Daniel Goleman and his book ‘Emotional Intelligence’

You should probably read the book Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ by Daniel Goleman. The information included within can help parents, teachers, people in business, those interested in leadership, and those wishing to respond more calmly to the world around them.

Emotional Intelligence 2 - Daniel Goleman(Emotional Intelligence writer Daniel Goleman)

An early point that Goleman makes in Emotional Intelligence is that the three qualities of self-control, zeal, and persistence are more predictive in the success of people as they work through life than the standard metrics of IQ scores, standardized tests, or some of the aptitude tests used to gauge entry for students looking to gain admittance to college. Goleman suggests a potential path for teaching and reinforcing emotional learning from early education through high school, should school systems wish to adopt it.

Emotional Intelligence 3

Emotional Intelligence is broken into five main sections. As you can surmise from the separate parts, the book takes trouble to root the theory of emotion in the science of how the brain works in the opening chapter. Six chapters get into the definition of emotional intelligence while another six chapters (parts three and four) look to offer guidance on how you might use the concept. The final two chapters get into why the effort of employing the theories of the book will take effort, part of which is a cost related to learning. The five sections of the book are these:

Part One: The Emotional Brain (Chapters 1 and 2)

Part Two: Emotional Intelligence (Chapters 3 thru 8)

Part Three: Emotional Intelligence Applied (Chapters 9 thru 11)

Part Four: Windows of Opportunity (Chapters 12 thru 14)

Part Five: Emotional Literacy (Chapters 15 and 16)

Emotional Intelligence 4

Much useful information comes from the theories shared in this book. Better leaders and your better friends, I hope you recognize, use the quadrants of motivation in measuring their actions with awareness while getting into the five components of emotional intelligence, namely self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.

My selection of this book was motivated from a study of leadership styles and aiming to raise my own interpersonal skills through awareness of my emotions, moods, and the relationships of both to the people around me. My feeling is that this book provides things that help me. Whether you read the whole thing or select pieces from within to review, my recommendation is that you pick up a copy of this book and get to work on yourself. My rating is 4.0-out-of-5 stars.

Matt – Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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Hercule Poirot, Kenneth Branagh, and ‘Murder on the Orient Express’

When it comes to detective novels and murder mysteries, Agatha Christie is perhaps best known for her detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. The first movie edition of Murder on the Orient Express (1974) was received warmly by critics and audiences alike. The recent remake, Murder on the Orient Express (2017), received less warmth from critics and audiences.

Murder on the Orient Express 2 - Kenneth Branagh(Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot)

Kenneth Branagh directed and starred as Hercule Poirot in the 2017 rendition of Murder on the Orient Express. A star-studded cast joined Branagh, including Michelle Pfeiffer as Caroline Hubbard, Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff, Willem Dafoe as Gerhard Hardman, Penelope Cruz as Pilar Estravados, and Johnny Depp as Edward Ratchett. Many others joined in the story.

Murder on the Orient Express 3 - Michelle Pfeiffer(Michelle Pfiefer as Caroline Hubbard)

This version of the movie maintains the larger framework of the book written by Agatha Christie was looking to bring in a contemporary moralizing and sensibility from a book written in 1934. If written today, the more likely means of locomotion would be an ocean cruise at sea for 2-3 days or a transcontinental flight meant to be in the air more a good long time with delays built in.

Murder on the Orient Express 4 - Judi Dench(Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff)

The movie begins as an extravagent train ride through Europe that, on the surface is a vacation for Hercule Poirot and the guests alike. The keen detective that is Poiort has his antennna up from the beginning when, quickly into the tale, the suspense and thrills of murder, clues, and detection begin.

Murder on the Orient Express 5 - Willem Dafoe(WIllem Dafoe as Gerhard Hardman)

Everyone seemingly has a motive for murder. The really baffling quality of the mystery here is that one lead after another after another leads to apparent dead end. The clear culprit defies the straightforward explanation that one would expect. Is the murderer Caroline Hubbard or Princess Dragomiroff? might it have been Gerhard Hardman or Pilar Estravados? Many have plausible motives for murder, though not one of these suspects lends themselves to a satisfactory answer to the question who committed the murder?

Murder on the Orient Express 6 - Penelope Cruz(Penelope Cruz as Pilar Estravados)

My goal here is to give you a sense of the suspense. The discovery of the answer is one that I recommend you determine through reading the book or watching one of the movies.

Murder on the Orient Express 7 - Johnny Depp(Johnny Depp as Edward Ratchett)

The critics consensus for this version of this movie, as shared on Rotten Tomatoes, is this:

“Stylish production and an all-star ensemble keep this Murder on the Orient Express from running off the rails, even if it never quite builds up to its classic predecessor’s illustrious head of steam.”

The critics consensus for the 1974 version, from Rotten Tomatoes, is more generous:

“Murder, intrigue, and a star-studded cast make this stylish production of Murder on the Orient Express one of the best Agatha Christie adaptations to see the silver screen.”

I personally enjoyed the 2017 version of the movie. That there were clues to unravel, multiple folks whose guilt was in question, and the underlying cleverness of an Agatha Christie murder mystery to outsmart were all there. For the very astute watcher, the solution to the crime is detectable. Regardless of the above stated critical reception, this basic quality was present in the movie.

The new Murder on the Orient Express is worth stream through Amazon Prime, HBO, or any other service of choice. Rent a copy from the library if you must. I’ve read the book. I am interested to see the 1974 version all the more for the glowing review above. My recommendation is to choose your path and immerse yourself in the mystery.

Matt – Monday, September 17, 2018

Stephen King and the book ‘The Outsider’

The Outsider by Stephen King came out in hardcover on May 22, 2018 in the United States. The book is the latest in a long line of King books that I’ve read, dating back to my first serious introduction to his writing with the four novellas of the Four Past Midnight, which I read about 1990. Many full length novels later and shorter works later, I consider myself sufficient fan to delve into at least one work every 12-to-18 months.

The Outsider 2(The Outsider author Stephen King)

During an interview King had in support of The Outsider in May 2018, King brought up Erik Larson‘s novel Dead Wake. On the show, King spoke of the example of passengers of the RMS Lusitania whose lives were saved because of the chance encounter of seeking another passenger who had looked remarkably like another passenger also on board. This concept of having another person who looked like you inspired the thought that led to a central drama in The Outsider.

The Outsider 3(A hardcover copy of The Outsider)

The story starts with a small town crime against a child. The small town police perform some preliminary investigation into eyewitnesses, forensics, and no interview of the prime suspect, a respected little league coach and family man. Aiming for maximum spectacle and community impact for his reelection candidacy, the small town sheriff has said little league coach arrested in front of a large gathering of spectators at a little league baseball game.

The community experiences strong senses of outrage over the crime as well as the suspected perpetrator. Getting a quality defense attorney involved reveals similarly ironclad evidence that, at the time of the crime, the coach was at a continuing education conference in the presence of hundreds of witnesses. How can this be?

The Outsider 4(Paperback copies of The Outsider)

In getting to the answer of this question, I found myself speeding through the read to find out where the plot would go. The story kept elements of the traditional police procedural, including evidence procurement, lead generation, and pursuit. The story went about addressing the notion of two folks that look like one, or more specifically how one person can be in two places at the same time. As the tension grows, so does the creepy nature for how the answer will be resolved.

The Outsider entertained, kept me engaged, and did not drag on like I feared a book of this length might. The direction of the story wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, which is good from a whodunit. That the story went in a thematic direction that I anticipated with a resolution that I was expecting was somewhat of a disappointment. While entertaining, my sense is that this was not King’s best effort. My grade is 3.5-out-of-5 stars.

Matt – Sunday, September 16, 2018

Charlize Theron and the movie ‘Atomic Blonde’

In paying homage to the time in history ending the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the former Soviet Union, the movie Atomic Blonde (2017) captures a spy game pitted against the falling of the Berlin Wall in November, 1989.

The movie Atomic Blonde gets a fair degree of distance out of its stylized action sequences and its nostalgic homage to the past that, stylistically if not with the thematic ‘excess’ that is a hallmark of Tarantino, it brings to mind the cinematic experience forthcoming in movies by Quentin Tarantino. The movie, directed by David Leitch, reflects a bold sense of visual mood setting, intermixing of soundtrack that befits the time period, and a bold sense of action.

Atomic Blonde 2 - Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton(Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton)

Charlize Theron stars as the strong female lead and top level MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton. Broughton is tasked taking down an espionage ring in Berlin, where she is ordered to cooperate with Berlin station chief David Percival. The alliance is fraught with duplicity, mistrust, and intrigue that I personally both expect and enjoy in espionage movies.

Atomic Blonde 3 - James McAvoy as David Percival(James McAvoy as David Percival)

The story of the movie is framed around the concept of Broughton (Theron) explaining to a joint MI6 and CIA after-action committee of Eric Gray of MI6 and Emmett Kurzfeld of CIA precisely how the Berlin action went awry. The full story known only to Broughton at the start, with the full circle of the coming to revelation in the final minutes of the movie.

Atomic Blonde 5 - Toby Jones as Eric Gray(Toby Jones as Eric Gray).

Other reviews of the movie focus on the story being somewhat light. The summary review from Rotten Tomatoes goes so far as to call the story “less hard hitting than its protagonist”. My feeling is that the movie is worth the watch as a first foray into feature film for a potentially effective new director in the form of David Leitch.

Atomic Blonde 4 - John Goodman as Emmett Kurzfeld(John Goodman as Emmett Kurzfeld)

The soundtrack of Atomic Blonde includes Major Tom (Völlig Losgelöst) by Peter Schilling, 99 Luftballoons by Nena, Der Kommissar by After the Fire, I Ran (So Far Away) by Flock of Seagulls, Voices Carry by ‘Til Tuesday, London Calling by The Clash, and Father Figure by George Michael. That a soundtrack of the 1980s was so intermixed within the movie was a positive way to take me to when the movie was set.

Atomic Blonde 6 - David Leitch(Atomic Blonde director David Leitch)

Consider seeing this movie. In fact, run (like a Flock of Seagulls) to see this movie.

Matt – Saturday, September 15, 2018

Walter Isaacson’s biography of ‘Leonardo da Vinci’

The interesting and robust biography of Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson takes a look into the history of the man, as much as possible, based on the notebooks and contemporary sources of information as could be done by a scholar publishing a work on the influential painter, inventor, and polymath. The book Leonardo da Vinci was published in hardback form in the fall of 2017.

Leonardo da VInci 2 - Walter Isaacson(Leonardo da Vinci biographer Walter Isaacson)

My journey into reading Leonardo da Vinci began with the awareness that he was an Italian Renaissance painter influential largely from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century famous for such paintings as the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper. I had some sense for his larger influence into more scientific inquiries, which led to the Vitruvian Man drawing, though not much else.

Leonardo da VInci 3 - Mona Lisa(The Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci)

Isaacson takes us into a review of Leonardo da Vinci  that explores not only the facts and relevance of the man, but as much as possible into how he thought and experienced the world. The portrait of the man comes through, likely as much as is possible from roughly 525-years after much of the history for the man began.

Leonardo da VInci 4 - The Last Supper(The Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci)

Da Vinci, as an illegitimate son of a Florence legal notary. Da Vinci largely self-taught in early life, having also been alienated from much of the legitimate offspring of his father for much of his adult life. That the influences for becoming a Renaissance painter was less about returning to past forms of high art in his time through an appreciation of the past was largely an accident. The patronage opportunities and shifting sense of timing and loyalty shifts for da Vinci were parts of his genius.

Leonardo da VInci 5 - Vitruvian Man(The Vitruvian Man drawing by Leonardo da Vinci)

Independent wealth was never a largely comfortable proposition for Leonardo da Vinci, though he did find ways to have intimate relationships through his adult life. One of the earlier known relationships was with an that later became an intimate named Salai. Salai was the name used throughout the Isaacson biography, though the name itself was a nickname that loosely to thief, liar, glutton, and other less than flattering terms. Upon death, half of Leonardo da Vinci‘s estate was passed to Salai.

Leonardo da VInci 6 - Salai(A Salai drawing by Leonardo da Vinci)

Much of the further biography delves into how Leonardo da Vinci explored curiosities to the point of obsession. Much of the knowledge that da Vinci explored could have made the man significant and memorable in its own right, even if the heavily famous and significant paintings included within this review never occurred. In part, the fame of da Vinci owes itself to these obsessions and their expression in the painting Mona Lisa.

Leonardo da VInci 7(Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson)

The innovation of the polymath da Vinci were well expressed and clearly understood to me as I read this biography of the man. The level of detail probably isn’t for everyone, though I personally took no exception to the investigation and analysis. I feel that I am the better informed and more appreciative for this experience. I recommend the reading of the book Leonardo da Vinci.

My overall rating is 4.0-stars-out-of-5.

Matt – Sunday, September 9, 2018

Mark Wahlberg and the movie ‘Deepwater Horizon’

On April 20th of 2010, an explosion on the oil rig Deepwater Horizon approximately 41 miles (66 kilometers) off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico became the largest marine oil spill in history. The rig would sink two days later. Eleven workers would die with another 17 injured. The movie Deepwater Horizon (2016) was released in the fall of 2016.

Deepwater Horizon 2 - Mark Wahlberg as Mike Williams(Mark Wahlberg as Mike Williams)

Mark Wahlberg stars as Chief Electronics Technician Mike Williams in the movie. His character is among the first introduced in the movie. As he is flown onto the oil rig Deepwater Horizon, he is shown questioning the installation of the concrete and nitrogen fortification that is meant to make the extraction of the deposit below the sea floor.

Deepwater Horizon 3 - Kurt Russell as Jimmy Harrell(Kurt Russell as Jimmy Harrell)

Kurt Russell as Offshore Information Manager Jimmy Harrell shared similar concerns over the stability of the extraction system. Harrell was chiefly pitted against British Petroleum Supervisor Donald J. Vidrine, as portrayed by John Malkovich, in pushing the safety or profitability angle within the movie.

Deepwater Horizon 5 - John Malkovich as Vidrine(John Malkovich as Donald J. Vidrine)

In my humble opinion, the movie aimed to be fair in depicting some of the competing motivations within this debate for whether extracting oil/natural gas was legitimate in the situation aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig. Criticism that the movie does not cover the full complexity of the situation is raised by University of Texas at Austin Professor of Petroleum Engineering Eric van Oort here.

The oil rig Deepwater Horizon was a marine vessel in the sea. As such, the vessel is piloted by Dynamic Positioning Operator Andrea Fleytas, a role portrayed by Gina Rodriguez in the movie.

Deepwater Horizon 4 - Gina Rodriguez as Andrea Fleytas(Gina Rodriguez as Andrea Fleytas)

The overall story felt even-handed in addressing the larger facts of the fact that the drilling in this case was questionable. It felt that the underlying facts were addressed in such a fashion as not to blame as much as to demonstrate the underlying realities at a level understandable to the film viewing public.

Deepwater Horizon 6 - Memorial in New Orleans(The Deepwater Horizon memorial Eleven in New Orleans, Louisiana)

The movie has some depth to it, and explicates the story of the explosion. The loss of life as well as the oil spill was a tragedy. That this was reportedly at least the second such well explosion of this nature is definitely a shame. That I came away with a desire to understand this event better after watching the movie Deepwater Horizon speaks to my ability to recommend this movie.

Matt – Saturday, September 8, 2018

Mitch Rapp and the book ‘Separation of Power’

Earlier this year I wrote about Vince Flynn‘s books American Assassin with this post on the Matt Lynn Digital blog. I then wrote about the follow-up book Kill Shot with this post. Here today I offer feedback on the fifth book sequentially in the Mitch Rapp series. Separation of Power is the part of a 17-book series of books created by American Assassin and Kill Shot author Vince Flynn.

Separation of Power 2 - Vince Flynn(Separation of Power author Vince Flynn)

The book advances the story lines of main characters Mitch Rapp and Dr. Irene Kennedy, continuing a theme of Rapp not knowing whom to trust yet ulitmately coming to trust Kennedy. Kennedy is up for the role of CIA Director following the death of her predecessor, Thomas Stansfield. Anna Riley, the girlfriend news reporter who struggles to trust Rapp for the role he has with the CIA, is given the role of distrusting Rapp as he brings a former flame (and covert spy) back to their European vacation’s suite, shot.

The larger story involves President Xavier Hayes calling upon Rapp to save the United States from a lethal combination of nuclear weapons looking to target the US in attacks perpetrated through the Iraq of Saddam Hussein and a former Soviet nuclear weapon. Members of the presidential cabinet are present to sway the president away from the course of common sense that strictly Mitch Rapp holds privy. Much of the tale goes about Rapp proving his theories “self-evidently” correct.

Separation of Power 3(Separation of Power)

Through some clever detective work, Rapp uncovers the presence of not strictly one, but two attempts to import nuclear bombs into the United States. This book was a step forward for Flynn in terms of looking to weave multiple story lines throughout the overall storytelling in a way that brings the overlapping tales together to solve the large puzzle. I have had much appreciation for that technique with Tom Clancy novels. The story was moderately satisfying in the execution of the larger story for me.

For me, this book suffered from the aid that Flynn offered to the story within the television show 24 Season 5 (2006). Flynn consulted on that season of that show; many of the themes of this book align to that season of that series. As a result, I probably lowered my rating for this book, despite enjoying the experience.

My overall rating for the book is 3-stars-out-of-5.

Matt – Friday, September 7, 2018