Saturday, December 31, 2016

October 2016: Three Writers

      Bob Dylan: The 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to an American. The singer/songwriter Bob Dylan was awarded the honor for "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition" per
     Upon hearing this news I immediately thought of a poster my good friend, Jack Hachigian, had hanging in his Michigan State dorm room. The poster was titled The Roots of Rock & Roll. The graphic was a majestic tree. The roots were all the folk and blues artistics. The branches were all the classic rock bands. I want to say that Bob Dylan was the trunk of the tree. Jack was the only one I knew that had that poster. I was impressed by the poster and also impressed that he bought it and proudly displayed it.
     In reflecting back on the poster, I remember not being sure if giving Dylan that much credit was warranted. I did, however, try to understand the point of view. I listened to Dylan more seriously and remember being more impressed with his lyrics and the number of songs he had written many of which, like “Mr. Tambourine Man,| I thought were written by others. Bob Dylan was truly a gifted songwriter. I got to appreciate him more though I never fully bought into the premise of the poster.
     I tried to find the poster via a Google search to no avail. I was interested to see my reaction to it forty years laters. Perhaps, it is better left to memory.
     What did I know? The Nobel Prize people awarded Dylan the most presitigious prizes in literature. This time around, I was more awed than worried whether he was deserving.
     The awe comes from fact that Dylan is not a typical prize winning author. All the previous Nobel Prize winners wrote books. Bob Dylan writes songs. I was in awe that the committee thought out of the box and honored Dylan’s body of work in this way.
     There was a time when poetry and songwrting were one in the same. I don’t authoritatively know this. I know it anecdotally or maybe even in passing. I bounced this notion off of an English professor colleague and she said I was correct. It makes sense as poetry until the introduction of free verse was rhythmic and rhyming. That is exactly what most song lyrics are.
     I always appreciated Bob Dylan. I was a child of the 1960s and my introduction to pop music, everything was called Rock n’Roll back then, was first the Beatles and then a variety of different artists and groups including Bob Dylan. Of course, I liked Bob Dylan without conciously realizing the greatest impact was from his lyrics/poetry. One could argue that that foundational anthem of the antiwar movement was Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
      When I was in college, my friend Peter Ziedas introducted me to Leonard Cohen. Upon the very first listen of the first song, Bird on a Wire, I was amazed, fascinated, and mesmerized by his words and delivery. I think Leonard is the better poet. Certainly Dylan had more commercial success and social impact. If they had given the Nobel Prize to Leonard Cohen, I may have been less surprised but I may have also been less excited.
     They may have also given the prize to Lennon and McCartney. One could argue that they wrote some high quality lyrics and had an profound impact on the culture. In this case I would have been both less surprised and less impressed.
     I cannot imagine, well for that matter no one can imagine, the Nobel Committee ever wondering how I might react to any of their decisions.
     Awarding the prize to Dylan may have an influence on how we define literature and poetry moving forward. Poetry used to be an art form accessible to the masses. One could argue that the epic works Homer’s works up through Longfellow were the Netflix series of their times. Common folk read them and were entertained. Longfellow like Dylan was quite popular and perhaps even more of a commercial success. In Longfellow & the Day is Done, I noted that:
Calling him a celebrity was no understatement. Longfellow was so popular, he was getting $3,000 per poem at his peak. Getting $3,000 per poem today would make any poet happy. To put into perspective just how popular Longfellow was, I found an on-line inflation calculator that converter $3,000 in 1874 dollars into $58,300 in 2009 dollars. That is absolutely an impressive statistic.
     In recent years, poetry has become more and more esoteric. It is most written by acadamic poets whose target audience and readers are other academics. The masses get their poetry fix from greeting cards, rap, and country music. Perhaps awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan will change this… if it needs changing at all. Perhaps a rap artist may bestowed with the same honor.
     Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, MN. He adopted the name Bob Dillon which later changed to Bob Dylan. Many think he was channeling the poet Dylan Thomas but other sources say it was Marshall Dillon from the Gunsmoke TV Series. For me, I like the Gunsmoke theory. It adds to his Americana. He was raised Jewish but claimed to be a born again Christian in 1979 which, by virtue of not proclaiming anything else, still is. He grew up in Hibbing, MN. In high school, he was drawn to Rock and Roll but moved on over to Folk Music while at the University of Minnesota.
     He dropped out of college and moved to, where else, New York City where he began playing clubs and making a name for himself. He wrote his own songs and made a big hit with “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They are a-Channging.” Both, in my humble view, were the sound track that of the unrest that was stirring due to both the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War movements. They were the right songs at the right time. They resonated with the baby boomers, the first TV generation, coming of age with the belief that a new age of peace could be established.
     Maybe Jack’s poster in his dorm room was correct after all. I think I may have just written the justification I was looking for. Not bad, it only took 45 years.
     I first heard about Dylan being named a Nobel Laureate on Facebook. It was a posting by the University Dean at North Park University, Liza Ann Acosta. She fired off a few posts on October 13th as the news was breaking:
What what what????? Que??? Bob Dylan? Are my ears deceiving me???? Whut? 
OMG secretary is comparing Dylan's work with Homer and Sappho. 
I am slowly recovering from my amazement. I am thinking of how I will incorporate this into class tomorrow or Monday. I may need the weekend to read Dylan. I mean listen. Gah. No. Read. READ. Ok. Listen and read.
     By the way, Dean Acosta has a PhD in Comparative Literature.
     I responded to here last post with what I thought was a clever and meaningful comment: “gee... i hope we don't get all academic on him now. LOL.” She immediately responded with, “Too late!” and provided a link to Yale University Press book entitled Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown by David Yaffe an assistant professor of English at Syracuse University.
     Somehow I wanted to Dylan and his songs to stay pure and untouched. I did not want academic wonks putting him under the microscope and making more and, perhaps even, less of him. His words and songs influenced a generation in our formative, Wonder Years for those who might relate, years. We heard and grasped them in real time. I am probably airing a fear that someone, through the lens of time, looks back and does not get it right or, even worse, trivializes the times. Those times they are a-trivialized don’t resonate very well.
     But, I was too late. There are many books on Dylan and his writing. There are courses in which his work is studied. No doubt that with his being named a Nobel Laureate, there will be more courses and books. As is often the case, yesterday’s rabble rousers and creators of new art forms become the mainstays of tomorrows academics. In this modern age, this simply happens, like everything else, at a much faster pace. My how the times they have a-changed.
     Upon announcement of his Nobel Prize, Dylan said he was not going to attend the award ceremony. A week or so later, a press release infomed us that he would attend. In the end, he did not go. Patti Smith performed his song, A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall, at the ceremonies.
      I think not attending the awards ceremonies is fine, it’s all right. Which evokes my favorite Dylan song which I present here.

Don't think twice, it's all right

Well it ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe
Ifin' you don't know by now
An' it ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe
It'll never do some how
When your rooster crows at the break a dawn
Look out your window and I'll be gone
You're the reason I'm trav'lin' on
Don't think twice, it's all right

And it ain't no use in a-turnin' on your light, babe
The light I never knowed
An' it ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
I'm on the dark side of the road
But I wish there was somethin' you would do or say
To try and make me change my mind and stay
We never did too much talkin' anyway
But don't think twice, it's all right
No it ain't no use in callin' out my name, gal
Like you never done before
And it ain't no use in callin' out my name, gal
I can't hear ya any more
I'm a-thinkin' and a-wond'rin' wallkin' way down the road
I once loved a woman, a child I am told
I give her my heart but she wanted my soul
But don't think twice, it's all right
So long honey babe
Where I'm bound, I can't tell
Goodbye is too good a word, babe
So I just say fare thee well
I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don't mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don't think twice, it's all right
     Leonard Cohen: While writing the above in which I referenced Leonard Cohen, news broke that Cohen had passed away. Cohen passed away on November 6th at the age of 82. He was born in Quebec in 1934.
      He wrote mesmerizing poems and lyrics. As stated earlier, he had as big an impact on me, and maybe even more, than Dylan’s. He, like Dylan, was known as a songwriter and folk singer. To me, he was also a poet. In fact, back in the day, the day when I was an undergraduate, everyone that listened to Cohen told me he was a better poet than musician.
      Yet, oddly, know one could reference a poem that he had written that wasn’t a song he had already recorded. I was, therefore, curious to see just how good a poet he was. I bought a collection of his poems: Selected Poems 1956 – 1968.
      I have a view that the greatest poets are known for a dozen or so of their poems. While they may have written a great body of work, their place in literary history is based on these few poems. I found enough poems in the Selected Poems books that confirmed that Leonard Cohen was a good poet.
     Upon hearing of his passing, I looked for the book. I am not sure where it is. I wanted to include my favorite poem of his in this in this letter. I searched online to no avail but did find my second favorite poem of his, “The Rest is Dross,” which I will include at the end of this session.
     I really appreciated his work from my college days. His first two albums, The Songs of Leonard Cohen and Songs from a Room, were my favorites. They were valued parts of my music collection but unlike other artists these were not records that I listen to over and over again. One had to be in the right mood, with the right people, and in the right ambiance to listen to his songs. They required more attention and thought than the offerings of other bands. They were the fine liquor of my my music collection.
     As I got older, my musical tastes gravitated to the music I played. I almost exclusively listened only to Armenian, Turkish, and Greek music. Leonard Cohen was like a yearbook brought out every once in awhile to refresh a fading memory. As he never was in the mainstream, I never heard much about him either in the media or from others.
     Then sometime in the late 1980s or 1990s, I heard from John Bilezikjian that he was touring with Leonard Cohen. I was totally surprised by this news. John Bilezikjian was a talented oud player. He was certainly capable musically to accompany Cohen, but I did not think they were compatable in terms of their styles. They were disjoint sets in my brain… no intersection. What did I know? They toured together for several years. John always spoke highly of Cohen and the experience of touring with him. Here is a youtube of them performing Everybody Knows in 1988.
     Because of their working together, I sought out Leonard Cohen’s recordings in which John was in the band. The primary album was I’m Your Man. I enjoyed the recording but they were less in terms of depth and gravity of Cohen’s earlier work in my humble opinion. Also, the oud just wasn’t prominent enough for my taste.
     After Cohen’s passing, there were numerous old interviews of him replayed on NPR. He was a very NPR kind of artist. I do believe Cohen’s passing got more air time than did Dylan’s be awarded the Nobel Prize. I learned that Cohen was a heavy smoker, battled drugs, was quite the lady’s man, and gained wonderul insights to his Jewish-Zen spirituality. The drinking and cigarette smoking explains why his voice kept getting lower and lower over the years. It was also revealed why Cohen went back on tour in 2004. He had to. His long time business manager and close friend basically “misappropriated” $5M of his savings leaving him only $150,000.
     In these interviews, he was engaging and lighter than I would have expected. I found quite refreshing. He did not seem bitter about his manager stealing all his money. He was quite centered. It was a pleasure hearing these interviews and reflecting on lyrics and life. In a certain way, I understood his Hallelujah a bit better after these interviews.
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah
      To me, I will always remember the Leonard Cohen from this 1968 BBC performance and, of course, the poem below.

The Rest is Dross

We meet at a hotel
with many quarters for the radio
surprised that we've survived as lovers
not each other's
but lovers still
with outrageous hope and habits in the craft
which embarrass us slightly
as we let them be known
the special caress the perfect inflammatory word
the starvation we do not tell about
We do what only lovers can
make a gift out of necessity
Looking at our clothes
folded over the chair
I see we no longer follow fashion
and we own our own skins
God I'm happy we've forgotten nothing
and can love each other
for years in the world
     William Trevor: I was well aware of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. I got to know their artistry at a young age. William Trevor? I had never heard of him until November 24th. There was a short piece, almost an obituary, by Mark Salter on the Op-Ed page of the Wall Street Journal: William Trevor’s Endless Empathy. I think the phrase Endless Empathy made me read the article.
The blow felt heavier than the news of other notable deaths this year. William Trevor, the Irish novelist and master of the short story, died this week. He was 88, so it didn’t come as a shock. But the news left me distraught, realizing I would never read another Trevor story for the first time.
     Until that moment, I had never heard of William Trevor, let alone read anything by him. Salter, a speechwriter and former chief of staff to Sen. John McCain and thus quite able to turn a phrase of his own, went on to say, “we’ve lost a great contemporary writer, possibly our greatest.” Wow. How could I not even be aware of him? I asked the aforementioned Professor Acosta. I felt I was OK, since she, as a professor of comparitive literature, was also blissfully unaware of William Trevor.
     Well, blissful unawareness didn’t have to remain that way. The man who the New Yorker referred to as “probably the greatest living writer of short stories in the English language” was no longer an unknown to me. So, I went out and bought a book. Did I buy a book of short stories? Of course, I should have and actually thought I did. The book I bought was called Excursions in the Real World. In fine print under the title, it said Memoirs. These memoirs are of his growing up in and around Cork, Ireland where he was born in 1928.
     Trevor’s writing in his memoirs are precise, tightly crafted, meticulous, and eloquent in a way you would expect from a gifted Irish writer. I am not sure if this style is natural and that it flows easily with minimum re-writes or if it is the result of painstaking work and edits. Excursions in the Real World is a book that I have to put down. I want to only read it a vignette, or chapter, at a time. I had to read and savor everyword. Reading Trevor is akin to sipping fine cognac. Actually, the more I am reading this book, the better I am used to reading Trevor’s prose. I am experience the admiration Salter had for Trevor’s writing. In reading him for the first time, his prose unfolds in slow motion and blooms like a flower.
     I will close this lengthy letter with the first paragraph from the chapter in his memoirs called “Bad Trip.”
There have been terrible, ugly journeys that are remembered by me now for different aspects of distress. Races against time have lost. Delays at airports have triumphantly ruined weekends. Night has come down too soon when walking in the Alps. Theft has brought travel to a halt, toothache made a nightmare of it. Once a ferry mistakenly took off before its passengers had arrived on the quayside. Once the wheels of an aircraft did not come down. “Kaputt!’ a German grage mechenic declared of an old A.30 on an autobahn, and that was that.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

November 2016: Two Recent News Items

     The hardest part of writing this letter was choosing a title. Usually, when I cover a few, unrelated topics, I call it a Potpourri. Given on the topics is about the 75th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, potpourri just sounded too light and frivolous. While this is the November Letter, it was only started in November and finished in December.
     A new years resolution will be to be more timely in 2017.

     Whitechapel Bell Foundry: I have written a few times about how we lament the closing of school, store, facrory or other institutions that iconic in our lives. We have warm memories about these kinds of places. We can rekindle those memories by visiting these places again. Some visits are annual, such as homecomings at schools and holiday seasons at department stores.
     But, economic conditions and demographics change. These places close. We feel bad, we feel like part of ourselves are diminished in the closing. Our memories are on their own and cannot be refereshed by a visit.
     I feel bad when places I have never seen, been meant to, close. Today, I felt something new. I am feeling bad about the closing of a place I have never heard of… until today.
     A short article in the Wall Street Journal reported that Whitechapel Bell Foundry was closing. This foundry which has made both Big Ben and the Liberty Bell is closing and the business is being sold. Whitechapel claims it is the oldest manufacturing enterprise operating continuously on the same site.
     Alan Hughes is the great-grandson of the man who bought the company in 1884 was quoted in an interview in Spitalfields Life: “The business has been at its present site over 250 years. So it is probably about time it moved once again. We hope that this move will provide an opportunity for the business to move forward.”
     This company has made bells for centuries. Their largest customer has been the Church of England. Their bells are in use in Westminster Abbey, St. Alban’s, and other famous churches. They have made original bells, patched and repaired them over the years, and then replaced them.
     They had a great year in 2015. Business was up 27% but the sales and manufacturing leadntimes are amazingly long.
Bell projects take a long time, so churches commit to new bells when the economy is strong and then there is no turning back. We are just commencing work on a new peal of bells for St Albans after forty-three years of negotiation. That’s an example of the time scale we are working on – at least ten years between order and delivery is normal. My great-grandfather visited the church in Langley in the eighteen nineties and told them the bells needed rehanging in a new frame. They patched them. My grandfather said the same thing in the nineteen twenties. They patched them. My father told them again in the nineteen fifties and I quoted for the job in the nineteen seventies. We completed the order in 1998.
     The lead times are indeed long. 43 years of negotiations?! A minimum of 10 years in the sales and delivery cycle? How do you plan in a business like that. I am quite certain they are not using Sales and Operations Planning.
     They are certainly a make-to-order shop. It would be cool to see how they make the kind of large bells the churches mentioned would buy. The challenge of getting a clean and sound casting is a must. I cannot imagine how they finish and tune the bells and how long it takes from start to finish to produce a large bell.
The Liberty Bell

     My last thought is about the Liberty Bell. The huge crack in the bell bothered me from my grade school days. Clearly, it was a defective product of this historical foundry. Supposedly, the mix of metals used made the bell too brittle. Given the excessive lead time and all, perhaps, the US should consider asking them to fix or replace it. If it takes them up to 43 years to sell a project, the warranty ought to be 200 – 300 years.

     Fading Infamy: This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surpise aerial attack using fighters and dive and torpedo bombers on the American Naval and Army bases in Hawaii. The US was caught completely off-guard and the attack was a rousing and complete victory for Japan. The casualties were staggering and a blow to the American government, and people.
     President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a speech on December 8th that was broadcast to a stunned nation huddled aroud their radios.
Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. ~
     Roosevelt’s words resonated: a day that will live in infamy. As a result of this attack that began at 7:55 am and lasted only 75 minutes, the United States entered World War II. On December 8, the United States declared war on Japan. A few days later, December 11, Japan’s Axis allies, Germany and Italy, declared war on the US. This was still the days when countries declared war on each other when armed forces were deployed.
     I remember clearly growing up around a generation of adults in their forties and fifties. For them, Pearl Harbor was a very big deal. Beause of them, it became a big deal for me. The big difference was that I did not live through it. I did not experience it. My view of the event is second hand. For my children and grandchildren, it will not be much more than an historical event perhaps a significant historical event. The way they look at is probably the way I look at the sinking of the Lusitania. It was huge in its day but the memory has faded.
     When I was born, there were still WWI veterans around. If they were 18 – 25 when the US entered the war in 1917 when the US entered the great war. They would have been in their 60’s in 1960 when I first really became aware of such things. Many TV shows in the 1970s featured the occasional plot line where the last of those veterans showed up for a reunion and were alone all their comrades had passed.
      As this was the 75th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, veterans that were actually there are all in their 90s. Sadly, but naturally, as that generation of Americans passes, the Day of Infamy will still be noted but not in the same way. The same is said for all thoses huge days in history. I am seeing it happen with the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. It is even happening with 9-11.
     The Wall Street Journal had a couple of very good articles commemorating the day. Robert R. Garnett, a professor of English literature at Gettysburg College noted in an Op-Ed piece, Aboard the USS Arizona – Dec. 7, 1941:
Only minutes after the attack began, a Japanese bomb hit the Arizona, triggering a volcanic explosion in the forward magazines. The ship broke in half and quickly sank. Almost 1,200 sailors and Marines, including all 21 musicians, died. 
We sleep peacefully in our beds at night, it has been said, because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf. But few of the sailors on the Arizona were rough men. Many were homesick young recruits, 18- and 19-year-old boys from rural and working-class America. One bandsman had enlisted the year before at 16. Arizona’s dead remain entombed in their sunken ship, America’s most poignant war memorial.
     We need to read articles like this to remember how many died in that 75 minute attack (most of the Pearl Harbor movies did not have to condense time very much at all). 2,400 Americans died at Pearl Harbor. Half of them were on the USS Arizona, the sunken hull of which is both tomb for those killed and a war memorial.
     A neverending debate about the Pearl Harbor attack concerns just how much the US knew about an impending attack and we might have done about it. A related discussion is about how, on that fateful day, we were caught so flat-footed. There had to be a scapegoat. But, I was not aware of who they were. Sure, I have seen the various movies. Having watched a few of these movies, it seemed to me that there was plenty of blame to spread around both in the State and War Departments.
The USS Arizona sinking
     Thanks again to the WSJ, my primary news source these days, there was a December 2nd article, The Admiral Who Took the Fall for Pearl Harbor. Admiral Husband Kimmel was the Commander of the Pacific Fleet at the time. Per the article, earlier in 1941, President Roosevelt himself had referred to Kimmel as “one of the greatest naval strategists of our time.” Within ten days, this four star admiral was relieved of command and reduced in rank by two stars to Rear Admiral. He retired from the Navy in 1942 and spent the rest of his life trying to clear his name and reputation and have his rank restored. Upon his death in 1968, his family took up the cause to this day with no real change.
     Kimmel’s army counterpart was a three star general, Walter Short. He was in charge of the Hawaiian command and thus shared in the responsibility with Kimmel of defending the islands. Roosevelt assigned a special committee, the Roberts Commission to investigate what happened at Pearl Harbor. The conclusion was dereliction of duty for both Kimmel and Short. Like Kimmel, Short was relieved of command and reduced in rank by one star. He also retired in 1942 and passed away in 1949.
     Both men wanted a court martial to better be able to defend themselves and their actions before the attack. Both were refused. In 2000, a nonbinding Senate resolution was narrowly passed exhonorating both men.
     Kimmel was portrayed by Martin Balsam in Tora! Tora! Tora!. Jason Robards portrayed Walter Short. In the film, they both were in total shock after the attack.
     Pearl Harbor marked the US entry into World War II. If I ever visit Hawaii, I will go to the USS Arizona Memorial.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

December 2016: Christmas Letter

At the Great Wall with Professor Schilling
     I have been in the habit of writing a Christmas eLetter. It is a good habit. It is definitely a “feel good” and therefore I believed a noble habit. They have had, as my friend Ara Topouzian would love to point out irritatingly often, the same ring to them. He would say this because I would write them on Christmas morning, when it was still dark and no one else was yet up. The ambiance was “not a creature was stirring,” as I sat by the glow of my computer screen with a hot cup of coffee sharing my thoughts. Well, that is exactly what I am doing this morning. It is good to revive this part of the tradition once more… and I actually look forward to the “what again” comical soliliquy Ara will deliver later this week? That has also become part of this tradition.
     This is not your standard Christmas Letter that we still get a few of with Christmas Cards. I used to hate these letters and even penned a parody of them. Now, I actually cherish the few we get because in this Facebook age of continual updates there is no real need to them anymore.
     So what am I doing up so early writing a Christmas Letter?
     Allow me to extend this already overly long prelude with some more history of why I do this. I started this early Christmas morning ritual in the late 1990s or early 2000s, it was a time when my children were in their teens and not so eager to wake us so very early to see what Santa had brought. I, however, in the habit of getting up early to catch the train to Manhattan, could sleep in an hour or two and still be up at 6:30.
     What to do?
     I didn’t want to turn the TV on and wake others. There was no interest in fetching the newspaper as the news of the world would only dissapte the tranquility of the moment. I kind of liked the dark and the silence. So I made a
With the Faculty and Staff of the School of
Business and Nonprofit Management
cup of coffee and sat there and thought. As it was Christmas, my thoughts drifted to family and friends. I thought about those I would see later that day but thought more about those I would not see. I decided to send an early morning email to the folks I worked with in Latin America. It was, at that time, a short and simple email, wishing them Merry Christmas, appreciating the interactions, accomplishments, and comraderie of the past year and wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year.
     It was a quite natural thing for me to do. It seemed like a very Armenian thing to do. It was definitely a very Latin thing to do. For many people I worked with over the years, work was work and friends were friends. It is not like that for Armenians nor is like that for Latins. In both cultures, business had the best and most meaningful results when there was a personal connection. It is that warm blooded bond, dak ayrun in Armenian and sangre caliente in Spanish. This cannot be faked, it has to be genuine and natural… I think in businesspeak some folks use the term authentic.
     I realized this when my colleagues in Latin America used to say, “you are different than the other Americans.” Larger? Less effective? Goofier? Probably. But, what they meant was that I went the extra mile to get to know them and
With Oswaldo Arias
make a connection beyond the business relationship which actually ended up building a firmer foundation for the business relationship. It was as they say: authentic.
     In 2004, I began writing a monthly eLetter. The first letter explains how and why I got into this. I continued sending out my Christmas morning emails and given the amount of writing I was doing, these early morning greetings became eLetters of their own. In 2009, a bit late mind you, I put 2 and 2 together and realized that my eLetters were really a kind of low tech blogging, so I started a blog and put all my old letters in the blog. All Christmas morning missives thus became blog posts as I will no doubt do with this one.
     There was an old Armenian tradition. I am not sure if it started in the US, but I suspect my grandparents generation brought it with them from the “old country.” Christmas morning a father would take his boys and go visit the homes of his dearest friends, wish them Merry Christmas, have a drink, and perhaps something to eat. Clearly, for this to work, most men had to stay home. I always liked this notion of taking a stroll through the village to visit friends on Christmas morning, give them a big hug, and wish them well. My Christmas morning emails were a tech-enabled way of doing exactly that. It is what I am doing now.
     When I left Colgate-Palmolive and moved to Newell Rubbermaid, I continued the same tradition of sending a Christmas morning email to my team. It was OK but I wanted to, and I do believe did, tell my Latin colleagues that they were different from my American colleagues.
      Yesterday, I FaceTimed Andres in Uruguay and Angel in Mexico City. I texted a Abraham in Panama. This morning I am thinking of all the good people I have met and worked with not only in the US but throughout Latin America and the rest of the world. So here is a toast to all of you reading this!
     I am no longer in the corporate world. I am doing something very different and something I love even more. I am a faculty member in the School of Business and Nonprofit Management at North Park University here in Chicago. It is the best job I have ever had, which is saying something after my time in Latin America. It is also and encore career. So, I am feeling double blessed.
     For my work life to be meaningful and truly fulfilling, I believe there has to be a bond with the people I work with. A unversity is a wonderful place for this attitude and approach. The students are both our customers and our products. Students learn best when there is a connection and bond (watch how you react here Ara) with the students. The same is said for one’s faculty colleagues and the administration. I am thankful that North Park is rich and well-endowed university in this regard. It is a congenial and caring place. I am delighted to be there.
     At Colgate, I was a road warrior as I travelled 50% of the time. Since 2006, my business travel has been a mere fraction of that. This year was a special year for travel too. In March, I had the opportunity to visit Costa Rica. We took a group of Grad Students, Faculty, and alumni there to visit businesses and nonprofits. As Costa Rica was part of my old stomping grounds (we built two warehouses there in my tenure), I assisted in arranging the places we would visit. Colgate colleagues and good friends, Jim Gerchow, Oswaldo Arias, and Maria Royo helped planning some wonderful visits. It was great to reconnect with them. While, we missed seeing Maria, Jim and Oswaldo were above and beyond hosts. It was great seeing them.
With Jim Gerchow

     In May and June, Professor Schilling and I were visiting professors in China. We had the pleasure and honor of being at the Anhui University of Finance and Economics. I taught Quantiative Methods to graduate students and Marketing Channels and Supply Chain to undergraduates. It was an amazing experience. The students were taking their first full course in English. Read more about my impressions here.
     On the personal side, allow my share my delight and joy in having three grandchildren. Aris is the oldest at two and a half years. His brithday is one day after mine which is very cool. Vaughn will be two in early January. These two fellows are up and around, curious and energetic, and if I may gloat, pretty bright. They keep me active and running when we do get to see them.
The Grandsons 
Aris’s sister and Vaughn’s cousin, Lara is our first grandaughter. She is just six months old, cooing, and charming us with her smile. Her birthday is one day after her brother’s and, thus, two days after mine.
     In closing, I would like to wish everyone the blessings of the season. May we all be healthy and happy in 2017. With all that has happened around the world from terrorism in so many countries, the tragedy of Aleppo, the murder rate here in Chicago, and evertyhing else, this Bible passage seems more important than ever.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. ~ Luke 2:14
     Peace on earth, good will toward men indeed.