Culture: non-technical issues


  • Groundhog Day: Bill Murray stars as a cynical weather man who keeps reliving the same day over and over again. It is the quitesential story of the meaning of life.
  • The Godfather: one of the best movies ever made, a tale of a a subtle, brilliant man in a brutal world.
  • Lord of the Rings: the quest for freedom and the fellowship that arises in pursuing it.
  • Catch Me If You Can: movie about a counterfeiter who is so good that the FBI hires him.
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi: the best sushi chef is 85 years old and has a restaurant with 10 seats. This is a movie about who he is.
  • Little Shop of Horrors: plant from outer space.
  • The Graduate: a story of a man who has just graduated college and doesn't know what to do with his life.
  • Working Girl: reaching for the stars in NYC.
  • Manhattan: Woody Allen's love song to NYC.
  • North by Northwest: man gets embroiled with spies by accident.
  • Rear Window: living life through looking out your window.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird: a small-time, southern lawyer defends a black man accused of raping a white woman.
  • My Cousin Vinny: inexperienced, out-of-town lawyer defends two recent college graduates charged with murder.
  • Ronin: man leaves the CIA and becomes a freelancer for a terrorist group doing a heist. Ronin refers to a samarai without a master.
  • Bridge Over the River Kwai: Brittish soldiers during World War II build a bridge for their enemy. Perfect example of doing the wrong thing well.
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: autistic, and hacker supreme, girl confronts evil. (Book is great).


  • The Godfather, Mario Puzzo: the book is even more magical than the movie.
  • Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle: story of a detective who observes and reasons about seemingly small issues to solve crimes. Doyle is a physician by training, Holmes is modelled on remarkable physicians which are able to keenly observe and therefore diagnose.
  • Lord of the Rings, JR Tolkien: see the movies and then read the books. My wife, who is Turkish, began reading this in english when she came to the US, and would write long letters back to her parents, who were very well read, about the book. They called her older sister, who she was living with, very alarm that their daughter must be on drugs.
  • The Possessed, Elif Batuman: humorous, touching, and filled with truths, a journey of mind and body.
  • Xen and the art of motorcyle maintenance, Robert Persig: A journey on a motorcycle with broad philosophical discussions and a cult classic.
  • On War, Carl von Clausewitz: A prussian general, bewildered how a frenchman could so thoroughly trounce the prussians, writes this brilliant analysis of war. I read it after I began the Ethos project, and I sought to understand how to deal with a huge campaign. What bigger campaign is there than war?
  • The Art of War, Sun Tzu: brilliant, pithy book of strategy in war, 2000 years old and no less relevant today.
  • The Innovator's Dilemma, Clayton M. Christenson: Business book about innovations which revolutionize markets and how these innovations succeed.
  • Outliers: the story of success, Malcolm Gladwell: What makes success? Many things, but expertise comes only with hard work, no matter the field. Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours.
  • The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell: How do epidemics start? This book examines social epidemics that change our lives and how they work.


  • Star Trek: I recently watched this whole 1960s original series. Remarkable show given the special effects technology of the time: for some effects they literally flash colored lights on and off. But the model making and sets are superb; the social vision far ahead of its time. And Spock is the first portrail of autism.
  • Saturday Night Live: Especially the first 5 years.


  • "The Japanese word shokunin is defined by both Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries as 'craftsman' or 'artisan', but such a literal description does not fully express the deeper meaning. The Japanese apprentice is taught that shokunin means not only having technical skills, but also implies an attitude and social consciousness. ... The shokunin has a social obligation to work his/her best for the general welfare of the people. This obligation is both spiritual and material, in that no matter what it is, the shokunin's responsibility is to fulfill the requirement." -- Tasio Odate