going to mean more, much more, to Putin than to us, and we should refrain from making threats on which we’re not going to deliver.

What disturbs me about Crimea is the larger trend it fits into, that Putinism used to just be a threat to Russia but is now becoming a threat to global stability. I opposed expanding NATO toward Russia after the Cold War, when Russia was at its most democratic and least threatening. It remains one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done and, of course, laid the groundwork for Putin’s rise.

For a long time, Putin has exploited the humiliation and anti-Western attitudes NATO expansion triggered to gain popularity, but this seems to have become so fundamental to his domestic politics that it has locked him into a zero-sum relationship with the West that makes it hard to see how we collaborate with him in more serious trouble spots, like Syria or Iran. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is engaged in monstrous, genocidal behavior that also threatens the stability of the Middle East. But Putin stands by him. At least half the people of Ukraine long to be part of Europe, but he treated that understandable desire as a NATO plot and quickly resorted to force.

I don’t want to go to war with Putin, but it is time we expose his real weakness and our real strength. That, though, requires a long-term strategy — not just fulminating on “Meet the Press.” It requires going after the twin pillars of his regime: oil and gas. Just as the oil glut of the 1980s, partly engineered by the Saudis, brought down global oil prices to a level that helped collapse Soviet Communism, we could do the same today to Putinism by putting the right long-term policies in place. That is by investing in the facilities to liquefy and export our natural gas bounty (provided it is extracted at the highest environmental standards) and making Europe, which gets 30 percent of its gas from Russia, more dependent on us instead. I’d also raise our gasoline tax, put in place a carbon tax and a national renewable energy portfolio standard — all of which would also help lower the global oil price (and make us stronger, with cleaner air, less oil dependence and more innovation).

You want to frighten Putin? Just announce those steps. But you know the story, the tough guys in Washington who want to take on Putin would rather ask 1 percent of Americans — the military and their families — to make the ultimate sacrifice than have all of us make a small sacrifice in the form of tiny energy price increases. Those tough guys who thump their chests in Congress but run for the hills if you ask them to vote for a 10-cent increase in the gasoline tax that would actually boost our leverage, they’ll never rise to this challenge. We’ll do anything to expose Putin’s weakness; anything that isn’t hard. And you wonder why Putin holds us in contempt?

Such a Muppet: Good Luck JF

Posted on February 9, 2014

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It’s hard to view Friday night’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon as a true farewell, since all Fallon is doing is getting the ultimate promotion to The Tonight Show. And he’s taking everybody with him.

And yet it is an ending. It’s an ending to a five-year tenure that started in the shadow of a lot of skeptics () and a lot of criticism. What I said then was that LNJF‘s success or failure would be determined by whether his show had “a distinct point of view.”

It’s funny now — those words surprised even me when I reread them, because I had forgotten over the course of five years that I didn’t know in 2009 that Jimmy Fallon even had an animating principle, let alone know that it would turn out to be joy, which is the animating principle of entirely too little of popular culture. In fact, the show turned out to be, much of the time, all point of view. Less plugging, more beer pong. Less anecdote-sharing, more getting Tom Cruise to break eggs on his head. It’s 12:30 in the morning, this show always seemed to be saying. You can learn stuff tomorrow. Everybody here likes each other.

So while Fallon isn’t leaving, exactly, this will be a new phase, in which he will be compared to Leno, and Carson, and Jack Paar, and his ratings will be examined in a way they haven’t ever been before, and Leno will probably pop up somewhere else doing somewhere else and kidding on the square about how unfair it is that he got “fired.” And the show’s ability to live in a bubble where all it had to be was animated by unceasing happiness will be imperiled for a while by a kind of scrutiny that the 12:30 a.m. slot just doesn’t invite.

He staged his goodbye as a performance of “The Weight” with The Muppets, which continues perhaps the best LNJF tradition of all: that of making really good, really strange choices that somehow, in retrospect, are perfect. We could have sat around trading ideas, the rest of us who don’t live in that bubble, for a year, and we’d never have come up with “he should sing ‘The Weight’ with The Muppets.” But now that I’ve seen it, I can’t possibly imagine it being anything else.

Because Jimmy Fallon lives on joy, and joy is not solitary. It’s why he’s not at his strongest in plain monologue delivery, and it’s why every single good bit he has is fundamentally a collaboration. Even something like “Thank You Notes,” which seems to be just him reading cards, has morphed into a silly little dance he does with the keyboard player.

Fallon needs other people — that’s why it makes all the sense in the world that he closed this chapter in a sea of Muppets, sitting at a drum set in the back. And the balance between sincerity and goofery, which is the balance that his show has mastered almost from day one, is perfectly encapsulated in the fact that on the one hand, this is sort of warm and sweet, and on the other hand, Animal keeps popping out yelling “AAAAAND!” and Beaker sings harmony.

As I’ve said a bunch of times, the precise quality that could make Fallon irritating on Saturday Night Live — the inability not to laugh during sketches — was a glimpse at why his late-night show has been so utterly delightful. He gets so jazzed about things, and he’s so energized by the presence of other humans, that he has the poker face of a five-year-old. He laughs, and somebody else laughs, and then everybody laughs more. It’s not everybody’s thing, but boy, it’s been mine.

37 Life Lessons in 37 Years | Dawn Gluskin

Posted on January 28, 2014

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  1. Happiness comes from within. We spend way too much of our lives looking for outside validation and approval that eludes us. Turns out, it’s been an inside job all along. Go inward.
  2. Be grateful for everything. The good, the bad, the ugly. Our entire life is a precious gift. The pleasure, the pain — it’s all part of our path.
  3. Subtle shifts in perception will transform your entire life. When feeling fearful, angry, hurt, simply choose to see a situation differently.
  4. In being true to yourself, you can’t possibly make everybody else happy. Still, it’s better to risk being disliked for living your truth than to be loved for what you are pretending to be.
  5. The world is our mirror. What we love in others is a reflection of what we love about ourselves. What upsets us about others is a strong indication of what we need to look at more closely within ourselves.
  6. Everybody comes into our life for a reason. It is up to us to be open to the lesson they are meant to teach. The more someone rubs us the wrong way, the greater the lesson. Take notes.
  7. Trust. In troubled times, just know that the Universe has your back and everything is going to be alright. If you’re not there yet, trust in hindsight you will understand. Your higher good is being supported, always.
  8. Never take things personally. What others do is a reflection of what’s going on in their own life and probably has little or nothing to do with you.
  9. A walk in nature cures a lot. Taking in some fresh air and the beautiful landscape of this earth is amazingly head-clearing, grounding, and mood-lifting. Bonus: You can learn a whole lot about life in your observation of the awesomeness which is nature.
  10. Hurt people hurt people. Love them anyway. Although, it’s totally okay to love them from a distance.
  11. You have to feel it to heal it. Bring your fears and weaknesses front and center and shine a blazing spotlight on them because the only way out is through. The hurt of facing the truth is SO worth it in the long run, I swear.
  12. Perfectionism is an illusion. A painful one at that. Ease up. Strive for excellence, sure, but allow yourself room to make mistakes and permission to be happy regardless of outcome.
  13. Take the blinders off. Don’t become so laser-focused on your own goals and desires that you miss out on the beauty in life and the people around you. The world is stunningly beautiful when you walk around with eyes wide open.
  14. Celebrate the journey. It’s not all about the destination. Savor all of your successes, even the small ones.
  15. Forgiveness is not so much about the other person. It’s about you and for you so that you can gain the peace and freedom you deserve. Forgive quickly and often.
  16. We are all incredibly intuitive. When we learn to become still and listen, we can tap into some pretty amazing primal wisdom. Listen to the quiet whisper of your heart. It knows the way.
  17. Let your soul shine! Be authentic. There is nobody else on this earth just like you. Step into your truth wholeheartedly and live and breathe your purpose.
  18. We are powerful creators. Seriously, bad-asses. With intention, focus, and persistence — anything is possible. Know this.
  19. I am full of light. You are full of light. We are all full of light. Some cast shadows on their own brightness. Be a beacon of light to others and show them the way.
  20. Don’t take life too seriously! Nobody gets out alive anyway. Smile. Be goofy. Take chances. Have fun.
  21. Surround yourself with people who love and support you. And, love and support them right back! Life is too short for anything less.
  22. Learn the delicate dance. Have big beautiful dreams and vision. Chase them with much passion. But, also hold on to them all ever so lightly. Be flexible and willing to flow as life comes at you.
  23. Giving is the secret to receiving. Share your wisdom, your love, your talents. Share freely and be amazed at how much beauty in life flows back to you.
  24. On that note, be careful not to give too much. If you empty out your own cup completely, you will have nothing left to give. Balance is key.
  25. Say “YES!” to everything that lights you up. Say “no”, unapologetically, to anything that doesn’t excite you or you don’t have the bandwidth for. Time is one of our most precious resources that we can never get back. Manage it wisely.
  26. Sometimes we outgrow friendships. It doesn’t mean they’re bad or you’re bad. It just means you’re on different paths. Hold them in your heart, but when they start to hurt or hold you back, it’s time to give space or let go.
  27. Fear is often a very good indicator of what we really want and need in our life. Let it be your compass and enjoy the exciting adventure it leads you on.
  28. Overcoming your fears is one of the most empowering things you can ever do for yourself. You’ll prove to yourself you can truly accomplish anything! Major self-confidence booster.
  29. Our bodies are our vehicle to our dreams. Treat them with love and fuel them with the best health to feel vibrant and energized. But, never obsess over image. Looks are subjective and will fade in time, anyway. Feeling good, healthy, and comfortable in our own skin is what matters most.
  30. Let those that you love know it often and enthusiastically. You can never say it or show it too much. Your time, total presence, love, and genuine concern for their wellness is the greatest gift of all.
  31. The present moment is where it’s at. It’s the only one promised to any of us. Learn from your past & enjoy the beautiful memories, but don’t cling or let them haunt you. And, dream big and be excited about the future, but don’t become obsessed. Love this moment, always.
  32. Life is full of highs and lows. We need them both to grow to our fullest potential. Just hang on tight and enjoy the ride.
  33. We are all connected as one human family. Nobody is better or worse than anyone else — just at different stages of our journeys and dealing with life the best way we know how. Recognize that the other person is you.
  34. Practice daily gratitude for all the blessings in your life, large and small. Not only is this a high vibe practice that feels amazing, in practicing regularly you are creating space for even more abundance — of joy, love, health, and prosperity.
  35. We are not the center of the universe, although our ego can make us feel that way at times. Step outside of that way of thinking and see the world and other people’s perspective in a whole new beautiful light.
  36. The world needs more love, light, and laughter. Go be love.
  37. You are the guru. For much of our lives, we have been told what do, how to think, what looks good, what “success” is. You don’t have to buy into any of it. Feel free to peel back the layers. Think for yourself. Break the mold. When you stop doing what everybody else wants you to do and start following your own intuition, you will be ridiculously happy.

Zwelethu Mthethwa’s ‘Brave Ones’

Posted on January 30, 2013

“Marc Jacobs, eat your heart out. The young Zulu men pictured in new photographs by the South African portraitist Zwelethu Mthethwa are all wearing kilts of the sort that Jacobs favors — except theirs are solid black or pink-and-white gingham and they’re not just making a fashion statement. These men are dressed for church.

“The kilts, combined with white, fringed-hem blouses, long emerald-green ribbon ties, soccer-player knee-highs, steel-tipped boots and fluffy pompom headbands, are customary male drag for the monthlong ceremonial retreats that the Nazareth Baptist Church, or Shembe, stages twice a year near Durban, Mthethwa’s hometown.

“’I was intrigued by the androgynous element,’ he said the other day, during the installation of “Zwelethu Mthethwa: New Works,” his show at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York. “Zulu culture is all about being macho, and I like the way they flip that.”

“Mthethwa, 52, now lives in Cape Town but was on a research trip to Durban when he discovered the sect. After winning the trust of some of its younger members, aged 6 to 20-something, he photographed them outside their encampment and called them “Brave Ones,” because, he said, “They dare to be different.”

“The photographs introduce fashion-conscious New Yorkers to a realm of peacock manhood that repudiates the past while also embracing it. The kilts, for example, recall 19th-century Scottish immigrants to South Africa, while the pith helmets on some of the men, along with the uniform soccer socks, are a nod to former British rulers. Only now these accouterments signal an independent, and frugal, identity that each can call his own.

“’Everything is about money,’ Mthethwa said, adding that the church is very rich as well as controlling. It sells devotees everything — not just the men’s ceremonial clothes but their hair combs, necklaces and the Vaseline they use as skin cream. Still, it’s not just their style that fascinates. It’s the riveting way each confronts the camera.

“Mthethwa exhibited his own courage when he became the first black man to enroll in a white college during apartheid. Black schools, he said, didn’t offer the photography courses he craved after growing up watching spaghetti westerns and samurai films every Saturday — movies, he added, that were all about dressing up and role playing.

  

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