As Good As It Gets. In the vastly amusing As Good As It Gets,
Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt deal with obsessive-compulsive disorder --
and several other social/psycho afflictions that pervade society in the
21st century. The movie answers how sweet things can happen in a disturbed
world of tormented people.
Obsession Is What It Takes. You probably know some obsessive
people, and most likely you are one. Oddly enough, these pests, when at
their best, are the origin of perfection or, as near as we come to it on
earth. Obsessive-compulsives, you see, can produce pervasive order out of
the disorder and chaos that surrounds us. In other words, they are the
wonder boys of quality. That's how things get better.
Getting a Garden Out of a Truck Driver. Listen to friend Roger
Holloway of River Edge Farms, who tells me what it takes to get something
worthwhile out of technically competent but visually impaired crafts
- "Not only are all tree men not gentlemen, all tree men are not
- Beware the pick-up truck bearing shovel and chain saw and keep a
close eye on overzealous undocumented workers. They can do more damage
in 5 minutes than you can undo in 5 years!
- I know a guy who is the absolute best at taking a landscape crew
and transforming a bramble into an oasis in a remarkably short time
but after 15 years or so of knowing him I have discovered that the
only way to get what I want is to tell him to do the exact opposite.
Never in that period of time have we ever had a dialog. He always acts
as if everything I say makes perfect sense when I cannot for the life
of me comprehend his train of thought.
- You may have a similar situation. The difference between a
wildlife habitat and a garden is very subjective and I have found that
no amount of verbal communication is adequate to achieve your goal.
You must stand watch, preferably with heavy weaponry and even then
there are going to be casualties. Think about an industry where the
low bid contractor gleefully proclaims 'I can keep my price low
because my truck is paid for!'"
As you can see, Roger is a piece of work, and I love him for it. You
must pour over every nuance if you want a tree to grow, a flower to turn
into a painting.
Coffee and Wine. On the Global Province this week, we includes
notes on Dr. Ernest Illy, who produces great expresso coffee with "114
quality-control checks." We also extract a few thoughts about Bernard
Ginestet, Bordeaux's wine merchant extraordinaire whom New York Times
columnist Frank Prial took to be "Bordeaux's enfant terrible." The fact is
that quality does not come from Deming's statistical quality control, but
from charming, broadly informed, terrible pains-in-the-neck like Illy and
Ginestet. If you are trying to recapture quality in your life, look for
some of these fellows.
Ahab. Andrew Delbanco, now writing a book entitled Melville's
World, in The New York Times Book Review (October 28, 2001, pp.
l3-14) portrays for us what it took to make Moby Dick happen.
Melville had dozens of writing projects on his mind, but Ahab slowly
pushed all others aside. Melville became as possessed by Captain Ahab as
Ahab was by Moby Dick, the white whale. Herman was driven to elbow
everything out of the way, especially his family, to get Ahab and the
whale down on paper.
The book, incidentally, was a commercial failure, and Melville never
recovered real popularity during his lifetime. At a certain point, the
Melvilles and Ginestets turn out ambrosia and nector too rich for the
palates of their countrymen. To their annoyance, such pests of quality
often are at odds with the populace whose acclaim they think they are
seeking. In truth, they really want to be immortals. They are tiresome
perfectionists often bound to die broke, bequeathing a fortune to all.