Wednesday, October 15, 2003

HBR Blog.

I'm on the Harvard Business Review's mailing list:

Dear Dees,

Your career isn't just about money, is it?
(Hell no, it's about my need for money.)
I didn't think so.
(Astonishing insight you have.)
Something so central to your core, to what makes you tick, that you can't imagine living without it.
(Mmmm. Doughnuts.)
It's about leadership. Having your say. Making things happen. Putting your stamp on the future.
(It's about the Will to Power.)
For 80 years, one publication has stood out from the crowd as the indispensable resource for business achievers like you…

And so on. Who's impressed by this nonsense? Who's flattered by this Barnum & Bailey verbage? Some advertising is built on the likes of this falderal, but it seems that direct marketing is more prone to it.

Clear and cool today, and around noon I took a short walk to 191 N. Wacker for a lunchtime appointment. That's a fairly new building, completed less than a year ago, standing near where Wacker Drive bends to follow the the South Fork of the Chicago River as it separates from the North Fork. I noticed a plaque in front of the building that I hadn't noticed before -- a City of Chicago plaque dated 2002. It marked the site of an early inn, but more importantly, the Wigwam. I was surprised. The Wigwam was here? I had vaguely thought it was elsewhere, maybe in what's now known as the South Loop, though during the Wigwam's short existence (1860-67), there was no Loop. Or Wacker Drive, either.

The City of Chicago Web site has the following: "The site of the Sauganash Hotel/Wigwam is important in the history of Chicago's early development. Mark Beaubien built the Sauganash Hotel in 1831 at Wolf Point, on the east bank of the south branch of the Chicago River at the "Forks" of the River where the north and south branches meet. It was at the Sauganash Hotel in 1833 that the newly formed Town of Chicago voted to elect its first town trustees and where many of the town meetings occurred. During a brief period in 1837 when the building was not in operation as a hotel, it served as Chicago's first theater. The Sauganash Hotel remained in almost continuous operation until it burned down in 1851.

"The Wigwam, constructed on the same site nine years later, was home to the 1860 Republican National Convention. It was at this historic convention that Abraham Lincoln was nominated as the Republican candidate for president."

Some years ago, the Chicago Historical Society mounted an exhibit on the various national conventions here in Chicago over the years, and not just the major parties -- the likes of the Prohibition Party and the Socialist Party of the Eugene V. Debs era were mentioned too. A large display was devoted to the Wigwam, naturally, including drawings of the building. My first thought: firetrap. Such were Victorian building standards.

That exhibit also featured an audiotape of William Jennings Bryant re-reading for posterity (like me), in the early 1920s, his "Cross of Gold Speech" from the Democratic National Convention of 1896. But it was disappointing -- he sounded old, and tired, which no doubt he was. None of the vim the original spech must have had.

One other thing: just a small example of the Hermes-like speed at which news travels. While I was checking in at the front desk of 171 N. Wacker, the security personnel were chatting about the publication of the name and other details about the hapless schlimazel who's being blamed for the Cubs' loss last night. The consensus was, "I wouldn't want to be him."


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