Author of "This Is Rage" and "Endless Encores"


Embracing Puerto Rico

By on Mar 31, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

It wasn’t exactly a slow news week. Covid-19, a.k.a the novel coronavirus, was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. The President of the United States declared a national emergency. As he described his proclamation, those were “two very big words.” The stock market crashed. The NCAA canceled March Madness. The NBA and NHL suspended their seasons. MLB postponed Opening Day of the 2020 season. Disney closed all its theme parks. Travel between the United States and most of Europe was announced to be suspended. Schools began closing and attempting to move course instruction online. Thousands of classroom teachers who had never heard of Zoom quickly discovered modern videoconferencing. Other than 9-11, I can’t remember a week like that. Meanwhile, I had arrived the previous weekend with a team of volunteers in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We had committed to a service trip there more than six months ago partly to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, but also to begin a wide-ranging relationship between our university alma mater and our clearly underserved fellow American citizens about 1150 miles southeast of Florida. While we were getting media snippets of the chaos on the mainland, we found ourselves highly engaged in a set of more basic, everyday challenges faced by the people of Puerto Rico. We learned about the historic struggles of Puerto Rico, approximately 400 years under Spanish authority and just over 100 years under American governance. We learned about the deeply personal, unique, and diverse culture of Puerto Rico in music, dance, mural art, proper apparel, naming public buildings, storytelling, legends, heroes, and political argument. We learned that there seems to be an infinite number of delightful ways to combine rice and beans, in much the same way many on the mainland think of pizza or burgers. Puerto Rican cuisine, particularly Mofongo, is a source of creativity, pleasure, and national pride. Locally grown artisan coffee is exquisite. Although sugar cane is no longer harvested in Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth is the largest producer of rum in the world. We learned through our host partner, Instituto Nueva Escuela (INE), how Montessori education is making a seminal change in the efficacy of Puerto Rico’s public school system....

Read More

The Problem with Joker

By on Feb 17, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

I don’t write about movies often. On the occasions I do, it’s likely because something bothered me. Joker really bothered me. I can’t deny the performance of Joaquin Phoenix. He is a gifted actor. He gave a masterful depiction of a troubled, anguished, sick character. That only makes my criticism more severe. I’m also not going to argue against First Amendment expression. The creators have an inalienable right to make and distribute this work, for profit or otherwise. That simply makes them guilty of intellectual laziness at best, and self-serving irresponsibility at worst. I think both have occurred, and I am deeply troubled by this because of the film’s enormous audience reach. Its success makes the laziness and irresponsibility all the more pernicious. They could have done better. They deliberately elected not to do so. I’m going to tell you why I think this movie is psychologically problematic, but first, let me warn you, this will be one of the worst spoilers ever. Do not read a sentence further if you intend to see the movie and don’t want the ending ruined. Okay, if you’ve seen it or don’t care to see it but want to know why I’m upset, please read on. It is important to remember that the core source material for this literary work is a comic book. I read comic books a lot as a kid, and in fact I was about as big a fan of Batman as they come. That was in the escapist pages of a comic book. The character portrayal in this onscreen depiction seems to me evolved from the school of naturalism, extending the realm of realism to a more interpretive form of social commentary. The extreme portrayal seems less a form of entertainment than it is a comment on cruelty and its origin. The clown makeup does not separate the storytelling from the gritty suffering in the streets. The imagery throughout could appear as hyperrealism, as Stanley Kubrick approached similar territory in A Clockwork Orange, but that would have required artistic choices that aren’t evident in Joker. There can be obvious real-world consequences to confusing the worlds of fantasy and framing souped-up slice-of-life imagery as somehow predictive or inevitable....

Read More

Can Business Be Philosophical?

By on Jan 23, 2020 in Blog | 1 comment

Recently I shared with you my passion for philosophy. You probably know I also have a profound passion for business. And music, The Beatles, The Dodgers, wine, literature, children’s needs, social justice, and other stuff. Back to philosophy and business: can they intersect? This is where a lot of cynicism enters the picture. Mark Zuckerberg says he is all about free speech and building global communities. He would have us believe a business—at least his business—should not be editing political expressions, even for accuracy. He asserts this is up to individuals to assess, or for the government to regulate if it can figure out a reasonable and fair way to impose guidance. Should we believe Zuckerberg the visionary or Zuckerberg the voracious competitor? It doesn’t take a lot of analysis to know his goal is to keep selling ads, that any restrictions on free expression create a slippery slope for the addiction of his site contributors (i.e. all of us powering his pages with free content). It’s pretty clear he wants a level playing field around restrictions, meaning if the government regulates Facebook, he wants it to regulate all his competitors where he maintains a competitive advantage and is likely to win with ubiquitous rules. Are free speech and “leave me alone to make money” compatible ideals, or the best possible excuse for self-interest? Let’s try again. Google’s stated mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” They are all about creating a definitive archive for global knowledge, about ensuring the best customer experience, and once upon a time about not being evil. That’s some philosophy! Have you done a search on Google lately? Remember when organic search returns were clearly separated in columns from sponsored search returns? Yeah, that was before mobile made that largely impossible with much smaller screens. Today you practically have to be Sherlock Holmes to know what’s a paid ad on Google and what’s global knowledge. The keyword ads are everywhere. There’s a reason. They figured out how few bills the world’s information actually pays when displayed. They know which clicks are bankable in that trillion-dollar valuation. One more for the road? Apple wants us to believe it...

Read More

Unfit: A Memo

By on Dec 9, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

TO: DJT, POTUS FROM: Ken Goldstein, Author & Businessperson RE: The Trump Legacy SUMMARY ASSESSMENT: You were unfit to hold the title of the executive office you won in election. You were unfit to issue executive orders empty of study and laden with self-interest. You were unfit to appoint cabinet officials whose job it is to challenge your opinions. You were unfit to seek loyalty from the subordinates you bullied. You were unfit to be seen as a role model by children in homes and classrooms. You were unfit to talk of family values, ethical mandates, or moral imperatives. You were unfit to order military action or report on its efficacy. You were unfit to lay a wreath at Arlington. You were unfit to represent our nation in state visits or international forums. You were unfit to offer comment on science, health, or climate change. You were unfit to speak of business norms or effective negotiation. You were unfit to hold authority in the age of “Me Too” reform. You were unfit to broadly attack our free press as perpetrators of fake news. You were unfit to demand intellectual credibility when you lied consistently without regret. You were unfit to be taken seriously as anything other than a threat to world stability and security. You were unfit to embrace the gravitas of the immense power you commanded and the lack of humility you celebrated. CORRECTIVE ACTION: We will heal while you are mired for the rest of your years in shame. We will recommit to values that embrace compassion and empathy. We will again celebrate learning and understanding, particularly in matters of science and empirical knowledge. We will rejoin the community of nations in saving our planet. We will address income inequality. We will recommit to healthcare justice. We will acknowledge the safe haven of asylum and treat immigrants with dignity and kindness. We will welcome the stranger. We will not viciously insult distinguished participants in our democracy whose views reflect diversity of thought or background. We will not embrace humiliation as a strategy to undermine those with whom we may disagree. We will appreciate journalism and distinguish facts from dangerous manipulation. We will reject the cynicism of pattern...

Read More

The Study of Philosophy

By on Nov 4, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

With all of the ways one could spend four years in college, why would anyone study philosophy? It’s impractical. It’s largely self-serving. Given the vast syllabus of reading necessary to be even modestly well versed in both Eastern and Western thought, there is terribly little material one can cover in such a short amount of time. It makes no sense to absorb oneself in such an esoteric endeavor with such thin coverage and so little quantifiable value. It’s an expensive way to squander time, and even harder to explain to those helping pay for it. Yet I did it, albeit about three and a half decades ago. Truth be told, I still spend unreasonable amounts of time delving into such curious texts as Kierkegaard’s Either/Or and Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. Why? Why Then and Why Now are two different things. Let me try to begin with a justification, and then tell you how it has helped me to be better in business, better in service, better in life. Philosophy is mostly about reading literature, but not the fun stuff. It’s mostly non-fiction, and it’s mostly argued opinion, if not conjecture. There is some history and an occasional parable, but mostly it’s very dense expository in translation. Occasionally you get to drill into something quirky and theatrical like Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, but that’s a tangent, not core curriculum. I mostly focused on the Western canon, so that means works originally composed in Latin, Greek, German, French, and Russian. The translations are often as head-scratching as the source texts. From the middle ages to the Renaissance in Western philosophy, there is little differentiation between theology and philosophy, so if you don’t want to read about God, this is probably not going to be your thing. You can reject faith later as is often the tradition in modern existentialism, but you have to read a lot about it to reject it comprehensively. Faith is a subject of mainstream devotion and much conflict in our culture. It’s worth learning about it, regardless of what you choose to believe. The tension in philosophy between quantifying the physical world and attempting to explain metaphysics is persistent and unresolved. Logical argument as a discipline embraces mathematics until...

Read More

From Nothing: Reflections from the Road

By on Oct 7, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

One of the rare joys of being a writer is getting to talk about your work. One of the even rarer joys is getting to talk about the same work more than once because it is being published in a new format. From Nothing, my third novel published by The Story Plant, allows me that joy with the paperback release on October 7, 2019. It’s two generous bites of the apple, separated by over a year of contemplation, during which I got to hear from readers on how this story impacted their lives. It’s a privilege to reflect on how I intended the troubled journey of Victor Selo to stir emotion, and how that was played back to me by my cherished readers. Perhaps an appropriate context for this is leaning on some of the lyrics I borrowed for inspiration and attempting to tie them back to many of the comments shared with me at readings, in reviews, and in letters sent my way. Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream … That’s The Beatles, and they are everywhere in this tale. Probably the first thing people discover about Victor is that he is anything but relaxed. Life events just don’t afford him that luxury. Yet readers clearly made the connection between the invisible forks in the road chosen by Victor and the intense downstream consequences or results of their own unpredictable resolutions to unseeable moments of fate. I found that I am not alone in boiling down my life to five or six key choices that I wasn’t necessarily aware were determinations of my ultimate twists and turns until decades after those quiet tests were unmasked. I have found great moments of connection in hearing readers see the fickle outcomes of their paths in the eyes of a character who is a stranger to their circumstances while a mirror for the task of connecting their own dots. We are stardust, we are golden … That’s Joni Mitchell, celebrated forever by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It has been hard to escape this refrain with all the milestone anniversary hoopla around Woodstock, but readers seemed to understand that nostalgia wasn’t a theme I wanted to explore. My devotion...

Read More