The Cannes Film Festival continues with its parade of lesser known gems. Like ‘Requiem for a Dream” which premiered there in 2000. The title screams out ‘Death of Dreams’ and the film itself doesn’t disappoint. It explores a range of dreams from starting a being successful, being famous, and being loved. Unfortunately, its perspective is through the artifice that preys on vulnerable dreams and turns them into empty bubbles..drugs.
Sara Goldfarb’s speech in the later part of the movie, played superbly by Ellen Burstyn, captures much of the dream downtrodden desperation depicted through the film…
- Sara Goldfarb: I’m somebody now, Harry. Everybody likes me. Soon, millions of people will see me and they’ll all like me. I’ll tell them about you, and your father, how good he was to us. Remember? It’s a reason to get up in the morning. It’s a reason to lose weight, to fit in the red dress. It’s a reason to smile. It makes tomorrow all right. What have I got Harry, hmm? Why should I even make the bed, or wash the dishes? I do them, but why should I? I’m alone. Your father’s gone, you’re gone. I got no one to care for. What have I got, Harry? I’m lonely. I’m old.
- Harry Goldfarb: You got friends, Ma.
- Sara Goldfarb: Ah, it’s not the same. They don’t need me. I like the way I feel. I like thinking about the red dress and the television and you and your father. Now when I get the sun, I smile.
Dreams are powerfully uplifting forces. Dream bubbles are hazardously precarious traps.
Cannes has endless interviews with the stars, but none as deliciously #FAIL as this one. Talk about breaking all the rules. But, what’s there not to like. The interviewee, a charming Mila Cunis (who just rose in my estimation by leaps based on her embrace of this total failure) called it “the best interview of the day”. The publicist whose exposure of the movie and the actress went viral. The rookie interviewer who, never mind bolting out of obscurity, had the best minutes of his life.
Today’s start of the Cannes Film Festival is a great excuse to break out the popcorn and failure embracing film. My first nominee is ‘The Pale Blue Dot’. A great montage of film’s finest moments to portray Carl Sagan’s inspired monologue on humanity’s humble place in the universe (thanks Ricky)…
- “I thought it would be a good idea, just after Saturn, to have them take one last glance homeward. From Saturn, the Earth would appear too small for Voyager to make out any detail. Our planet would be just a point of light, a lonely pixel hardly distinguishable from the other points of light Voyager would see: nearby planets, far off suns. But precisely because of the obscurity of our world thus revealed, such a picture might be worth having… We are too small. On the scale of worlds, humans are inconsequential: a thin film of life on an obscure and solitary lump of rock and metal… Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity—in all this vastness—there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand…It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the only home we’ve ever known. The pale blue dot.”
A vision of the future…picture of perfection…clear direction where we are going.
When you ask a diverse group consisting of a football club director, oil company executive and Microsoft board member their views on Leadership, those words about ‘direction’ and ‘vision’ echo again and again. At least they did at Clarity’s “Leadership” event at OXO Tower this week where they were the keynote attractions. But why just the Leadership of envisioning the ‘goal’ (sometimes a ‘big, hairy, audacious goal’). Why not the Management discipline of envisioning the disaster, the complete and utter failure?
Gary Klein proposes the notion of a ‘premortem’. Sort of a pre-emptive 5 Whys…
- “Imagine that we are year into the future. We implemented the plan as it now exists. The outcome was a disaster. Please take 5 to 10 minutes to write a brief history of that disaster.”
The speaker who I came to hear in the first place, Philiippa Snare (one of the top marketing execs in the UK) placed a big emphasis on positivity in attitude an emotion from everyone on her team. Her dismissal of ‘devils advocates’ sparked a discussion in the Q&A where she clarified her position. Naysayers who challenge the goal itself she has little patience for. Gadflies who challenge the path to the get to goal, but are totally committed to the goal, are embraced. The focus of the latters’ challenges are in the end (or for the ‘ends’) completely positive.
It echoes another term of Klein’s which embraces this failure of conformity – the ‘adversarial collaborator’. A sort of a personal whistle-blower who injects a diversity in thinking.
How can man expect to beat a powerful computer who makes flawless calculations? Embrace its failure.
That is the lesson from the historic match (16 years ago today) between neuron and number cruncher – Deep Blue v. Kasparov – as Devin Coldewey recounts in his NBC piece ‘Glitch may have helped supercomputer beat chess champ in historic match’…
- “Deep Blue won the deciding final match after three consecutive draws. But in Nate Silver’s new book ‘The Signal and the Noise,’ one of Deep Blue’s operators suggests that a glitch in the computer’s software might have been at the heart of at least one of the games. At the end of the first game, Kasparov had forced Deep Blue into an unsalvageable position after 43 moves, and Deep Blue’s response was to move its rook in a way that didn’t make any sense to its human opponent. This may have rattled Kasparov, who could not understand the move and may have decided the computer was playing at a higher level than him. As it turns out, the move really didn’t make any sense. According to an anecdote from the book, initially recounted by the Washington Post, a bug in the program, which the engineers thought had been fixed, made it so that when Deep Blue was cornered, it picked a move completely at random. Murray Campbell, who worked on Deep Blue and other supercomputers for years, told Silver: ‘A bug occurred in the game and it may have made Kasparov misunderstand the capabilities of Deep Blue. He didn’t come up with the theory that the move it played was a bug.’ Silver’s book is about how people and machines make predictions, and why some work and others don’t. In Kasparov’s case, his internal model of Deep Blue could have been thrown off by the bug, making him overestimate the computer’s cleverness.”
Perhaps my first introduction to the world of strategy was playing in my junior high school chess club. I really soaked up the game and studied it. In my reading, I was fascinated by the ‘sacrifice’ strategies where you surrender pieces in the short term for superior position in the long term. More novice players seem to approach chess as a race to capture as many pieces as possible and are easily drawn into such tactics where embracing the downfall of a noble piece leads to strategic advantage.
Our modern day conflicts don’t have big landmark ‘Victory’ days celebrating the end of conflict. Just because the combatant government and military has surrendered, does not mean the campaign is over. As George Soros explains…
- “The world cannot be ruled by military force. Military power is only one of many ingredients that a country needs to exercise influence over others. Imperial powers did not succeed by the force of arms alone. Even the Ottoman Empire, which was built by conquest, had an elaborate system for maintaining peace and justice and the empire disintegrated when the system broke down.”
This observation echoes one of my earliest pieces back at the outset of the Iraq War contrasting the imbalance of Leadership and Management in that undertaking and looking at the executive personas exhibited by Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell.
Leaders conquer new influence; Managers keep the peace. Both are needed for a thriving empire.
Victory in Europe Day today is a time for remembrance of one of the most tragic horrors of our times. It’s hard to imagine such a failure of humanity that was the Nazi experience in Germany could inspire any positivity. But Guardian Religious Affairs correspondent Riazat Butt points out that even the darkest tragedies can have their own silver linings in a BBC2 ‘Pause for Thought’…
- “I was in my room last week, reading about Nazi Germany’s desire to destroy the Soviet Union, when all of a sudden I started bawling my eyes out. As I cried I could only think: ‘I want to get married. I want to have a baby.’ If it sounds abrupt and bizarre, then trust me it felt like that too…I had no idea what was going on, so I asked my friend Sadia for help. She said there was nothing to understand. I was just ready. ‘This is great,’ she told me. ‘Everything starts with intention. You have to know you want something before you can take active steps towards it.’ It made her smile, though, that Hitler, the father of collective societal annihilation, had brought about my recognition and desire for continuity and companionship. She talked about Rumi, the 13th century Sufi mystic, who wrote that God created suffering and heartache so that joy might be known as their opposite. ‘God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches you by means of opposites, so you’ll have two wings to fly – not teaches you by means of opposites, so you’ll have two wings to fly – not one.’ Or as Sadia put it, you can’t know something until you’ve experienced its opposite. ‘Think about it,’ she said, ‘how do you know you’re at a good place in your life unless you’ve been through a bad place? How do you know you want happiness unless you’ve been truly miserable?’”