The Artist from Leith, Taxes, and Takeaways

More than anything else, I’d like to be an old man with a good face, like Hitchcock or Picasso” -Sean Connery

Pablo Picasso's classic painting

Pablo Picasso’s classic painting

The Artist from Leith, Sean Connery, has long said that he would move back to Scotland from his home in Bermuda if his country would vote for independence.


Before we get into the post, The Academic Entrepreneur will relate his encounter with Tarzan during a trip back from Silicon Valley to the Capital City of Scotland during his stint at the Edinburgh-Stanford Link. Hes doesn’t recall which year, but it was somewhere during the 2005-2010 era.  He was watching football in the Continental Lounge in Newark’s International Airport, working on his laptop as usual on a Monday night. It had to be during a September, because he remembers that there was a “one playoff ” baseball game (division match) on that evening too, which he had spaced about, for he was probably writing the PhD (which he is still doing,  it seems).  The Academic Entrepreneur likes baseball.  In walks these two gents who seemed a bit cocky, one with a limp. The tall one shouts out to me ‘is it OK if we watch the baseball?”. There weren’t many in the lounge waiting for the 11p redeye to Edinburgh. The AE responded “of course” and soon thereafter decided to have a beer. Soon a bit of conversation ensued about this and that. The tall guy with the limp who was kinda cocky liked baseball. And beer. That was cool with the AE. His kinda guy.. A guy’s guy was he.  We talked briefly about baseball.  Beers in the Continental Lounge in Newark are only $1 each. The big guy seemed to like that too. He reminded me of my father a bit, and had a straight-shooting yet happy-go-lucky thing about him.

I don’t know anything about baseball” – Sean Connery

As I guessed, the tall dude gets on the plane to Edinburgh. The accent had been picked up by the AE.

The AE gets bumped to first class too and sits not far from the tall dude, who seems to be getting extra attention from the flight attendants all of whom are eager to serve him and practically fighting over this privilege, which is a slight ego deflater for the AE, who, is well, tall but not that tall. But he just figures, well, this is what happens to tall, older, handsome dudes who have a “Good-time-Charley” attitude about them.  The AE returns to reading a copy of Tucker Max’s new novel I Hope they Serve Beer in Hell that he had picked up at the airport earlier and has an AHA moment.   Was Tucker right? (As a sidenote, in some ways, Big Tam reminds me of Tucker Max).

““I am pretty f*(&^%$@! cool, but there are other cool guys in the world besides me. Or so my friends tell me.” – Tucker Max

In true absent-minded professorness, The Academic Entrepreneur doesn’t put 1 and 1 together until the plan lands in Edinburgh and there is a queue of people waiting at the door of the plane, and a lineup of Edinburgh Airport employees waiting to greet and see passengers. In his haze following a beer-induced half slept night on a lumpy seat (at least it was leather and in first class and the beer was free), the Academic Entrepreneur could not figure why so many people were eager to see him. Did word get out about his awesome lectures at the University of Edinburgh?  Then it hits him: No, this is all about the tall due.   “Scotland’s Greatest Living National Treasure”, “The Greatest Living Scot”, “Sexiest Man Alive”, the  “Sexiest Man of the Century”.  The Academic Entrepreneur didn’t think of these nicknames, but just remembered that this was the awesome Chicago cop, the Scottish policeman from his favorite gangster movie  The Untouchables. The one that got shot and had a limp.  Yes, Sean Connery, that is him.

Hey, no one ever said the Academic Entrepreneur was a movie buff.  When he hangs around the TV Festival in Edinburgh, he has no idea who any of these people are or why others are gawking at him. Except Tom Hanks. Which is another story.

As a sidenote, this was the first and only time over about 100 or more deplanes in 7 years that The Academic Entrepreneur ever had his luggage even asked about at the Edinburgh International Airport. Edinburgh is good like that. Relaxed, kind, and not paranoid.

“What’s in the luggage, Sir. Anything we should know about?”

“I’ve got two robots”.

“TWO ROBOTS?” exclaims the startled agent



“What is their combined value” asks the agent.

The AE does the math in his head, converting to dollars and even adding VAT “about 400 pounds” he answers factually.

“OK, the limit is 500 pounds” You are free to go.

The Academic Entrepreneur had purchased two Lego Robotics sets as gifts for his business partner in the Gadder software startup, Aditya Kedia.

It seems that the airport staff felt obliged to do SOMETHING in their wait to see Big Tam, who had apparently slipped to the loo on the way to in order to have a proper pee once landed in the homeland.

True story. I kid you not.


Moving on.

So the Artistic Boy from Leith who made it Big in Hollywood keeps banging on about Scottish independence.

He was at it again yesterday.  Interestingly, he remarked

“Simply put – there is no more creative an act than creating a new nation,”

Furthermore, he believes that independence will be good for the arts in Scotland. That is the gist of what he is saying.

Taxes Matter

The NOs against Scottish Independence will tell you that Big Tam’s voice doesn’t matter, because he doesn’t live in Scotland. And, more importantly, doesn’t pay taxes in Scotland as he hides is wealth in the tax haven of Bermuda. Also, they have remarked that he is just too old to matter, that he is beyond his prime. “He’s just an old actor who pretended to be James Bond, what he says doesn’t matter”.  No, old people aren’t wise. They are full of it. These three reasons are why the “Handsome Guy from Leith who Sometimes Limps” and who showed up at the tennis match to support Andy Murray should be dismissed.

“He should just keep playing his golf and keep his mouth shut, we don’t need to hear from him and he’s getting rather annoying”, remark the Nos.

But we must look at the content of what he is saying for its value. There are a couple of things that should be a center of discourse.

Takeways from Big Tam

First: Creating a new country is a highly creative act, and this is exactly how it should be seen. There is a an opportunity to recreate a nation, and institute creative innovation policy and programmes, such as the AE barks on about time and time again in the Scottish Independence series here in The Academic Entrepreneur publication. Creating a new country is like spinning out a new venture from a major corporation, or a university, more fittingly. Highly creative, lots of energy, and also highly risky. But as any entrepreneur will tell you, risk is necessary to do anything innovative. The key is not to minimize the risk, but rather to mitigate it without downsizing the upside potential.

Second, the arts are crucially important to Scotland, as is a creative community, especially in light of independence.  This is a key factor for a humming imagination economy. But why will Scotland’s arts scene be better off with independence? Is this true, or not?  This is something to explore and become informed about as a people. It’s crucial to understand and form an opinion of. More on this in later postings.

If I was having a beer with the Boy from Leith I’d advise him to buy a flat on High Street (or better yet on the Port of Leith) in Edinburgh this month, move into it the month after (when the weather is a bit nicer, the days longer and the golf a tad better)  and proclaim to stay in Edinburgh through the vote. The flat can be sold upon a NO vote or donated to charity. If a YES, then he stays as promised.

The second piece of advice is to establish a trio of imagination economy mechanisms: an arts funding foundation,  a new arts incubator in Leith with plenty of space for making and expressing, and a large arts venture capital fund for arts-related ventures and deals. This can be planned for and funded after a YES vote.  I don’t have any idea on the net worth in the estate that has been compounding over the years, but would imagine its substantial. The Old Scottish Man can’t take the wealth with him. Better to leave it at home.

Maybe this is what he is talking about when he says that independence will be good for the arts in Scotland. The Academic Entrepreneur can only gander.

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”

-Pablo Picasso


Science and Charity, a classic painting by Pablo Picasso when he was 15 years old.   In many ways it reflects the values and tradition of Scotland -- Medicine, Humanism, and Philanthropy.

Science and Charity, a classic painting by Pablo Picasso when he was 15 years old.
In many ways it reflects the values and tradition of Scotland — Medicine, Humanism, and Philanthropy.

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