unPHILtered – Phil Ponce's Blog

Simple Lessons

You’re young and you grow old and, if you’re lucky, you have a friend who travels with you from somewhere near the start to somewhere near the end.

That’s the concluding sentence of a column by Mary Schmich in today’s Tribune.  She tells an uncomplicated tale of a lifelong friendship between two men who, coincidentally, now find themselves living in the same retirement community.  It’s a great reminder that the most fulfilling paths in life are often straightforward and unambiguous.  The arc of a good relationship may seem obvious and clear, but as Schmich points out, the predictability of that path in no way diminishes its rewards.

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Meeting the Ultimate Consigliere

If you’re a fan of The Godfather, you know that a “consigliere”  is a key position in a mob family — the common-sense counselor to the top man.  The Godfather character “Tom Hagen” is probably the best known consigliere in popular culture.   The second best known consigliere may be “Silvio Dante” in The Sopranos.

“Silvio” is played by Steven Van Zandt, who is also Bruce Springsteen’s bandmate and top lieutenant in The E Street Band.  Van Zandt got the role as Silvio when the creator of The Sopranos, David Chase, saw Van Zandt introducing The Rascals when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

As a huge fan of The Sopranos, I have loved Van Zandt’s depiction of Tony Soprano’s top lieutenant; he’s wry, humorous and no-nonsense–a perfect second fiddle.   So I was really psyched when I found out he was going to be on the show.  (He’s promoting the appearance of The Rascals in a stage show that’s hitting Chicago in early November.)

Van Zandt did not disappoint.  He’s charming, funny and smart.  And it is not lost on him that he — in effect — has played two consiglieres:  one to Tony Soprano and the other to Springsteen.  He says he likes being the number two guy, that it suits his temperament.  I think you’ll like his temperament, too.  Check out the interview!

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Do You Have a Workplace Etiquette Question for Miss Manners?

Tomorrow, Tuesday, October 15th, I am taping an interview with Judith Martin aka “Miss Manners.”  Martin has a new book out called Miss Manners Minds Your Business in which she answers questions such as:

  • What do you say to someone who has just been fired?
  • What’s the difference between showing romantic interest and sexual harrassment?
  • Which colleagues shouldn’t be invited to one’s wedding?
  • How do you handle a supervisor’s request to contribute to a pet cause of hers?

The workplace is a potential minefield of etiquette quandries — especially now when there’s been a blurring of the lines between “friends” and “coworkers.”

If you’d like for me to ask Miss Manners a workplace etiquette question on your behalf, post the question here or on Facebook.  I may not be able to ask all the questions that are submitted, but I promise to ask some!  (By the way, the interview itself is currently scheduled to air on Thursday, October 17th).


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No PeeWee Football?

If you know or love anyone who plays Pee Wee football, please watch last night’s segment on concussions in football.  A concussion consultant for the Chicago Bears said that tackle football should NOT be allowed for young players — she seemed to include anyone 14 or under.

This was part of a larger discussion in connection with last night’s FRONTLINE documentary, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.  That documentary explores the growing link between concussions (and even so-called subconcussive hits) and long-term brain disease that can lead to dementia, depression and outbursts of rage.  The documentary asks, “What did the NFL know and when did it know it?”

The documentary argues that the NFL influences the football culture of the entire country and raises questions about how ethically it has acted in attacking critics and denying a link — even though a confidential study it commissioned (that was subsequently leaked to the New York Times) showed that former NFL players had a rate of memory problems 19 times the general public.  Another troubling statistic:  45 out of 46 deceased (several by suicide) former NFL players whose brains were analyzed after their deaths had CTE, the brain disease marked by protein deposits called “tau” which destroy brain cells.

Anyone who cares about someone who plays football at any level, owes it to themselves to watch the documentary and at least, be aware of the very real concerns about playing the most popular sport in the country.

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