Thursday, November 29, 2007

Stories of the Road, issue 27: Regarding business dinners

Wow, guys, you know what the only thing better than working an 11-hour day is? You might say "Nothing," but I have the answer: working an 11-hour day and then going out to a business dinner where you talk about work the whole time. Oh, but wait, stop, hold on, there's something still better than that: if you can immerse yourself in that situation but then also be conversationally marginalized the entire time, and then whenever you try to bring the topic off of work you're interrupted with non sequiturs the entire night, that's the only way the night could get even better. I swear, the older I get and the more time I spend in the professional world, the more I realize that people skills don't really have that much to do with getting ahead in the business world.

I can understand the desire to talk about work at a business dinner: everyone can relate to the topic, you get to dish all sorts of gossip, people are talking about their coworkers in a way that they would never do if they were sober, alright, that's great. Still, doesn't anyone appreciate the opportunity to really get to know the people they're working with? And do we really still have to kiss our superiors' asses outside of the office? Isn't that the time that we should be ignoring office politics more than ever in order to rebel against the onus imposed by the workplace where we spent the vast majority of our day?

Admittedly, I'm a very social person, so I'm probably just upset that everyone I work with doesn't interact with other people in the same way that I do. This whole rant makes me a bit of a hypocrite since I believe that people in general weigh communication skills too heavily when assessing someone else's intelligence and now I'm turning around and doing exactly that with my coworkers. I guess at the end of the day this blog could be viewed as a perspective on how people interact differently in social situations. Still, it's disappointing to spend three hours with a group of people that fuel the entire night's discussion with stories about themselves.

By the way, we ate a a restaurant called Koi tonight, which is a sushi place in West Hollywood that was featured in an episode of Entourage (so my coworkers tell me). The CEO of my client told me that he had been there once before for dinner with Michael Bolton and Nicolette Sheridan. There were a few paparazzi outside the restaurant tonight. The inside of the restaurant was filled with fake blonds, fake tans, fake tits, short skirts, long legs, and several older gentlemen escorting several more younger ladies.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Stories of the Road, issue 26: An in-flight bibliography

*NOTE: This is my first post to Blogger, but I have blogged on MySpace for quite a while. To dig through my MySpace blogging history, go here.

After a thoroughly enjoyable month of employment based in the Chicago suburbs, I'm back on the road this week, writing this blog on my 4-1/2 hour flight to LAX. Fortunately, I brought along some excellent reading material that's making me forget that I have felt my legs atrophy significantly over the course of the flight - looks like my traveler's fortitude has suffered from the respite. The nice thing about evening flights is that you can play the cloud shapes game with the patches of light from the towns below; I just passed a crop of lights that looked like a giant beetle.

Malcolm Gladwell has finally returned from a hiatus of several months with a great article on how the FBI's long-revered criminal profiling methodology is really just pseudo-scientific cold reading. He spent his hiatus working on his next book, and although I have no idea what it's about I'm getting antsy just thinking that more Gladwell goodness will soon be rolling off of a printing press somewhere, rife with counterintuitive wisdom backed by rock solid case studies. Try to stay with me here, but there's something similar about Malcolm Gladwell's work and the web services/products that Google provides. In both cases, the simplicity of their packaging makes the content more intuitive. It reminds me of the way the word "elegant" is used in the context of computer programming to describe a solution that implies a harmony of simplicity and robustness. Leonardo da Vinci said that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, and I think that idea is manifest in output such as Gladwell's Blink and Google's RSS feed manager Google Reader.

But I digress.

I'm also slowly working my way through Naomi Klein's No Logo, which is an examination of the state of advertising, branding and marketing at the end of the 20th century. The big picture so far isn't too surprising - Guess what? Corporations are EVERYWHERE! - but the cited examples of out-of-control branding still strike your gut as foul, such as Fashion Licensing of America's line of Ernest Hemingway furniture ("designed to capture the 'brand personality' of the late writer"), or Nike internally coining the term "bro-ing" to describe its process of borrowing style, attitude and imagery from black urban youth. She just wrapped up a chapter on how the Seattle grunge scene didn't really stand for anything but an aesthetic, making it perfect for brands to swoop in and co-opt. That section is followed with some well-worded passages about how being interested in something ironically is a vapid cop-out, which I LOVED reading because I feel like I've never really understood the "so bad it's good" theory.

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I'm now in the cab on the way to the Beverly Hills Hilton, where a room awaits me. Let's see if I can still remember my hotel room arrival routine: open suitcase on second bed, put toiletries by the sink, iron and hang shirts... yes, yes, it's all coming back to me.

Lucy & I had a fabulous time this weekend seeing They Might Be Giants at The Vic, eating at our favorite Wicker Park restaurants, and falling asleep during two consecutive attempts to watch Ratatouille. We also had some heavy-duty conversations; it was good to get away from the catch-up we play over the phone every week, and to interact deeply with someone so close to me. Those experiences don't happen every day.