Waits, Waits, Don’t Tell Me

The Bible gives us a metaphor about those folks, those confounded ten-talent people. You know them!

Jesus tells a metaphor about using money expressed in talents, which has turned into a metaphor for the fact that we have varieties and numbers of gifts, that is talents as we use the word today. The parable tells us that some people have ten talents. You know them!

My sympathies are with the timid one-talent guy who comes off so badly in the parable. (Matthew 25:14–30, in case you want to look it up.)

Bill Bailey is a favorite of ours on British television, excepting that fact that he has many talents. Some of you may know him as Manny, the flaky assistant in the wacky Black Books. As well as an actor, he is also a stand-up comic, a writer of comedy, and deeply gifted in music, skilled at improvisation in music and in comedy. We know him for QI and others of the many British TV panel comedy shows. We love him especially for his part in Walks with My Dogs, a show in which various British celebrities walk famous trails around Britain with their dogs. The show is laid back, slow-paced, calming. Bailey’s unassuming manner is perfect. He rescues dogs. Of course, he does. He is also a sort of PDQ Bach comedian, working with orchestras, for one thing with his Odd Guide to the Orchestra. His piece about bassoons is hilarious.

Here he is doing a send-up of Tom Waits. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RztSrL4utdg

Forty years ago I had a student who was a true ten-talent person. You could count them. Despite her modest and warm manner (people skills was one of talents), she aggravated her friends to no end for it, especially since she found the talents a burden at 16-18 years of age. I would like to tell you her name, such a delightfully Norwegian name. But I will not.

A few Babooners have more than one talent, a couple at least approaching the metaphoric ten number. I, for one, am a wannabe. I am certain that most Babooners move in circles that include a ten-talent person or two. Oh, yes, you know them!

Tell us about ten-talent people you know and how well they have managed them.

Do your multiple talents distract you?

38 thoughts on “Waits, Waits, Don’t Tell Me”

  1. My hunting and fishing buddy, Bill, is multiitalented. He graduated from the U of MN medical school with brilliant grades and has been a doctor for five decades in emergency rooms. He owns two planes and is a pilot. He is equally gifted at sailing. While learning to sail, he mastered the arts of navigation. He ran and finished the Iditarod sled dog marathon several times. His skills at angling are such that a friend once heard people in Grand Marais seriously debating whether he was the best angler in Minnesota’s Cook County. Now a Montanan, he just finished a year of leading Montana’s medical association. He is a gifted rifle shot who reloads his own ammunition. In his 60s, Bill is in the best shape of his life and can run endurance contests.

    I once got depressed about how poorly I matched up against Bill’s brilliance. Why someone like that would hang out with a doofus like me? I decided finally that Bill cannot do two things: he can’t remember recent events in vivid detail and he can’t tell stories. Those are the only things I can do. Bill hangs out with me because I remember our adventures so well and then tell stories about what we did.


  2. Sorry, Northshorer, but I’m going to have to go with the country song, Numbers, by Bobby Bare, and the last line “… there ain’t no tens”; Not even Donald Trump and the women in his life. I rate an eight in the flooring installation scale. This Saturday morning, I won our union local’s installation contest. We were graded on speed, professionalism and quality. I won $350.00 and a slot in the Mid-West contest. Top prize there is 3,000 and a shot at 5,000 in Las Vegas. At age 65, it’s unlikely that I’ll get any farther than the local. Pleased with myself am I.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. I remember when I reflexively identified with and rooted for youngsters. Like Chris Evert, her hair in pigtails, bopping around the court as a teenager. Now, predictably, in most contests I hope the canny old dude can use experience and intelligence to overcome the natural advantages of youth. .

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Wait Wait– there’s a contest for laying flooring?? Well that’s kinda interesting. Write a blog about that.What’s required? What type of flooring? Can you do it ‘record fast’ and still do it well? I’m full of questions!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. congrats
      i worship craftsman and artists
      hats off to you

      do a blog something showing your cool work

      the little descriptions of what you do are enough to make me wish i could see and lesson to a story or two told in flooringinstallationeze


  3. The older I get, the more I see different qualities, as well as skills, to be talents. Things like ability to focus, to truly listen, even stubbornness is the ability to persevere. If I use these I probably know lots of 10-talent people.

    I think of a friend Dee who is skilled in her professions as hairdresser and massage therapist, an incredible painter, seamstress and knitter, gardener, parent, furniture refinisher – seems like anything she puts her hand to comes out beautifully. I used to be intimidated, had her up on a pedestal, until at some point I was able to help her through a tough time, and realized I had some skills of my own that she didn’t.

    Thinking about second question…


  4. The most talented person I knew is a Minnesota artist, Rollin Alm. He had an arts school up at Meadowlands. The last I’ve heard he and his wife are now in Somerset, Wisconsin. He produced work in many media including fresco. I understand he helped with work at St. Thomas. He was also an excellent flooring installer. I taught him but readily admit that he became better than me especially when it came to details. It was the artsy part of his being. Give him a radius number and he could free-hand a circle. He was quite good at photography, had a knack for numbers and an excellent memory.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. If being a 10 means you have to do virtually everything because you are the only one at your workplace with a needed skill set, then I am forced to be a 10 by default. It stinks.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I know a person who’s really good at painting and decorating and sewing and cooking and yet they are also in a recover group. Never would have guessed they needed a 12 step program. So isn’t it interesting how complex and diverse people are.


    1. I think that’s because most people think of addiction as a character flaw rather than a disease. You wouldn’t think it odd, would you, to learn that this person had diabetes or MS and needed medication for it?

      An old college friend of mine is married to a tenured professor at the University of Illinois, where he has taught for many, many years. He is consistently rated among the best teachers at the U, is a published author, long-distance runner, and a gourmet cook, yet he struggles with anorexia and has since he was a teen. People are indeed complex and diverse.


  7. Sorry for un stimulating post. Checking at home for quick lunch then back to my common habitat. I don’t think you have clicked the link to his tom waits singing Old McDonald satire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Still laughing from stripping out the consonants from “reinvention.” Thanks, Clyde, that was great, will look fro more from Bill Bailey.

      In contemplating question 2, I find I have multiple adequacies, but not much in the way of real talents. My daughter recently shared a nugget from a book she had read at a Bible study, that mentioned that we don’t always know when something we’ve done might set off the butterfly effect. One example was the mother of the boy who shared his lunch at the feeding of the 5,000. She had no idea when she set him off that day with 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish for his lunch, that the meal would be shared and remembered for millennia.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. The question leads me to ponder what exactly is a talent and how it might differ from a skill. I rather think of a talent as something at least in part innate whereas a skill can be developed with practice. And I wonder what it takes for a competency to ascend to a talent. Is it a matter of recognition? Acclaim?

    I know a number of people with skills I admire. Many of them exhibit multiple abilities but for the most part those individuals earned their abilities through intelligence, through native dexterity and most importantly through the willingness to attempt and learn.

    When I was younger, I was willing to attempt a great many things and for the most part was able to accomplish them to my satisfaction. I don’t know that any of those endeavors exposed a “talent”. I’ve found, as I’ve gotten older that I am less bold, less confident, more reticent. I don’t know why.

    I’ve just been reading about the romantic age of science—the late eighteenth century and the early nineteenth— and about some of the true polymaths that characterized that period, Joseph Banks, William Herschel, Humphrey Davy, Michael Faraday, et al. Given their often humble backgrounds and what they had to work with, their abilities and accomplishments were astounding.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I did click the link to the Waits impersonation, and it is quite funny. The ei-ei-o thing just slayed me.

    Being no bible scholar, I also Googled the Matthew parable. There are so many parables in the bible that I have trouble with, this is one of them.
    Just can’t square it with my core beliefs.

    I’ll admit to also having a bit of trouble with the last part of the first question. How do I judge how well my ten-talent friends have managed their talents? And what do I use to measure it? Dollars in the bank? Car they drive? Recognition by peers? Has a multi-talented friend mismanaged her talent if she lives in a ramshackle house, drives a beater, and doesn’t have a cent in the bank?

    One of my neighbors is multi-talented and a most eccentric friend. She’s an actress, a singer, playwright, painter (she hand painted her beater to look like a Monarch butterfly), puppet maker and puppeteer, master gardener, and fluent in Spanish. She’s an extremely hard worker, and generous to a fault (is there such a thing?), and she is involved in her local community, and active in multiple social justice causes.

    This is a woman who doesn’t belong in an office working 9 to 5, although she occasionally will hire on to such a job in order to pay the mortgage. Her tenure is usually short, because the drudgery of a daily routine drives her crazy. The fact is that virtually none of her work is paid or, if it is, very little. Besides all that, she’s a terrible money manager, not a good combination. There are aspects of this friend’s life that I admire, and others that drive me nuts. But honestly, in my view, when that final curtain falls, only she can render a judgment on whether or not she was a good steward of her talents. Meanwhile, I know she’s a friends that makes my life more interesting.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. To large degree, I think that’s true. Hard work definitely makes a difference, and not just doing the part of the work that is fun and enjoyable.


    2. Thinking on this might be changing, Bill. It is my perception that people used to be wowed by talent but have learned to appreciate discipline, effort and courage. Several studies have addressed this, including the one that found “grit” was more potent than talent.


  10. I too am going to look up Bill Bailey and some of that British comedy, Clyde, and Odd Guide to Orchestra.

    I am multi-skilled, and multi-interested. tim talks sometimes about knowing a little about a lot of things, but not delving deeply into any, or not many, at least. I feel like that sometimes, and would like to focus on one or two things. (Hope tim’s back soon.)


  11. i’m hard at it in vegas today after a marathon weekend
    midnight flight back to get the time change locked in

    looking forward to waits video

    i am a 10 interests guy not a 10 talent guy
    i am afraid bill is right
    if i worked at it i may succeed
    we may never know

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I know some people who are multi-talented. One seems to be good at everything she does – the rows in her garden are perfectly straight, she can fix anything, can sing and play the violin, her christmas tree is decorated perfectly (when our kids were young, she wouldn’t let her kids help decorate the tree and thus it looked perfect; mine, for some reason, looked like some little kids decorated it). All that is annoying in a way, but you know, as perfect as she seems to be at everything, she can’t listen to anybody but herself and monopolizes every conversation she’s in. I would rather have a friend who was imperfect but with whom I could have a real conversation. Kindness and listening are more important than skills.

    My multi-talents do not distract me, because what multi-talents?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This was an excuse to put up the YouTube link. His guide to the orchestra changes names I think , from remarkable to weird to odd.


  14. Anyone here remember a frequent performer on Prairie Home Companion in the 1980s known as “Stevie Beck, Queen of the Autoharp”? I remember her coming out onstage on a night when Emmylou Harris was also a guest.

    Garrison asked Stevie how she was. “Oh, I just been settin’ in the green room with Emmylou, tryin’ to suck in my thighs. You know, when the Good Lord was passin’ stuff around, why did some people GET IT ALL?”


        1. No, no, no, tim, that’s not accurate. Margaret Moose, the first executive producer of the show, was his significant other. She abruptly left the show, and NPR, in 1985 after GK unceremoniously dumped her. He had fallen in love during a class reunion with a former classmate, a Danish exchange student named Ulla Skærved. He married Ulla in Copenhagen later that year.

          Stevie, on the other hand, in addition to being a featured musician on the show, once the show became a little better established, became first the show’s talent coordinator, and later served eight years as an associate producer of the show. She resigned in 2000.


        2. I believe you are exactly right, PJ. Margaret wasn’t an official wife, but people who dislike GK always considered his leaving her the equivalent of a marriage that ended in betrayal. She went on to have a great job in radio and she married someone else.


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