Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Five Minutes with our COO.

Thank you for agreeing to meet with me today. I realize as COO, Chief Operating Officer, you must be exceedingly busy.

To be completely obvious about it, Chief Operating Officer is quite a demanding job. But my title is completely different. I am also a COO—but a Chief Obvious Officer.

I’ve never heard of that title. What is it that you do?

It’s simple, really. Obvious, in fact. I say things that are absolutely banal and trivial but in today’s insecure, needy and dumbed-down era, they pass as profound because I say them loudly, I repeat them often and then I post them on four or a dozen social media platforms.


Faux profundity, give me an example.

Ok, here’s a recent tweet: Brands understand that today’s consumers have gone public about their privacy concerns.

That’s excellent. Completely obvious and banal.

Yes, and what makes it so brilliant is that it’s completely devoid of any sort of proof or data. It’s just an unfounded assertion said with some degree of assertiveness.

I see. So you keep yourself and your company in the news while blurting things of absolutely no value.


That’s what influencers do. Here’s one, in today’s data economy, leveraging insights from data is paramount. Television viewership has decreased while OTT and stand-alone are standing alone in an OTT way.


Profoundly superficial.

Yes, and in a profound way. People with nothing to do, no discernment of their own and who are smitten by the 9-watt glare of internet celebrity pass these thoughts on, and all of a sudden, I’m an Oracle.

Here’s one I just came up with. Complete hooey that people embrace because it contains a slim semblance of sense:

Go on.


A CEO works for his employees. And leads from the front.


Wow, you almost had me nodding. Yet it’s totally vanilla and altogether meaningless.

You’ve heard the term witticism, of course.


Yes, your statements don’t exactly sound like they emanate from Oscar Wilde.

I know that. That’s why I’ve trademarked the coinage, nitwitticisms.


That’s good. Can I use that?

Yes. With proper attribution, of course.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Take me out to the ballgame.

While I was preparing for my trip to visit my younger daughter out in San Diego, I had a wave of nostalgia wash over me and I decided I'd get tickets to see a ballgame. The local denizens, the Padres, were playing the Red Stockings of Cincinnati, at 5:40 in the afternoon, on the Saturday before Easter.

I hadn't been to a major league game in quite some time because of the way the modern game rubs against my old-fashioned orientation.

First, I can't bring myself to go to a stadium built by tax-payer dollars, where the hoi polloi are financially segregated from the Goldman Sach-ers. I abhor the reality that my dollars paid for the place, and malefactors of great wealth get all the good seats. 

Second, and in the same vein, it sickens me to go to a stadium built by tax-payer money on ostensibly public land and then emblazoned with a corporate logo. That knocks the Mets' new stadium, the incorrectly-spelled CITI-field out of contention. Why should I go to a stadium named for a bank? What positive has a bank ever done for me? We don't even get toasters anymore.

Third, I refuse to go to Yankee Stadium--or, more properly, the new, ersatz, plasticine Yankee Stadium. They tore down the House that Ruth built, a cranky, creaky, iron-girded place for the house that Tax-Payers built so the bloated plutocrats could entertain their bloated clients for four innings while insulated from, as Mr. Potter called them in "It's a Wonderful Life," "the garlic eaters."

However, as I said above, nostalgia, and the prospect of spending a bit of father-daughter time in San Diego's sun with a cold beer and a frank, overwhelmed my cynicism and I bought three field-level tickets for $105 a pop, plus an extortionate $19.50 per "handling charge" and another $5 per of other sundry charges like "cauldrons of oil boiling fee in case of peasant insurrection."

My wife and I assumed our seats only 20 minutes late. It took us a full 40 minutes to get through metal detectors, bag inspection and wanding. Our daughter arrived 20 minutes later with a Mojito in a faux-plastic Mason-jar and two-spiked seltzers for my wife and I. I'm sure in total, Hannah was separated from $40 or $50 along the way. Not to mention the environmental cost of that plastic cup and the aluminum cans of vodka-laced fizzy water because people can no longer drink out of paper cups.

We took our seats and were soon surrounded by an assortment of unshaven drunks, adipose-endowed fans with their bellies exposed and grotesquely rotund dads feeding their similarly grotesque sons and daughters plastic corn-chips soaked in viscous plastic-cheese the color of Tang dating from 1967. 

Some of those drunks chose to stand up in front of us most of the game, resistant to my hoarse, Yonkers-trained, "Down in front." The lead drunk was bigger than I, and while I pondered fisticuffs, my breathtakingly level-headed wife calmed me down with one icy glare.

The Padres have a young player named Fernando Tatis, Jr., and one particularly busty drunk wore a t-shirt that scaled the heights of the evening's humor and she stood to show it to young Fernando every time he ran in from or out to his position at short. It said, across her ample bosom area, "Show us your Tatis," and the drunks rolled in the peanut-shell-strewn aisles every time she thrust her mammarial endowments out to the young Dominican.

After the game, much of the crowd headed to the bars that besot the streets surrounding "Petco" Field, a horribly inappropriate name for a stadium that doesn't, of course, allow pets. We app-ed for an Uber and headed to Hannah's neighborhood, where there are slightly fewer drunks per capita, at least on game day.

In my email this morning, this is an obligatory operating procedure in our present surveillance state, I received from the Padres a survey asking me how I enjoyed a variety of experiences.

My "ticket-purchasing experience." My "traveling to the ball-park experience." My "entry through the gates" experience. My "finding my seats" experience. My "courtesy of the staff" experience. My "purchasing food and drink" experience. My "entertainment at the game" experience and a few more.

They asked, of course, nothing at all about the game. Because the game is secondary, if not tertiary to going to the ballpark. There is no longer a stentorian stadium announcer who says, "Now batting in the lead-off position position position, shortstop, Lou Boudreau boudreau boudreau. Number five five five. Lou Boudreau boudreau boudreau."

That would be putting the game front and center and going to see a ballgame for 97% of people in attendance is about getting blitzed, seeing yourself on the ego-tron™, entertaining clients, and laughing at old-people who are shown dancing on the ego-tron™.

I left in a sour mood, to be honest. Feeling like I do so often in our modern world. That it was built by the super-rich to drunkify the middle-class and remove whatever money they have attached to their credit cards.

Many years ago I wrote a sincere letter to my Congresswoman proposing that we change our nation's motto, "E Pluribus Unum" (Latin for, "Out of Many, One) to the much more accurate "Shop 'Till You Drop," (Taberna Donec Stillabunt, if you want to stick with Latin. Since no one speaks either Latin, or English anymore.)

Of course, I never heard back from her. Like the idea of seeing an actual ballgame at the ballpark is passe, so too is being actually represented by an actual representative.

Again in Latin, O Tempore, O Mores. 

Of course, that means, in the Lingua Franca of two-thousand years-ago, George is happiest when he's grumpy. So leave him alone.

For anyone, like me, missing "Baseball When the Grass Was Real," take two-minutes and hear the ol' redhead, Red Barber, announcing Roger Maris' 61st round-tripper, from way back when I was a three-year-old, on October 1, 1961.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Some thoughts on god, growing old, and not growing old.

It takes a lot, I'll admit, to get me to think about god. But I thought about god last night.

Not the god of the bible and other children's books. Not the white-haired and long-bearded stern-visaged god you see in Renaissance paintings and greeting cards. But a different kind of god.

Someone--it could be someone close or someone distant--it could be someone who just appears in your life with no notice, and that person delivers something that is wholly wise, wholly unexpected and, yes, wholly god-like.

I'm out in San Diego now, visiting my younger daughter, Hannah who's a Master's student at the Marine Science Institute at Scripps. 

Last night as I was waiting for my wife's luggage to come by on the baggage carousel I saw a well-dressed older woman. She was short and frail, and she looked at the bags spinning by and she was fretting.

"Do you need some help?" I asked her.

"I don't know how I'll get my bag," she answered. "It's bigger than I am."

She pointed to it as it was conveying by. I used the not-inconsiderable muscle in my arm and yanked it off for her. I set it down and extended the handle, so she could roll it away.

She looked at me with soft, warm eyes, and extended her arms wide. She hugged me.

I was a bit flustered. I'm not used to being hugged in airports. Anywhere, for that matter.

"Happy holidays," I stammered.

She examined me with those eyes. 

"Maybe Happy Passover," she inquired.

"Just maybe," I answered.

We both laughed and she said, "Chag Sameach," a traditional Jewish holiday greeting. And we went our separate ways.

That was a little touch of deity.

Later that evening, I got another touch.

Really from out of the blue--from the living heavens, maybe--I got an email from my first boss, Marshall Karp. The subject line hit me between the eyes. It said, initial caps and all, "Don't Let The Old Man In."

Here's what the email said:
"Despite your best efforts I don’t think of you as an old man.  And I’m trying not to think of myself as one either.  As Toby Keith wrote: Ask yourself how old would you be If you didn't know the day you were born. 
"Hence this piece below that I’m sending to the so-called old men in my life. 
"When Toby Keith met Clint Eastwood, the actor invited the country singer to partner up with him at a golf tournament.   
"As they were playing Eastwood said, “I turn 88 on Monday.”  Keith asked how he planned to celebrate.  Eastwood said, “I’m going to shoot a movie.” 
"Keith was in awe.  “What keeps you going?” he asked. 
"Eastwood replied, 'I get up every day, and I don’t let the old man in.' 
"Keith went home and spent the next two days turning that piece of wisdom into a song.  The movie Eastwood shot and starred in is “The Mule,” and Keith sings the song during the closing credits."

I'll be the first to concede that I have something of a lugubrious mein. That's a fancy way of saying I can be a gloomy son-of-a-bitch. 

Some people, in the words of Lady Gaga, are born that way. I was one of them.

Some people see the glass half-empty. I don't see a glass at all. I figure it's been smashed by a vandal, or stolen by a thief, or appropriated by a soak-the-poor tax-collector.

And being a generation older than everyone I work with, that doesn't help either. My skin crawls every time someone calls me dude, or bro. 

The worst is when they call me Yoda. (If that's not passive aggressive ageism...)

But Marshall is right.

I'm not old.

I'm faster, harder-working, funnier and a whole lot of other
-ers, than just about anyone. As A.J. Liebling used to say, "I can write better than anyone who can write faster, and faster than anyone who can write better."

They might see me as old. Or want to consider me old. Or disparage me as old. Maybe that makes them feel good and powerful.

But fuck 'em. (In an anodyne, politically-correct, HR-approved way.)

I'm not letting the old man in.

And they'll have to drag me out of here.

It'll take four or five of them.

I'm a big guy.