January 19, 2021

Mellody Hobson, Chicago Corporate Trailblazer

A few years back, friends invited me to a luncheon benefiting a Chicago science and math school for girls. Chicago-born Mellody Hobson, the president and co-CEO of Ariel Investments, was the impressive keynote speaker. Not only was she a charismatic communicator, but she was whip smart and a terrific role model for girls interested in math and science.

This past week, Hobson was made chair of the board of directors for Starbucks, making her the only black board chairwoman of an S&P 500 company.

As side notes, Hobson and “Star Wars” filmmaker George Lucas have been married since 2013. On the tv show “The Good Wife,” Vanessa L. Williams based her character, Courtney Paige on Hobson’s TED talks presentations. Hobson is also a financial contributor to “Good Morning America.”

Founded in 1983, Ariel is the first and oldest minority-run mutual fund firm in the country. Although I am focusing on Hobson, I would be remiss in not mentioning John Rogers, Jr., founder and current CEO of Ariel, philanthropist and former board chairman of Chicago’s Park District.

Kudos to you, Mellody. We need more women like you to prove to young girls that careers in science and finance are indeed possible.

Oprah’s “O Magazine” Print Version Calling It Quits After 20 Years

It was with sadness I learned of “O Magazine’s” decision to end its 20-year regular print run. The December 2020 issue will be its last featuring its beloved holiday tradition of choosing Oprah’s “Favorite Things.”

I have enjoyed “O’s” articles on food, fashion, health, psychology and impressive women, but the magazine was also a compendium of great books, clothing, make-up and services. In short, the publication encouraged women to “live your best life.”

Oprah has been on every single cover of the magazine, albeit sometimes sharing a photo with other humans or animals. This final issue has Oprah in a Volkswagen Beetle festooned with red wrapped presents.

Oprah assures readers they will still be able to get recommendations for all good things under the sun from OprahMag.com
Let me remind you that Harpo Studios and Discovery Inc. co-own the TV service, OWN (Oprah Winfrey’s Network) so you can commune with the Oprah brand via tv and streaming. You can also expect Oprah to print special magazine issues. Let’s hope she continues “Favorite Things” in some form for years to come. The December 2020 “O Magazine” issue is still available at newsstands.

Fairy Tales Are Not Just for Children

Die drei kleinen Schweinchen or Three Little Pigs

Have you ever read a fairy tale to a child? Did someone read them to you when you were young?

Cinderella or Cendrillon by Perrault

There are usually five elements to fairy tales; a moral lesson, a hero and a villain as stock characters, an element of magic, obstacles or tasks for the main character to overcome, and a happy ending. Fairy tales teach children what it is to be human and how they may fit into the world.

Let me point out two other great uses for fairy tales.

Language-learning can be greatly enhanced by reading and listening to these familiar stories. Pinterest has dozens of posts on fairy tales in French, Spanish, Italian, German and other languages. Some posts take you to paid services, but many allow you to use the material for free. There are even slow audio versions so you can really train your ear to hear the new language.

The Fable Cottage allows you to read fairy tales in five different languages for free; access to video and audio material does require becoming a member, however.

YouTube is another excellent source for fairy tales in other languages, but there is another use for English speakers: sleep enhancement. There are videos using readers with soothing voices to lull both children and adults to sleep. Some of the videos bill themselves as “Truly Boring Fairy Tales,” “Bedtime Story Fairy Tales to Fall Asleep,” or “Softly Told Tales.”

Then again, perhaps we should avoid some of the more gruesome tales by the Brothers Grimm if we want sweet dreams.

Buona notte! Bonne nuit! Buenas Noches! Gute Nacht! Good night and sleep tight!

The Fable Cottage web site which has selected fairy tales in five different languages:

https://www.thefablecottage.com/

“Truly Boring Fairy Tales” on the Casper Sleep Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7p0B2MD11QI

“Bedtime Stories for Adults – More Viking Myths”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNUbZtbi_HY

“The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp

A wise creative-type urged me to get a copy of Twyla Tharp’s book, “The Creative Habit.” Full of nuts and bolts advice on how to develop a consistent way to generate ideas, each chapter has a theme with subsequent exercises.

Although a choreographer, Tharp finds the thread that connects artists, writers, composers, poets, photographers and other creative producers. They all share the ability to start with nothing but ideas and create something tangible. Tharp emphasizes that regular and methodical work is what allows creators to catch the spark of inspiration.

As a musician, I was intrigued by her deep connection to classical and popular music, including music by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Jelly Roll Morton, Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen. She worked with Milos Forman on the movies “Hair,” “Ragtime” and “Amadeus;” directed the tv special “Baryshnikov by Tharp,” and directed “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Movin’ Out” for Broadway.

I have not had the honor to meet Twyla Tharp, but she was staying at the hotel at which I sang during her work on “Movin’ Out,” the Billy Joel music dancical. Would that we could have talked about her creative process then, but her book is a treasure to peruse now.

Netflix Lured Me Back with Light Entertainment

After months of being a non-Netflix subscriber, I was lured back with the promise of new episodes of favorite shows.

Queer Eye has to be one of the most uplifting shows in TV Land right now. The rebooted series has breezed through four Seasons of 8 episodes each in U.S. states like Georgia, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois, with a one-episode season in Australia and a four episode run in Japan. For Season Five, the Queer Eye make-over team is in the Philadelphia, including one candidate from the Jersey Shore.

David Collins, producer of the original series which ran for five seasons from 2003 to 2007) has brilliantly adapted the concept for a new generation of viewers. As much as I liked the previous incarnation, the Netflix reboot has even more heart as the Fab Five tackle redos for men and women from all sorts of cultural backgrounds.

I love all five of these guys: Bobby Berk on design, Tan France on fashion, Jonathan Van Ness for grooming, but I especially love the emotional insight that Karamo Brown brings and the food love that Antoni Porowski evokes. This is my kind of show when I need the world to seem like a happier and safer place.

If you want something even more goofy and light, you might consider The Big Flower Fight. Netflix has taken the reality competition into the floral arena. Teams of two use flowers, grasses and evergreens, as well as man-made and organic elements, to create animals, dresses, thrones, mobiles and fairy tale scenes.

The Big Flower Fight has much in common with The Great British Baking Show which is amply represented on Netflix. Food, fashion and flower competitions are entertaining stress relievers and Netflix is providing lots of fun options.

Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

Breathing exercises are not for everyone, but if you are having trouble calming your nervous system or suffer from insomnia, here is a technique worth trying.

Dr. Andrew Weil, the noted alternative medical doctor, based his relaxing 4-7-8 breathing technique on the ancient yoga practice called pranayama. It may be done sitting, standing or prone. It is particularly useful to create a state receptive to sleep.

Here are some basic pointers in commencing a daily breathing routine:

1. First, let your lips part. Make a whooshing sound, exhaling completely through your mouth.

2. Next, close your lips, inhaling silently through your nose as you count to four in your head.

3. Then, for seven seconds, hold your breath (the most critical part of the exercise).

4. Make another whooshing exhale from your mouth for eight seconds.

5. You can do the breathing sequence up to 4 times per session.

6. You may work up to doing the 4 breath sequence up to 8 times, spaced throughout the day.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-sz-001&hsimp=yhs-001&hspart=sz&p=dr.+weil+4-7-8+breathing+youtube#id=2&vid=5f2d983e18bca10aadffb4a8fc534efa&action=click