Sunday, September 17, 2017

Nobody

Nobody
by Marc Lamont Hill

Marc Lamont Hill’s book Nobody captures the most recent tragedies from Ferguson to Flint, from Eric Garner to Trayvon Martin, and the long list continues.  Lamont Hill not only provides the historical context of each case, but he also looks deep into the decades of how these issues have recently been catapulted into our society today.  White aggression, decades of poverty, laws that harm the poor and those who have limited resources to education - these are just some of the concerns discussed.  His research is spot-on with a long section of notes that support all of his points.  This is an essential read for anyone who questions why America is divided racially.  It is not a geographical issue within the US, i.e., South or North, but it permeates all areas of our country.  It is a hard book to read because of the realities of our society.  Every time one thinks that the killings can’t be more atrocious, the next one happens.  Young black boys carrying skittles and an Arizona Ice Tea or a man who is choked by the police screaming “I can’t breathe”…what is this world coming to?  When we can’t see the individual, when we are blinded by skin color?  We need to move from dialogue to action.  If this book doesn’t move you, I’m not sure anything will!  Thanks for the recommendation.  A compelling call to action with in-depth reasons why…    

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Intelligent Investor

The Intelligent Investor
by Benjamin Graham

Surprising that an RA would have enjoyed a dated finance book – The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham – albeit a seminal read in the industry at that time (late 1970s).  (Note that the author died in the late 1970s and the book had a latest edition in 2015 with input from Warren Buffett, which was not the version suggested.)  The book provided historical perspectives from the early days of the Stock Market (late 1890s) through the 1970s.  I’m not sure if the suggestions I read would be applicable now that mergers and acquisitions have come so far (in addition to international trade and technology), but certainly information helpful to understanding how we got to where we are today.  One suggestion that few would follow today is investing in CDs from local banks, which paid double digit interest in the late 1970s (today closer to 0.1% or lower).   The book was lauded for its value on the topic of investing.  Chapters include: the investor vs. inflation; how to think about your portfolio; the investor and market fluctuations; the investor and their advisors; and a series of case studies using top industry mergers from the era.  For business students, a great historical view on how to invest, who to best include as advisors, and a way to diversify investments.  A yawn for anyone not inclined to invest.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Overachievers

The Overachievers
by Alexandra Robbins

A must read for anyone who has a high school student preparing for the college search process in The Overachievers, by Alexandra Robbins.  Robbins goes back to her alma mater, Walt Whitman High School, in the prestigious town of Bethesda, Maryland, to follow juniors, seniors and one alum who headed to Harvard for college.  Robbins chooses a cross section of students – the nerds, athletes, social-conscious, the tease, and the popular kids.  The chapters follow the timeline of the academic year over the course of sixteen months, introducing the various issues that students face in the college search process.  Of all the stories, I appreciate Robbins’ inclusion of “APFrank”, the student who had just graduated from Walt Whitman, was moving on to Harvard and had a younger brother attending the same high school.  Robbins discusses the role of hired consultants to assist with the college process, the pressures of getting accepted to the “Ivy” institutions, the challenges of SAT prep, the peer pressure involved in alcohol consumption, finding a date for the prom, balancing academics and extra-curricular activities, and so much more.   Robbins concludes the book with where each of the students got accepted and how they made their decisions – well, decisions were made for some students who didn’t get into Stanford, Yale and Princeton.  Robbins’ best contribution is her suggestions to high schools:
Delay schools start times (start later, let kids sleep more); drop class rank (stop the competition!); de-emphasize testing; provide less competitive alternatives; assign and enforce coordinated departmental project and test days; increase awareness of self-harming behaviors; limit AP classes (yes!); and reinstitute recess time (too many overachievers take classes during lunch)
Robbins also suggests that colleges should:
Boycott the rankings; scrap the SAT; eliminate early decision; prioritize mental health concerns: send a message of what is important (well-rounded students!).
She has advice for high school counselors:
Focus on the student, not on the schools
And what should parents do?
Limit young childrens’ activities; get a life; schedule family time; place character above performance
And finally, what should students do with the support of their parents:
Stop the guilt; adjust the superstar mentality; carve an individual path; ignore the peanut gallery and accept that name doesn’t reflect ability; pare down activities, take a year off after high school; try an unrewarding activity; reclaim summer; accept that admissions aren’t personal; take charge

As you can see, a great list.  Pick up the book and enjoy reading what it is we should be doing for our high school students.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Gloria

Gloria
by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Every year, there is at least one Tisch student who shares with me a play as their favorite book.  Today’s read was Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ top-rated play Gloria.  The character, Gloria, is a fifteen-plus-year veteran at the mid-town Manhattan magazine publication office.  Many of the young staff leave this office to go on to outstanding careers in the field.  Gloria is viewed as an awkward peer who is always trying to connect with her colleagues.  The play begins the evening after Gloria hosts a party at her home that only one staffer attends.   In the office, all other staffers make fun of Dean, the sole member who attended.  He describes how uncomfortable he felt being there.  The first act focuses on everyone’s crass comments regarding Gloria and how strange she is as a person.  The act ends with Gloria walking into the office & shooting all of her colleagues!  The rest of the play discusses how the owners of the magazine and those who survived the killings tried to produce books, screenplays, and TV pilots about Gloria’s killing of her office mates.  There are some good soliloquies and character development, but the story for me is weak, reminding me of a BRAVO or WE Network movie.  Maybe seeing it on stage might change my opinion, but I doubt it.  The subject matter is overplayed in media outlets and the reader never really gets to know Gloria - she only comes in the End of Act 1 to shoot her peers.  It does have good reviews, so maybe I am being too harsh.  Not the best read to pick-up after a number of weeks under the weather.  Hope the next one will be better.