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Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Real James Bond - 'Life Cycles' And The Career Of Ian Fleming

When Connery and Fleming were spotted together at a Paris airport in 1964 someone was heard to say :- "There's James Bond with some other chap I don't recognise." He was responded to with :- "No, that's only Sean Connery, an actor who plays Bond. He's with Ian Fleming, the man who wrote the novels and is the real James Bond!"

Of course that statement is only half true, as Fleming never killed anyone and spent most of WW2 behind a desk, but he was a high grade intelligence officer, who planned and oversaw many daring exploits behind enemy lines. He infused the fictional Bond with many of his personal characteristics, but did say that his creation was a combination of everyone he had known at that time and before it, in the shady worlds of espionage, casinos and black-ops commandos.

Fleming's life is hugely fascinating and was the subject of several films and a recent made-for-TV documentary series :- Fleming - The Man Who Would Be Bond. I am an unashamed life-long afficionado of all things Bond. Did I enjoy doing this research? Is the Pope Catholic? Does the sun rise in the east? We are going to explore events in four key 'Life Cycles' 'significant years' :- ie. his age 24 and 36 'Years of Revolution' and his age 31 and 43 'Years of Broken Pathway'. Most of these years cover key events in his life and career and were dramatised for the majority of the contents of the TV Doco. Sometimes I feel that others conspire to prove the exact formula for 'significant years' and display it to the world to save me the trouble, and as I have said more than once, I'm a bit on the lazy side.

Oh, and for good measure, we're going to analyse Fleming as never before. For this I have read copious biographic excerpts and articles and dissected the TV show. You see, on the other hand, I'm also a totally obsessional researcher and that's my passion. It's where the truth lies. Let's turn the clock back to when Fleming was aged 24 (May 28th. 1932 to May 28th. 1933). In this year Fleming was to make his mark in his lifelong (but quite interrupted) career as a journalist. After being thrown out of Eton and Sandhurst and failing his Foreign Office exams, he finally secured a job as a journalist with Reuters News Agency, after his mother petitioned the head of the organisation.

In March 1933, Fleming was given a unique opportunity for such a junior member of staff, to cover the trial of six engineers, who were arrested in Moscow for espionage. This became one of Stalin's famous 'show trials' and caused a furore back in England, as they were just engineers working for Metro-Vickers on projects for the Russian Government. With no prior experience he was thrown in at the deep end and got a reputation for fast and accurate daily reporting. This was necessary according to Fleming, because if you didn't you were fired. Competing journalists liked him personally and said :- "he has given us all a run for our money." More than this though, he spent his nights drinking and shooting high-stakes games of craps at the casino and this mix of Russian spies and smoke-filled casinos was the very genesis of Bond long before he wrote it.

He was offered a substantial promotion by Reuters as a result of this, but much to his great regret he succumbed to family pressure to take a job in merchant banking, which could have led to a partnership thanks to his grandfather Robert Fleming, who had founded his own successful bank. Mind you his mother, Eve, had the power to remove family financial backing, as she was a wealthy widow. He resolved this conflict by saying that he would make a lot of money in the financial world and then resume doing what he really loved ie. journalism.

In fact, I'm going to stop this analysis for a minute to illustrate a major philosophic position of 'Life Cycles'. You see, just because I study events in certain years, that are often high points of careers, doesn't imply that individuals don't have free will at all times and can choose to accept or reject these 'gift horses'. I believe 'Life Cycles' demonstrates a benign form of determinism, otherwise why would all these far-fetched correlations happen. This however, when mixed with free will makes me 'a compatibilist' in philosophic terms. See for yourself how Fleming had free will to follow his heart as a journalist, but didn't feel personally strong enough not to bend to his mother's authority. Such is life and he paid the price, with a most unsatisfactory 7 year forward journey to his next turning point, at his age 31 'Year of Broken Pathways'.

Now we are up to the period May 1939 to May 1940, which takes up almost the entire contents of the first half of the TV Doco. It proves just how a 'Year of Broken Pathways' unfolds. You can see for yourself that this time the links of Fleming's father (who was killed in action in WW1 and was a close friend of Churchill) were used by Fleming's mother in his favour. When Admiral John Godfrey (Head of Naval Intelligence and the real 'M') was lunching with the Governor of the Bank of England a remark was made :- "Good chap Fleming. Old Etonian. Stockbroker, but bored. Covered the Russian show trials for those British engineers for some newspaper." Fleming was then hired as Godfrey's personal assistant. It was how they did it in the English upper class, provided you were "one of us". That's how Fleming, who had no prior experience, became a Naval Commander in just a few months.

In reality Fleming was a dissolute playboy going nowhere in the financial world, who was eclipsed by his dead war hero father and successful brother. He dreamed of being of becoming the 'ultimate' man - a hero. His 7 year journey from Reuters to Naval Intelligence was complete by the end of his 31st. year, when he learned how to adjust to his new environment and also how to take outrageous risks, like attempting to negotiate with the retreating French Admiral, Darlan, supposedly 'on behalf of Churchill'. He also had an episode in a Portuguese casino, where he recklessly gambled Government money. In spite of this Godfrey liked him and could see his potential.

In his private life he also had an unfolding and irresistible attraction to his future wife, Ann O'Neill. In spite of her being married to a husband away at the front and having a relationship with newspaper baron Viscount Rothermere, she was fatally drawn to him. This becomes a relationship after the death of his then girlfriend Muriel during the blitz, but it would have happened anyway. Again, by the end of his 31st. year, his life is completely changed. He actually has a direction and his challenge is to make the best of it.

Now we are at his career and life-defining age 36 'Year of Revolution' (May 1944 to May 1945). This was not when he began to write, so in what other ways was it important? Well it showed a climax of his wartime career, during which he longed to get involved in operations work. The second half of the TV Doco. is almost entirely devoted to this period. Once again, they pick my very 'significant year' and illustrate exactly how I say it should go. The program shows Fleming's disappointment as he is replaced as Head of 30AU (his hand-picked team of espionage commandos) in June 1944. He wants to leave his mark before he resigns or the war ends. This is his 'Trafalgar Moment' of frustration before his breakthrough.

Then the TV show creates a purely fantasy scene with Fleming shooting Germans and getting involved with Russians as he attempts to recover German Naval Archives from Tambach Castle in southern Germany. This did not actually happen, but he did go behind enemy lines, with the Admiral who was guarding the records surrendering peacefully and then willingly going to London to help with their translation. Nonetheless, it was a high point in an otherwise frustrating period. More things of note happened to him as well.

Secondly he re-visited Jamaica in Nov. 1944 whilst attending a U Boat Conference and determined to build a home there. This was to lead on to buying his estate, Goldeneye, where he lived for 3 months each year and wrote the Bond novels. It was an integral part of his career life. He also bought a book on ornithology at the same time by the author James Bond. When searching for the dullest name he could think of for Casino Royale, this is what came to him.

In addition he left the Navy in May 1945 and took a position with Kemsley Newspapers as Foreign Manager of the Sunday Times, complete with an annual 3 months in Jamaica. All when he was still 36. He had finally resumed his correct profession, which he stayed with for almost all his remaining years. He had also wanted to start to write about some of his wartime experiences as the TV show highlights. However he didn't do this at the time. That would have made his age 36 'Year of Revolution' complete. So what happened?

The answer lies in his ever-complex and tortured relationship with Ann. Ann's husband had been killed in action in 1944 and she indicated she wanted marriage rather than continuing her double life. Again the TV doco shows how she fully expected Fleming to appear in his naval uniform and whisk her into his arms, like the final scene in An Officer And A Gentleman, but that isn't what happened. Fleming prevaricated just when every fibre of his body must have gone the other way. He and Ann (born June 13th. 1913) shared almost 12 full months of 'Confluence' and this was in their only 'Real Time' window of opportunity (ie. when Ann was 31 and Fleming was 36). I would have said as much if I could have analysed them 'back in the day'.

Instead he says things like :- "I'd be no good at marriage." "I couldn't support you I'm not even a spy now." etc. She decides to marry her other long term partner Lord Rothermere (with whom she is not 'Confluent' or as deeply attracted). What happened next is unbelievably messy. She continues her affair with Fleming, who follows her around the globe, while she in turn follows him to Jamaica, where she claims to be going to see Noel Coward. She gets pregnant to Fleming and their daughter, Mary, is stillborn in 1948. She then gets divorced from Rothermere in 1950, during her age 36 'Year of Revolution' and receives a 100,000 pound settlement, which provides for what comes next. You see she then gets pregnant to Fleming a second time and that's when he decides to do the right thing and marry her.

Let's stop the analysis again. Can you see what has just taken place? Fleming, who didn't follow his heart at 24 into journalism (and spent 7 unsatisfactory years in the world of finance); has again not followed his heart to marry Ann and has just spent another 7 unsatisfactory years in chasing a clandestine romance - complete with 2 pregnancies and a divorce. And what else? HE HASN'T EVEN BEGUN TO WRITE BOND. Of course, he had free will did what he liked, but just as all our actions have consequences, I would posit that actions taken in key 'Years of Revolution' can have 7 year consequences.

Let's take his final age 43 'Year of Broken Pathways' (May 1951 to May 1952). It is well recorded that on 17th Feb. 1952 Fleming began writing Casino Royale at Goldeneye and finished it in 2 months. He was married on 24th March. He claims it was done to take his mind off the prospect of marriage. However I'm not buying this typical dystopian comment by Fleming. Quite a few different sources say that it was Ann who had been pestering him for some time to begin writing. It took this moment in Jamaica to bring it to fruition. Behind every man..... The question must be put :- "Would he have started writing back then if he had married Ann in 1945?" The same question can be put at exactly the same time for the period 12 years previously :- "Would he have had a successful career and life as a journalist and got involved with intelligence work in WW2 anyway, if he had not gone into banking?"

Fleming's life is an excellent illustration of the exquisite timing of the 'Life Cycles' 12 year principle and equally of the 7 year journey of forward momentum following actions taken in the 'Year of Revolution'. He further displays the principle of free will combined with a benign form of determinism that is the philosophical position of the theory. I hope this is both an interesting analysis and a cautionary tale at the same time. You have a mission should you choose to accept it. Not always an easy one, but then without the sense of the unknown there would be no excitement, no challenge. No mountains to climb, no enemies to conquer...

Wait a minute. Suddenly I'm transported back to 1963. I'm 13 again and I've just traveled to the city to see this brand new movie called Dr. No. The credits roll up and that fabulous theme music begins. I'm totally entranced and on the edge of my seat, just as I was last year when I saw Skyfall.... Oh well, back to the present. Till next month :- "May the cycles always bring you good fortune."

BTW this is a linked post so visit my SECOND BLOG in a little while. Finally, as they do in the Bond movies..... 'Life Cycles' will return in a month with an expose article on meditation :- "Why Living In The Present Is NOT The Answer".

Monday, October 27, 2014

From DOS To Windows - 'Life Cycles' And The Career Of Bill Gates

This post came about because I said to myself earlier in the month :- "Hey, you're calling this series of 12 posts - 'Life Cycles' And Careers - and so far, you haven't really featured someone from the world of business." So I thought :- "Let's do a couple of household names from the business world." Now, I know it's not perfect when I say :- "I had no idea what I might find." Scientists may prefer if names are selected randomly from a computer generated list etc., but since I do this research on my own, this is as close as I can get to a 'blind analysis'. Bill Gates is very much a household name and to the best of my knowledge he hasn't been in the news/current affairs lately (or I haven't heard about it if he has).

William Henry (Bill) Gates III was born October 28th, 1955. I'm going to set up a couple of standard hypotheses.

1. Was there any evidence of a direction change/challenge during his age 19 'Year of Broken Pathways'? (ie. Oct. 1974/Oct. 1975, which is his first adult 'Life Cycles' 'significant year' - but some of you actually knew this.... well maybe.)
2. Was there any evidence of the beginning of a new age/direction during his age 24 'Year of Revolution'? (Oct. 1979/Oct. 1980)
3. What about more direction change/challenge some seven years later when he was in his age 31 'Year of Broken Pathways'? (Oct. 1986/Oct. 1987)
4. Finally, what about the important and often career-defining age 36 'Year of Revolution' (Oct. 1991/Oct. 1992)?

After this I normally run out of steam, but in any event I'm sure even the most sceptical (who couldn't conceive of anything even benignly deterministic) might be a little intrigued. That is actually all I'm after by the way. There is nothing behind these analyses unless others may wish to construe it. This makes it totally unrelated to the occult or religion, but at the same time makes it kinda mysterious, because it's based on a standard interpretation of real-world events. But, back to William, who's getting a bit twitchy backstage.

OK, during 1974, Gates (who was already doing a lot of private study on computers) joined his friend Paul Allen at Honeywell in the summer vacation. From here, in early 1975 (when Gates was 19), they contacted MICRO Instrumentation And Telemetry Systems (MITS) to say they were working on BASIC (an operational SOFTware program) for their Altair 8800 computer. Allen then joined MITS and Gates dropped out of Harvard and they formed a fledgling company called 'MICRO-SOFT'. This is demonstrably a major direction change/challenge. It all grew from this, just as Facebook grew out of Mark Zuckerberg's usurping of 'Connect U', when he was 19. Once again, it's all in THE BOOK!.

Now to Gates' first adult, age 24 'Year of Revolution' (Oct.'79/Oct.'80). What will we find? Here's a clue :- "Think about the title of the post." In July 1980 IBM approached Gates (so an element of destiny here) to use BASIC in their upcoming personal computer - the IBM PC. This gave birth to the well known MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System), which bridges the gap between the computer hardware and programs, such as a word processor. It’s the foundation on which computer programs can run. It made Microsoft a major player in the industry. This was the birth of the Disk Operating Era. Also of note during this time in June 1980, Gates and Allen hire Gates’ former Harvard classmate Steve Ballmer to help run the company. He eventually succeeds Gates as CEO.

OK, now the title of this post is "From DOS To Windows" and every computer geek can tell me that the birth of Windows was not timed to Gates next age 36 'Year of Revolution'. So what gives? Windows was publicly released in Nov. 1985 with the 1.0 version. Now, rather than typing MS‑DOS commands, you just move a mouse to point and click your way through screens, or “windows.” As Bill Gates says :-“it is unique software designed for the serious PC user.” Around the same time Microsoft struck a deal with IBM to develop a separate operating system called OS/2. OS/2 was intended as a protected mode successor of PC-DOS (in other words a disk-based second generation IBM PC). For a time the two companies ran together on OS/2, but then creative differences began to appear.

Now on to Gates' age 31 'Year of Broken Pathways' (Oct.86/Oct.87). What happened to represent a direction change/challenge at this time? Well this coincides with Gates' first appearance on Forbes' Rich List, with a personal worth of $135 mill, following the company's listing on the stock exchange. Anyone in business can tell you that this changes your focus from pleasing yourself to pleasing the stock holders and driving up profitability. The money it seems was going to be in Windows and not OS/2. In April 1987 the launch of the OS/2 1.0 was announced, but it set in train a period of delays and modifications (including trying to incorporate elements of Windows). Additionally it was only sold through IBM sales channels, restricting its profitability. This lengthy period of challenge is also quite typical of what can be expected following the direction change in a 'Year of Broken Pathways'.

The final period I will examine is Gates' major mid-life age 36 'Year of Revolution' (Oct.91/Oct.92). I grant you that largely because of Gates' early successes, this was not marked by a major career-defining breakthrough. No, I think you only get one of these years in your life and Gates had his during his age 24 'Year of Revolution'. It can also be this way for others who peak early, like entertainers/athletes etc. Interestingly, it was this way for famous writer Charles Dickens, who 'made his name' when Pickwick Papers was released at 24.

So what did happen then? Well in May 1991 (just before the start of this period) Bill Gates announced that the partnership with IBM was over and that Microsoft would henceforth focus its platform efforts on Windows. It could be said to be the genesis of the 'Windows Only' Era. However, this announcement was not well received. Some people, especially developers who had ignored Windows and committed most of their resources to OS/2, were taken by surprise, and accused Microsoft of deception. This changeover from OS/2 was frequently referred to in the industry as "the head-fake". In the ensuing years, the popularity of OS/2 declined, and Windows quickly became the favored PC platform.

Not only this, but during the transition from MS-DOS to Windows, the success of Microsoft's product Microsoft Office allowed the company to gain ground on application-software competitors, such as WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3. In the 'History of Microsoft' article I studied, it referred to 1992 as the beginning of the 'domination of the corporate market' era. Now all these events took place during Gates' 36th year. I hope I've made sufficient case for showing how Gates' successive 'Years of Revolution' at 24 and 36 ushered in two of the major eras in the history of Microsoft, thus justifying the title of this post.

OK, let me spell my findings out in letters two feet high. This is my real-world evidence gathered in support of the original hypotheses :-

1. At 19, Gates and Allen found Microsoft, using BASIC program with an Altair 8800 computer.
2. At 24, Gates is approached by IBM to use BASIC with their personal computer and the MS-DOS era of dominance is born. Steve Ballmer joins Microsoft.
3. At 31, gets on Forbes Rich List after Microsoft goes public. Unsuccessful partnership with IBM and the OS/2 begins.
4. At 36, Gates quits IBM partnership and Windows Only era leads to dominance in the corporate market.

I don't think there's a more pervasive change to people's lives in the last 20+ years than the personal computer (or its counterparts). It all began back in 1975, when a young uni dropout named Bill Gates, decided to try and convince MITS he had written a software operational code for their Altair 8800 computer called BASIC. The reality was that he hadn't quite done it at the time, but was fairly sure he could. I learn so much from my research into all these posts, that I often feel I am sitting beside you as I do them. I'm a bit like Bill Gates as well. I'm fairly sure that I can find credible evidence when I do the analysis, but before I start I don't really know.

I hope you enjoyed this look at the world of computers and Bill Gates. Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."

BTW don't miss the related post on my SECOND BLOG!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Crusading Revolution - 'Life Cycles' And The Career Of Erin Brokovich


Robert Evans

If you read my SECOND BLOG (and if not why not?), then you'll see I've used one of my favourite quotes from the post on Diana Ross, again in this post. Why would that be? We all think we know the Erin Brockovich story, right? We've seen the film. We loved Julia Roberts in the title role and so did the critics. In fact, she won a Golden Globe and an Oscar. She was portraying the real-life Erin, who was a genuine environmental crusader, whose actions caused the good citizens of Hinkley to receive just payouts from an evil utility company. They had poisoned their drinking water with a chemical, which had given them a long list of illnesses. But, most importantly, it was a proven carcinogenic.

Well that may or may not be YOUR view, but it would be a popularly-held view, thanks to Hollywood. However, before I go any further, I've got to tell you about the curious path that got me here in the first place. After all, this is old news, why would I dig it up? You see, I actually wanted to write about a piece of research I did back in the 90's called 'The N Factor In Executive Survival'. This was a validation study based on work done by the UK, Cranfield School Of Management. It was, of course, new to Australia back then and I received some press coverage and wrote an article for the Australian Institute of Management monthly magazine. I couldn't find any of this on the web, so I wanted to re-introduce it myself. I will still do this, however I also wanted to illustrate with a good 'N Factor' case, which would amount to one of the highest-profile, most vociferous, maverick operators I could think of. Then, the name of Erin Brockovich jumped into my head. Anything but your "good corporate player" and everyone knew her. Yes, she'd do just fine.

Now, in a twist of events, I'm going to tell you about my 'Life Cycles' research first. You know how it goes by now, don't you? Just add 36 to her year of birth and see if you can see any evidence of life changing behaviour/significant career achievement/or breakthroughs that lead to it. It's the same goddamn question I ask every time. It's maths and stats and nothing else. Well, Erin was born June 22nd. 1960, so the period we will be investigating is June 22nd. 1996 to June 22nd. 1997. What happened? Was there a highlight? Did it include a period of frustration beforehand? In fact, why don't you stop reading right now and check it out for yourselves.........

Did you find this? Erin Brockovich finally receives a huge payout of $2 million in legal fees when Pacific Gas & Electric (a large public utility) agreed to record $333 million private arbitration settlement. The original settlement date was June 12, with the money delivered a few weeks later. So, at the start of her age 36 'Year of Revolution'. In the final scene of the movie it shows Erin's boss handing her the bonus money (which was some time after) and saying that he had changed the amount. She explodes into a complaint that she deserves more respect, but is astonished to find that he has increased it - to $2 million.

This was life-changing for her in every regard. She has gone on to a very lucrative and substantial career in the legal world, as an expert in related environmental lawsuits against company negligence. She has her own consultancy - Brockovich Research and Consulting - as well as consulting for Girardi and Keese (who were the lawyers in the movie) and helping establish Shine Lawyers in Australia. There is, of course, the movie (which netted Julia Roberts an Oscar and $20 million) and her 2001 book Take It From Me: Life's a Struggle But You Can Win. She has hosted Challenge America with Erin Brockovich on ABC and Final Justice on Zone Reality. She has also received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Lewis and Clark Law School, Oregon.

Prior to her involvement she was a twice-divorced, unemployed, working-class mother of three (even though she had a college degree in journalism). The movie shows that she was involved in a car accident with a doctor and was suing him. Her lawyer, Ed Masry (Albert Finney), expects to win, but Erin's explosive courtroom behavior under cross-examination loses her the case (so from my angle she's a classic 'N Factor'), and Ed (shown below with Erin) will not return her phone calls afterwards. One day he arrives at work to find her in the office, appearing to do work. She says that he told her things would work out and they didn't, and that she needed a job. He feels bad for her, and decides to give her a try at the office.

So, just an office clerk with no legal qualifications or experience back in 1993. I won't reprise the movie here, but suffice it to say, that until there was a settlement, her circumstances were largely unchanged and this was not guaranteed at all. Lawyers for PG&E planned to keep stalling for years if they could. Her big breakthrough moment undoubtedly happened in her age 36 'Year of Revolution'. I was amazed, as I always am, by my own research. But there it is. I could have left it right here. Nice, positive uplifting article with a great finish. That's certainly what THEIR view would prefer I do. You know, Erin, Girardi, Hollywood and the whole media image thing.

I didn't mean to, but then I peeked under the carpet. I didn't have to, but it's in my nature I guess. You see THE TRUTH is invariably stranger and more fascinating than fiction (and the movie was a dramatised account, which told only the positive half the story). I didn't know any of what I found beforehand, except that maybe her findings were a bit controversial. What I found was material of an explosive nature. This comes from several sources (such as The Truth About Erin Brockovich and "Erin Brockovich" - The Real Story) as well as a number of biographic summaries. It says, in brief, there were major problems with the case.

1. It was based on flawed science.
2. The legal process was flawed and has caused a review on how such cases are to be dealt with.
3. Many of the plaintiffs in the case consider that they were 'screwed-over' by their own lawyers.

So, without getting lost in too much detail, let's have look at each area, shall we?

1. Flawed scientific evidence

OK, first off the guts of the case is that a chemical called Hexavalent Chromium (Chromium 6) is a cancer-causing agent and was used extensively as a rust protector by PG&E from the 1950's onwards. It contaminated the drinking water that supplied the nearby town of Hinkley, California. Brockovich gathered citizens' evidence and found many cases of tumors and other medical problems. Evidence of a cover-up by PG&E (showing they had lied when they said they used a safe form of Chromium) sealed the deal.

Case closed wouldn't you say? Well not according to investigative journalist and science author Michael Fumento, who checked it out. As he reported in the Wall Street Journal :- "no one agent could possibly have caused more than a handful of the symptoms described, and Chromium 6 in the water almost certainly couldn’t have caused any of them" (which was independently corroborated by New York Times science writer Gina Kolata).

Brockovich, by her own account, went to UCLA’s library and claims to have found as many as 120 articles that said chromium 6 was carcinogenic:- “In each and every article, it clearly depicts that people who have exposures have chronic nosebleeds, kidney problems and colon problems,” she said during an interview. Hmm, 'chronic nosebleeds, kidney and colon problems' are not cancer, but we'll let this sit at the moment.

Other scientific studies, however, from contaminated spots in China, Scotland and the United States, have failed to find cancer-causing properties in waterborne chromium 6. A toxicologist at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Sharon Wilbur, says that chromium 6 in water doesn’t harm humans. “It’s very unlikely that people could die from drinking chromium 6 in the water, even over time,” she said. Because the arbitration that eventually decided the case was closed to the public, it’s unclear what sort of proof plaintiffs attorneys offered to support their claims.

The most damning evidence, however, is the long-term epidemiology of the citizens of Hinkley. A study, released in 2010 by the California Cancer Registry, showed that cancer rates in Hinkley "remained unremarkable from 1988 to 2008". Not unnaturally Brockovich and Girardi etc. have hit back citing their many poignant testimonials and claiming the epidemiological data was biased. Well they'd pretty much have to wouldn't they, because THEIR entire credibility is being attacked. The rebuttal, however, did not appear to rely on competing scientific evidence.

You can read it all for yourselves if you simply search "Erin Brockovich criticism". Page 1 of Google lists articles by ,The Guardian/The New York Times/The Daily Beast and TIME. However, in the interests of balanced coverage I went to the EPA's own website. It said that the science available in 1991, indicated that some people who use water containing chromium in excess of the drinking water standard, over many years, could experience allergic dermatitis (skin reactions).

In 2008, it initiated a comprehensive review and in 2010 provided a draft discussion paper, which has not yet been finalised. The draft :- "Toxicological Review of Hexavalent Chromium" provides scientific support and rationale for the hazard and dose-response assessment pertaining to chronic exposure to hexavalent chromium via ingestion. Peer review and independent testing is ongoing, which has been stated as being most important.

The Girardi/Brockovich camp may well be crowing about this as of now, but we do await the final report. However, in the reverse, it would confirm that with the science available at the time of the PG&E settlement, no evidence of links to cancer existed and that though the jury may be out on this currently, the area is still under investigation. It actually made me wonder out loud :-' if such evidence had been overwhelming, then it shouldn't have taken around four years to get confirmation and action.'

2. Flawed legal process

Next, let's go to the legal shenanigans that went on in this case. Many plaintiffs in the Hinkley case say the movie misrepresents what happened. Far from being the populist victory the movie depicts, the Hinkley lawsuit was a case study in how the rise of private arbitration, as an alternative to costly public trials, is open to potential conflicts of interest and cronyism. The case never went to trial, because Pacific Gas & Electric, the utility accused of polluting Hinkley, and the plaintiffs’ lawyers agreed to private arbitration before a panel of for-hire judges, some of whom had socialized with the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

After the settlement, the Hinkley plaintiffs’ attorneys took some of the arbitrators in the case on a steeply discounted Mediterranean luxury cruise (see the sidebar for details). The fraternization between the private judges and the plaintiffs’ lawyers led California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George to begin a study of the business of arbitration (an example of which is shown below). The trouble with civil arbitrations, such as the Hinkley case is that public-welfare issues can, in effect, be decided secretly between corporations and high-powered plaintiffs’ attorneys, who represent unsophisticated victims. In the wake of the PG&E litigation, for example, there is no public record of whether an enormous, publicly held utility did or did not poison a town.

“This is a troubling trend, especially when it concerns the public domain of toxic tort cases,” said Erwin Chemerinksy, professor of legal ethics at the University of Southern California. “It means there’s decreased public awareness of what’s going on in the public domain.” One big reason for the boom in this whole area is money. Public judges, who earn about $150,000 a year in the public courts, often retire early to become, in effect, rent-a-judges. By doing so they can earn between $100 and $500 an hour — easily doubling or tripling their salaries. Arbitration firms often have powerful attorneys or corporations as steady clients. Also the rules that apply in open court often aren’t followed in private court. In addition no laws prevent the hired judges from accepting gifts from attorneys.

As it turned out, Girardi had ties to at least three of the private judges in the PG&E case:- Jack Tenner, John Trotter and Jack Goertzen. Tenner, a retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge, officiated at Girardi’s second wedding, in September 1993. Goertzen has been a friend of Girardi’s for many years, even though he says the relationship is only professional. In June 1996, when PG&E appeared to be stalling, Girardi learned that PG&E’s outside counsel, Haight, Brown and Bonesteel of Santa Monica, had hired private investigators to snoop into his bank records and private affairs, as well as those of his clients. It’s against California law to obtain confidential private records. One of the firm’s operatives, who had just been fired, took the damning information to Girardi.

The investigator, Ben Ortiz, a retired LAPD officer, was suing his former employers. Buried inside this second case, worthy of a John Grisham novel, are allegations of racketeering and collusion among judges and attorneys throughout Los Angeles County. David Sharp, the attorney in that latter case, alleges that Girardi and Lack used the Ortiz affair to pressure PG&E into making a large settlement - “part of which was used to curry favor with active and retired judges involved in that case and others,” according to Kathleen Sharp (who is the author of this explosive expose). I don't know about you, but this certainly sounds dodgy to me. And murky...

3. Poor Treatment Of Plaintiffs

The last and most damning evidence of all, however, lies in the hands of those, for whom the whole process was meant to benefit - the plaintiffs. “The movie is mostly lies,” said Carol Smith, one of the real-life plaintiffs. “I wish the truth would come out because a lot of us are upset. I understand the movie is going to make Erin and the attorneys out to be heroes, but where’s the rest of our money?”

There is no question about the big profits in these privately arbitrated toxic tort cases. Basically, when local lawyer Ed Masry based in Thousand Oaks, California, realised this case was beyond him and invited the big boys (namely Girardi and Keese along with Lack) to come in; they took over and told the townsfolk they would do it all for 40% of the settlement money, take it or leave it. What is 40% of $333 million? Oh, it's around a cool $133.6 million. In addition Girardi also billed $10 million for undetailed expenses, in a violation of the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

However what is left over for the 650 odd plaintiff's do you think? You know, the townsfolk who told their stories, without which there would be no case, the proceedings of which, co-incidentally, they were all-but banned from attending:- “We had no idea what was going on and weren’t allowed to watch,” said Lynn Tindell, a plaintiff. They figured about half-a-million each minus lawyer's fees (about $300,000). They were shocked to learn how little most of them got.

Dorothea Montoya received $60,000; Christine Mace got $50,000; Lynn Tindell $50,000; Tiffany Oliver got $60,000. All of these people were longtime residents, who had suffered well documented medical problems :- “It didn’t make sense why my husband, who’s had 17 tumors removed from his throat, got only $80,000,” said Smith. Roberta Walker (shown below), who had started the case and was depicted in the movie as Donna Jensen, didn’t get the $5 million that her movie counterpart received. “It’s a big fabrication,” said Walker. “People look at $333 million and think, ‘Wow! You got that much money?’ But no.”

They said the distributions were based on evidence from medical records :- “But no one ever looked at my medical records,” said Smith. “I’m sure of that because my doctors told me so after I asked.” Other plaintiffs echoed the same complaint. In fact, fairly or not, some residents say they saw a pattern in the distribution method :- “If you were buddies with Ed and Erin, you got a lot of money,” said Smith. “Otherwise, forget it.”

Let's not forget that there was no money at all for at least 6 months, in contravention of State Law, which says a client's money must be distributed promptly. The Hinkley clients tried to get answers by calling Masry’s and Girardi’s offices, but suddenly, they couldn’t get through to anyone, not even Brockovich. “None of the attorneys would take our calls,” said Carol Smith. Then the residents were further outraged because there was no accrued interest paid, when they finally got their cheques.

When some residents tried to complain about what they felt were unfair amounts, they were put off. “We didn’t even get to talk to Erin and she’s the one who got us mixed up in this thing,” said Smith. Some wanted to contest the awards, but were discouraged. “We were told if we appealed the settlement, we’d get less money,” said Ron Gonzales. “It was essentially a threat.” But Gonzales did appeal. He was given an award of $100,000, but appealed on the grounds that he deserved more. “Ten minutes later, one of the judges offered me $250,000.” The appeal cost him $21,000 in arbitration fees. I'll leave the last word to Lynn Tindell :- “I feel like I was treated like a country hick that didn’t understand plain English,” said Tindell. “We are the ones who made those guys zillionaires.” Some residents began to take their cases to at least four other attorneys for help.

None of this sits well with me. How does it strike you? The real winners in this case were - surprise, surprise - the lawyers; Girardi, Lack, Masry and Brockovich. Erin, the 'original rebel without a cause' was now firmly on the team. It was a winning formula. In the following years they went for PG&E in other towns similar to Hinkley. Brockovich and Masry mounted related cases against a variety of organisations and some of these findings were again controversial. I haven't got the time to go into it right now.

This does not make for pretty reading does it? It is almost certainly a lot less than you might have expected. I'm, of course, happy to hear your views, as I have no more of a vested interest in this, than I do in any other post. Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Good Morning Revolution - 'Life Cycles' And The Career Of Robin Williams

I join with the millions of Robin Williams' fans in mourning his untimely passing. Such a 'larger than life' presence, with wit and warmth, that amused but never offended. This is my tribute to him.

Of all news items covering a reprise of his life that I saw, it was commenced by Robin delivering his famous one liner:- "Good morning Vietnam!" Mind you, it's a phrase you can't say blandly, you've got to use force and passion. You know, say it like this :- "Goooooood morning Vi-et-nam!!" It embodied Robin's spirit and defined his essence. Then, these same biographic short summaries would say things like :- "He first burst onto our screens with his breakthrough role in the movie Good Morning Vietnam and then reprise his major works like Dead Poets Society and Mrs. Doubtfire, through to his Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting etc."

Of course, Robin was already established as a movie actor after Mork And Mindy wound up in 1982. He had the lead role in The World According To Garp in the same year. However, it received only luke-warm critiques and box office results and then....? Well, quite frankly very little for quite a few years. It wasn't that he wasn't trying, it's just that his big break was yet to happen. Or maybe not? There are no guarantees in life. Can you see where I'm going with all this? How the whole analysis came about under unforeseen circumstances? How I am being put to a blind test with 'Life Cycles' yet again?

Firstly I'd like to point out, that Robin's earlier adult career, consisted of beginning his standup act in early 1976. He was born July 21st, 1951. This would then have occurred during his first adult, age 24, 'Year of Revolution' (July 1975 to July 1976). It was to be his first career identity. He had previously won a scholarship to the famous Julliard School in New York (where he was one of only 20 students). He was advised to leave before finishing in 1976 as there was nothing more to teach him.

There followed a seven year journey, as standup took him on to Mork And Mindy and to alcohol and cocaine addiction. This 7 year journey in a forward direction from a 'Year of Revolution' to a 'Year of Broken Pathways' is absolutely central to 'Life Cycles; theory. OK, if that's the case, then what were the key events in his age 31 'Year of Broken Pathways' (ie. July 1982 to July 1983), that underpin this? Well the first was personal. It was the death of his close friend and fellow high-octane comedian, John Belushi. This was due to a cocaine and heroin overdose and it provided a stark 'wake-up call' to Williams. He is on record as stating it.

The second was career related. Mork and Mindy had simply run out of gas and lost it's way in the last season. Jonathan Winters was brought in as Willams' child, because Orkans were said to age backwards. It ended in 60th place in the ratings and was cancelled in mid-1982. Williams was left to find a new direction. He had hoped for an immediate film success with The World According To Garp. Based on John Irving's novel, it proved to be a faithful recreation of his quirky, but somewhat irritating, style and was rated and received as such.

Then followed a number of years in the wilderness. In 1983 he starred with Walter Matthau in The Survivors, which received an exceptionally low 9% rating on the benchmark Rotten Tomatoes review site. Apparently Williams and Matthau did not team well together. Worse was to follow. In 1986 Williams had the leading role in a star-studded ensemble cast for the Harold Ramis (you know, the Ghostbusters/ 'Stripes' guy) directed Club Paradise. The cast included Peter O'Toole, Twiggy, Rick Moranis and Eugene Levy in a comic 'Club Med gone wrong' plot line. How could it miss? Apparently Bill Murray was first choice and knocked it back. Must have sensed something. Even John Cleese passed on this one.

Anyway it bombed spectacularly costing Warner Bros. $15 mill. and grossing only $12 mill. with an 11% Rotten Tomatoes rating. It was generally felt Robin Williams was wasting his talents with these movies. They were all just too one-dimensional. What he needed was a comedy vehicle with some depth and sensitivity and maybe even an element of social commentary. It was obvious his ship had not yet come in. He was 35 and he wanted to make a statement and the answer to his prayers was just sitting right under his nose. Enter the two people, who were about to be in their respective 'Years of Revolution' (at 36/48) and who wanted to make statements of their own for quite different reasons. All three combined careers were going to rise 'phoenix-like' from the ashes. Now, you probably know nothing of these other two people, but they were pivotal to the making of the movie that would make their names :- Good Morning Vietnam.

First I want to introduce Adrian Cronauer. Adrian was a former Air Force sargeant and radio personality in Vietnam, who wrote about his experiences and this formed the basis for the movie. Robin played him. Adrian had been trying to get his idea launched for some time. In 1979 he pitched a sitcom to TV networks, who weren't interested even though MASH was highly popular at the time. His next move was to develop a TV 'movie of the week' script and he pitched it again to the networks. This time (around 1982 after Mork and Mindy), it got the attention of Robin Williams, who bought an option on it and then let it sit for four years, until one day he phoned Adrian out of the blue and said:- "Well, we want to take your project and go to production, but as a full-scale movie. Only we'll be throwing out your script." This would, most probably, have been in the latter part of 1986, after the disappointment of Club Paradise. However, what exactly caused this breakthrough moment is a little unclear.

Cronauer (born Sept. 8th, 1938) would have just entered his age 48 'Year of Revolution' when his dream was about to be realised. He was asked to meet Williams and his manager and tell his story. Various episodes were described and then they would decide on a completely different scenario. Cronauer laughs about this in an interview, but ended up agreeing with what they did.

The next step was to hire a screenwriter, who would turn the whole thing into a winning script, while still leaving space for Williams to use his famous improv-style comedy, at which he was a genius. Enter Mitch Markowitz, who up to that time had only been a TV scriptwriter and his credits included MASH and Van Dyke and Company. He was about to have his career-defining moment and he had just turned 36 in early October, 1986. This was to represent a phoenix-like moment for both Adrian (who went on to work for Defence in the area of MIA cases) and Mitch (who went on to write the movie Crazy People in 1990).

This leaves only Robin, who turned 36 on July, 21st 1987 and thus shared a small amount of 'Confluence' with both Adrian and Mitch. Good Morning Vietnam had begun shooting around April 1987 and so in this period of July/Sept- this 'whorl of Confluence' for all three men- the finishing touches would have been applied to their respective crowning glories. Good Morning Vietnam was released Dec 87/Jan 88.

At 36, in his major and career-defining 'Year of Revolution', Robin Willams at last had his hit movie. In 'Life Cycles' terms it was delivered to the letter and exactly on time. Williams had now "burst upon the scene", which you know is the phrase I use to describe events like this. From a budget of $13 mill. it made $124 mill. He received a Golden Globe Award for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical", and an American Comedy Award for "Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role)" and a "Best Actor" BAFTA Award. He was also nominated for a "Best Actor" Academy Award. No wonder all the biographic summaries begin with his iconic phrase :- "Goooooood morning Vi-et-nam!!" He had truly arrived.

Of course, I see it more as a chorus in 'Life Cycles' terms. I see Adrian Cronauer with his arms around Mitch Markowitz and Robin Willams and all three of them saying :- "Gooooood morning Rev-o-lution!!" You know, sitting here as a humble researcher, I am dumbfounded by the volume of scope of this evidence. Not just this story, but story after story after story. Of course, it could all be just mere luck and a very odd set of coincidences, but I somehow I don't think so. Do you? Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."

Friday, July 25, 2014

Don't Mention The Revolutions - 'Life Cycles' And The Career Of John Cleese

John Cleese is one of our best-loved comedians and the scene above is taken from the work that most defined his career :- Fawlty Towers. Yet this wonderful show almost never got made. It's a fascinating story and it features key events in Cleese's central, defining, mid-life 'Year of Revolution' at 36.

The idea for the show came from a real-life couple, who ran a hotel in Torquay. Cleese and his former wife and co-writer, Connie Booth, actually stayed there in 1971. Cleese saw this as an opportunity to break away from Monty Python, which was a highly-contrived (but hugely popular) ensemble sketch comedy. This was to become an adaptation of French farce, complete with multi-layered characterisations. He wrote an early prototype of Basil Fawlty in an episode of Doctor At Large soon after.

However it was not until 1974, that John Cleese, who was to play Basil, sent the BBC the script for the pilot episode. Cleese stated in an interview :- “The fellow whose job it was to assess the quality of the writing said, ‘This is full of clich├ęd situations and stereotypical characters, and I cannot see it being anything other than a disaster. You're going to have to get them out of the hotel, John, you can't do the whole thing in the hotel'. Whereas, of course, it's in the hotel that the whole pressure cooker builds up."

Eventually Cleese was given the OK to write the scripts. Bill Cotton, Head of Light Entertainment for BBC said he could see nothing funny in them and told him it would never get made on a commercial channel. Cotton said he only agreed to go to production, because he had some trust in Cleese's track record. Cleese was paid only 6,000 pounds for 43 weeks of exhausting work (one episode alone took four months and 10 drafts). This was not enough to live on, so he supplemented his income by doing ads.

Then it got screened and became an instant hit? No, that was pure wish fulfillment. The first six episodes were screened in Sept./Oct.1975 to a poor critical rating :- “The initial response was kind of puzzled,” says Cleese. “The Daily Mirror’s headline was, ‘Long John Short of Jokes’". The series also failed to attract many viewers, with an audience of only around 2 million. I think we could be agreed, that things weren't going well, and the BBC would have been pointing it's collective finger at Cleese. What, I hear you ask, has all this got to do with 'Life Cycles'?

Well John Cleese was born 27th. Oct. 1939, which meant in the middle of all this disappointing news he turned 36 (the last episode, in fact, screened on 24th. Oct.). This was supposed to be his central, career-defining 'Year of Revolution', but it sure didn't look that way. The first positive thing to happen a little while later, however, was when humourist Alan Coren wrote a glowing appreciation and then there was a slow word of mouth spread, so the BBC decided to give it another try in Feb. 1976. This time it took off with audience figures of 12 million and fans were dying for more by the end. This now began the triumphant reign of John 'Basil Fawlty' Cleese. No longer just part of the Python ensemble, but a stand-alone feature performer of what has been described as the finest sit-com ever written. It was to usher in his 'golden age', no question about it.

Here's a quick question for you. What other leading sit-com comic, whom I have featured in this blog, and in my book, also had the exact same sequence of 'almost never getting the show made and then getting poor initial reviews'? That would be Jerry Seinfeld. His big breakthrough moment also happened in his age 36 'Year of Revolution', when The Seinfeld Show was brought back as a mid-season replacement, after bad reviews and audience responses to its first screening. You should check that out sometime. So 'Life Cycles' evidence is not only widespread, but it's comprehensive in its coverage of details.

However we are not done yet with Mr.Cleese as the post title says 'Revolutions', plural. So if his mid-career identity was as a solo TV performer/writer ushered in with Fawlty, what happened to him 12 years later at his age 48, later mid-life, 'Year of Revolution' (Oct. 1987 to Oct. 1988)? This often marks a direction change and new age in lives I analyse. Well, would you believe, this corresponds exactly with his hugely successful movie A Fish Called Wanda (released in Jun. 1988), which he co-wrote, had a hand in directing and starred in? In other words it was totally his baby and he has unsurprisingly said it is his favorite movie to have performed in.

The movie received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (Kevin Klein), as well as nominations for Best Screenplay/Best Director and collected a BAFTA award. It came in at No. 37 on a list of best comedy films ever made. This again defined him as a lead movie actor, just as Fawlty Towers had defined him as a feature sit-com TV star. I have often seen the age 48 'Year of Revolution' usher in an era of reduced success, in different ways, in many other cases I study. It was to happen later on to Cleese, when tried to duplicate his success with a follow-up movie Fierce Creatures in 1997. It was a failure both critically and with audiences. Cleese himself said :- "making this movie was a mistake".

Finally let's go backwards in time to when Cleese was in his age 24, first adult 'Year of Revolution' (Oct. 1963 to Oct. 1964). Would this year come to define his first career identity? Let's check on this shall we? Cleese graduated from Cambridge in Law in 1963 and despite his continued interest in the Cambridge Footlights Revue (where he met his future Python co-writer Graham Chapman), his father still sent him details of management jobs he could apply for.

However, the Cambridge Footlights was renamed Cambridge Circus (cast shown at left) and after success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, it got picked up to open in London's West End in July, 1973. This is just before he turned 24. Were there to be any additional defining moments for him during his age 24 to come? Not that a West End Show wasn't a badge of success, but could he go further? Well, after a successful run on the West End, the show then toured New Zealand (of all places), about a year later in July 1974, where they recorded a TV special. Then in Sept. the show finally hit the big time, when it transferred to Broadway, and was featured on US TV. They were indeed guests on the famous Ed Sullivan Show in Oct. 1974. I think this should sufficiently make the case for a career-defining year.

He began it as a relative unknown, but enthusiastic and talented, young revue actor, who got a big break and ended up going to Broadway and getting on the Ed Sullivan Show. So, to summarise let me spell the 'Life Cycles' career of John Cleese out for you in letters two feet high.

At 24, Cleese becomes a high-profile comedy revue actor. This leads on to the age of Python (which flowed from this) and is equivalent to his first career identity.

At 36, Cleese becomes successful with Fawlty Towers, regarded as the finest sit-com ever written. This is equivalent to his mid-career identity and highest life achievement

At 48, Cleese becomes successful with the movie A Fish Called Wanda, which gets wide critical and popular acclaim. This is equivalent to his later mid-life career identity.

Incidentally, this post is, by necessity, just a summary of the wide-ranging research I have done on the life of the very interesting John Cleese. If you are a fan (and I know many of you are), and too much Cleese is never enough, then I invite you to read quite a bit more HERE. This is just another 'black and white' 'Life Cycles' case history and I trust I have shown you why this is. Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."