You’d be WRONG not to read this book, RIGHT?

What book does Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust wish all Harvard freshmen would read? Her choice is Kathryn Schultz’s Being Wrong. Faust says Schultz’s book, “…advocates doubt as a skill and praises error as the foundation of wisdom. Her book would reinforce my encouragement of Harvard’s accomplished and successful freshmen to embrace risk and even failure.”

Reviewers have labeled the book “alert, clever, counterintuitive, creative, eloquent, full of fun, humorous, persuasive, philosophical, surprising and wise.

Another unabashed fan of the book, President Bill Clinton, declares: “…thinking you’re always right or being paralyzed by the fear of being wrong is totally inconsistent with solving the problems of the modern world.”

 

Error allows us to change and grow, to become better.
Error nurtures innovation.
Error allows life to be unpredictable.
Error is an inevitable and fundamental aspect of the human condition.
Error allows for life to surprise us.
Errors promotes reflection and deep thought.
Errors allow us to realize that so-called experts are fallible.
Errors help us become more accepting, empathic and forgiving.
Error essentially defines us as human.
Error, when embraced, can be the best way to prevent mistakes.

 

Schultz explains, “Far from being a sign of intellectual inferiority, the capacity to err is crucial to human cognition.” Reading her book can help us feel more at ease about being wrong, can allow us to better understand how our senses work to deceive us, can help us understand how our senses, our minds and our societies can mislead us. It illuminates how our beliefs can fail us and can help us examine how we make decisions. Since reason is influenced by less than rational forces, Schultz helps us grasp how our minds are wired to make efficient shortcuts that sometimes lead to error.

 

Most important, the book clarifies that being wrong is normal. Being wrong is simply part of who we are. Albert Einstein once said, “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research would it?”

 
Increasingly economic, religious, social and political thinking is drowning in dogmatism. How many arguments devolve into labeling other viewpoints as ignorant, idiotic and evil in action? Perhaps, if enough people embrace this book, we can reach a place where homo sapiens can stop assuming they are right about most everything and begin to revise their beliefs about themselves and others.

 
“To err is human.” Do you pronounce it “ur” or “air”?  Learn to “hear the opposing side.” After all, you’d be wrong not to read this book, right?

In a Field of Her Own

A three-year battle with Alzheimer’s finally struck her out.

An improbable mid-twentieth century career, spanning l946 to 1953, turned her into a pioneer, a legend and an inspirational role model. Doris Jane Sams, a.k.a. Sammye, achieved an outstanding eight-years playing in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League right here in Michigan for the Muskegon Lassies which subsequently became the Kalamazoo Lassies.

Her accomplishments on the field were nothing short of remarkable. In fact, she is considered among the top players in the twelve-year history of the league.

 

*During her eight-year career, she was a five-time all-star.
*During each of her last-four seasons, she averaged more than .300.
*She was named to the circuit’s honor team in 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951 and 1952.
*After the 1947 season, she was named the player-of-the-year in the league.
*She won player-of-the-year again in 1949, the first to win player-of-the-year twice
*She played both pitcher and outfielder on All-Star teams.
*She could pitch, hit and field as well as any other league player.
*She pitched a perfect game, retiring all 27 batters.
*She set a single-season home-run record.
*She batted .290, third highest among league regulars.
*She had 286 RBIs.
*She pitched 22 innings in a doubleheader.
*She pitched underhand, sidearm and overhand as rules evolved.
*She was inducted into the Women’s Professional Hall of Fame in 1970.

One sportswriter called her “calm and cool at all times,” and another said she was, “the tempering force of the team” and “maintain[ed] a placid demeanor.”

As a child she demonstrated athletic prowess by winning a regional marbles tournament. At age nine, she became the first girl to qualify for the National Marbles Championship. Subsequently, while playing with a Pepsi Cola team, she won three championships!

Her grandfather had been a semi-pro pitcher and taught her how to pitch. Her father had been a semi-pro center fielder who taught her how to catch and field. Baseball was important in her family, and her brothers provided her plenty of opportunities to play. At the tender age of eleven, she joined a softball team which won a Tennessee state championship in the following seven-out-of-eight years.

The owner of the Chicago Cubs, Phil Wrigley, founded the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in l943. Major league players were going off to fight World War II, and Wrigley felt there had to be a way to maintain an interest in baseball. Plus women’s games could provide a source of entertainment in America’s heartland. Women had already proved adept at building ships, planes and armaments. So he reasoned they could play baseball too. Approximately six hundred women players were paid from $45 to $75 a game, a salary several times better than what women could earn in traditional jobs! Ironically, the league passed a rule that banned female managers; so teams were frequently managed by former major league players.

Women players were required to wear short skirts. So when a women slid into a base or home plate the result was abraded skin which became known as “strawberries.” Even skeptics acknowledged how hard the women played with their raised welts clearly in view. At the same time, Wrigley demanded they behave as “ladies.” He even hired Helena Rubinstein, America’s first self-made female-cosmetics millionaire, to teach them to apply make-up and mind their manners.

The women players played with energy, determination and true grit. Eventually they became recognized as American icons, celebrated as a significant part of the patriotic war effort. They raised money for war bonds, taught youths baseball skills and visited wounded veterans.

The Baseball Hall of Fame open a permanent exhibit on women’s baseball in l988. Included among the memorabilia are  Sams’ Louisville Slugger baseball bat and one of her player-of-the-year trophies. Acknowledging the design of the exhibit in Cooperstown, Sams said: “I look over to the right and see Babe Ruth. I look over on the left and see Ted Williams. Then I look in the mirror and say, ‘What are you doing here?’ It’s all so unbelievable. I never ever dreamed our league would get this kind of recognition!”

When producers of “A League of Their Own” sought Sams’ help to promote their motion picture, she turned them down. Her humility and sense of team spirit had taught her to eschew the spotlight.

After her baseball career ended, she became a computer operator for the Knoxville Utility Board. She worked there for a quarter of a century, then retired and cared for her sick mother. Doris Jane Sams died June 28, 2012, at age 85.

Ideally, her accomplishments as a women’s pioneer will be remembered.

Consider a summer get-away nearby

Exhibit: Designs from the Past: Ancient Chinese Ceramic Vessels Through September 16, Museum Hours — The Flint Institute of Arts, 1120 E. Kearsley St., Flint, MI

Talk: Herbs of the Middle Ages August 6, 7:00 pm — Matthaei Botanical Gardens, 1800 N. Dixboro Rd., Ann Arbor, MI

Special Event: Michigan Renaissance Festival Weekends and Labor Day, August 18–September 30, 10:00 am to 7:00 pm — 12600 Dixie Hwy., Holly, MI

Permanent Exhibit: William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing Ongoing Exhibit, Museum Hours — Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, 434 S. State St., Ann Arbor, MI

Planetarium Show: Natural Selection Weekends, Through Labor Day, Times Vary — Acheson Planetarium, Cranbrook Institute of Science, 39221 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills, MI

Exhibit: Life on Earth! Through September 2, Museum Hours — Cranbrook Institute of Science, 39221 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills, MI

Talk: Walk and Talk–Up Close to Michigan Native Plants at Matthaei-Nichols July 17, 7:30 pm — Matthaei Botanical Gardens, 1800 N. Dixboro Rd., Ann Arbor, MI

Planetarium Show: Michigan Sky Tonight Weekends, Times Vary — Acheson Planetarium, Cranbrook Institute of Science, 39221 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills, MI

Exhibit: The Golden Age of Painting, 1600–1800 Through August 19, Museum Hours — The Flint Institute of Arts, 1120 East Kearsley St., Flint, MI

Free Performance: Opera on Tap July 3 and August 7, 8:30 pm — Sidetrack Bar and Grill, 53 E. Cross St., Ypsilanti, MI

Free Class: Introduction to Zen Sundays, 4:30 pm — The Detroit Zen Center, 11464 Mitchell St., Hamtramck, MI

Permanent Exhibit: With Liberty and Justice for All Ongoing Exhibit, Museum Hours — The Henry Ford Museum, 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, MI
The story of American freedom is not a clear progression to a preordained goal. It is a tale of debates, disagreements and struggles between individuals and groups of people with different ideas and points of view. It is as multifaceted, contentious and ever-changing as America itself. And it continues today. With Liberty and Justice for All focuses upon four key transformative moments in the American quest for freedom: the Revolutionary Era, the Antislavery Movement and Civil War Era, the Woman’s Suffrage Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. It highlights the people and iconic artifacts that were involved in those moments, and involves visitors in the important debates and struggles. These powerful stories—with their inspirational leaders and galvanizing moments—provide the compelling core and the framework for the exhibition. These stories come alive through highly emotional, dramatic storytelling techniques. Dramatic portrayals are punctuated by rare and iconic artifacts from the Museum’s collections, including: one of the few surviving copies of the Declaration of Independence; George Washington’s camp chest and bed; a hand-lettered copy of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (which declares freedom for slaves); the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was assassinated; and the bus on which Rosa Parks was riding in December 1955, when she made her historic stand for civil rights. Hundreds of additional compelling artifacts from the Museum’s collection are highlighted in With Liberty and Justice for All. Finally, we invite visitors to become actively involved in the historical debates about American freedom through a series of highly interactive exhibit techniques. As they engage in the various historical debates, disagreements and struggles about freedom, visitors will come  to realize not only that the meaning of American freedom has changed greatly over time, but also that they themselves can have strong opinions about it—perhaps even want to take their own action to affect change. Entry to the exhibit is included in the price of museum admission.

Play: Richard III July 12–August 12, Times Vary — Michael Baughman Theatre, Jackson Community College, 2111 Emmons Rd., Jackson, MI
The Michigan Shakespeare Festival presents: Fourth in line for the Throne of England, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, uses cunning intelligence, fearsome charm, and political wit to overthrow every rival standing between him and ultimate power. Perhaps the greatest villain in literature, Richard III deftly manipulates his victims with fear, humor, and style. Watch as he joyfully engages his audience as an accomplice to his worst crimes. A striking study of politics, power, and the ambition needed for both, not only will Richard III make you enjoy the horrible, you’ll be cheering for the scoundrel. Ticket price: $10–$39. See the website for a full performance calendar and to purchase tickets.

Play: Love’s Labour’s Lost July 13–August 11, Times Vary — Michael Baughman Theatre, Jackson Community College, 2111 Emmons Rd., Jackson, MI
The Michigan Shakespeare Festival presents: The King of Navarre and his three companions take an oath to live three years in study and introspection – no women allowed. Coincidentally, the Princess of France and her three companions make an impromptu visit. What follows involves four couples teetering headlong into love, country bumpkins enjoying of silly courtships, and a fantastical Spanish swordsman. Love’s Labour’s Lost is not only one of Shakespeare’s early works, it is considered one of the most linguistically complex. This wittily effervescent combination of puns, allusions, and sophisticated word play is perfect for a summer’s sojourn! Ticket price: $10–$39. See the website for a full performance calendar and to purchase tickets.

Play: Pygmalion July 19–August 10, Times Vary — Michael Baughman Theatre, Jackson Community College, 2111 Emmons Rd., Jackson, MI
The Michigan Shakespeare Festival presents: Described by Shaw as ‘a Romance in five acts,’ Pygmalion is a bright and funny battle of wills between renowned phonetics  professor, Henry Higgins, and the lowly street-smart flower girl he is determined to turn into a lady, Eliza Doolittle. While attempting to elevate Eliza’s speech and manners, their relationship leads to investigations of class and gentility, dignity and humanity, friendship and romance, women’s independence, and simple bullheadedness. Pygmalion is the gold-standard of classical comedy, and the basis for Lerner and Lowe’s timeless musical My Fair Lady. Ticket price: $10–$39. See the website for a full performance calendar and to purchase tickets.

A Special Reverie

Recently a young neighbor and I went to visit a beloved-nonagenarian neighbor who recently has been moved into a nursing home. She has dementia and a large tumor in her colon. She is baffled as to how she came to be there but is sure she’ll “get out soon.” She didn’t have a clue as to our identities, but she remembered my late Lhasa Apso “Thisbe” vividly and recounted his antics with delight. She assumes my current light-colored Lhasa Apso is her last pet, an American Eskimo dog, a member of the spitz family. Because I am supposedly “taking good care of her dog,” she is pleased because she says, “I couldn’t manage now.”

 

My young neighbor and I were both shaken and moved by our visit. It was hard to see our once-spunky, flippant-and-fun friend frail and beyond confused. It was hard to recall my own mother’s departure from the planet after a stroke and kidney failure. When removed from further treatment, per her long, oft-stated wishes that extraordinary measures be eschewed at the end, her nephrologist said we should take comfort that she was on the edge of Alzheimer’s and that no one would wish for such a futile existence.

 

Photographer Isa Leshko  “…spent a year in New Jersey helping my sister care for my mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. When my mother got ill, I made a conscious decision to not photograph her. However, caring for her had a profound impact on me and I knew the experience would influence my photography. Shortly after I had returned from New Jersey, I encountered a blind elderly horse that was living on a relative’s property. I was mesmerized by this animal and spent the afternoon photographing him. After reviewing my film, I realized I had found a project that would enable me to sift through my feelings around my mother’s illness.”

 

The three-big questions in life (Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?) are as slippery as any politician’s rhetoric. The answers are moving targets. They are ice cubes sliding around and melting on mirrors. Each time we think we have the big-three answered correctly, life shifts and the answers are invalidated.

 

One timeless reality is certain. Life is fleeting, ephemeral and blessedly opens conscious realms of grace for us on certain occasions.

 

Leshko explains her need to photograph elderly animals as one way to gain an : “understanding about what it means to be mortal and to exorcise my fears of aging. I have come to realize that these images are self-portraits, or at the very least, they are manifestations of my fears and hopes about what I will be like when I am old. My intention is to take an honest and unflinching look at old age….”  The resulting photographs are beautiful, poignant, profound, stark and touching.

 

“I’ve been terrified of aging after dealing with my mother’s situation. My grandmother on my mother’s side also had dementia. I’m terrified of developing this disease. And I think that this project has been a way for me to immerse myself in that fear and try to better understand and make peace with aging.”

 

Some of the photographs capture creatures fully alive in finding a moment of happiness. Sunshine warms old joints. Food and water have been provided. Whether pet or farm animals, these beings have achieved sanctuary. Leshko says, “The animals that have been abused or neglected before they were placed in a sanctuary really move me the most.”

 

In our youth-obsessed culture with flagrant ageism a key feature, these animals can potentially teach us much. As far as we know, animals live fully in the moment and never suffer worry about the future. Here’s to honoring aged life. It signals endurance and the ability to overcome. It is a tender triumph.

 

Perhaps we all need to span our imaginations more. See the old dog as a puppy. Remember the old cat as a kitten. Recall that the elderly were born as infants and slowly toddled off into life.

 

To see more photographs, visit Leshko’s website at <isaleshko.com/elderly animals> .

RIP: Nora Ephron (1941–2012)

The woman whose writing so often left me breathless with laughter has taken her last.

She graduated from Wellesley, one of the Seven Sisters, and left there feeling as though women of her generation were not expected to do much of anything. They were viewed as well-chosen, highly educated accompanists. However, Ephron became a blogger, essayist, novelist, playwright, screenwriter and motion picture director in a richly rewarding and highly accomplished career. Her genius was etched by humor and wit.

Her writing clearly tapped a savvy-tough vein from Dorothy Parker, but she concluded: “I have spent a great deal of my life discovering that my ambitions and fantasies –which I once thought of as totally unique — turn out to be clichés.”

Ephron’s pungent writing –characterized by honesty and a clean-clear-concise style with potent punchlines– resulted in two best-selling collections of essays: I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Recollections Upon Being a Woman and I Remember Nothing.

I Remember Nothing ends with two mortality lists, things she won’t miss and things she will: Won’t miss: dry skin, Clarence Thomas, the sound of the vacuum cleaner and panels on “Women in Film.” Will miss: my kids, Nick (3rd husband Nicholas Pileggi) taking a bath, coming over the bridge to Manhattan, pie.

Films for which she wrote or co-wrote screenplays and/or directed include:
Bewitched, Heartburn, Julie & Julia, Lucky Numbers, *Silkwood, *Sleepless in Seattle, Take Her, She’s Mine, This Is My Life, You’ve Got Mail, and *When Harry Met Sally.
(*Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay)

 

Some of her quips include:

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”

“The desire to get married is a basic and primal instinct in women. It’s followed by another basic and primal instinct: the desire to be single again.”

“My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have to potential to be the comic stories the next.”

“… the state of rapture I experience when I read a wonderful book is one of the main reasons I read; but it doesn’t happen every time or even every other time, and when it does happen, I am truly beside myself.”

“There is something called the rapture of the deep, and it refers to what happens when a deep-sea diver spends too much time at the bottom of the ocean and can’t tell which way is up. When he surfaces, he’s liable to have a condition called the bends, where the body can’t adapt to the oxygen levels in the atmosphere. All of this happens to me when I surface from a great book.”

“Well, I’m gonna get out of bed every morning… breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out… and, then after a while, I won’t have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while.

 

Have a great and perfect while!

The Four Metrics

McKinsey & Company has extensively researched the advancement of women in the workplace since 2007.

 
More female talent in corporations can perform creative problem solving, provide innovation and mirror a company’s customer base. Developing a talented pool of women can generate such strategic outcomes for companies. However, in 2011, only 14 percent of women served on executive committees; and only 3 percent of women served as CEOs! So it is fair to conclude that the top rungs of corporations are still male enclaves.

 
The McKinsey report entitled: Unlocking the full potential of women at work, used four metrics as hallmarks of a gender-diverse company.
1.  a starting position that reflects individual talent
2.  the number of women at the top of the organization;
3.  the odds of a woman receiving a promotion
4.  the mix of women in line roles versus staff roles

Among the sixty corporations examined, a dozen of them met three-of-the-four measures for success. None fulfilled all four!

Among the highest-achieving companies, two talent pipelines emerge.
1.  Fat-funnel companies start with a high number of women (over 50 percent in their pipelines). Such companies then move an impressive number of women (up to 40 percent) into senior roles.

2. Steady-pipeline companies start with a smaller mix of women but retain them as they progress.

However, despite career success, 59 percent of women (among two-hundred, successful-female executives) claimed they did not aspire to the C-suite!

The report demonstrated that Michigan companies lag both in recruiting and  promoting women. “Michigan has a huge opportunity to improve,” said Joanna Barsh, a McKinsey director. She went on to explain, “There’s no silver bullet.”  However, she cited CEOs who work tirelessly to promote gender diversity by moving women with genuine potential into the right roles for advancement. “We can all do better,” she concluded.