Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
February 3, 2011 - January 27, 2011

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


You got it, babe. IP was there before it went, like, totally tits up.

IT WAS CALLED THE PINK PALACE. I was just having a conversation with my wife. She got impatient with me because I was being cloyingly nostalgic about my own past corporate career. She's still in the midst of big doings, understand, and the fate of the top execs she's dealt with every day for years is much on her mind. Understandably, she doesn't appreciate my long distance psychoanalysis of who's doing what why.

I get that. She's right. But it occurred to me that some of you out there might not be getting it. That you're letting golden moments of some kind slip through your fingers without being aware of it. So I'm going to give you an autobiographical glimpse of success and failure, and failure and success. You can draw your own conclusions. This isn't a lecture. It's just a moment of InstaPunk reflection.

I spent a year and a half working for a publishing company which launched me from beginner to competitive analyst in the booming microcomputer industry. I worked for a year and a half in a startup division of a Fortune 100 corporation intending to profit from the brand new (at the time) office systems market. Then I spent ten years as a management and communications consultant, here and abroad, travelling over three continents and winning awards for breakthrough implementations in the arena of "change." Then I returned to my original and most comfortable role -- writer -- like a hobbit returning to the Shire.

I ask you: Now that I can do what I like, take the jobs that interest me, and decline the rest, what would you imagine I feel nostalgic about? The place I exploded from? The stature I succeeded to, with my own firm and some laurels to boot? No.

What I feel nostalgic about is the Office Systems Division (OSD) of NCR Corporation in Dayton, Ohio. There were about 400 of us, doomed from the start by a top management that wanted a new market without understanding the first thing about that market. In fact, everything was against us. We had an OEM product (i.e., purchased from another manufacturer with more technological smarts than our whole company put together), personal rivalries, hatreds, and scandals sufficient to make an R-rated series on HBO or Showtime, and yet I have never ever worked with a group of people so dedicated, so determined to do whatever was necessary to succeed.

In the end we failed. I won't leave you in suspense on that point. But that year and a half -- no, make that a year and five months -- remains the most intense, the heaviest of my entire corporate life. I had five different titles during that time, had a hand (and budget) in everything I thought I had the remotest ability to do and even far beyond that, I had one work day that lasted for 36 hours straight in which I got to tell my Vice President that his product release plan would ruin his own career, got chided for my insolence, then saved him from his own rotten decision with a workaround that saved him for another two quarters. I also experienced every vicissitude of personnel issues, including the first emergence of Shane in a corporate setting (uh, me. Sorry), as well as much more serious and nearly criminal conduct by people with whom I was obliged to work each day.

In short, I had an entire career's worth of Fortune 100 corporate experience in just 17 months. Every management consulting proposal I made over the next ten years was drawn not from the 17 months I spent in an Ivy League graduate business school (Sorry, Cornell) but from the months I had spent at NCR World Headquarters in Dayton, Ohio. Specific gravity? It's the anchor of everything I've ever known for sure about business. I won't get started on the anecdotes because I'd never stop. I'm not overstating it. I'd never stop, regardless of the subject -- megalomania, technology, sex, office politics, salespeople, software engineers, sex, top management buffoonery, marketing sense and nonsense, outsourcing comedies, meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, and meetings. And did I forget? Sex.

And one authentic genius. No. Not me. His name was (probably still is) Frank Bogage. I didn't know anything about computers. I was a writer, a thinker, and a doer. Frank Bogage was the real thing. He'd built chips in his basement just like Bill Gates. But Frank never had the luck. His position at OSD was resident genius. And marketing scapegoat. I'd heard wondrous tales about him at my launching pad -- Datapro Corporation in Pennsauken, NJ -- where people kept comparing me to him, unfavorably, because I was a good writer and Frank was a genius, and then I went to Dayton and Frank glommed onto me.

Anybody want an HBO high-tech series full of sex and sin and treachery? Frank Bogage is your protagonist, the man who knew everything about everyone else's business as if their minds were merely microchips on his computer. Maybe that WAS the truth of it. Let me interrupt the chronology to describe the first morning we both arrived at the OSD software facility in Columbia, SC, where only Frank had the smarts to kick engineering ass and make it stick. Why was I there? Only because Frank said I was necessary. I was an eager beaver and Frank usually ran late. It was one of those hotel lobbies with an atrium and glassed-in elevators that descended toward sparkling fountains. I was thinking, "Where's Bogage? We're going to be late" when I saw him descending from the fourth floor in his blue suit and typically grim look. He was the spitting image of Napoleon Bonaparte. Descending in a glass elevator. To the lobby and its fountains. I'll never forget it.

Now that you can see Frank, understand what he did for me. He was a genius and he took me under his wing because I was the only other one, besides him, who knew who he was. Well, that's not entirely true. Everyone at OSD knew he was a genius. I was the one who understood how much of a genius he was.Which is why I had been at NCR HQ less than a month when Frank and I went over the head of the director of Marketing to tell our VP that OSD had no marketing strategy. I'd written a memo, you see, and Frank was the guy who had to do all the top management briefings with other Fortune 100 companies, and I didn't know that going three levels over your boss's head was career death.

We survived that cataclysm because Frank was a genius and I was a newbie. It would take less than a year before we repeated the exercise in the 36 hour day mentioned above. In the interim, though, Frank taught me about the computer industry. He foresaw most everything that's happened since. He knew that DOS was fatally flawed, a rotten operating system that would be perpetually assailed by security and communication problems, even as it has been in the Windows years, where DOS still loads its 640K before the megabytes of fixitcode loads. He knew that the future had to do with multi-tasking, multi-threaded.... oh forget it.

Frank was absolutely a genius but he was also my friend. They dispatched him to every Fortune account to make promises NCR had no intention of keeping, about how they would compete with and displace the IBM PC. I remember a week when he wasn't at work and was supposed to be. The director of marketing, who hated Frank, demanded to know where he was. I was busy up to my eyeballs, too, but I found out. Frank had landed in St. Louis, a switchpoint for his transfer to Fort Worth, when airport security found him wandering under the replica of the Spirit of St. Louis. Mr. Bogage had absolutely no idea where he was, how he had gotten there, or where he was going.

Everyone found out. No one made a big deal of it. We all travelled a lot. It could have happened to any of us.

It really could have. That's how hard we all worked.

uh, was there a point, chief? Yes. There was.

Some of you proclaim quite loudly that you hate your jobs. I understand. But here's an experiment. Put a link to this post on your Facebook pages. Suggest that an NCR OSD reunion might be in the offing. See what kind of response you get.

I'm talking, as I was with with my wife in a much more direct and material way, about the power of belonging. I'm the ultimate maverick and lonely rolling stone, but I still belong to OSD. Truth. And if anybody turns up Bogage, let me at that puppy. Smartest man I ever knew. Which should scare the rest of you plenty. They called the two of us the Blues Brothers. Because we kept predicting doom if the company didn't follow our advice. How did that turn out? This way.

But none of that matters. What matters is that team spirit and solidarity are everywhere in the marketplace. If you don't have it at your place, at least give a thought to what you might do to gain it. Believe me, I do know it's not possible to have it everywhere. All I'm asking is that you remember a paycheck is not the only product of a corporate affiliation. OSD! We were smaller than the Dog Pound, but we had all the spirit of an NFL team. OSD! OSD! OSD!

A sense of belonging is a wonderful thing. The only hole in my heart Mrs. CP doesn't understand. Because she's a member of the ultimate team. She takes it for granted, all those brilliant talents focused on a mission they consistently achieve. It's like winning the Super Bowl every year, year after year and decade after decade.

Why she hung up on me when I suggested one of her team might miss the game really seriously if he hung up his pads.

Like her, though, most of you know I have no insight into individual human behavior. [Sigh of Relief.]

A Proposition:

The Referee Network

Anthony Weiner. Make him work for that smirk.

AWWW. I'm a conservative obviously. But I just spent an hour switching back and forth between the two poles of cable news, MSNBC and Fox News. We need something better. Not CNN, which is MSNBC Lite. Perhaps it's more pernicious that MSNBC featured Brian Williams "reporting" from the scene in Egypt, declaring that the Muslim Brotherhood means no harm. Bullshit. Yet it's also depressing to see a debate between Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck that never touches on reality. More bullshit. O'Reilly defending FDR foreign policy while Beck decries Woodrow Wilson foreign policy. Yelling on both sides. Fair and balanced imbecility. Did I forget to mention that Lawrence O'Donnell interviewed Brian Williams before he moved into a protracted slam attack on Sarah Palin? Or that he also covered the Florida Supreme Court decision that ObamaCare is unconstitutional by interviewing two opponents of the decison and no one else? His definitive guest was constitutional expert Anthony Weiner, the reason I'm still awake.

Just a word or two about Weiner before I continue. The single smartest politician I've seen in any media interview. Ever. Anyone watching him would simply assume that he's a lawyer, because he's so damn deadly and deft in his attacks. Harvard Law? No. He has a bachelor of arts from SUNY Plattsburgh. He's never worked in the private sector. Politics has been his entire adult life.

Not to demean him. He's brilliant.

Weiner worked on the staff of then-Congressman and current Senator Chuck Schumer (1985–91). First working in Schumer's office in Washington, D.C., he was sent to the District Office in Brooklyn in 1988 when Schumer encouraged him to become involved in local politics.

In 1991, after a three-way primary and a four-way general election, Weiner was elected to the New York City Council. At 27, he was the youngest person to serve on the Council to that date.

Over the next seven years on the City Council, Weiner initiated programs to tackle quality of life concerns. He started a program to put at-risk and troubled teens to work cleaning up graffiti. He spearheaded development plans for historic Sheepshead Bay that led to a revival of the area; and, when supermarkets started leaving the neighborhood, Weiner worked to reverse the trend.

As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Public Housing, he fought to increase federal funding, to ban dangerous dogs, and to add more police officers to the beat. His investigation into the cause of sudden, fatal stairwell fires made headlines; he exposed dangerous practices that eventually led the city to replace the paint in developments citywide.

In 1998, Congressman Chuck Schumer opted to try to unseat Senator D'Amato. In the Democratic primary election, Schumer won the right to face D'Amato, whom he defeated in the General Election; and Weiner won the Democratic nomination to succeed Schumer, which was tantamount to election in the heavily Democratic 9th District. He is only the fifth person to represent the District since its creation in 1920.

Make no mistake. If I had to pick one member of Congress to have dinner with, it would be Anthony Weiner. But only because Shane is always looking for dangerous company.

Anthony Weiner is the true measure of what news media, cable or otherwise, can do to twist truth. He's a superb debater in the context of the three minute yelling matches sponsored by MSNBC and Fox. Quick, facile, and false, yet equally adept on the riposte. He knows the facts he's determined to cite.... he's a genius... and he's a lying creep.

I talk about Weiner because he's the socialist bogeyman the right (or new right or tea party or whatever) has to defeat. You'll never do it. You might try to do it with superior command of the facts, except that Weiner is a flat-out liar and when he isn't lying he's twisting the facts so imaginatively you'd have to run to keep up. Which is why Steve Doocy, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and even Don Imus always start out all confident smiles with Weiner and reach the finish line looking winded and, uh dumb. Weiner's as convincing as any editor of the Harvard Law Review you've ever been snubbed by at a wedding. His biggest talent is making YOU feel small.

YOU, meaning all the Republicans from Indianapolis, Mobile, and, well, East Jesusville, er, Everywhere/Anywhere, USA.

So. My thought is of a NEW network, neither left nor right. The premise is a series of mediators like Charley Rose, if Charley Rose weren't such a lefty asshole, asking questions of opposing opinion makers -- without prejudice or intent but merely to elicit further explanation and without subsequent biasing comments like "oh" or "ah," or "smirk:"-- enabling us in the audience to  learn something. "Can you elaborate on that based on more reference to your personal experience?" would be an excellent interview question by a professionally trained host like...

Aye. There's the rub. Even Charley Rose is merely Christiane Ammanpour with a smaller cock. What Islamists have managed thus far. A frightened cock is always smaller than a hard-on planning to get laid in heavenhell. Not that there's actually a difference. For Islamists.

But something they should remember. Those of us who live life don't care about virgins. We're not that needy or insecure.

Why we're talking about a television network. Cutting... finally... to the chase. Until conservatives jettison O'Reilly and Hannity and all the other dumb Irish reactionaries who rant without researching their opponents, they'll never beat Anthony Weiner. Why do they keep acting like he's a run-of-the-mill dumbshit liberal guest? Why do they keep getting their clocks cleaned and inviting him back to do it again? What the hell ails Fox News? Time for an upgrade from the programmatic yellers to actual thinkers? Ya think? I think Ailes can still think. He should think about my vision of a 'Referee Network.' Because the one he's got is turning fatally Doocy.

All right. I admit it. I could bury Anthony Weiner. Absolutely obliterate him. But nobody's asked me to. I'm Shane. He's Jack Palance bullying the ones who can't fight back because they're way too intimidated by his New York arrogance:

Think I'm kidding? I'm starting to throw up blood at all the easy interviews I've heard with Weiner by Hannity, O'Reilly, Imus, and Fox & Friends. They sail in with smiles and preconceived truths, and he eats them for lunch while I fume at their lack of preparation and wit. The hell with them. They deserve what they get from the fast gun they've let into their house. MY first target is that superior smirk. My smirk is better founded. Because I'm so much older, more experienced about real American life, and, well, resigned to the futility of condescending liberal utopianism. Give me a long moment with him, and a chance to meet him eye to eye, and I'll, well...

...convert his ass. Yuh.

Now don't be calling the feds on me, anyone. If you don't know what a metaphor is. my attorneys will be asking you about numbers between nine and eleven. And I'll be explaining to the wide American world about a life consisting entirely of metaphor. The way things go. Artistic freedom means artists get to imagine justice, and nobody else gets to live it.

But sometimes metaphor isn't enough. I actually want to debate Weiner in person. I'm sick of his triumphant appearances on Fox. They never prepare. That's what it takes. A smirk does not make you smart and a man who has never actually experienced capitalism cannot be an expert in it.

And, like Shane (as I told a close friend I recently slew here) I am still holding back.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Unexpected Benefits
of Western Imperialism

Zahi Hawass trying to put the best possible face on the damage.

WELL, YEAH, HISTORY DOES REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT. Forget the so-called big issues. Will Egypt's Mubarek survive? Will the Muslim Brotherhood make Egypt into the new psychotically vicious post-Shah Iran? Will Obama become the new Jimmy Carter, responsible for another mideast catastrophe traceable to his own presumptuous naivete? Forget all the speculation about these questions. It's all premature. We're watching a slow-motion explosion. The nanosecond after a bomb goes off is hardly the time to begin assessing the eventual damage, casualties, and after-effects. Which pretty much cancels out any relevance of the Sunday morning media circuses (and the bread that fuels them). They're the fiddling we've come to expect while Rome burns. Except that Egypt is much much older than Rome.

Which brings me to my point. An item from Drudge this morning:

(Reuters) - Looters have pillaged a number of warehouses containing ancient Egyptian artifacts, stealing and damaging some of them, archaeologists and warehouse workers said on Monday.

A group of looters attacked a warehouse at the Qantara Museum near the city of Ismailia on the Suez Canal that contained 3,000 objects from the Roman and Byzantine periods, a source at the tourism police said.

Many of the objects had been found in Sinai by the Israelis after they occupied the peninsula during the 1967 war with Egypt, and had only been recently returned to Egypt.

A worker at the warehouse said the looters had said they were searching for gold. The worker told them there was no gold but they continued to pillage the storehouse, smashing some items and taking others.

An archaeologist said warehouses near the pyramids of Saqqara and Abu Sir were also looted.

"At other locations, guards and villagers were able to successfully repel gangs of looters," the archaeologist said.

On Friday, looters broke into the Cairo museum, home to the world's greatest collection of Pharaonic treasures, smashing several statues and damaging two mummies, while police battled anti-government protesters on the streets.

The culture, monuments, temples and pyramids of ancient Egypt have left a lasting legacy on the world and are a major draw for the country's tourism industry.

More recent reports from Fox News suggest such damages and thefts are even more serious, countrywide and perhaps devastating. Contrary to government claims, the Egyptian army may not be guarding all museums containing Egyptian cultural treasures but only a few of them, and most may have been assaulted and looted.

Less than a month ago, I felt sympathetic toward the protests of Egypt's curator of antiquities when he registered a protest and threat to the City of New York:

NEW YORK — An Egyptian official has chided New York City over the condition of "Cleopatra's Needle," an ancient column in Central Park.

Zahi Hawass (ZAH'-hee ha-WASS') of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities wrote a letter to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg complaining that his city is not taking good care of the 3,500-year-old obelisk.

Egypt gave the stone monument to the city as a gift more than a century ago. It now sits on a knoll near the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Hawass says Cleopatra's Needle is badly weathered, with the hieroglyphics worn away, and no effort has been made to conserve it.

He says that if the city doesn't act, Egypt may seek to have its gift returned.

More power to him, I thought at the time. Now I'm thinking, thank God the western colonial powers carried off as many artifacts as they did over the centuries. Because as one of the taproots of all human civilization, Egypt belongs not just to the Egyptians but to all of us. The pyramids weren't built by muslims, who would, truth be told, put all the ancient followers of Ammon, Ra, Horus, and Isis to the sword if they were alive today, And so I'm glad that whatever happens in the reign of the currently besieged would-be pharaoh, we will not lose all our knowledge and ability to remember and learn more about a past all westerners share. Maybe a reason why it's not a good idea to keep all your golden eggs in one fragile basket.

More specifically, that means thanking historical villains like Napoleon Bonaparte and all the many brutal Brits who had the curiosity to dig in the desert and take away what they found interesting. Greed? Perhaps. But if I chose to, I could drive to Philadelphia this afternoon and behold the enigmatic grandeur of ancient Egypt, marble and mummies included, at the museum across the street from Franklin Field.

Ponder that. I will still be able to do it a month from now, even if Cairo is a ruin and everything Zahi Hawass has struggled so mightily to preserve and protect in his homeland is a tragic memory. Yes, I thank God for the hated Dead White European Males who made real Egyptian eternity possible.

Pray on that. And consider the possibility that even Khufu, Ramses II, and Akhenaton might join me in my prayer of thanksgiving.

The flipside of monolithic political correctness can be a real bitch. Or so say I.

Calling All Texts

Daniel Pangloss. My idiot identical twin.

I'M SICK OF ALL THE PEOPLE I KNOW WHO CAN'T READ THE GRAPHIC ABOVE WITHOUT READING GLASSES:  I concede I've been truculent of late. But comments confirm what I thought. I've had multiple computer disasters in recent years, and I have a deerhound who consumes almost all my free time. Some of you have texts of mine I don't have anymore. Brizoni had a quote so obscure even I didn't remember (dementia, anyone?) until I read it a second time, the beginning of yet another 'scripture.' Helkenberg has the Book of Andrew and the Book of Assumptions or the former at least. No longer in MY possession. Lake speaks as if the Zeezer Bible is easily available: but the Zeezer Bible is as dependent on hyperlinks as the infamous, although those links are all to specific graphics and texts in Shuteye Town 1999. The Zeezer Bible depends on those graphic links as much The Boomer Bible depended on its ICR. Further, Lake speaks airily of reproducing the Pangloss Dialectics, although these are also (somewhat) dependent on their locations inside Shuteye Town. Not to mention the Shuteye Times, the Balow Star, Who's Who, 9/11, and dozens of other text/graphics works I did under the rubric of  "Shuteye Nation." I can find bits and pieces, but like Humpty Dumpty I can't put all the pieces back together again. And without all the pieces reassembled, there's no way anyone can see that I've been commenting continuously on everything for two decades with a combination of fiction, satire, graphics, and, uh, the whole Instapunk mess. Millions of words, thousands of graphics and animations, and perhaps more importantly, thousands of links to the outer world as filtered through my own.

The sad truth. I've lost control of most of my own writings and their links. So I'm asking. Restore them to their daddy, because they are my lost children. Do whatever you can in HTML to bring them as close to the form in which you originally saw them and email them to me. Anything and everything you have.

I hate to ask. But I have to accept that this time I can't do it with mere attitude and optimism. I need your help. Whatever you can do... to help the dog uneat my homework.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Saddest Superman

MORE. Yeah. His name is Jerry Jones. There he is, sitting on top of  his $1.5 billion stadium, all alone, with no one to keep him company during the Super Bowl he thought would be his triumph.

I told you. Every single day. A Super Bowl post.

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