Can be done in art

— Pursue human excellence —

Can be done in sport


NOTE: The model, Artemis Fauna, pursued human excellence as a gymnast. The photographer, Studio-Dee, is pursuing human excellence as an artist. The pursuit of human excellence, of course, can be done in life as a whole.


David Bruce: Work Anecdotes


Irina’s oil paintings: Mikhail Baryshnikov; By Mibsfo (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

When Misha Baryshnikov defected from the USSR in 1974, Rudolf Nureyev, who had defected earlier, took him to dinner. Mr. Baryshnikov was 10 years younger than Mr. Nureyev, who pointed to him and said, “Now I will have to work 10 times as hard to keep up with new competition.” Mr. Nureyev was asked, “How can you work harder? No one works harder than you!” He narrowed his eyes and said, “Watch me!”

Julia Morgan (1872-1957), a woman architect at a time when there were few woman architects, often said, “Don’t ever turn down a small job because you think it’s beneath you.” One of her smallest jobs was a two-room residence in Monterey, California, for a woman who became chair of the Young Women’s Christian Association. Because the woman was pleased with her residence, she was instrumental in getting Ms. Morgan the job of designing several YWCAs — big jobs, all — across the country. (An even smaller job was when Ms. Morgan designed a tiny house for the daughters of her taxi driver to play in.)

When comedian/singer Fanny Brice was given a contract by the great theatrical producer Florenz “Flo” Ziegfeld, she wore it out by constantly showing it to her family, friends, acquaintances, and total strangers. Flo gave her a new copy of the contract, but when she wore that one out, too, he declined to give her any more written contracts. Fanny kept on working for Flo for several years, but their contracts were all verbal, not written.

Some companies are gay-friendly. When Microsoft was recruiting Jon Henderson, a gay program manager now in its Developer Division, it asked, “Can I send your lover a bottle of wine or some flowers to help you make your decision?” And when an executive at Xerox made anti-gay statements, the company did not force him to take diversity-training workshops — it forced him to give the diversity-training workshops.

Being a stand-up comedy team can be tough work. Before hitting it big, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara worked in a nightclub in Cleveland. While doing their act, they were bothered by a loud radio, so they stopped the act, pointed out that they were working, and politely requested that the radio be turned off. From the owners’ table came a voice informing them, “I’ll turn it down, but I won’t turn it off.”

Nancy Nesbitt was the White House cook at the beginning of Harry Truman’s Presidency, but she wasn’t a good one. President Truman mentioned to her that he didn’t like brussels sprouts, so she served brussels sprouts to him three days in a row. Not surprisingly, the long-time White House cook was fired by the new no-nonsense President.

Not all basketball players work hard, but Chris Mullen is one who does. When Mr. Mullen joined the Golden State Warriors, the team wasn’t very good and lost many more games than it won. Mr. Mullen often stayed after practice to work some more on his shooting, but one of his teammates criticized him: “Hey, man — are you crazy? You’re making us look bad.”

In the USSR, on the eve of the annual celebration of the Revolution, Albert E. Kahn went to the Bolshoi, which seemed empty. Finally, he went upstairs, where he discovered ballerina Galina Ulanova practicing. When she had finished, he asked her why she had been working on a day that everyone else was taking off. She replied, “I need the practice.”

Blind Lemon Jefferson, a blues singer and guitarist, was born blind. As a young man, he moved to Dallas, Texas, where he found it difficult to get work. However, because he was a big, strong man who weighed 250 pounds, he was able to get a job as a wrestler. Crowds of people were willing to pay to see him because a blind wrestler was unusual.

For a while, Alexander Hamilton was General George Washington’s secretary. Unfortunately, he had a habit of arriving late to meetings then blaming his lateness on his watch. After this had occurred a number of times, General Washington said, “Sir, you must provide yourself a new watch, or I a new secretary.”

As a professional beach volleyball player, Gabrielle Reece works hard. At Gold’s Gym in Venice, California, her trainer, T.R. Goodman, designed a two-hour workout for her that made her vomit the first time she tried it. Nevertheless, she stuck with the training program he had designed.

As a salesman, Myron Cohen told a lot of funny stories to his customers. One day, his boss talked to him and said, “Myron, you’re a wonderful, funny guy and you should be paid for telling those stories of yours — but not by me!” So Mr. Cohen became a professional comedian.

James M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan was amazingly successful and provided some actors decades of work. The original Smee, George Shelton, played the part for 24 years. Bettering that record was William Luff, who played first Cecco and then Captain Hook for 45 years.

Ezio Pinza worked as a six-day cyclist before becoming famous as a singer of grand opera. Once he was asked what six-day cyclists did after retiring from their sport. He replied, “They can open bicycle shops, as many do — or go into grand opera, as I did.”

Oprah Winfrey was very young and still in college when she began to work as a co-anchor for the CBS station WTVF-TV in Nashville, Tennessee. She says that she was “the only news anchor in the country who had to be home by midnight.”

In some ways, mystery writer Agatha Christie was old fashioned. Whenever she filled out a form that asked for her occupation, she wrote “married woman” rather than “author,” because for her writing was a sideline, rather than a career.

As a comic filmmaker, Jacques Tati carefully observed people. On a street one day, he looked at three people arguing about how much a cabbage cost. When his companion asked what he was doing, he replied, “Working.”

Microsoft computer programmers work long, hard hours, but they do have special amusements provided for them, including a room set aside specially for juggling.

When Benjamin Franklin wrote his will, he showed humility — he gave his occupation as simply “Printer.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Steven Pinker: Why do progressives hate progress? (YouTube; 10 minutes)

Steven Pinker: Why do progressives hate progress? (YouTube; 10 minutes)

“Steven Pinker on Why Progressives Hate Progress.  An upbeat 10 minutes in case you found Friday’s post too depressing. It shows how things have for decades gotten steadily better even as the headlines have grown more bleak. Of course, if the last 446 days have shown us anything it’s that progress is not guaranteed.  But Pinker notes that the odds would improve if young people would simply . . . vote.” — Andrew Tobias