Garry Kasparov on the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev

August 31, 2022

Mikhail Gorbachev who died August 30, 2022 presided over the break up of the Soviet Union, with the subsequent  monumental political changes in Europe over the last thirty years. As such, his life deserves the attention it is receiving.

His obituaries at the west are glowing, a reformer who brought freedom to a continent. 

Boris Johnson, in one of his briefer and more thoughtful comments, noted that Gorbachev changed the world for the better and  paid the price in his own career.

In Russia, many still see him as an instigator of changes that have reduced Soviet power, and indirectly led to the thinking that resulted in today’s conflict in Ukraine 

One of his best-informed critics is Garry Kasparov, one of Russia’s most famous emigrés, advisor to American presidents, and ranked among the greatest chess players of all time. Kasparov has emerged as an influential critic of the political path followed by his country of birth,

His immediate reaction to Gorbachev’s life is to tweet a passage from his book, Winter is Coming, adding that he will comment soon, but the cited paragraph still sums up his thoughts, namely that Gorbachev was obliged to embark on perestroika (restructuring of reform) as a last gasp to save the USSR and socialism. Gorbachev became an accidental hero in the West for failing.

Reflections on creativity and leadership

Creativity is sometimes described as an interaction between the person, the product, process and environmental conditions.

Leadership, an equally complex topic is also better when an assessment accepts the interactions between the person, the products (achievements, good and bad), the process (political reform or peristroika, and the context, broadly the Cold War conditions of the time),

The circumstances leading to the rise of Gorbachev saw before him the rise of tyrannical leaders preserving near absolute powers, and subsequently to the emergence of Vladimir Putin. In my writings about leaders we deserve, I argue that leadership as a process is always shaped by prevailing circumstances.

Western style democracies can hardly claim a more successful process producing effective leaders. Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are recent examples, demonstrating the malign outcomes of the leaders we vote into office.


TudoRama newsletter 15-21 August 2022

August 22, 2022

I’ve added to my posts on LWD the newsletter sent to my contacts list. If you haven’t subscribed to the newsletter you need to contact me to receive future editions. The newsletter has been a team effort from myself, and Catherine Hull. I take responsibility for any errors of taste that may have slipped through into our final version.

Welcome back to Everyday Creativity, the brainchild of Tudor Rickards.

Each week, we (i.e. TR & CH) round up everything that Tudor has been musing, writing and podcasting about, and take suggestions from readers and listeners for new discussion topics. 

Our podcasts and posts

Give our WordPress blog posts a read on both Leaders We Deserve and Everyday Creativity.

The most popular post this week discusses the state of the England Men’s Cricket Team. 

England cricket re-enters the Stone Age

You can read that here.

The most popular podcast this week talked over the recent heat waves.
A Drought visits Manchester, the Venice of the North

Listen here.

Elsewhere, in this week’s news headlines:

15.08.22
Keir Starmer launches Labour’s ‘fully-costed’ plan for fuel poverty. Boris Johnson, on second summer holiday, is unavailable for comment.
Freya, the celebrity Walrus in Norway is put down for causing risk to human life; she had a habit of clambering onto boats to sunbathe.

16.08.22
The Taliban celebrates the first anniversary of its political victory in Afghanistan. News footage confirms that strict restrictions prevent women from returning to work. No schooling is available to girls. The country also faces a famine after withdrawal of foreign aid.

17.08.22
In England, inflation hits 10%. The Bank of England predicts the figure will take two years to return to its 2% target. The Chancellor is forced to defend his Prime Minister from criticisms over government inaction during his hiatus.
In interesting news from CNN, 95-year-old actress Gina Lollobrigida is running for a seat in the Italian Senate.

18.08.22
The main headlines focus on the national inflation rise, the ‘worst in Europe’.
Trump’s main Republican opponent Liz Cheney is defeated by a Trump supporter. The schism in American politics is deepening.

19.08.22
Shocking individual cases demonstrate a wider crisis in the national ambulance service.
Finnish PM Sanna Marin makes international headlines after she’s secretly filmed partying. She admits ‘rowdy’ partying, but denies ever taking drugs.

20.08.22
Sanna Marin takes a drug test to minimise publicity over her partying.
Another Rail Union takes its turn, with a day of travel delays and cancellations. The location of choice for media reports is a replacement picket line at Euston.

21.08.22
Polls suggest the problems that have beset the Government are being reflected in a downward trend in voting intentions.
Strike action is initiated by Port Workers (at Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container port) and Barristers (at the Inns of Court).

The headline of the week goes to Thursday’s Daily Star:
Work harder says wannabe PM with thirteen weeks holiday a year

I’ve also been reading (TR):

Cold Sacrifice by Leigh Russell
Another murder investigation by a successful writer in this genre. I found it okay for comfort reading. It comes with the usual features; workaholic detective with wife unhappy over his work/home balance, and a few murders (all women, but that’s all too common).

Also, a review of two weighty books for students of economics:

Ben Bernanke’s 21st Century Monetary Policy, and Edward Chancellor’s The Price of Time.

Bernanke is widely considered a successful leader of the Federal Reserve bank, a position he held during the financial crisis of 2006-2014. Chancellor is an historian and financier. The Economist concludes that Chancellor offers ‘a colourful challenge to conventional wisdom… but when the time comes to appoint a central banker, choose someone like Bernanke’.
You can read that here.

Poddlers’ Corner

Our poddlers (or regular listeners) on Twitter submitted their favourite book for discussion or pleasure reading. Favourites show loyalties to classics with a dash of the contemporary. There’s a mixture of fiction and non-fiction.

Please help us strengthen this section with your personal recommendations for next week’s newsletter!

Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing

NB: Where the Crawdads Sing has just been adapted into a blockbuster film which is out now in cinemas (if you’re not a big reader).

– SA

Tasha Alexander, A Poisoned Season
– AN

Jonathan Levitt, Contemplating Comedy
– JL

Antony Beever, The Second World War
– WT

Arthur Brand, Hitler’s Horses
– DM

Wallace Breen, Eagle in the Snow
– JR

Terry Pratchett, The Colour of Magic
– KB

Robert Harris, An Officer and a Spy
– AC

Robert Graves, I, Claudius
– AH


BBC Five and the boiled frog syndrome

August 22, 2022

Has the BBC has lost its way as a news broadcaster, and does it matter?

This morning I switched on my default radio station, Radio 5, for breaking news, and realised its gradual deterioration over a period of years. The shock is one like the mythical frog immersed in a pot of water which is gradually warmed up until the frog is boiled.

 The story, related first by the management guru Charles Handy, is a warning about the nature of gradual change. Handy saw it in the changes that creep up on an institution until it’s earlier plans long accepted had become obsolete. I just happened to be a very hot frog jumping out of the pot, suddenly aware of what was happening to me.

A little more thought, and I arrived at a disturbing question. In a changing world of near instantaneous  news reports available, does it matter? My evening source of the day’s news is also the BBC, for its regular news channel, and sometimes ITV. I break a habit of avoiding morning TV and give the BBC TV news channel a chance.

8.25am

A news item about dogs. Then travel news (good). Weather news (also good). A main cycle of news approaches. 

Then, Breakfast news. First item is  about suicide bereavement. Three parents are shown, whose progress has been followed for a year. A bleak and dignified treatment of child suicide, but more a feature than a news update. 

8.37am

Sport. The European competitions First item, Mixed emotions. The men winning a gold medal for the 100 metres relay, and the women ‘disaster, dropping the baton’. Then a quick list of other gold medals.

On to football, and a brief summary of yesterday’s football. 

Finally the post-fight agony of Antony Joshua, presented by the charismatic Steve Bunch.

8.42am

Joke time: Break-in at a Liverpool police-station toilet. The police have nothing to go on. Liked the joke.

8.44 am

Weather. Useful.

Then breaking news. 

But first, a fill-in interview about a celebrity walk with a celebrity. Highlight is when the celebrity wasn’t recognised by a security guard. 

I decide to give Radio 5 a second try, while keeping an eye on the news channel.

9.00am

This multi-tasking is difficult, but the hurried headlines cover the same four stories.

Barristers to go on strike.

Discount promised on electricity bills

The Felixstowe strike

An outbreak of Revenge Porn

9.05am 

A phone-in hour. The discussion topic ‘ Is Britain Breaking

 Is this country up the creek without a paddle?’ the presenter asks. I stop my news sampling and head to the kitchen for my morning muesli.

‘Maybe we are swimming in a sea of pessimism,’ the presenter shouts after me.

It’s only been a brief dip into breakfast television, although the cosy chatting presenters resemble glimpses I have seen in the past. The news is provided briefly among efforts to make morning’s transmission as bright as possible, softening the darkness of a human interest item.
Much the same can be said of Radio 5 Live. New reports have become a routine obligation, perhaps necessary but no longer one of equivalence with entertainment.I realise that for breaking news, it has become easier for me to learn it from messages to my iPhone of from issues trending on Twitter. 

Maybe BBC news services, to use an expression around since Chaucer’s time, are currently being left stewing in their own juices. 


England Cricket re-enters the stone-age

August 19, 2022

As homo-sapiens developed, our ancestors learned increasingly smart ways of surviving, which give them an edge over their predators. We became evidence of the theory of natural selection and survival  of the fittest. Sometimes, an individual would flourish by a sort of regression to an earlier pattern of behaviour with temporary success. I write with one example of stone-age behaviour on my television screen, showing the new approach from the England cricket team. 

The new captain, Ben Stokes, is at the crease, surviving, but in full twenty-twenty cricket mode. His team is facing almost certain defeat by their South African opponents. The plan is going seriously wrong.

The plan involves attacking ferociously regardless of conditions, including the skills and tactics of the opposition.

3.40pm

Stokes pursuing his plan lashes the ball to a waiting fielder. England are on the brink of a humiliating defeat.

What went wrong? I search my memory banks for other examples. I remember a well-known chess player who was accused of playing cave-man chess.

The romance of the caveman remains. For example, there is a whole school of chess today with followers learning about the approach

https://www.cavemanchess.com/kevins-credentials

The initiator, Kevin Bachler, explains the origin of the name

The nickname Caveman and the concept of caveman chess was thrust upon Kevin in 1981. At the time he was an Expert, working to become a National Master. Kevin had just finished playing fellow Expert Jack Young at a tournament at the College of Lake County – a college that held a number of chess tournaments in the 1970’s through 1990’s.

Jack and Kevin were doing a post-mortem analysis, and FIDE Master Albert Chow walked up and was watching. The game was fairly tactical in nature, and Jack and Kevin were both willing to explore ideas that were “off-the beaten path”.

After a few minutes of watching, FM Chow shook his head and said to Kevin “You play stone age chess. You play like a caveman!” Of course, Kevin’s friends immediately ran with this and the nickname “Caveman” was born.

However, my own recollection, from this side of the Atlantic, is of an English caveman, Michael Basman, a contemporary of mine, who went on to become an international master, and one of the most imaginative players of his time. I can do better than quote the Wikipedia summary of his unorthodox style.

He is a prolific writer, who has made many contributions to the field of chess openings, and is particularly known for frequently choosing bizarre or rarely played openings in his own games, including the St. George Defence (with which English Grandmaster Tony Miles once famously defeated the then World Champion Anatoly Karpov), the Grob (for Black and White) and also The Creepy Crawly

You get the basic idea. Kevin and Michael were opponents of playing following conventional rules. They did so by developing ingenious ways of defeating the conventional. 

Turning back to cricket, the analogy partially holds. In an earlier published podcast, I suggested cricket leadership often followed as sequence in which a more radical leader replaces a more traditional one, only got the sequence to repeat itself. Perhaps, I suggested, it is a pattern to be found in the appointment of Popes.

In chess, at least, the caveman tactics can be assessed for its effectiveness. In overview there was an early epoch in which even the strongest chess players aimed for all out attack, whether playing white or black, and regardless of the strength of the players.

But in time, the strongest players established the benefits of balancing attack and defence. A few remained to delight other chess players with their romantic approach, but the best results went the the players repaired to stick to the principles they were discovering.

In short, the current plan of the English cricket team is the relic of a bygone age. Romantic, enjoyable to watch, but ultimately in need of serious rethinking.

4.10pm

As I write, the last England wicket falls. Sky fills in the time with transmission of the 100, a new form of cricket which is regressing to an earlier romantic form, a hybrid of cricket and baseball.


Drought declared in Manchester, home of the perpetual rain

August 17, 2022

Drought declared in Manchester, home of the perpetual rain. Mancunians shake their heads in astonishment. 

Gardens are parched dry. Budgeons run out of bottled water. Tankers from Scotland are being hijacked and their precious loads sold on the black market to thirsty southerners.

As dusk falls I stare hopefully at darkening clouds. I go into the garden and look up. They appear to be rain clouds.

Then I feel a blessed sensation. The faintest of raindrops lands on my upturned face.

The Garden, showing signs of the Manchester Drought of 2022

Straight away, I text Oldbutfit in nearby Bramhall.

Raindrop detected in Woodford.

His reply, equally delirious.

Two raindrops here.

I stay waiting for the drought to break.

I wait until darkness falls. 

False alarm.

One drop doth not a rainstorm make …

But wait!!!

what happened next is related here:

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1945222/11152990


Leaders We Deserve is changing its role

August 5, 2022

After fifteen years and over a million contacts (‘hits’) Leaders We Deserve remains an important way for me to share my ideas about leadership and creativity. Increasingly I have seen the benefits of rousing myself from my blogging slumbers to ask the painful question whether it needs some kind of updating.

WordPress has changed. That’s for sure, and I am currently learning how to drive the new supercharged model, demonstrating all the signs of a driver who should still be displaying L-plates

Pause, to see if I remember how to produce the moves leading into a side-road where I parked my pictures.

My new driving certificate

Eureka!

I reverse out of the lay-by into the main text highway with little unintended consequences. I Concentrate on the road ahead. Where am I going? Is this a test-drive with no other purpose of learning about the controls?

No, I was telling you about how Leaders We Deserve now has company among my various modes of travel along the electronic highways and byways.

For example, there is the recently born infant Everyday Creativity, with its weekly newsletter you are already receiving as followers of LWD.

Then there is the new (to me) podcast TudoRama, a must-listen for the rapidly growing audience (current word) whose members listen to the messages, heirs to receivers of radio broadcasts.

As an interim measure you should be receiving the newsletter regularly as a follower of LWD.

Longer term the various vehicles will rumble into action, with posts on creative leadership still to be found through the efforts of this old warhorse Leaders We Deserve, and posts on Everyday Creativity as the infant learns to walk before it can run.

As for TudoRama, who knows? Except I am sure it will build up a network interacting with its poddlers, long after prescriptive text insists I change what I’ve written to toddlers.