Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Judging in transit

I’ve noticed a new trend on the train lately – dudes with old books. I can’t decide if I find them endearing or pretentious… I think I’m leaning toward the former, probably only because I notice these readers during rush hours and therefore assume they’re bored corporate monkeys like myself, rather than scornful hipsters, who I (again) assume wake up around noon and have no reason to travel to the Loop.

But as I was contemplating this while standing behind one of these dudes on the brown line this morning, I noticed what looked like a hand-made bookmark peaking out of his yellowed paperback. It read, “No one knows me.” It looked like it might be the title of a poem…

Hm… Or maybe used books are just another sign of “these uncertain economic times.”

Probably a better question on the train car this morning was what that crazy lady was doing taking pictures of random strangers with her phone… and then she pulled a shiny new copy of Celebutantes out of her giant purse. Who would spend money on that? What a tool.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Self promotion lessons from my two-year-old niece

When my niece was born I envisioned myself teaching her a few things – key elements to memorize on your fake ID, the difference between affect and effect – things like that. But during a visit last weekend, I realized the opposite may be true. I think there are a few things I can learn from her – the value and execution of self promotion, for instance.

Lesson #1: Enthusiasm

Even when engaging in the simplest of activities, do so with unbridled enthusiasm. It will spread. My niece is so thrilled with herself while demonstrating talents such as running, jumping and making monkey noises that she convinces everyone around her that they are signs of pure genius. Mile-wide smiles and giggling are infectious. I often find myself exclaiming to those around me, "Is she clapping to the music?? Ohmygosh do you see that?? AMAZING." And it is.

Lesson #2: Vocalization

Don't do any favors without making sure everyone around you knows about it. When my niece isn't in the mood to be social, she ignores friendly people and my sister's requests that she say hi. When she is in the mood, however, she says hi (with enthusiasm) and then announces "I said hi!" You might think it would dilute the message to make this announcement three or four times during the course of, say, a meal out, but it doesn't. The more you repeat your accomplishment, the more memorable it will become (fundamental rule of advertising).

Lesson #3: Looks

You may be thinking excessive self promotion can be annoying... and I agree with that. But not when you look like this:

I see great things in this little lady's future. And she does too.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Internet marketers continue to make me feel like a loser

First my only Netflix friends sent me an e-mail letting me know it's okay to ask for more movies in case I happen to be suffering from lonely long weekends. Now they're helping me out by providing "Teen High School" movie suggestions on my home page, based on my preferences...

Is this suggestion really based on my preferences, or does Netflix maybe have customer surveillance of more than one Friday night involving sweatpants, thai takeout, peanut butter M&Ms and perhaps two or three films in which teenage angst is expressed via the language of dance?

Does it make it any better that the "Play instantly" movies are both indie? Probably not because that means they're still in my queue... and probably will continue to be pushed down by movies that end in choreographed prom scenes.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The most sophisticated, impressive words in the workplace

I was utterly befuddled by this Yahoo! HotJobs article on "The Most Annoying, Overused Words in the Workplace" because I was under the impression that using the phrases listed as much as possible was the ticket to upper-middle management. In fact, despite the article's title, it does say toward the end that using these annoying sophisticated phrases during interviews can impress HR professionals, who use them all the time...

So here's another CSL cheat sheet for your educational enjoyment:

Leverage = Use
Reach out = E-mail
It is what it is = We are f-ed
Viral = Kids on the Interwebs like it
Game changer = Important
Disconnect = Wrong
Value-add =Value
Circle back = Call back
Interface = Connect
Cutting edge = Not outdated yet

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

One flew over the feminist's nest

Holy F. Could One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest be any more sexist? Why do I keep reading these creepy "classics"?? Okay, I get it - the book was published in 1962, and it was sooo groundbreaking in other ways (read all about it in this glowing Wikipedia review). But couldn't it just have pointed out societal problems without blaming them all on the female gender?

Well, I guess that's an overstatement - author Ken Kesey doesn't even give women that much credit. The tyrannical Nurse Ratched is simply a "high-ranking official," a wily instrument of the all-powerful Combine. What better way to keep troublemakers in check than to control them with the lesser sex, to emasculate them?

A discussion of the nurse's "therapeutic" technique on her mental patients:

Harding: "Miss Ratched may be a strict middle-aged lady, but she's not some kind of giant monster of the poultry clan, bent on sadistically pecking out our eyes. You can't believe that of her, can you?"

McMurphy: "No, buddy, not that. She ain't peckin' at your eyes. That's not what she's peckin' at."

In case you can't stretch to gather what the story's hero is getting at, Kesey elaborates via his narrator, Chief Bromden: "Harding flinches, and I see his hands begin to creep out from between his knees like white spiders from between two moss-covered tree limbs, up the limbs toward the joining of the trunk."

Still not sure what's being alluded to here? In his signature style, Kesey hits you over the head.

Harding: "Not our eyes? ... Pray, then, where is Miss Ratched pecking, my friend?"

McMurphy: "At your balls, buddy, at your everlovin' balls."

Later, Harding explaining a lobotomy: "Yes; chopping away the brain. Frontal-lobe castration. I guess if she can't cut below the belt she'll do it above the eyes."

Wikipedia claimed the novel "subtly" critiques the emasculation of men in society. I just edited that word out - and added a missing comma.

Blame for Billy Bibbit's stutter? His overbearing mother. His death? The evil nurse, of course.

Blame for the demise of Chief Bromden's father and tribe? His white mother, who gave his father her name, instead of the other way around - and a female government worker, who reminds Bromden of Nurse Ratched as he remembers her visit from his childhood.

Blame for McMurphy's troublesome sexual appetite (charged with, but never convicted of statutory rape...)? A nine-year-old girl who "drug" him to bed - his first "little whore."

Racism permeates the novel as well, but it's the characters who exhibit the characteristic, an unfortunate way of life. Sexism, on the other hand, spews out of the author - as a warranted, even admirable way to live.
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