Friday, September 25, 2009

603 Re-Reading

603 Re-reading

Mr. Spin, which is not his name, can from memory recite the lines -- all the lines -- in "Casablanca" before Bogart and the others says them. Another friend, Panacali, which IS his name can recite all the lines in the movies "The Godfather," and "Godfather II" before the actors say them.
These two men are so into those films that they know every syllable, every nuance, every wave of the hand with absolute accuracy and authenticity and can replicate them both on command and/or often without provocation. And everyone who hears them thinks they're beautiful students of the cinematic arts, which they are.

Let's say you know all the lines from "The Long Gray Line" or "The Horse Soldiers" or "Creature From the Black Lagoon." People will think you're a little strange, maybe. Or they'll just assume you're a movie nut who has seen your favorite film enough times to know the dialog by heart.

But if you admit to reading a book more than once, you become a laughing stock. Read a book a second time? Or a third? You must be out of your mind. Not talking here about books you need for your job, like the auto parts catalog, or books you need for religious practice or classics like Shakespeare or even your checkbook. Just normal books, regular stuff.

One such is on the nightstand now. "The Wreck of the Penn Central," by a couple of Philadelphia newspapermen, Joseph Daughten and Peter Binzen, first published in 1971 and re-released in 1999 with the addition of two important features (1) inferior typography on inferior paper and (2) a bunch of mildly fuzzy black and white pictures that add nothing to the tale.

It is a brief history of the Pennsylvania and New York Central Railroads, followed by an intensely detailed study of the acquisition of the later by the former, followed by the worst single corporate disaster in the history of American commerce. It is a book that belongs in the curriculum of every business school, on the book shelf of every regulatory agency and in the personal library of any business man or woman with the slightest inclination to look before they leap into any project resembling, say, Enron, World Com, Lehman Bros. Citigroup, Goldman, Merrill or General Motors.

It shows culture clashes, rivalries between and among subsidiaries, it shows how a huge ungainly and unwilling "merger" partner and a predatory acquirer can screw up a company, then a region and then an entire critical industry. It shows how politicians, well meaning and otherwise, can compound the felony and that we don't learn from our mistakes.


--What went wrong here? Went to a medical appointment the other day, was seen on time and well examined, then quickly checked out. That's not the way it's s'posed to be and these guys better get with the program if they want to stay in business.

--An 18 year old college freshman does a header off a building and lands on concrete 15 feet below. Authorities suspect drugs or alcohol may have played a role in his death. Ya think?

--There was a "find" in a discount store the other day, a couple of sealed-in-plastic Crane's note pads. No one does paper better than these guys and its acquisition means the ancient Parker fountain pen will have to come out of hibernation as the paper deserves nothing less.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

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