Friday, October 31, 2008

Women, power and diplomacy

Sarah, Katie, Tina, Rachel, may be dominating the TV screen lately. But Lauren Zalaznick behind the camera has determined a lot of the non-political stuff we’ve been watching lately.

Within this fascinating profile, an excerpt on how she handled a somewhat awkward situation:

In 2000, when Zalaznick was still working at VH1, she and Bailey and Randy Barbato had a public contretemps that many thought would sever their collaboration. Barbato accidentally sent Zalaznick an e-mail message that he intended for Bailey. In the e-mail, he complained that Zalaznick was trying to get rid of their writers’ credits and suggested she was controlling and overcritical of him. Most infamous, he referred to her using a crude epithet, probably the crudest one reserved for women.

Zalaznick’s response was telling. She neither laughed it off nor fired anyone. Instead, a few weeks later, she wrote an essay about the experience and published it on a literary Web site called Open Letters. The essay is a thoughtful, brutally honest meditation on the expectations of a woman in power. “I’m probably regarded as being tough, fairly hardhearted, outspoken,” she wrote. “I am occasionally criticized for digging in and being less accommodating to other people’s ideas and criticisms than I ‘should be.’ But this is a weird sort of (double) standard to be held to, especially in a ‘creative’ job where passions are usually what get ideas heard.”

She didn’t soften any of the rough edges of the experience. She didn’t even try to soften her own edges. Explaining her reasoning about whether to sever the relationship, she wrote, “In the end in this business, it’s all a matter of who needs who the most.” You can only give someone the kiss-off for good, she went on, “if you really, truly, never need that person again, and you can never really be certain of that. One Emmy Award and we’d be begging to be back in business with them.”


Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Can U digg it?

Behold the new “enriched content” (bleh) of this blog – social media features added as quickly as I can learn about them and figure out how to use them. In summary:
• Twitter – what I’m doing on a semi-daily basis
• Delicious – So you can bookmark this lovely site
• Digg – Handpicked news from around the world

Scroll down under “recommended” to find:
• Flickr – Photos (duh)
• StumbleUpon – Cool random stuff from the corners of the earth
• Reddit – Helpful travel resources (this link is acting wonky – please be patient)

More cool stuff for you – and more to follow. Enjoy!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A like mind. Thank God.

“ ‘Networking,’ as a word, makes me feel like I get a physical reaction, I hate the term so much. It sounds all like strategically talking to people and trying to be their friends. It’s not authentic.”

Live in Washington long enough and you may at times feel like every conversational grouping you participate in is a glorified job interview:
• What do you do?
• Where did you go to school?
• Where are you from and where do you live now?
• What can you do for me?

Meanwhile both sets of eyes scan the room for someone more important as a mental notch is checked towards a quota. No wonder booze is served.

Because networking in the traditional sense is such a way of life here (even in supposedly recreational settings), a person can get over-saturated on such stuff and need a palate-cleanser.

Sometimes you want to forego the elevator pitch, the power grip and the business cards. You want to mix it up a little and talk about profoundly stupid and/or profoundly thought-provoking things with someone you don't already know very well (outside of a philosophical debate with that guy in Dupont Circle who's always talking to himself). You don't want to worry about forgetting to take off your nametag when you board the Metro - or about your nametag sticking to your hair.

You just want to have a fun, informal yet satisfying conversation. Business may transpire...or it may not.

I thought I was a freak for needing a break from pimping The Brand Called Me 24/7 - until I read an article in today’s New York Times

THE writer Po Bronson said that creative professionals today are overwhelmed by pressures to market themselves at every level of their life and career that “what they are craving is the informality” of such events.

Is there a likemind group here in DC? I wondered, and perused the roster on the website…

Austin, Boulder, Vermont, all the crunchy places…plus all the socialist foreign places, too.

But no DC group...yet. Anyone up for a cultural challenge?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

This just in from the "anti-livestock movement"...

Poor thing. Luckily they have thick skin.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The unlikely activist...

If ever there was an election to volunteer for, it's this one. So I drug my Chardonnay-swilling self down to the neighborhood office of the candidate I support:

"Global 'Hussein' Chameleon reporting for duty," I told the enthusiastic woman at the front desk and was led to the phone bank area, where I found a room of fellow volunteers with whom to pal around.

"You might want to dial *67 before you call so you don't pop up on caller ID."

Wise advice. Not doing that would mean updating your phone number would soon be the only change you'd believe in. The only thing "undecided" about this call list was the level of hatred they had for the candidate we were calling for. As I dialed and waited between one "I'm sorry, I don't live here" call and another, I overheard the comments around me.

"Wow, the first f-bomb of the day."

"What category do you check when somebody screams at you?"

A terrorist fist-bump out to those indefatigable, cheerful volunteers who stayed. As for me, after an hour I wondered if I could support my candidate in a less soul-crushing fashion. So I went next door to the shwag room, bought a button and clipped it onto my arugula-carrying tote bag.

Power to the people.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stop freaking out. Please.

Just a few weeks ago, economic leaders were predicting the end of civilization as we know it if we didn’t pass a $700 billion blank check RIGHT NOW. RIGHT NOW!

The deadline passed. So did the extended deadline. Meanwhile (disturbingly) an entire nation (Iceland) loomed on the edge of bankruptcy.

Yet we’re still here.

My bank (Wachovia) changed hands what seemed to be at least half a dozen times. Guess what?

My debit card is still here – and it still works.

For months now, we’ve been in a recession that people have been afraid to actually call a recession. During this time:
• I’ve seen plenty of sports fans line the stands of RFK and Verizon Center - not exactly Depression-era, penny-movie venues.
• And just this weekend, two soccer players from Cuba decided to stick around to enjoy our crappy capitalist economy.
• The only bread line I’ve seen has been outside of Panera on a busy Sunday morning, for $2.99 asiago cheese bagels with gourmet cream cheese.

Granted, times are far from rosy. You have to budget. You can’t lease a $70k hummer or buy a $700k house with $2k a month income. And, thanks to the skyrocketing costs of education, housing, health care and child care, millions are truly having difficulty making ends meet. This all truly needs to be fixed on a nationwide level.

But I think it’s a little early for CNN to be talking about recipes for squirrel-meat soup.

And it’s counter-productive. Guess what happens when fear gets the better of us? There's a crisis in consumer confidence because the consumers are no longer confident. Crazy stuff like runs on the bank happen. Or, as we saw last week, the stock market tanks. Doom and gloom becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

My retirement is invested in that crazy roller-coaster stock market. And I'd like to spend my golden years on a beach, fanned by pool boys feeding me grapes, rather than in a refrigerator box under a bridge, even a deluxe sub-zero box in the fancy part of town. So, quite selfishly, I must ask all you media to quit freaking out.

I (and the squirrels) sincerely thank you.

(Read more commentary about the fear-mongering here.)

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

It's good to be patronizing

When access to credit tightens, small businesses need, well, customers more than ever. And even in a dark, bleak, chaotic economy, you've got stuff to buy, fix, ship, whatever.

If you are walking around Bethesda and need such sundry stuff, here's a fine assortment of merchants, family-run businesses as far as I can tell. Peep in their doorways, check them out:

o Wisconsin Avenue, walking north from the Metro. The hidden deli - Bagels and lox? A smoothie? Of course you need this. Don't miss the little shop, though - it's right around the corner from...

o The tailor - In the window's a wedding dress and tux. Within the store: The skill to transform any ill-shaped mess into something sharp.

o Chic Optic - Not as expensive as one might think. Friendly and helpful, too.

Now you are at Woodmont Triangle.

o The Convenient One - Need a phone card to call Ghana? A rain poncho? A package of flourescent pastries from Guatemala? Join the construction crews for some lottery scratch-off and a read through the NY Post.

o Or perhaps you pissed someone off and need flowers. Next door, there it is - the flower shop. Just stand their and inhale. It's a tiny shop, so you really are kind of forced to stand there anyway.

o Mailboxes Etc. - An autographed photo of Joe Biden randomly and peacefully surveys a collection of handmade cards so stylish their recipients will forget you sent them 2 months late.

o Now it's time for cobbler - shoes that is. And key duplicates for only $2. How quaint, neighborly and old-school to have a cobbler's shop in town.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

We need a new animal to represent the markets

Bears and bulls are so old-school...


God, I just looked at my 401K...


Monday, October 06, 2008

As the economy implodes, a kinder, gentler Washington Post DateLab

It’s easy to be demanding when the cash is rolling in…and nothing demonstrated this more than the toolish behavior profiled on Washington Post DateLab.

Every week, it seemed, a multi-lingual, marathon-running, gourmet connoisseur, model-sexy World Bank executive or lobbyist *would rail on and on ** about the flaws in the other person:
• Box wine once touched lips
• Attended lesser Ivy
• Interned for lesser senator
• Dave Eggers who?
• Ordered wrong appetizer...and ate aforesaid appetizer with wrong fork
• Wrong race
• Doesn’t listen to “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” on a religious basis
• The infamous “no spark”

* In their own minds.

** Reflects the spirit of – not the exact nature – of the complaints. (The site’s archives were a bit slow in loading today.) Except for “wrong race” – no kidding, that was an actual complaint not once but a few times.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed something new and, dare I say, heartening:
nice, open-minded, seemingly well-intentioned people

People you suspect might actually contact each other after the fact beyond texting “Wow, I’m just so busy” from their Blackberries. People who seem to actually want to connect with others. People one might actually want to hang out with, not make fun of.

Perhaps the impending economic Armageddon has us all huddling together for warmth.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Distasteful, porn-reading servants take to the park

In honor of this week's financial meltdown...some class-warfare goodness courtesy of Jezebel.

I Saw Your Nanny is a voyeuristic NYC spectacle not to be missed….particularly this post.

Excerpts (with commentary):

“What: A distasteful nanny with a penchant for sunflower seeds and male porn.”

(Distasteful and penchant in one sentence? Well played, Park Avenue Peeper, well played)

"She was bra less; and if ever I have seen a woman more in need of a bra, then it would have to have been when my 83 year old demented, mother-in-law once appeared in my kitchen stark naked, but I digress.”

(No, please digress! There’s a fun in-law story there, I suspect…But I hope you and your husband already claimed your inheritance before you wrote this.)

“The woman with the mammoth chest was wearing Lee blue jeans and tennis shoes with a graffiti design. After being drawn to stare at the woman after watching her walk shamelessly across the playground, I honed on her activities…”

(The Lee jeans are the shameless part, right?)

“She had a stack of magazines that included a large word search puzzle, an O magazine and some sort of Male men's magazine. I am not sure of the title but I have the distinct impression it was a pornographic magazine intended for homosexual men.”

(I’m enjoying this image of O’s self-affirmations stacked right next to “Hello Sailor!” cut-out leather chaps.)

“The entire time she was there, she ate sunflower seeds. It was a pretty disgusting spectacle. She was using a pepsi can as a make shift spittoon.”

(The horror. Truly, the horror.)