Six Minutes

Paine
I see! So you’re not paid a salary, just shares in the company, which you sell off at intervals to raise cash.

Mari
That’s the long and short of it, yes.

Paine
And how is using the company like an ATM working for you?

Mari
I wouldn’t say it like that.

Paine
What does anyone spend twenty million dollars a month on? Take me inside your world.

Mari
Well, as you know, I support various charities and organisations.

Paine
I’m reading a statement here from PCG, the children’s charity. They say they can clothe, breakfast and lunch ten thousand children for one year with two million dollars.

Mari
Is that right?

Paine
This is one of the charities that you fully support, according to your bestselling book, And An Ugly Duckling Shall Lead Them.

Mari
Naturally, I’m not that organisation’s only source of funding and you haven’t accounted for staff transportation and all that. Administrative costs.

Paine
Five hundred thousand dollars a year. I spoke to the founder of the charity. You could basically fund this charity with a small fraction of…

Mari
Okay, alright.

Paine
…your monthly salary.

Mari
I’m a working mother who takes care of her family.

Paine
Most mothers make do on less than twenty million dollars a month. Do you remember a time when you weren’t earning a boatload of cash selling off stock on automatic trades?

Mari
I think if you allow me to finish I will say that as a working mother my duty is to my family.

Paine
This is not an answer to my question. Your husband is the founder of his own tech firm. His net worth is one billion dollars.

Mari
That’s irrelevant. My husband and I both contribute equally as providers and…

Paine
Which is why the question is pertinent. How come you fully support a charity and it hasn’t enough funding when you are withdrawing tens of millions of dollars a month on regular trades?

Mari
Obviously my financial matters are private.

Paine
They’re not.

Mari
They’re not?

Paine
Every financial transaction you make as COO is public knowledge. The SEC has regular filings from you and as it is a government agency we have access to this information under the Freedom of Information Act.

Mari
You are wrong. That’s snooping and you have no jurisdiction and no right.

Paine
You owe it to the public to show transparency in all of your financial dealings.

Mari
I’m not. You know, Ms Paine …

Paine
Carla, please.

Mari
… Carla. As a woman I expected you would …

Paine
Be on your side? Do you believe that every woman is obliged to defer to you?

Mari
Certainly, I don’t put myself above others.

Paine
Sounds like male entitlement to me.  Which is to say, you’re worthier than I because you have a higher salary.

Mari
Absolutely not!

Paine
Isn’t that why you’re here? So this news magazine can laud your achievements further on television?

Mari
That’s cynical.

Paine
Well, isn’t that what you were expecting, to some degree?

Mari
I have no such agenda.

Paine
Do you see how other women would find it hard to relate to you?

Mari
I think they can relate to me since I’m a busy working class mother with children.

Paine
Working class? Not upper class? You have household help and child caregivers. You’ve spoken publicly about this.

Mari
I’m a … I’m a worker.

Paine
Let’s talk about that. You said in 2012 that you were head hunted after you suggested to your CEO that you use “meetings to talk about meeting points”?

Mari
Yes. This move has made the company waste less time, making it more efficient. It was a fledgling startup with few disciplined, responsible college educated people managing it at the top.

Paine
With all due respect, there’s not a man or woman watching this segment who has not said “let’s focus on meeting agendas” at some point in the past. Had I known it would be that easy to run CBS, I would have applied for the job years ago.

Mari
Obviously it’s a media company and is hard to run. You can’t just waltz in and oversee operations without the proper qualifications.

Paine
Could you clarify your point?

Mari
I’m saying I’m qualified to do my job and you are qualified to do yours.

Paine
It sounded to me like you were saying I don’t have the ability to run CBS.

Mari
Well, can you?

Paine
Let me put my point to you differently. In 2013, you were quoted as saying you innovated the company’s operating processes by introducing, and I quote, “bulleted points lists instead of numbered lists for all internal and external correspondence and wall mounted digital clocks instead of relying on computer screens.” Am I to believe that you earn twenty million dollars a month to obsess about the formatting in word processed documents and supervise office decoration? Twenty million.

Mari
Obviously this is an understatement. My statement was edited to make my job look more simple than it is.

Paine
So you agree that the job is a simple one. Were you hired as sort of a frontispiece? A beard of sorts.

Mari
Excuse me? My job is a complex … I have a Harvard MBA!

Paine
We would certainly expect a Harvard educated COO to do more than correct formatting in Word or set watches and clocks.

Mari
Can we take a break? I need to talk to my, ahhh.

Paine
Your publicist.

Mari
Can you stop the tape, please?

Paine
My boss at CBS gave me carte blanche here so that’s not going to happen.

Mari
I want to have a private conversation.

Paine
You agreed to an interview. You signed a contract.

Mari
And I’m saying I take offence to being bullied in this way by you, Carla.

Paine
Actually, it’s doctor Paine. I have a Cambridge PhD.

Vegsvísir (Let me carry you)

Ég bað “Drottinn leiði drösulinn minn, drjúgur verður síðasti áfanginn.”
Bara þá maður birtist.
Ég spurði hann, “Hver ert þú?”
“Ég er Vegsvísir.”
“Vegsvísir, leiði drösulinn minn,” Ég sagði aftur. “Drjúgur verður síðasti áfanginn.”
Sagði hann, “Láta mig bera þig.”

vegsvisir1

Story by Sabiscuit. Adapted from Á Sprengisandi, an Icelandic Folk Song.

Translation: I prayed, Lord, lead my horse, the last part of the way will be hard. Just then, a man appeared. I asked him, who are you? He answered: I am Wayfinder. I asked him, “Wayfinder, lead my horse. The last part of the way will be hard.” He said, “Let me carry you.”

The Glass Schism

After calling out Sergey Brin for thrusting Google Glass upon the world in an earlier post, I took a step back to consider what’s really at stake here. The concept of Google Glass (embarrassingly obvious name) is not new. GoPro (awful name, awful product) was invented for people who engage in extreme sports. I used to engage in a couple of extreme sports a while back, but I didn’t think it would be a good idea to have video references for eternity.

I feel anxious. My primary objection to Google Glass is that it is wearable. Even Diane von Furstenburg looks awesome in one, and she had hers on for a fashion week presentation. The video was heavily edited and perspectives from different wearers were spliced in to enrich the data. (Not fair!) People who can afford it, but don’t have hobbies besides buying stuff might decide to just wear it on nights out drinking.

I already have enough of a headache with people who feel they have the right to take photos of me for their social media feeds. You should see the looks on people’s faces when I say, no, you cannot upload a photo of me drinking wine or putting food in my mouth. Of course, they know they’re being rude, but when I object, I’m told off for not being a good sport. I spent the last year chasing down these unauthorised uploads, thanks to friends of mine. It’s not that these photos are taken in stealth, it’s that I say to everyone, before sitting down, “do not upload photos of me to wherever, and for that matter, don’t take them in the first place.” One year, at a Christmas party, I caught a young woman with a Nikon camera trying to zoom in on my lace stockinged legs in a short dress, from way across the room. I was on holiday, and therefore entitled, I thought, to a few glasses of champagne with friends, in a not safe for work outfit. It’s not a side of me that my colleagues should get to see.

Now, I’m a recluse, and can’t go to wine club gatherings without making newcomers sign confidentiality agreements. Sergey Brin doesn’t have that problem. I bet other people buy his groceries and that a non English speaking crew cleans his toilets and mow his lawn. I also guarantee you that he does not stride into the local Starbucks to grab a cup of coffee, and when he does, he expects to be trending on Twitter. Such a situation is a bother for me because I have to do my own shopping, drive my own car, and because I do not want to trend on Twitter.

Most of the annoying people who don’t care about my privacy don’t have hobbies. They don’t watch telly, don’t rent videos, straddle a (wo)man around bedtime, do yoga, or play video games. They just gossip and take photos of each other eating pasta.

I can see the practical uses for Google Glass. For one, when I’m trying out new media in a painting session, it would be useful for some of my future workshops to show how I use it from my perspective. Glass would be a really cool tool for tennis lessons with an expert. Imagine seeing what it’s like to serve and hit from Stefi Graf’s point of view. I could use the recording to improve my serve and see where my arm should be at mid-swing. If I went on a walk by the lake to take in the scenery, did a pottery class or even tried to complete a black run during ski season, I know friends or relatives would love to see.

And what about cooking? I sometimes make happy accidents in the kitchen, and it is a bother to dictate recipes to Siri. So I could save a lot of time and effort later by watching a video of myself cooking. My gastrointestinal issues are not unique to me. I believe that people who are suffering from Celiac Sprue, who have been newly diagnosed, might really lack support as to how to live their daily lives while managing the condition. Without violating anyone’s personal space, I could use hardware like this to support them. If you have interesting hobbies or a job that requires you to show someone how to do something, Google Glass will be a useful tool. Scientists, archeologists, flight instructors, coaches and performers are some professionals that come to mind.

I will object to people videotaping themselves walking down the street for a coffee. I don’t care what the law says about videotaping people walking around outside. It’s not nice, so cut it out. “Hey guys, it’s Sherm here, and I’ve got Google Glass, which as you know is just a wearable technology, and I’m just taking a look at the people on the street. I’m gonna just uhh, what was I saying? Hiya! How are you? Oops, she doesn’t look too happy!” Do you know anyone this annoying? I do. If you’re recording a walk down the street in a beautiful but unfamiliar city as a guide for other people, that would be a great use of the device.

What about this new Glass application that allows people to basically look at themselves looking at each other? It’s been reported as a homemade sextape tool and every jackass on the planet who wants a reality show will take full advantage. (Why, Paris Hilton, why?) Does anyone not get how narcissistic that is?

Let me say it again slowly: There is an application that will allow you and your partner to record yourselves looking at each other. When you’re done looking at each other through the Glass, you can sit down and watch yourselves on your iPads looking at each other. How would a relationship like this even begin? Can you imagine having any kind of closeness with someone that self-obsessed? And before you say I’m overreacting, I know people who are like that.

I feel anxiety because as a race of humans we might be about to enter a new era of self-contentedness. With a bit of forethought, we could see in our hands the tools to change our ourselves and to help others. We’ve made such strides to get to a place where we can live in relative peace and harmony, not counting conflict in sundry places. This should be an age of achievement. We should grow together and encourage each other.

I’m not saying that Google Glass is the Kraken, but this company missed a chance to promote itself as the eradicator of evil. Their overpaid team of troubleshooters, crisis managers and marketing professionals should have seen this backfire when creating their storyboards. Google launched this device purely as a response to the pressure to innovate. Since it is a tool for improving the company’s image as innovator, at a time when its motives are not trusted regarding privacy, it is only natural that the public reacts to it with scepticism.

I am rooting for this device to be rejected before it gets a wider launch. It should have been introduced as a tool used by rescue or health care workers in hard to reach areas. Instead, it’s being used to promote fashion week when most people are shopping on outlet sites, recycling and downsizing. DVF doesn’t need more people looking at her. She’s already got a lot of fans, customers and a reality show. If Glass is not used responsibly, it could unleash horror in our lives. I want someone to see this before it’s too late.

Update ~_* January 15, 2015. I am exceedingly happy to report that “Google is ending sales of its Google Glass eyewear. The company insists it is still committed to launching the smart glasses as a consumer product, but will stop producing Glass in its present form.” This is marketing speak for “this is an epic failure, because people can see we’re full of crap.” Thank you, whoever engineered this wonderful happening.

 

Viral Harsh Realities

viralharshrealities

Freshly Pressed is bogus ploppy plop. It’s got a year old article from a man who posts every two years and Lily Ellyn, a Christian expatriate living in Korea who’s obsessed with sex. I bet if I told her I’ve stopped doing it, she would still find a way to judge me. She’s married to a man who gives her butterflies. So, it’s okay for her but I should want not.

She’s also a greedy little girl who’s complained that 1.6 million article views aren’t making her happy enough. Writing is hard work so she’s scared the expectations are plenty if she has millions of views. But she wants more followers so she can feel validated as a writer (“It’s not fair! Only 200 + people are following me”). But you, fellow blogger, are preventing her from getting more follows because you’re taking up space. She has nine hundred plus subscribers as of this press. Should her readers say “congrats” or hand her a tissue? I’ll do neither.

If I have my way, Lily will define herself forever as the woman who got 1.6 million views for one article. When she meets people she’ll sneak it into the conversation. It’ll stunt her personal growth and dampen her creative outpourings.

I met an expatriate woman (bearded, long grey hair, bad posture) who published one book back when she was pretty. “Oh you know I published a book.” Don’t worry, it was nothing special (shocking what publishers go for). I bit off her head after she ordered me to decorate my office with US flags (I’m not an American citizen so, why).

A Canadian intervened before I could feast on her spleen.

Opinionated Man is just the opposite. He is on a mission to get attention. He has a strategy and targets and works hard. Lily has a problem. She says writing is hard work and she wants to give it up. If this is true, then writing is definitely not her calling. She envies friends who have book deals. She projects unto them envious thoughts of her own achievement. It’s hard to keep up with greedy people. They want what they don’t want. They fantasise that everyone wants to be like them.

Here’s where I stand. Writing is a compulsion and this is an outlet. I’m afraid I’ll accidentally trash some of my work before a backup. In 2008, I lost half a book when my two month old Dell Inspiron’s hard drive spontaneously wiped itself. Recovery software didn’t find it. It’s a crippling blow and I still feel devastated. I didn’t have notes because the work existed in its own space.

I started a blog in part to get things out without worrying about publishers. If no one reads, my self esteem is still intact. I’m fragile in lots of other ways and life is too precious to get hung up on page views.

I’m amazed at how writers are beholden to publishers. They’re responsible for your low self worth? I sort of get how that starts.

One editor said, “I’m promoting feminism among women of colour to make the world a better place.” An essay of mine addressing those two issues got rejected. However, a rant written by an Asian woman hating on white belly dancers got published. I thought, this is a game called “the editor is a two topic pony (you are racists/you hate fat girls) and will not publish material she could not write herself.”

And so the world continues to marinate in that mediocre soup. I continue to have zero expectations and immense gratitude every time someone indicates they’re paying attention. I’m defined by compulsiveness at the moment. I allow my story to write itself. I’m its engine.

What to wear to a wine tasting: For men only

I know, I know. Wine tastings are best enjoyed with friends and acquaintances in a relaxed setting. Wine tastings aren’t about fashion; they’re all about the actual wine, the atmosphere and pleasant conversation with friends. 

suits

Sneakers go with suits. Image courtesy: TD Mag

However, if your wine tasting event is among strangers or business associates; or has a “business” or “smart casual” dress code, I have some suggestions you might find useful.

First, how to pose for photos. This page is from an article in Esquire, which promotes a wine-tasting session at The Battery, London.

Wine tasting promotion for the Battery, London, in Esquire.

Wine tasting promotion for the Battery, London, in Esquire magazine.

You might take photos for Instagram, but never allow yourself to be photographed gulping down liquids. Pose by yourself and raise the glass in a toast, with a taut smile. It’s an inviting and cordial gesture.

Dressing up time. Your aim is to appear put together, with a commanding presence but not uptight. A suit jacket and matching trousers are the right choice. For a wine tasting, a necktie is too formal.

Side note: The men in the top photo on the Esquire page are wearing neckties, and they’re the wrong colour. Iridescent colours send the message that these guys are not in charge. (At work, go for dark coloured ties to signal that you mean business.)

plaidshirt1

Plaid shirt via Fashion Beams

Polo shirt, t-shirt or jumper? The answer is no. Shirts are straightforward. If the event is in a pubby sports bar type semi-formal loungy place, wear plaid shirts. If you like plaid, choose a deeper colour for the less formal venue. The more formal, the lighter your shirt. No chest, please.

Now, for shoes. You don’t want to show up in loafers or Oxfords, which say, “Don’t stand too close to me.” Wear walking shoes similar in shape to the ones Tom Hiddleston is wearing, in any colour you like, except bleached white or black.

men-suits-with-sneakers-24

Tom Hiddleston via GQ Magazine

If you feel reckless, go for neon green or blue. I know what you’re thinking, but GQ put Tom Hiddleston in sneakers with that wool suit because sneakers go with suits. So, I promise you, sneakers look great with your super expensive suit. If you really want to impress, try matching your sneakers to a colour in your plaid shirt.

Wear these sneakers with your suit.

If you’re not feeling brave, you can wear these.

Finally, how to smell. Personally, I prefer the aroma of a hand rolled Cuban cigar. But may I also suggest aftershave, but nothing stronger than that? Otherwise, you’ll be tasting your cologne and the other guys’ colognes in your beverage, which is never a good idea.

In summary, suits constrain your body and say you’re willing to conform. However, sneakers say that you’re subversive. Remember, most of the successful people you know are non conformists. Your outfit will say you care what people think but not enough to censor yourself or fade into the background.

For a business networking wine tasting, wear a suit, ditch the tie and wear sneakers. Don’t forget to have lots of fun.

 

Updated, April 21, 2016 @ 13.59 GMT

London: Two Months Later

Fyfe
Right. I’m not sure where to start. Your brother told me you have some unique skills.

Pleschette
I’m not sure what you mean.

Fyfe
I came across something yesterday at SB. Some Russian bloke’s going away for money laundering. Ten years. We fool around in the archives with personal effects. Auctions, lottery, grab bag, whatever. I got this bloke’s laptop. It’s brand new. Four thousand quid worth of software and hardware. Stuff I can’t even understand.

Pleschette
You want me to clean the hard drive?

Fyfe
No. The hard drive’s got one hundred gigs of … images and videos on it.

Pleschette
Is it children, mate? I’m not touching that stuff.

Fyfe
No. I saved them on these USB flash drives. Take a look. I recognise some of the people on here, but I can’t get my head around this.

Pleschette
Did you sweep this stuff for viruses? We sometimes use them to infect people’s machines.

Fyfe
He’s a techie. I used his fingerprints to access the laptop. Most of the files have got passwords.

Pleschette
Righteousness. Alright. Let us have a look. Holy … is that … ? That’s uhm, uhm… I don’t remember her name, but she’s always on the telly. Entertainment Tonight and them.

Fyfe
Exactly, right.

Pleschette
I know this one, and this one. She’s got one of those BAFTAs. I know her. She’s in the men’s mags. GQ. This is messed up, mate.

Fyfe
I put the laptop back but I broke the law opening that machine, much less possessing stolen images.

Pleschette
I feel you. So what you want me to do?

Fyfe
I want to see if we can, you know, sell them to the tabloids.

Pleschette
Ah. You want me to act like a broker? Sell them without revealing your identity?

Fyfe
Yes.

Pleschette
I’m not really into this scandal mag bullshit. I dunno how much you’re going to get. This isn’t black market contraband, mate. It’s junk. You could sell a bag of heroin faster than this shyte. Have you got any heroin? I’d make you one hundred thousand quid right quick.

Fyfe
No.

Pleschette
You could wank to it.

Fyfe
I know that. But this is like potentially… can we auction it off or …?

Pleschette
I dunno. I don’t think anyone is interested in some naked girls. Some of the shots are blurry and all. Let me ask around but I’m not making any promises.

Fyfe
Thanks.

Pleschette
Later.

Thirty One

Thirty-one is the year to reap what you sow. Forget “being yourself”, this is the age of self-awareness. For starters, accept and acknowledge everything you’ve done in the past decade to get to this point. Stop telling your friends you’re a virgin. They don’t believe you and they have proof.

Everything sticks at 31. Cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, unprotected sex with strangers, junk food, Cheerios and late nights at clubs will all make deposits to that overall rode-hard-Middleton look. Your skin does not lie at 31. It simply reports what it sees. It’s not necessary for a woman in her thirties to have forehead lines, crow’s feet or jowls. Be self-aware and look after yourself.

You’re not a girl. If you’re writhing around topless on a bed, trying to capture your best angle on your mobile phone, stop. It’s not sexy. Never send nude photos of yourself anywhere, no matter how old you are.

Mystery loves the company of accomplished (wo)men. At 31, women don’t have boyfriends. They either love men or women, both, or neither. Cultivate your own lifestyle and invite interesting people to join in.

Scrunchies should induce hiccups in a mature woman. All terrible things must come to an end and even though calf socks are back, there is no way to sex up the nightmare of shirred polyester. Ponytail holders should be used to bind Karl Lagerfeld’s hair or a roll of canvasses for your women’s weekend painting retreat. This is the year to try on feather headbands, silk ribbons and jewelled hair pins. I don’t care what you say. Feathers, rhinestones and sequins show you have moxy.

Learn at least one dead or rare language. Become conversant in it. You’ll meet another speaker in time, promise.

Carve out a space for yourself to receive inspiration. Anoint a hideout or hangout spot and make friends with the owners. Order the same thing every time you go in. From this point, foster positive relationships with business people.

Put yourself first. If a man proposes to you at this age, he’s interested in a grown woman and not a girl, so spend time really getting to know him. If you like him, get on with it. The man you’re pining after is indifferent to you. Don’t waste your life on a fantasy.

Similarly, if you’re still with the same person from your mid-twenties and you haven’t talked about marriage and children, you’re his/her mistress.

If you’re single, keep your knees together. Random hookups scream desperation. Everything you do must have purpose. Compromise is beneath you. If you thrive on the thrill of the new, you’re histrionic and should get therapy.

Mark territory. You have a voice so get out there and campaign for your cause. If a campaign doesn’t exist, organise one. If you want to do something, don’t consult with anyone, don’t bang on about it, just get on with it in secret. Invite us to the launch.

Declare yourself. If you love him, Him, her or Her, show it and say it: “I love you.” Stop playing mind games. If your feelings aren’t reciprocated, move on. And no, let’s not stay friends (with or without benefits).

If you’re not a mother, adopt a child, whether it’s fostering one or simply acting as a role model. Children teach us about love, compassion and acceptance. This is more than any romantic relationship can accomplish. Looking after children is a gift you give to the world.

Say yes, a lot. There’s something wonderful about the quality of life you can enjoy when you have exacting standards. However, a mysterious 31 year old woman always leaves room to surprise herself.

She has it all

Shultz
Are you alright?

Kiki
I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be.

Shultz
So, you’re not fine.

Kiki
Why do you let him talk to me like that?

Shultz
Ruby’s an asshole, pay no attention.

Kiki
Are you defending him? In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not part of your elite boys’ club. I have delicate sensibilities. I have an education, and a career. I’m respected.

Shultz
Sweetie…

Kiki
Don’t “sweetie” me! I’m a grown woman.

Shultz
Kiki… Cassandra….

Kiki
He’s a racist bastard and he only spoke to me that way because of the colour of my skin. He acts as if he’s your wife.

Shultz
No. He respects you.

Kiki
You Americans are so ignorant. You only value something if it looks like what you’re accustomed to: white, bald and red necked.

Shultz
That’s not fair.

Kiki
Isn’t that why you proposed to me five times? To get away from daft, plastic women? This is what your advisors are used to.

Shultz
Honey, we have to go ….

Kiki
Don’t call me “honey”. Do not cut me off when I’m expressing my displeasure with your callous…

Shultz
…to dinner with our friends.

Kiki
If he shows his face, and greets me with that pompous smirk, I promise I’ll make a scene. I’ll vomit into my plate.

Shultz
Cassandra? I promise you…

Kiki
We have been married, legally, twice. This is our third reception dinner, and we have not finalised the premarital agreement.

Shultz
That’s because your entire firm is wrangling with my team over grammar and spelling.

Kiki
You can’t have spelling mistakes in a legal contract. It’ll void the terms. My firm love and respect me, and this is their way of making sure I don’t get shafted by your team of wankers!

Shultz
Shafted? Shafted. I’ll give you everything I have!!!

Kiki
Was I dreaming this entire relationship? I had the undeniable impression that what we had was real. The things we shared, I’ve never felt like this about anyone. Are you pretending to be in love with me?

Shultz
No! Cassandra, that’s below the belt.

Kiki
Personally, I find the term “coitus” highly inappropriate for a contract. You Americans have no sense of decorum. This is not humane. Dictating the terms of our lovemaking to officers of the court. How is that supposed to make me feel about sleeping with you?

Shultz
We’ll take that out.

Kiki
You’re laughing at me. I’m confused and scared. You’re not trying to reassure me. Instead, you’re having such fun.

Shultz
I am because that’s just business.

Kiki
Say that to me one more time, and I will …

Shultz
What? Not show up to dinner? Fine.

Kiki
Fine! And tell that deliciously hideous twag Mr. Rubinstein, Esquire, to go frag himself.

Shultz
Cassandra. Please let’s leave this to the lawyers and enjoy a night out with friends. Please? I’ll stay in if you want, and we can fight it out here for the rest of the night. But you and I know that you just want to rip my clothes off and have your way with me.

Kiki
You’re impossible.

Shultz
Alright. Can we please go out now, and later you can have your way with me?

Kiki
Am I laughing? Do you see a smile on my face?

Shultz
Alright.

Kiki
Rubinstein. Ball sack. Hill. Billy.

Shultz
I’m sorry.

Kiki
Racist twag. I’m a human rights lawyer, and a woman of colour. I can sue the small creatures crawling around in the crack of his arse, and Her Majesty’s Government would find in my favour.

Shultz
He’s fired. I’m sorry. Baby … Cassandra, I’m an asshole. An insensitive disconnected asshole. I don’t see things from your point of view. I should pay more attention. I’m sorry, and he’s gone.

Kiki
I am so annoyed with you right now.

Shultz
I know, but you love me, right? I love you.

Kiki
Don’t even start with that.

Shultz
Can I give you a kiss? Make up?

Kiki
Go away.

In defence of “dressing”

mark-zuckerberg.jpg

Mark Zuckerberg. Courtesy: Getty Images

That awful person, CEO and Grim Reaper of Privacy, whose name I will not inscribe (or link to) on this sacred space, has gone super-nomcore. Given his net worth, it’s hard to imagine that people will dismiss his utterances as tarry horsefeathers. Someone quoted him as saying he wears the same t-shirt every day because dressing up is “silly.” I wasn’t sure if he meant that the rest of us are silly or just himself.

I’m sceptical about the awful person’s “I only wear t-shirts”proclamation. Sean Parker, the former CEO of that cursed enterprise, is super well-groomed. He probably consults with a stylist. You sometimes need to take advice from people who have a better sense of a thing that is intimidating to you.

Now to be fair, part of me understands the message he is trying to convey. If you have to be “on” 24/7, you try not to vary your look too much. When she was editor-in-chief of Paris Vogue, Carine Roitfeld saved time by wearing no foundation or lipstick, messy hair and tons of eyeliner. Her successor, Emmanuelle Alt, has been photographed on numerous occasions in the same black leather or denim trousers. Karl Lagerfeld wears only black and white.

Uniforms are an important armour for corporate battle, but surely a sacrificial offering must be made to the fashion gods? Perhaps he could build a clothing factory in China and employ one hundred people. Offer them a livelihood. It’s an effective public relations strategy because it incorporates money and political heft while promoting international relationships and community service. Such a gesture might acknowledge that the rest of us have an innate and unquenchable desire to express ourselves through silk, leather and lace.

Tea time, at desk

Tea time at the office.

Tea time at the office: Peppermint with a teaspoon of nectar.

I’m enjoying a fifteen minute minute break, and I decided to sneak in a bit of peppermint tea and stage a photo shoot for a tiny pot of nectar I got from France. That aubergine piece of satin is a dinner napkin. I found it at a charity bazaar in September, and I still don’t quite know what to do with it. I didn’t want to buy its companion (green) because I thought: who’s going to use the other one? Ha! I’m still asking that question. It has been tucked away in my treasure chest until today. Of course, a colleague complained about the shutter noise, but I think he was secretly envious that he was not the subject of all this attention. That box was a container for chocolate covered nuts, believe it or not. I was so intrigued by the Latin inscription on it (a description of moon phases), I decided to recycle it as a honey pot holder. It’s going to inspire me someday, I just know it.

Begging your pardon, but that’s not art

I do not believe Willard Foxton’s claim that he was largely unaware of Taylor Swift’s existence prior to the release of 1989. I live under a rock when it comes to pop music, but it’s difficult to not know who she is. She bakes sweet treats for fans, dresses up a lot and accessorises with a cat. While New Yorkers were sleeping, Swift and her public relations army invaded and occupied their city. She’s all over the Telegraph website and, as Mr Willard earns a salary writing for them, he cannot reasonably make the claim.

Here’s a true story. I’ve never listened to a single one of Swift’s songs, but I paid attention to her after I found out that she shops at ASOS. Paparazzi took photos of her in one of their name branded dresses and it was posted on the website. I declined to buy the same one even though it was only $20. I’m not into bird patterns.

Willard is annoyed that children are trying to listen to Swift’s new album for free. Apparently, he’s unaware that people who exist outside of his laptop subsist on limited budgets. These people have part time jobs, homework, and do their own cleaning. Sometimes they can only afford to eat cup noodles for dinner. They do not want to give Taylor Swift any part of their disposable income.

They should not. She is a public relations machine in overdrive. We all know how wealthy she is, down to the last cent. If you’re wealthy because of the kind consideration and generosity of others, it’s a good idea to show consideration for that. People who enter the spotlight tend to get brain damaged by the overwhelming attention. They make a conspicuous display of affluence and complain later when people don’t want to help them acquire more of it.

One of the reasons I support classical musicians is that they can’t make a living air-playing an instrument and they don’t get recognised because of their looks. Concerts cost a lot more than album downloads, but I put on nice frocks three or four times a year to show my appreciation for their talent and perseverance.

Willard Foxton’s taste is something strange. He says that Swiftpop is “art” and that illegal downloads are devaluing that art. The Telegraph has a certain prestige but if they keep paying clueless people like him to write articles, I’ll boycott it, too. After all, no news is good news.

Hello, Man! This is how you hang on to your £20 million

David James, former England goalie and sports commentator is bankrupt for real. He seems like a well-spoken, compassionate and sensitive guy. He’s not, as he claims, a footie psychopath. He’s reportedly lost a lot more than Keith Gillespie, who has said he wasted upwards of £7 million, in ill-advised investment schemes and a compulsive gambling habit. I wish I’d met David James six years ago, before his financial difficulties started to overwhelm him. I would have told him to live a simple lifestyle; to stay away from hare-brained get rich quick “schemes”; have a no-handout policy; take some financial planning and accounting classes; and live well below his actual means.

A £3 million divorce would not contribute to bankruptcy if he had £20 million in tangible assets at the time of divorce. However, it is reported that James earned that much over a 25 year career in football. At an average of £800,000 a year, the settlement payout would cause problems if he is waiting for salary cheques. He would need to pay his ex wife in instalments over a few years.

The personal net worth of athletes and other people in the news is probably overestimated. The calculation of net worth is straightforward. Assets minus liabilities. The problem is that observers inflate or dream up the value of assets to hype the prominence of the people they’re profiling. In the news, net worth is estimated over a total period and attributed at the time of reporting. It can be misleading.

Most readers won’t factor in that after earnings, James has got to pay the top tax rates. In the UK it’s been 40 pc since 1990, going up to 50 pc from 2010 through the end of 2012 fiscal year. It’s now at 45 pc. After that, he pays rent, property tax and utilities, furniture, repairs, fixtures, food, drink, socks and shoes. James would hardly be broke with £400,000 to £480,000 a year after taxes. It’s up to thirteen times higher than the UK’s per capita income of £36,208. If he chose to live on a quarter of his after-tax earnings, a minimum of £100,000 a year, and put £300,000 in a savings account, over the course of 25 years, that would see him with £7,500,000 or a maximum of £9,000,000 in the bank plus interest. That is without putting the money in compound interest account, government bonds or a mutual fund. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

There’s pressure to live up to expectations when your wealth is overestimated. Ask James Stunt. In my opinion, he spends money that doesn’t belong to him. That borrowed fleet of luxury cars was a brilliant trick. It’s good advertisement for the dealers: They let him and his entourage drive the cars out of the shop and park them in front of photographers for an hour or so. How did photostalkers from Xposurephotos get so many plum shots of Stunt (clumsily) exiting the car (with a bottle of coloured water)? They were waiting for him. How did they know he would be there? You do the math.

Stunt is not named on any of the Forbes rich lists. The editors probably won’t let him pay to get on the list. If your net worth exceeds $999,999.999, you’ll appear on the Forbes website. They will find or make a category for you if necessary. Listings on digital shanty towns like “richest” and “richlist” that are meaningless. The owners and subscribers aren’t big dreamers who’ve worked hard to amass wealth. They spend an inordinate amount of energy trying to convince you they’re your betters, and that is wasteful.

Eventually, Mr Stunt will be caught doing something very naughty. It’s inevitable with these types of people. They forget it’s not their money. They become more grasping and obnoxious. Soon after that, people stop lending them things. Then hotel and restaurant bills go unpaid instead of comped. Lawyers are called in to demand payment. The papers get wind of it and that’s that.

The rich and famous might crave attention from the media, but the media is nourished by their lifestyles. Celebrity is a planet that journalists access through their privileged lists of contacts, which in turn are made visible by well-paid minions called publicists. It’s a hostile alien world that thrives on rare spirits, listed rankings and borrowed frocks.

In the end, it’s a lot of bother considering that when your pockets are dry, those same people report your disgrace in painstaking detail. Stay away from sycophants. Don’t spend your money for others to see. Enjoy your wealth by staying grounded.

They want to love you but they’re just too cynical

Storm
All I’m saying is, we need to earn our bonuses this year. Can you believe my brain belched that out after spilling the Kraken’s Mortlach on your iPad?

Marcus
Do you think he’ll notice?

Storm
Do you think he’ll care? I mean, our boss move will cement us as the witch doctors of public relations. Here, I think I spilled some on you.

Marcus
I don’t think it’s…

Krajeck
Girls? What’s up. .

Storm
We have a presentation for the Raven account that, if it meets your approval, we should jump on right now.

Krajeck
Speak.

Storm
Marcus wants to pitch first.

Marcus
Thank you, Storm. Raven has needed a new win after that VH1 documentary flopped.

Krajeck
Right. Everyone wants to out-Madonna Madonna. I told her not to do it, but she insisted on having a what?

Storm
An important part of her brand to archive in the history books.

Krajeck
I’ve never met someone so engrossed in their own myth. We kept the VH1 flop out of the press and edited it out of Wikipedia. What? Did you hear she’s shopping for a new publicist?

Marcus
No, Sir. And as for her tour, camera phones took images of empty seats at several concert venues. The rumours about her husband cheating had already come out. So, she might be listening to other people and not just us.

Krajeck
Hmmm. She’s a brand, or whatever. Everything is someone else’s fault. How are perfume sales?

Storm
We bought up this season’s batch right out of the factory in Macau at wholesale price. Her holding company should be reporting a large sales volume.

Krajeck
Where did you dump this batch?

Storm
We gave a bottle to every C list stylist and fashion blogger we could find. Then, we let Chinese customs confiscate the rest. We contacted department stores to tell them there’s a wait list for new product. The rest should pop up on eBay.

Krajeck
Marcus?

Marcus
Thank you. As I was saying. We need to orchestrate a win that has no threat of backfiring negatively. Storm and I came up with a plan to use the firm’s entertainment industry connections in India. We want to do what we’ll call an “unconventional album release.” No marketing, no leaks, no pre-release interviews. We say it’s the fans that made the venture successful.

Krajeck
We bought all of her 13.7 Twitter followers and she’s only tweeted eight times. How can we get an album released in stealth if she hasn’t tweeted since 2013?

Storm
We want to  lock down the largest call centre in Mumbai, JavaStar, and our army of Twitter sock puppets. First, we create a pre-order sales listing for the album. We do not actually upload the album. The call centre workers will use IP proxy software to make purchases from various locations, including the United States.

Krajeck
That’s super expensive. Can’t we buy the album at a huge discount? Like the Samsung deal?

Marcus
Yes, but her image is sustained on this aura of greatness and glory. She can’t maintain that aura by doing things in the conventional way. As for money, it doesn’t matter what the pre-order sales price is. It could be one cent.

Storm
We release the album for pre-order quietly tonight on iTunes at a basement price. JavaStar buys up as many copies as possible before five tomorrow morning, our time. When everyone wakes up, history has been made. Another top-selling album has been born. Number one is what people expect from Raven, but this time, we give them number one with a twist.

Krajeck
Her management team might go for that.

Storm
There are only three people in the world who know about this. We are standing here in this room.

Krajeck
I see your point but someone will notice the basement price tomorrow morning, and one screen grab later, it’s game over.

Marcus
Not if we restore the price to $13.59 by five in the morning. Since there is no album to download, customers will get error messages. It creates confusion, increases demand, and adds to the “we can’t download it fast enough” storyline. Also, we don’t sell individual songs. It’s the whole album at one go. That will generate complaints, which will also feed the story. If someone catches the low price, we pretend it was an iTunes malfunction, but it’ll probably get lost in the noise.

Storm
As I’ve said, we’re not going to need the actual album. We need the album cover art and permission to upload it for sale as a pre-order. Her people don’t ever need to know what we’re up to. She’ll stay with us.

Marcus
For our plan to be found out, someone would have to know the album’s being released tomorrow and then search for the name.

Krajeck
Apple won’t go for it.

Marcus
Actually, they have to go for it. Their contract does not stipulate any minimum or maximum price points. So, we can name any price we want, and change it when we want to. The price change affects her commission only. That’s for her record company to worry about.

Krajeck
How many sales are you aiming for?

Storm
We want to try and do two hundred thousand downloads in four hours. The call centre rents by the hour, and they’ve given us a “four hours for $50,000” deal. In terms of the way iTunes calculates “success” of a release, that many downloads in four hours would be phenomenal. We need a detailed protocol and everyone has to stick to it. It will push the album to number one. The iTunes report would be enough to distract everyone from the failed tour.

Krajeck
So, two hundred thousand downloads at one cent, each. We could use the retainer account to pay for it, but we still have to create one hundred thousand unique iTunes accounts. Factoring in the cost of each gift card, rental space for the call centre and your Twitter people. Great idea, but too much of a bother to execute.

Storm
Not necessarily. And that’s why no one will even think of it.

Krajeck
Walk me through it, one more time.

Marcus
Again, the call centre workers in Mumbai buy up as many of the albums as they can in a short space of time. At 4.55 our time, we tweet about the official release from Raven’s Twitter account. We let the bots retweet to other celebrity Twitter bot accounts to create visibility. At that point, we suspend the buying spree and restore the album pre-release price to the original $13.59. Then we wait for the press to bite.

Krajeck
Are we using the Romanians again?

Storm
Yes. They can make the tweets appear to be globally distributed. We could request that Twitter send those statistics around to the music blogs.

Krajeck
Can we afford three million retweets?

Marcus
Yes, we pay them per hundred thousand tweets anyway, so it’s like thirty units. Costs are minimal. The last time, they told me they install trojans on computers or game consoles as far away as Southeast Asia. So, that’s how I know the retweets are doable in our timeline. While the retweets are happening in Asia, people are at school or at work and won’t notice. When it’s time to start the retweeting in the US, people are at school or at work, well after our sales drive finished in Mumbai. We move backwards from the International Date Line, to mitigate the time discrepancies.

Krajeck
I see. So it looks like the release tweet was done at five in the morning to take advantage of the time lag and get people in Asia to buy her album first. Then, we Americans pick up on it on the same day and that will drive up sales. If this works to raise the legitimate sales and no-one twigs, we do a super download to drive up domestic sales at the end of the year.

Storm
That’s a great idea, since iTunes reports album sales numbers only.

Krajeck
Marcus, I want a complete, step by step technical explanation from your team in Mumbai so I can understand exactly how this stuff works. If something can go wrong, I need to see it beforehand.

Marcus
I’ll get on it right away.

Storm
Sir.

Long spoons, wagging tongues

So this morning I was treated to the self-serving muttering of a nun. She was going on about how we heathens should all use long spoons to feed each other, como dice la Santa Biblia. Heal the world, make it a better place. I held my breath so I wouldn’t step in front of her and scream: “What’s wrong with you, don’t speak to me!”

Last week I happened upon her in the foyer. I was in a mid-calf length dress and hers was exactly the same length. I am 15 cm taller than she is, so my dress is longer. She wore calf high socks and I was in tights. It was 5 degrees Celcius outside. I was in a wool coat, she had no outerwear on. Pay close attention to what she said to me after I greeted her good morning:

“I’m cold, but you must be so much colder. Look at how you’re exposing your legs to the cold air in that short dress.”

I thought, “**~+|&`%$#+F?+>. ?+*@(&%$#”!!!,” and hurried outside.

I don’t blame anyone for staring at my legs. They’re usually covered in some bizarrely patterned tights, thick leggings or half obscured by a midi length skirt. When I pay $20 for a pair of tights, it’s usually to bait the inevitable ridiculous commentary. If I were left alone to wear what I liked, I would not act out in that way.

I have had a positive experience with male colleagues. They’re interested in my skills and my opinions, and I’m their go-to person to get things done. It’s true that I’m flat-chested, but there must be something else about me that makes them feel I’m someone they can rely on.

Sadly, it’s the women I endure harassment from. They somehow believe I’ll shrink in height and gain weight if they keep barking about my height and weight. As a result of their meaningless bashing, I doubt their competence and do not seek them out for advice or support.

I’m a good five inches taller than the average woman. Do you know how difficult it is to find midi-length dresses in plain colours? If I wear knee-length skirts to work I’ll hear comments like these.

  • “That’s a mini skirt, but it’s nice.”
  • “Did you fall in love, you’re so fashionable recently.”
  • “Are you going on a date?”
  • “Your legs are too long, we should cut them off.”

I choose to wear longer lengths because otherwise, it’s hard to pay attention to my work. However, I can’t win.

  • “You must spend hours and hours shopping.”
  • “Isn’t it nice that you can find clothes that fit you?”
  • “And don’t you have that dress in different colours?”
  • ” Where do you shop?”
  • “It must be so hard to find dresses that can cover your knees. Because you’re too tall.”

That is what sexual harassment looks like.

How to get away with lying to me

I don’t know Tim Cook personally, nor have I ever worked at Apple, Inc., but to my knowledge, he’s a man who lives in a transparent container. Some people call it an Apple. Others call it a bubble of privilege and protection, which is needed to preserve the integrity of a range of products.

An October 30 Businessweek article has been attributed to him. In my opinion, it was written by a male of average intelligence, with a bachelor’s degree. One of three things happened. He was grinding away in a cubicle in Apple’s public relations department, he’s an assistant, or he’s a copy editor at Businessweek.

All versions male have done a terrible job with this writing assignment, because it screams “I’m a plant.” In other words, the article doesn’t read as if written by a CEO. Regardless, it was published for a purpose other than that stated.

The article stood out to me primarily because the announcement is gratuitous. Tim Cook has hardly courted personal press. To date, the obsequious Vanity Fair has not managed to win a personal interview with him, even though they put him on their Establishment List. (Shame on them for employing that thick Middleton girl). They were left scrambling, just as the Telegraph has, after the article was published in Businessweek. Such a face slap, that.

At first, my bad mind went to “extortion via sex tape” but that made no sense. The media would not be interested in “outing him” as gay, as this is not the 1950s. If I were to give this article the Louis Litt treatment, and go all Showtime Drama on it, I would say that it hints at a power struggle at Apple.

In theory, Cook would be advised to make a public statement about his sexual orientation. Businessweek is respected, reliably bland, and the thirteen people who read it on that day would skip over it. Did you read the entire article? Exactly. I get the feeling that nobody is interested in Tim Cook or what happens in Tim Cook’s pants. I mean, this information does not influence the value of Apple stock, right? Moving on, Louis Litt would say that when the Board tries to replace him, he could sue for discrimination, sexual harrassment, or something cool I haven’t yet thought about.

The phrasing and references in the article itself further raised my suspicions. I’ll throw them together and call them markers of insincerity. I explain a few of them now.

Markers of Insincerity

Staged photo. Note how the sunlight makes a perfect halo around the back of his chair. The halo has two effects. One is to signal him as an evolved human, a person who others look up to. The other is to highlight the smallness of his chair. It signals his humility. The ring also gives the illusion of a wheelchair, which is to suggest that he’s a member of a marginalised or non mainstream community. His head is bowed in an attitude of meditation much like a celibate priest’s would be, at vespers.

Signalling. “I come from humble roots” underscores the intent of the staged photo, in case your brain can’t make that kind of association without help.

Substitution. “Apple is already one of the most closely watched companies in the world,” means, “I am closely watched.” Substitute “it” for “me”.

Inversion. Something said positively is inverted from the negative truth. He says, “It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple,” but in reality wants to tell you “I don’t care about your feelings. If you don’t obey me, I’ll make your life hell. I’m a God.”

“So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone,” means to say, “My sexuality had nothing to do with my promotion to God status. Pesky teenagers bore me with their angst but I should align myself with them to get sympathy.”

In my opinion, the following statement is highly improbable. The two people he calls out as inspiration were masters of spin. Their public personas were at odds with their private lives. One of them is not from a humble background and the other has a history of violence towards intimate partners. I don’t see how we could read this without laughing. It looks like a blatant lie:

“When I arrive in my office each morning, I’m greeted by framed photos of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. I don’t pretend that writing this puts me in their league.”

The truth would sound rather like, “I’m in their league. I’m the most important man alive today. I’m a visionary, a leader, and one day I am sure elementary school textbooks will have chapters about me.”

“While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now.” This means he’s hidden it until now and is only reluctantly acknowledging it publicly.

Flattery.  “I like keeping the focus on our products and the incredible things our customers achieve with them,” sounds a lot like, “The thing I’m hiding is really big and will cause a media firestorm. If I make flattering remarks here, readers will be distracted further.”

Discomfort. “So let me be clear:” If someone says this while they’ve got your attention it’s being said for emphasis and not clarity. Followed by, “I’m proud to be gay,” this means “I don’t want to say it here as I feel exposed but this is my only play.”

Emotional argument. “Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority.” It does not, and he is not. We should be upset that he’s trying to say he knows what it’s like to be (no offence) an illegal immigrant single mother with four children working for less than minimum wage, and who has no health insurance.

Being gay does not provide any white male who was coddled by academia, and who climbed up the corporate ladder “a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day.” He also says greedily that “It’s made me more empathetic,” but this cannot be true. Your sexual orientation does not affect your personality traits.

The rest of the essay is caramel flavoured popcorn. Sweet, crunchy and immediately satisfying, while lacking a substantive point.

~ Update ~
November 4: Reuters reports that Russian memorial to Steve Jobs dismantled after Apple CEO comes out as gay, on November 3. This reaction is beyond stupid, but the anti-gay retaliation by a sovereign state would be hard to quash in case discrimination would need to be argued.