Bemused by PowerPoint: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates

It’s Friday, which mean it’s time for Change of Venue, our weekly left-turn where we examine the non-legal—or at least aspects of life that lawyers may be good at, but did not learn in law school.

This week, we give a standing ovation to most lawyers’ ability to handle complexity and obfuscation. To desimplify and complicate is not the purview of rank amateurs, but should be left to those with the professional training and natural ability for such perplexification.

In that admirable effort, we point to a tool that we love: The overly complex but highly revealing flow chart.

Our Afghan "plan"

Those who would point instead to PowerPoint as the most maddeningly numbing medium, I would have to say, nuh-uh. Yes, PowerPoint may be the enemy of all that is good, but it is a drone, not a drill. It lulls to slumber, not to psychosis.

No, for a rousing, gin-inducing, time-wasting effort, I’ll take the flow chart every time.

Two such charts came to mind this week.

One was in a New York Times story that ostensibly mocks PowerPoint. But when you look at the image, I think you’ll see why their missile is aimed wrong. The piece is titled “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint.” Here’s the lede:

“Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.”

I think we’ll all agree with that assessment. As the article says, the slide is emblematic of a military tool that has spun out of control.

Still, it’s fun—and I’m sure many lawyers will agree, and enjoy tracing the conceptual paths with their fingers. You can read the whole story here.

Typeface Madness

Here at Arizona Attorney Magazine, we’ve also been enjoying a flow chart designed to help you select a font that fits your need and your personality. It’s a hoot, and a worthy Friday time-waster.

To see the entire flow chart in all its psychotic glory, start obsessing here.