Bourbon & Battles is pleased to welcome Nick Alexander as today’s guest author. Check out Nick’s bio below the story!
I wonder if I can?
Sitting at a conference listening intently to a senior officer in the Australian Army start the organisation on a journey of professional mastery, the following derivatives of this question are what really got a fire burning within me.
I wonder if I can meaningfully contribute to the revolution?
It has been an eventful summer at Bourbon & Battles Headquarters (by which I mean my house). I finished my first year of grad school, completed an 11-week summer internship in San Francisco, suffered through a nasty case of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, and found out my wife was pregnant with our fourth (and final) child, this time a son. He will be woefully outnumbered—though I suspect well taken care of—by three older sisters.
It dawned on me pretty early in the summer that my super-long commute to the city afforded me a new and rare opportunity for long periods of uninterrupted reading time. That in mind, I set out to take full advantage before the crushing weight of required textbook reading returned in the fall. I generally took care to choose highly rated or recommended books to get the most bang for my time, so my summer was jam-packed with an extraordinary reading selection. Continue reading B&B Summer Reading List 2016→
April is “Month of the Military Child,” or as they are perhaps better known within armed forces communities, military brats.
I’ll thicken the terminology and further introduce “Army brat,” which better identifies my three daughters, considering my branch of service. They are Army brats, just like I once was and just like my father was too. My mom was even an Air Force brat.
Despite the generational legacy, we don’t really celebrate the month in our home. However, the occasion does provide me now with an opportunity to reflect on what being an Army brat means to me, both as an alumnus of that group and as the father of three young brats.
In Batman v Leadership, Part 1, I discussed five leadership traits of The Batman that represent some of his good, positive leader qualities. But anyone familiar with the Dark Knight’s M.O. knows his techniques, actions, and demeanor are often at odds with what we’d want our kids to take away as healthy behaviors.
Continuing and concluding my two-part look at some of Batman’s leadership characteristics, I now bring you some of the Caped Crusader’s less desirable qualities from which we might be able to learn and avoid ourselves.
Full disclosure up front: I’m a Batman fanboy nerd. He is my all-time favorite comic book hero – a masked vigilante who fights crime, injustice, and evil with his wit, training, preparation, and bottomless bank account. He doesn’t have super powers, and yet he’s a card-carrying founding member of the Justice League and a proven fighter capable of going toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel himself.
But like any man, the Caped Crusader is not without his flaws. Starting with this post and finishing with the planned second part, I will discuss a handful of the Dark Knight’s leadership traits, first good, then bad. What lessons can leaders glean from the World’s Greatest Detective? How many more nicknames for Batman can I use?! Keep reading to find out!
Note: I won’t post any spoilers for the movie. In fact, I’m going to stick mainly to the comics.
In 334 BCE, just two years after being crowned king of Macedonia, Alexander the Great took his mighty army into modern-day Turkey and began his grand campaign. On a foray into inland Anatolia the next year, Alexander marched to Gordium, the capital of Phrygia, formerly a kingdom, but contemporarily a province of Persia.
It was there, legend has it, that a peasant named Gordias won the prophecy lottery, becoming king simply by being the next guy to drive an ox-cart into town.
Gordias (father of the famous King Midas) became ruler, and his ox-cart was later hitched to a post with a knot that was presumably the world’s first successful vehicle anti-theft device. (You can read more about that here.)
Well, successful for a while. Because, as more legend has it, whoever could untie the knot located at this so-called gateway to Asia would rule that land—this legend was probably developed by Alexander’s publicists ex post facto.
Sometimes I don’t have anything particularly funny or snarky to write, and sometimes I’m in between more academically-aimed historical or other scholastic pieces. In those periods, I still have things I want to write about, they just fit somewhere in between. This is the third post in a category I call “In Between.”
Lately I’ve put a lot of thought into whether or not writing these posts and publishing them on this blog are worthwhile. Who the hell am I to be so arrogant as to think I have enough experience or worthy ideas to write authoritatively about anything? Why am I even bothering?
But I have plenty of reasons to write, I’ve concluded. I share these now in part because I want to have them written down so I can refer back to them in the future, but also because there might be someone reading this who is hesitant to write and who might find some of these reasons motivating.
The gathered staff stands to attention from their seats as the Battalion Executive Officer enters the conference room.
“Take your seats,” she says, making her way to the head of the table. Arrayed around the room and now sitting back in their swivel chairs are the various leaders of the battalion’s staff sections and special staff. That includes me, the Battalion S1. I’m the personnel officer for the battalion, sometimes called the Adjutant, which is a title that refers primarily to my traditional ceremonial duties.
“Alright put your AR glasses on, and let’s get this started,” the XO clips. The staff complies, each member donning their pair of translucent augmented reality holo-glasses. I do the same. Within my field of vision, a PowerPoint slide titled “Staff Huddle” fades in.
The AG Corps is supremely proud of Gates and his American Revolution fame. I’m proud of my branch, its steeped history, and the integral work we do. I am not, however, proud of the corps’ so-called founder. (As an aside, he’s sometimes called “Granny” Gates in historical accounts. The nickname has been refuted here and other places, but in at least one case, years later, Timothy Pickering called Gates “an old woman.”)
NOTE: This was originally published here on January 8, 2016.
Note: I’m taking some time working on a more “scholarly” article, so here’s something a little fluffier just for fun in the mean time.
It always troubles me when someone bemoans history as a boring school subject in which they were forced to memorize useless dates and names. I have a BA in history, and I’m certain I could not recite even basic so-called “important” historical dates. For me, the value of history is in its lessons and stories.
Putting aside the problem with unqualified or disinterested coaches dominating social science classes (granted, there are some phenomenal coach-teachers), too many teachers teach history wrong. Dates are important and useful, but they’ll never be as interesting as knowing the honest and unfiltered stories of our nation and world. (I highly recommend James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Mefor an introduction to the world of textbook-less history.)
Even with a disdain for the classroom version of history, anyone can find an interesting story in the branches of their own family tree.