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When Not At Work

1.When in the mood for self improvement, pick up a copy of Alan de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life (1998). If a book can be as charming as a person; this is it. To quote The Mail on Sunday: “…de Botton dissects what [Marcel Proust] had to say about friendship, reading, looking carefully, paying attention, taking your time, being alive and adds his own delicious commentary. The result is an intoxicating as it is wise….”

2. Arthur Schopenhauer’s The Art of Always Being Right: Thirty Eight Ways to Win When You Are Defeated was written over a century ago. The prolific German philosopher presents ploys to trump opponents in argument regardless of the facts. Sounds like a 19th century primer on spin. Still, I enjoy this little book because it’s so clever. One trick calls to win by the use of jargon or gobbledygook: ‘If [your opponent] is secretly conscious of his own weakness and accustomed to hear much that he does not understand and to make as though he did, you can easily impose upon him by some serious fooling that sounds very deep or learned.”

3.  Merlin Holland’s The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde is the definitive book about the great wit and self-proclaimed Lord of Language. Oscar Wilde’s grandson has written his study with the precision of a journalist and thoroughness of a historian who has finally completed the file. Holland’s account contains the transcript from all three trials. The story is so compelling after all these years that you’ll find yourself wanting to stop Wilde from speaking one more word in his brilliant, but self destructive, replies.

4. Beg, borrow or download In a Sentimental Mood, the 1962 jazz standard with Duke Ellington (piano) and John Coltrane (alto saxophone). It’s everything great about life in a song.

5. W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn (translated by Michael Hulse) about an imaginary walking tour through Suffolk County is a work of imagination and enchantment. It’s the book to read when you wish to escape the banalities of errands, emails and everyday things. Perhaps my favourite book of all times.

6. The Amalfi Coast in Italy [photo above, the Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel & Spa].

7. Film Noir: When Dialogue was as Dangerous as Guns

Film Noir crime dramas of the 40s and 50s showcase swank night clubs full of  beautiful, but dangerous people. Look and listen as the fast-talking, hard-boiled characters give each other the business with words.

Notice the edgy wordplay the male and female characters evoke when they’re  falling hard for each other.  The bedroom scenes may have been censored, but the conversations were X-rated.

The 1944 classic, Double Indemnity is a gem.  Director Billy Wilder and author Raymond Chandler teamed up on the screenplay.

Walter Neff (Fred McMurray) stops by to sell Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) an insurance policy.  Given the racy repartee, they’re both going to need one.


You know it’s going to end badly; that’s the point with film noir.