Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson is not often read these days. His image has suffered with the passage of time, and he is too often ignored as one more stuffed- shirt dead white male. Perhaps it is his earnestness, or his lofty tone, which sounds dissonant to ears accustomed to the cynical or ironic tones of our more earth-bound era. Perhaps it is his antiquated vocabulary, or his even more antiquated choice of topics. No pundits and no bloggers (well, few bloggers) are focusing on topics such as “Manners,” “Character,” or “Prudence.” Perhaps it is simply because his writings were force-fed on too many unwilling high school sophomores. But for those who take the time to go back and listen to his voice, his words remain full of surprise and wisdom.
Continue Reading Sunday Arts: Emerson

In my most recent visit to London in October 2021, I was fortunate to be able to visit the Tate Britain museum. The museum has an interesting collection, but by far the most interesting feature of the museum is its very fine gallery of paintings by the English painter, J.M.W. Turner. The size and breadth of the museum’s Turner collection affords an opportunity to see how dramatically Turner’s artistic approach changed over the course of his long life. Turner began painting rather conventional landscapes, but ended producing unconventional paintings that appear entirely modern. In any event, as a result of spending a very enjoyable morning viewing his paintings, I became interested in learning more about Turner and his art.
Continue Reading Sunday Arts: A Herald of the Modern

Jorge Luis Borges

At one level, all of life is the accumulation of memories, a building toward the inevitable moment when we can bore a younger generation (just as we were bored when younger) by stories that have grown threadbare in the retelling. But at another level, all of life is a process of forgetting, a building toward the inevitable moment when the joke about “early Alzheimer’s” isn’t really funny anymore. Or more simply, when the names and faces from our youth can no longer be recalled simply because too much time has passed.
Continue Reading Speak Not, Memory

Editor’s Note: This edition of Sunday Arts reproduces here the text of a blog post published on November 10, 2010.

From time to time, readers suggest blog topics to me. I am always interested in the range of topics suggested. Very late at night (or perhaps early in the morning) in the bar at the recent PLUS International Conference in San Antonio, a loyal reader whom I had only just met for the first time suggested that I write a blog post about my favorite business books. Unsurprisingly, it seemed like a good idea then. Surprisingly, it still seemed like a good idea later.

My notion of the books worth recommending may diverge from what the reader had in mind when he made the suggestion. I figure that no one really needs me to suggest the usual fare from the business section at the book store, like, for example, The Smartest Guys in the Room or Liar’s Poker. If those books interest you, by all means, read them.

The problem with the vast run of business books is that they rarely aim for anything higher. To find anything of more lasting value, you must look elsewhere. So my suggested “business” books won’t be found in the business section, and in fact may not necessarily meet anybody’s idea of what constitutes a business book. But these books have more to say about the business of life and the life of business than the more conventional fare. Here are a half- dozen essential books I suggest to anyone looking for something a little more substantial:
Continue Reading Sunday Arts: The Business of Life and the Life of Business

The Hungarian-born musician, Franz Liszt, was one of the great piano virtuosos and composers of the 19th century. Liszt’s musical legacy is substantial, and he would be well-remembered even just for his musical compositions. But what makes Liszt interesting is the extraordinary life he lived. As Oliver Hilmes puts it in his recent Liszt biography, Liszt was a “superstar, a genius and a European celebrity – he was utterly exceptional.” During his long life, Liszt reinvented himself several times, yet each time he seemed to enhance his stature as one of the great characters of his age, or indeed of any age.
Continue Reading Sunday Arts: Liszt’s B Minor Piano Sonata

The reign of the English King Henry VIII remains one of the most fascinating eras in European history. Today, it is impossible for us to imagine that period without summoning up the images created by the extraordinarily talented artist of the time, Hans Holbein. His paintings of the powerful and famous characterize and embody the entire age, and his endlessly fascinating works continue to dazzle and captivate. The story of how Holbein, a German painter from a relatively modest background, whose success had as much to do with his politically adroitness as his technical brilliance, would go on to become England’s “most celebrated artist,” is well-told in Franny Moyle’s fascinating book, The King’s Painter.
Continue Reading Sunday Arts: The King’s Painter

Johann Sebastian Bach is of course one of the great composers in Western Music. His innovative and prolific musical output over the course of his long life is nothing short of astonishing. As it turns out, he also lived a surprisingly interesting life, as is well told in Harvard University Professor Christoph Wolff’s excellent one-volume Bach biography, Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician.
Continue Reading Sunday Arts: The Bach Chaconne

Editor’s Note: Today’s Sunday Arts installment excerpts a post from my very earliest days of blogging. The May 25, 2006 post (here) appeared in a separate and now defunct blog called And Furthermore that I then maintained in parallel with what was then and remains now my principal blog, The D&O Diary.

One of the more interesting stories in the financial pages these days is the news surrounding the options backdating probes. As the options backdating story has continued to unfold, some have questioned whether or not there is actually anything wrong with options backdating. For example, the wsj.com law blog has a May 23, 2006 video post containing a debate between a business school prof and a CNBC reporter on the topic. Options backdating is obviously not harmless — the revelation of options backdating has already proven damaging to at least some of the companies caught up in the probe as they have had to restate their past financials to reflect their true compensation costs. But even beyond the restatement threat, there is a particular reason why the options backdating story has gained momentum in a way that stories about executives’ use of corporate aircraft or gold-plated pensions have not.
Continue Reading Sunday Arts: Cheating at Cards