6/20/2015

Superjerk, Inc.

The former J Crew executive who partied and quoted Hunger Games after a mass layoff deserved to be fired, not just for bring obnoxious, but for using social media to salt the wounds.

One thing you never do after laying off or firing someone is brag about it in public, and certainly not on social media. Any other employer with a soup├žon of humility would have been figuring of ways to keep morale up, for the survivors, not acting like an arrogant fratboy.

This former executive, however, acted like a typical dudebro, waiting until the last laid off employee collected their box before becoming a total executive jerk.  Hence the snotty hashtags, the brazen attitude, the encouragement to dump all over the people who now must look for new jobs and stretch their budgets tight.

It's good that the management above him had the sense to give him a taste of his own medicine by booting him out the door, but other kinds of jerks are so smooth they get booted up the chain, rather than getting a very well deserved walk of shame courtesy of security.  Eventually, Karma intervenes and ejects this person from his lofty post.

Take a look at your hierarchy at work.  Notice the ones who have stayed there the longest, the ones you wonder, "They're too smart to be in the position they've had for so long!  Why haven't they moved on?"  They could be happy and comfortable in their jobs, a valuable and indispensable asset, or they simply feel where they are is good enough.  

In some cases, however, that advancement becones very hard when clique-heavy structure above thwarts them, one that fears outsiders disrupting their chummy little circle, who only wants to be social.  They despise people who "have a clue" because those people will show how inadequate and lacking their skills are, and will go out of their way to sabotage their daily work routine, and try their damnest to make that person leave by making the work environment very toxic.

The remedy for such antics like that at J Crew is to seek, employ and retain humble, tactful, empathetic people, ones who don't see laying off their lessers as an excuse to be loudmouths or to dance on the career graves.  That matters as much as seeking those with talent to do their jobs.  Sensibility and sensitivity are what keeps a company afloat, and keeps from employing superjerks at any level.

6/13/2015

Real comics don't play colleges

My first exposure to comedy was back in 1990, when during freshman orientation Ed "The Machine" Regine referred to yours truly as "Opie on Quaaludes."  From then until I graduated until 1994, that jest didn't cause me to shrilly demand safe space nor did it cause any triggers (although I've always wanted to write to Ron Howard and ask him if Opie did sneak in a little moonshine during the show, because he looked almost too well adjusted).

He's not addressing the college students who don't have time to be perpetually offended - STEM students have enough on their minds (and can make better jokes with some of the material out there).  He's addressing the students who make their entire four years an humorless series of political organizing, extortion in the name of Title IX, zealous pursuits of squelching dissent that would make the Spanish Inquisition proud, and agitating their way to permanent unemployment, prison time, or a grave.

Not every comedian seeks to destroy with their wit.  They seek to entertain, to see the humor in human nature, and to get a good laugh out of hard times.  To these hard-line humor defeaters, comedians care seen as the fearsome evil clowns on the college campus, ones to rip deep-seated beliefs out from under them (implanted by their equally hard-line professors).  To these people, throwing a supernova psychotic temper tantrum will prevent their prejudices and biases from ever being challenged, not realizing they're being mocked behind their backs.

A comedian with smarts would send a prospective college an outrageous technical rider (use your imagination here, including everything that would offend the hypersensitive), plus a hefty financial escrow should things "get out of hand."  Then at the bottom, write, "Just kidding! I know you can't get Columbian midgets who wrote a thesis on the decimalization of Indian currency in the 1950s, or that you can't get 400 pounds of durian fruit from Thailand delivered by the Mother Superior Emeritus from Our Lady of Lourdes convent in Lake Heaton, WI.  But it did make you think a little bit, didn't it?"  

The colleges that aren't offended will get a great laugh and sign the comedian up; the colleges that are offended will needlessly agitate and ban the comedian from their campus for no reason other than they're perpetually offended. And later, when told to lighten up, they blow up into a lengthy tirade about nothing - perfect for a post-Seinfeld episode.

5/24/2015

The indirect lesson of denial

The hardest thing to do is to make an exception to a rule.  It's even harder to say, "If I let one person do it, I have to let everyone do it."

That's what makes this story so hard. as it involved children who couldn't pay being isolated from the carnival, which included bouncy houses, popcorn, and loud music.  The ones who were denied that pleasure were herded into an auditorium with only a Disney movie.

Thinking more about it, however, the principal was showing the children - young as they were - what denial is. Even though the teachers who felt bad for these children tried to make them feel better, the principal was attempting to teach everyone that giving everyone a trophy or medal distorts what real success and hard work means  - and if you do not have those tools to succeed, you will be denied at every turn.  It's easier to learn that maxim now than later and in that instance, the principal was correct to insist on paying, even though it was harsh to deny those who didn't from participating..

Denial or rejection, when warranted and principled, is something these children will have to learn.  In high school, if they fail their classes, they'll be denied prom privileges, their cap and gown, the ability to attend their graduation ceremony, and their diploma.  If they slack off during their last term, their first choice for college, including all scholarships, will be revoked.  In the workplace, if they do the minimum of work, they'll be denied promotions - or even be terminated.

Yes, there are poor people who can't afford to pay $10 - either through happenstance or through a strict budget.  Parents likely told their children, "I have to account for every dollar.  $10 means less for food, electricity, and such, and I'll have to cut back elsewhere."  Then, the difference between sitting in an auditorium with no fun versus no dinner and no electricity becomes a sacrifice, rather than a punishment.  They may not get to have fun with their friends, but at least they come home to a decent dinner and a roof over their heads. 

Indirectly, the principal did these kids a huge favor - showing them that denial now may yield something bigger and better later, if they work hard enough to succeed and are patient enough to wait.  Moreover, you will be bitterly disappointed if you feel everything must be handed to you, above the fairness of others.

5/12/2015

Must Do Something, NFL edition

In a Punch cartoon, a Victorian-era boy wheeling around a cart with one wheel fallen off is bawling.  A woman chides him: "I shouldn't cry if I were you." and the young boy sobs, "Must do sumpin' - bean't allowed to swear."

In all of the other crimes that Roger Goddell, incompetent NFL commissioner, could give to more deserving players for more egregious crimes, he took the word of whiners and gave the mob their Barabbas in the form of a four game suspension of Tom Brady, forfeiture of two draft picks, and a million dollar fine.

Four games and a million for deflated footballs.  Zero for domestic violence, OUI, DUI, drugs, murder, or anything else.

I personally like Tom Brady.   He's enjoying every second of being the untouchable BMOC, irritating his critics no end.  The danger is that a rested Brady is a dangerous Brady, and this four game unpaid vacation will come back to bite the NFL in the hindquarters.  Meanwhile,  the team who brought up this investigation is still drinking the vinegar-spiked Kool-aid and whining "we wuz robbed."

Yet, to quell the folks who think they can sleepwalk through a Superbowl, waking up with a 50 carat ring on their finger just for showing up,  the NFL set down the hammer for their sake - not in the name of sportsmanship and fairness, but to soothe the huge egos that are demanding Something Be Done About It.  A more nakedly political commissioner could have easily vacated the Patriots' championship, but Goddell is not that malleable.

(Speaking of political - you think all of this may have something to do with Brady not showing up to the command performance - pardon, the visit - to the White House?  Just askin'.)

In our age of indulgence to the lowest common denominator, the competent and the knowledgeable are shoved aside for the obnoxious and shallow, and the contest today is for those who can wave their hands to get the quickest attention.  When proven wrong, or told to get lost, they whine about not getting "respect."  Respect is earned - not acquired from whining, extortions, false accusations, from being so unbearably shrill that giving in only emboldens the accusers and scammers the next time.

Other commissioners of a sturdier composition (Condolezza Rice?) would gladly investigate such frivolities, with the proviso that if there is no wrongdoing, the accusers pay fines, legal fees, and a few draft picks.  Then, they would plan to investigate the authentic problems that plague the NFL, ones that sully the image of good sportsmanship and fair play, including those outside the field.

5/04/2015

"Mama always wins"

Here's a bit of sage advice for those decrying Toya Graham's beatdown of her son, who was going to join his fellow agitators and "break stuff:"

If you're shocked that a mother - nay, a parent - cares enough to prevent her son from either being arrested or shot dead, perhaps there's a problem with your own parents you must come to grips with.

Toya Graham didn't want her son to be a statistic, or even a martyr for the cause of violent resistance whipped up by savvy agitators.  She came forward and showed exactly what a parent has to do sometimes to get attention to the inattentive.

Rebelling against parents is nothing new.  Teenagers who think they know better will try their damndest to prove they known more, but after they see the error of their ways, they assert their parents were right.  Ask a mother who had her daughter at the age of 15, relegating her to a virtual eighteen year sentence.  Ask a recovering drug addict who began smoking pot at 14, shot up heroin at 16, nearly overdosed at 18, went sober off and on, until they reached their nadir, went through a nasty detox, and has been clean and sober for two decades.  Ask a woman who had an abusive boyfriend who beat and violated her at his every whim.  In each case, unless they're permanently obstinate and in denial, they thought they knew better, but did not, and they paid the price for it.

The real problem with parents that I see are inattentive, abusive, overindulgent, ignorant, and neglecting.  Those children are perfect for being lulled into the sweet language of indoctrination, of being pumped full of intellectual garbage and violent propaganda, and being unleashed at the behest of their new "friends" (read: masters) to carry out violence in the name of an ideology, all the while not realizing that they're being used as a means to an end.

Toya Graham fits none of those attributes.

What actually did win - and it disturbs these critics more than Toya Graham - is that tough love really won.  Instead of claiming another "lost soul" to their cause of nihilistic violence and rigid ideology, they saw that a parent wasn't a friend (they weren't going to toss rocks or loot together) and that they discipline "old school," and will do anything to make certain their children aren't used and become disposable at the whim of corrupt leaders.

4/17/2015

"Miserable wretch" and the shame machine

I once had homeroom with the late John Ertha at Boston Latin Academy.  Mr. Ertha was a genial man, one who could spin tales that would mesmerize the class (or at least us kids waiting for first period).  Anyone who got him angry received the brand of "miserable wretch."  One time, a homeroom member denigrated another teacher, and Mr. Ertha ended that conversation with that thunderous sobriquet.

The teaching moment in this ugly tirade from a female ESPN reporter isn't what she said.  Certainly it had its mean girl patina, one where a pretty female swats someone else with her lesser looks with the charm of Cruella DeVille.  The teaching moment is that all of us got that satisfaction of calling her a miserable wretch, basking in her schadenfreude when ESPN suspended her for acting like a total bitch (Ivy league sorority strain?), through the completely opaque veil of anonymity.

If the cameras weren't rolling, this would never have been an issue.  Her "miserable wretchedness" would be safely out of the public eye.  The tow company (itself having a checkered past) had its cameras rolling, thus displaying an ugliness we usually reserve behind closed doors.  Thence, the week-long suspension, which depending on who you hear from, is either just right, too excessive, or requires a walk of shame to HR for the last paycheck and escort from the building.

When we apply shame correctly, the object of shame is humbled, and likely has an indirect effect on us not to repeat what others do.  Shame as entertainment, as a way to display our own insecurities, is shallow, self-serving and wrong.  Piling on with the intent of "running the person out of town" is naked mob rule, not anything remotely resembling showing the person the error of their ways in a dignified manner.

It could well be that she returns a better reporter.  However, female reporters have managed to keep their cool even when news is jarring and emotionally wrenching.  The occasional blooper, including ones that involve obscenities, have found themselves on gag reels for ages; this one where a reporter, caught unaware, dressed down someone else in an ugly fashion, may not be as quickly forgiveable.

4/06/2015

Clickbait English

Last July 4, I wrote the entry Internet Demonstrative Pronoun Abuse with a jaded eye towards what people write about and how far they can shock/sensationalize people.

You know that 'one weird trick' gimmick?  It's pure diet spam - one that charges you $79 a month, charged directly to your credit card, for garbage pills purported to lose weight.  (And good luck trying to get out of it, unless you chargeback.) 

You would think websites would learn from this and avoid this kind of chicanery, one with plenty of shiny bait, but hiding garbage (or even worse, malware and/or identity theft).

They haven't.

When you see breathless action words, aggressively pleading questions, outrageous claims, and so forth, you've entered the world of Clickbait English.  Clickbait English is a lot like the oversimplified language in Orwell's 1984 - it condescends, appeals to the lowest common denominator, and is not meant for critical thinkers.  There are no nuances, just plenty of noise.

If spam/fraud companies can lure eyeballs to their spam/fraud products, websites can do the same with their articles, only they're a shade more scrupulous.  Most of the time, their articles are innocent and wouldn't be read if they had a boring headline.  They're covering a dull, boring article in fancy, superficial patina so the less-attentive take it as a must-read.

Other times, the articles are advertorials - articles that look serious, but are paid for by other companies to shill their goods.  Advertorials are slightly less sketchy versions of the 'one weird trick' gimmick, only it's done by legitimate corporations and companies.  If you're reading about your health and you've just thought to yourself, "Isn't that the Cheerios pitch?" then you've just read an advertorial.

Clickbait English is the perfect medium for gossip webpages, tabloids, and fan sites that want you to know everything right now, and scammers and hackers love it because each "meet," "here is," "is this the best ever," and "wait, what" is a perfect opportunity to inject drive-by downloads for ransomware, viruses that are expensive to remove, spyware that can harvest keystrokes to clean out bank accounts, and deposit reams upon reams of spam into email boxes, costing the end user tons in bandwidth.

To top it off, Clickbait English reduces the normal person to a babbling, obnoxious fool, one with such disjointed, random thoughts that it's hard to take them seriously.  Just like reality TV shows and infomercials, who are looking to relieve you of your money under the guise of improving your life, Clickbait English reduces the rational into a huge mess of cliches and doublespeak.

I thought of other words to describe this, but Clickbait English fits best because all it does is act like a carnival barker, trying to show people something sensational, but all they're doing is relieving them of time and money - and lots of both.

(This web post shills for nobody and is the opinion of only the blogger.)

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