Pan of “Pink”: or, my brother the asymptote

What I’d rather read before Daniel Pink

Daniel H. Pink, “Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,”, 2009, Penguin, New York and London, took me about four months to open and amused me for about an hour. Two hours if you add this exercise. The book was a gift from my brother, for my birthday. Maybe it was his not so subtle way of telling me he thinks I am an under-achiever. Maybe he is projecting his own dissatisfaction as a Silicon Valley salaryman. (He seemed bent out of shape to hear and repeat the report of a high school classmate of his whom he was told pulled down $16 million on Wall Street one year; I in contrast thought about how to hit up said stud for a philanthropic project I was spear-heading; okay, I’m a little jealous too, and maybe constantly rationalizing).

Here are my notes on “Drive.” My list of somewhat promising (but ultimately disappointing, by a tally of 3 to 11 against) biographical citations in the index.

1. Peter Drucker, p. 197, something about “knowledge workers” and “self-management”; coincidentally, I met a guy recently who claimed albeit reluctantly to be Drucker’s son and had a keen interest in San Ildefonso pottery, circa 1910.

2. Julius Erving, p. 125. A quote in relation to Army studies on “grit” and persistence and discipline as predictors of success;

3. David Halberstam, especially “The Amateurs…” regarding 1984 Olympic rowers, training at Princeton; reminds me that my brother and I both read “The Shell Game” and that I was pleasantly surprised to learn that George Jenkins, brother of rock star Steve Jenkins, like myself and my brother all Gunn grads, has been coaching collegiate crew for many years, notably at USC, UC Davis, Kansas and Texas;

4. Brian Eno, p. 158, regarding “Oblique Strategies” and the set of 100 cards for such, that one can order from him, devised by Eno and Peter Schmidt, in 1975.  “Oblique strategies” is practically my middle name.

5. Robert B. Reich, p. 121 — actually three references, which I broke up into seperate entries rather than reading serially;

6. Fritz Scholder, p. 119, “walking the tightrope of accident and discipline.”

Scholder, “Zia” from El Paso show, circa 1976

7. Reich, p. 139, on “the pronoun test”: do people refer to their work and organization with “we” or “they”?

8. Mark Twain, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, pp. 36-37, refers to “Aunt Polly’s 810 square feet of fence” to whitewash: I was surprised by the quantitative detail. They, people like Pink I mean, refer to a Sawyer Effect of trying to turn work into play and vice versa.

9. Malcolm Gladwell, “Outliers…”; p. 190. Have not read but feel I have, by osmosis.

10. Reich, pp. 166-167, pronoun test again. (I struck through in my original notes.

11. Mark Twain, p. 211, more on Sawyer Effect.

12. Paul Cezanne, pp. 126-127: did his best paintings late in life; cf. a David Galenson, economist, University of Chicago (my Dad’s alma mater, BTW, and that of my Pop-Pop and namesake) studies the careers of artists; I recall another cite I am meaning to track down of a Princeton prof mentioned or quoted in New York Times — finally something I may be able to use, in comparing actual social scientists’ work, albeit from the Ivory Tower, to my own observations about the careers and satisfaction of artists. This section made me think of Steve Lacy, for his continual adaptation and growth over a long music career.

13. it takes a certain amount of discipline to learn to spell Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, severally, especially re “Flow” pp., 186-187; I wrote “stretched to limits” as in an important part of the process.

I also, diverting from my plan, noted Peter Senge, p. 194 quote “approached life as an artist would approach a work of art” and the phrase “take a Sagmeister” refering to the practice of taking five sabbaticals mid-career instead of retiring at an early age. I have taken about twenty Sagmeisters in a row at this point, thank you.

Pink’s main conceit is something about “Type I” personalities (for “intrinsic motivation”, versus “Type X” for “external” — it all sounds too much like Binet — I wish he had looked into Alecia Moore, Dr. Dre and Linda Perry, really).

Speaking of math (Pink, me) he reminds us that an asymptote is something we don’t quite reach, like a limit, but in his case he means that some people continually strive for improvement as opposed to resting on laurels or plateuing or reaching their goals. In the case of my brother, it also makes me think about how he does not like to hug anybody.

Now I also wonder if he paid $26.95 for this book, or got it cheaper. If he had waited until today (or until reaching the asymptote, even better), he could get it at leading online bookseller in paper (since April) for less than ten bucks. I note that 200 people have reviewed it there; and that RSA has a video derivative seen by 5 million people and commented on 3,500 times. Actually, not sure I had heard of RSA until just now. But willing to plug it probationarily.

It would probably take me more than 20 hours to actually read this more closely, but I would rather put the energy into the other 100 or so titles I’ve procured lately including (and these are the ones piled above) Al Young, “Kind of Blue”;  William Davidow, “Overconnected”; Tim O’Brien, “Things They Carried”; Louise Erdrich, “Books and Islands”, a work of non-fiction; a biography of Martin Luther King I found in window of Red Hill Books in SF by M. Frady; Ray Bradbury collection of stories lent me by my sister’s boyfriend called (the book, not the friend) “Cat’s Pajamas”; Rebecca Solnit “Infinite City”; Sun Ra “Pathways..” edited by John Corbett; Elif Batuman, “Possessed…” (actually, I will have to return and ETA the full title especially since when I found this book and author, thanks to a review in the Stanford Daily, drifting like a tumbleweed across campus, the title was mis-spelled, or miss-edited — it was spell-checked wrongly); Patty Smith, “Just Friends” — which reminds me that I grabbed a pretty mediocre or perhaps laughably bad Taj Mahal cd from the library, on Grammavision from 1986 solely on the basis of the Mapplethorpe cover art — too much trendy at the time synth; William T. Vollman, “Ice Shirt”, for my ongoing dialogue with the local Nordic couple; Wes Stace, “By George” and “Charles Jessman Considered as A Murderer”; and lastly, here at least, (and on my way to stall my coughing by heading to the bubbler here at Palo Alto Library, and it’s two-hours of free computing time, I snagged David Byrne “Bicycle Diaries”) “No Exit” by Sartre, but I am afraid it is not the Paul Bowles translation I saw reference to.

Not necessarily as a Nick Hornby reference but I buy maybe 50 books a year and read a couple hours worth from each rather than doing fewer books cover-to-cover. I go through phases at the library where I grab something that is on display or a new arrival, check it out, maybe flip through it or sit with it for an hour, keep it until it is overdue, then reluctantly feed it back to the machine — I am happy with the fines.

The W.H. Auden quote was worth spending another half-minute on.  “how beautiful it is/ that eye-on-the-object look” from “Sext”, 1955/

I am worse with my music in-box. Three songs, first 90 seconds each, then on to the next.

edit to add, three years later: have not cracked the book, by Daniel Pink, but I got admitted to a private function at, at all places, Palantir, who I call “Palo Alto’s hipster spooks”, and advancing that, found this photo of Pink, who gave a lecture to them:

pink at palantir

pink at palantir

I could probably update this with ideas about the various books I have presumably, made progress with. In terms of my technique or bad habit of making everything a “shaggy dog” story, Webster’s tells me this practice, or term, started in about 1946 although another source said to check Mark Twain, not TS, but “Roughing It” for earlier examples of the genre.  I know I read RI as undergrad and not sure if I still have the actual text. But a writer who wants to “drive” to improve his or herself, or her craft, might want to read and re-read Twain. My prof, James Melville Cox, suggested underlining the parts that make you laugh.


About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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