Now For The Marketing

Later today I’ll be doing a walk-through of the old house to see how the reno contractors performed. Then the realtor and I will formulate a marketing strategy to get the house shown in its best light — by “the realtor and I” I mean of course “the realtor”, because this is their métier and I’ve always believed in letting the pros do their job unmolested. She’s going to tell me what she’s going to do, and I’m going to nod sagely and say, “Excellent idea.” I’ve sold maybe two houses in my time, and not locally; she does that every week. Who do you think has the better idea of what sells in our market?

On that topic, by the way, there’s a good rule of thumb that whenever you see a totally shit ad on TV, the chances are excellent that it was either created by, influenced by or produced by the client, and not the ad agency.

I was once responsible for a marketing department which had three ad agencies working on different aspects of the company’s business — one handled all the fresh items (produce, fruit, bakery, floral etc), another did the grocery “dailies” — the everyday ads such as seen in the newspapers and flyers — while the third agency handled hard goods (furniture, clothing, appliances and housewares). Each agency was picked because they specialized in that particular area, all tried ceaselessly to poach parts of each other’s business, and all had their pee-pees whacked (by me) for straying into areas outside their own expertise.

“Leave it to the professionals!” should be every manager’s motto, but sadly, few follow that simple rule. Most think they know better than the pros — like I could perform a laparoscopy on myself better than a doctor simply because it’s my body and I know it better than they do. But businessmen — especially company owners — think they understand the marketing of their business or product better than the pros in marketing- and ad agencies. Without exception, they don’t. Even I, who had once worked at a couple of ad agencies and actually understood the process, generally deferred to the agency because — wait for it — it’s their job to know more about it than the client. The one time I exercised the Client Veto was because they’d misinterpreted the brief, which was — ta-da! — my fault in that I hadn’t communicated the brief properly (a.k.a. GIGO — garbage in, garbage out, as the old pros know).

Likewise, my brief to the contractors (flooring and painting) was simple: “Do what you think is best, make the place look amazing, but stay within the budget — unless I specifically authorize otherwise, because otherwise, you’re going to eat the overage.” I also told them before we started that I am the world’s most understanding client and will leave them alone — right up until somebody fucks up or breaks their word to me, and then I’ll be their worst nightmare. We’ll see how well they did, later in the day.

I love Linda, the realtor, by the way. Consummate professional, very experienced, no-nonsense and smart as hell. Took no shit from me, explained everything fully, brooked no argument; but when I told her why I was selling the place, she teared up. “You must really have loved your wife,” she commented; and when I asked why she said that, she replied, “Because every time you talk about her, what she said and what she did, you have a smile on your face.”

Guilty as charged. Damn, I miss her still more, every day.

“Dear Dr. Kim”

“Dear Dr. Kim,

I live in a college dorm room which has two curtained-off “bedroom alcoves”, each with a desk, and a common area for the little kitchenette my roommate and I share. Here’s the problem: I’m not a particularly neat person, but I keep my untidiness strictly to my side of the room. I’m not a pig in the kitchen – I do my share of the washing up and such, and help keep the kitchen spotless – but my roommate has been on my case ever since the beginning of the semester, saying that my untidiness is affecting her. She is a neatness freak, by the way: her bed is made like in an Army barracks, and her desk is always clear. I use a duvet and seldom make my bed, and my desk is full of books and such (but not dirty dishes). How can I resolve my issue with her?”

– Untidy, Columbus

Dear Untidy,

Tell Roomie Dearest to fuck off. If your “mess” really is contained – i.e. it doesn’t encroach on her living space – and you keep the common area clean and tidy, that’s all she should expect. Frankly, your roommate is not only a pain in the ass, but I foresee a glowing future for her as a Democrat politician, because they too are full of good advice for other people and think they know best how everyone else should live their lives. And the earlier these tiresome control freaks can be contained by us normal people, the better for our society in the long run. If she persists in this nonsense, beat her over the head with a chair – something else we should do to budding Democrats and suchlike busybodies more often.

—Dr. Kim

Mystics

In every cult, there are people who try to set their group aside from the rest of the population with language — in other words, creating a shorthand that only the initiates or insiders know, which (I guess) makes them feel superior to outsiders. Many times, this language is made up of abbreviations or (my particular bête noir) acronyms that create a level of inscrutability to the casual reader or onlooker and render the simplest of statements completely opaque to the uninitiated. (I’ll talk another time about academic language, which shuns abbreviation and acronym in favor of dense, elliptical words and phrases used as a shorthand among fellow academics and gives the users a veneer of erudition, usually false.)

The Mrs., who spent her entire life trying to undo the nonsense these people were spouting, referred to them as “mystics” — categorizing them as identical to the priests or priestesses at the various ancient oracles, who spoke in impenetrable riddles and then acted as translators of their allusions to the (paying) populace.

Until recently, the most egregious sinners were people in the information technology (IT) industry, with their MTBF (mean time between failures, a quality control — QA — measurement), AOP (aspect-oriented programming, which has no meaning to me at all), and so on. Go here, and if your eyes don’t start to bleed in a few seconds, you’re a better man than I am.

Don’t get me started on doctors, who have turned simple explanations of illness into jargon-ridden ur-Latinate Rosetta Stones of gobbledegook (e.g. a blood clot on the brain became a “cranial embolism”, a heart attack became a “myocardial infarction”, and so on). I’m sure it works just fine between doctors discussing a patient’s condition among themselves, but for us ordinary folks, it might as well be in Esperanto — which is probably the jargon’s intent: to make doctors sound wiser and more learned than non-medical people. (I can actually understand some of this bullshit better than most people only by dint of having studied Latin for over seven years.)

Incidentally, I am as guilty of this behavior as any of the above tools, because I am multilingual and often use foreign words or (especially Latin) abbreviations because to me, those expressions work better than their often-clumsy English equivalents. The German word Weltanschauung, for example, literally means “worldview” or “perspective on life”, but using it also gives a clue to its source, i.e. from Germanic philosophy. And I just used “i.e.” (id est, or, “that is [to say]”) in the previous sentence simply because I’ve always used the term and its use is universal, even though most people have no idea what the acronym stands for. I caught myself using Latin egregiously the other day, for instance, when I used the word sic (“thus”) twice in a row, but instead of leaving the thing alone, my brain translated the second sic into sic etiam (“also thus”) to show that there were two discrete applications involved. The philosopher Albert Jay Nock was probably the worst offender of this kind because his encyclopedic erudition caused him to scatter not only (Attic) Greek, Latin, French or German words throughout his writing, but sometimes entire paragraphs were written thus, probably because they described (in his mind) the situation or concept better than could be done in English, in the same way that most people use the Latin abbreviation “etc.” (et cetera, “and the rest”). Everybody knows, thought Nock, what it is that I’m describing, except of course that we don’t and have to rely on a translator to get his meaning. It’s ironic, of course, because while Nock’s philosophy has nigh-universal application, Nock aimed his writing purely at the Remnant, whom he assumed had equal erudition to his. (For an explanation of the Remnant, see Isaiah’s Job. Be careful: it may change your entire life, as it did both mine and that of The Mrs.)

I can only say I’ll try to do better, but I can make no promises.

All this pales into insignificance by comparison to people who toss off expressions like “This beta orbiter tried to neg the AMOG in front of the SHB to increase his SMV.” Allow me to translate: “This weakling who hangs around pretty women trying to curry favor with them tried to cut down a charismatic man in front of a beautiful woman, in order to make himself more attractive to her.” (AMOG = Alpha Male Of [the] Group or Alpha Male Other Guy, SHB = Smokin’ Hot Babe [sometimes V(very)H(ot)B(abe), and SMV = Sexual Market Value.)

I speak here, of course, of the PUA (pick-up artist) community, in which the High Priests have created this entire glossary of acronyms to show that, yes, they are the gate-keepers of knowledge which, if you buy their training manuals or pay to attend their seminars, you too, Mr. Sad Beta Male, can unlock the secrets of access to SHB pudenda (Latin alert) and become a “notch collector” similar to these skilled exponents of the art.

It’s bad enough when used in a sentence, but when used graphically or in a chart to illustrate a concept or theory, it becomes completely opaque. Here’s a beauty which attempts to show the correlation between a woman’s looks and the likelihood of her being bitchy:

VHB10 -> BQ 0
HB9 -> BQ 0-1
HB8 -> BQ 1-2
PJ7 -> BQ 3-4
PJ6 -> BQ 5-7
PJ5 -> BQ 6-10
PJ4 -> BQ 4-10
UG3 -> BQ 1-8
UG2 -> BQ 1-4
UG1 -> BQ 0-3
VUG0 -> BQ 0-1

VHB = Very Hot Babe, HB = Hot Babe, PJ = Plain Jane, UG = Ugly Girl, VUG = Very Ugly Girl, and the numeric qualifiers 1-10 are the common delimiters on the Female Hotness Scale (FHS). BQ, by the way, is Bitchiness Quotient, and the numeric qualifiers there are the levels thereof.

Note that this is presented as a scientific analysis or model, when in fact it’s no such thing: it’s a creation solely of the writer’s observation or theory and not supported by actual, you know, data — but creating acronyms gives it quasi-scientific gravitas — damn it, another Latin word, but you know what I mean, right? It’s kind of a pity, because the author at Chateau Heartiste has an excellent way with the English language, when he’s not talking utter bullshit like the above. (Credit where it’s due, though: he also called Trump for the overwhelming electoral victory long before anyone else did, so he’s a more-insightful observer of trends than most mainstream media pundits.)

What amuses me is that most of these PUA aficionados (whoops, Spanish, thank God for Hemingway) are or were themselves Beta males at one point in their lives — true Alpha males don’t need a process to seduce women: it’s completely intuitive or subconscious behavior on their part.

None of this should be taken to mean that I’m being at all dismissive of these Millennial Mystics, by the way. In terms of scoring with the chicks, it’s far better (and cheaper) than plying your would-be conquests with booze, although I note that anecdotally at least, most pick-up artistry takes place in bars because a.) that’s where the younger women hang out and b.) pick-up techniques work better on drunken women, apparently, which kind of undercuts the whole ethos (damn, now it’s the Greeks’ turn; this is getting tricky). But the most amusing part of this whole PUA thing is that as more and more dweebs adopt the practices, the more women are starting to identify the techniques and throwing them back into the hapless would-be seducers’ faces.

But back to the mystics in general. I refuse to be swallowed up by their bullshit, nor do I allow myself to feel in any way inferior to their apparent greater knowledge. I once listened to some consultant describe a proposed change, and the description was filled with consultant-jargon — oh yes, they too have to impress clients with their insider language — and when he was done, I said, as succinctly as I could: “I didn’t understand a single thing you just said. Could you restate it, but in plain English this time?”
“Oh,” he stammered, “I simply meant that we need to streamline the process to shorten our product’s time-to-market.”
“You mean, the time between the thing’s production and its appearance on the retailer’s shelf?”
“Yes.”
Then why didn’t you just say  that, instead of having me waste all our time by getting you to explain it to me?

Roger Moore put it best, I think: “The point of language is to communicate your thoughts in the shortest possible time and in the clearest possible way.” My corollary to that excellent sentiment is, “And if somebody is not doing that, he’s either pursuing a different agenda or has something he wishes to disguise.”

And finally, I should point out that Moore’s “clarity” does not equal “simplistic” (I nearly wrote simplisme, but you guys would have chased me from the room, and justifiably so).

Semper claritas should be your guiding principle.

My Friends, Part 2: The Brits

I have spoken before about how my American friends have saved my life in this, my time of mourning. Now I need to tell you about what my British friends have done for me; but before I do so, a little background is necessary.

We met Mr. and Mrs. Sorenson (their online nicknames) back in the late 1990s, enjoyed each others’ online company, and on our next trip to England, Connie and I met up with the “Sors” in Bath (yeah, I know: I was then and now too lazy to type out “Sorenson” in full). We spent a couple of wonderful days together and made a friendship that has lasted to this day. Every single time we flew to Britishland thereafter involved visiting with them, even if just for dinner or shopping. One trip even included a day of shooting clays at the Royal Berkshire Gun Club; and they in turn hooked up with us on a vacation at Disney World and later, a trip to Plano which involved the firing of thousands of rounds through various of my guns. (Yes, I turned a pair of hoplophobic Brits into gun nuts, and damn proud of it I am, too.) Both Sors have been regular visitors to my various websites over the years, and Mrs. Sor has been a constant, and very welcome commenter at this new incarnation of my online ramblings. Mr. Sor is also an enthusiastic not to say dedicated beer drinker, and so much of our time together on either side of the Atlantic has been spent in a blissful alcoholic haze. As is also the case with my other two Brit friends.

I met The Englishman through his blog, An Englishman’s Castle, and having several common interests (hanging liberals, shooting criminals, burning down government buildings along with their inhabitants, etc.), we struck up a very cordial online friendship. Then one year la famille du Toit went on an actual vacation (the first in years, as opposed to business trips with a few days tacked on), and for our sins we picked Portugal’s Algarve coast, about which I’d heard so much, and had seen many beautiful photos thereof in the distant past when I was involved with the advertising account for TAP, the Portuguese airline. Because neither The Mrs. nor I knew much about the place, we decided to play it safe (for once), and booked two weeks at the Club Med outside Albufeira. I won’t go into details, but it was a total disaster and we were miserable — to the point where The Mrs. and Daughter were actually prepared to leave the group and go somewhere else, like England or Scotland, all by themselves.

Of course that wasn’t an option. At a family meeting, all decided that we’d go over to Britain, but the cost of additional accommodation was quite beyond our budget (canceling our stay would entail getting no partial refund from the chiseling Club Med bastards), and we were waiting for a client check to clear before spending any more money. So in utter desperation, I called The Englishman and begged for a few days’ accommodation (which he’d once offered to us) so we could catch our breath and figure out what to do next. Please understand that we had never met in person before, yet when I told him that we were miserable and worse, surrounded by Frenchmen, his response was immediate: “Surrounded by Frenchmen? Oh dear no, no, no, we can’t have that: come on over and we’ll put you up for a couple of days.” So we left the Algarve and flew to England. We stayed at the Castle (actually, an old farmhouse), and fell in love with the place — yes, that’s where The Mrs. is going to be laid to rest — and in love with the Englishman Family. Then after a brief visit to Bath (just a few miles away) we went on with a new vacation plan — bidding a sad farewell to Mr. and Mrs. Englishman and their delightful children.

In parallel, I’d likewise met Mr. Free Market (Mr. FM) through his blog at Free Market Towers (actually, an ancient “cottage”) and discovered not only a similar affinity to those same interests as The Englishman, but a common deep and abiding love of firearms and shooting. Here’s the funny bit: although at the time he lived literally down the road from The Englishman, they’d never before met in person — which they soon remedied, and another friendship was established. Anyway, we met Mr. and Mrs. FM in person on a later trip and all got on like a house on fire — to the extent that our families have spent much time with each other on both sides of the Atlantic, the Free Markets coming over for Thanksgiving one year, several trips involving visits to sundry shooting ranges, stopovers at the Castle en route to other destinations, and what have you. And I should point out that along the way, my American friends Doc Russia and Combat Controller have become buddies with Mr. FM too, and have shared several adventures together (details to follow some other time).

So Mr. FM called me up a short while ago to see how I was doing and what my plans were. When I reminded him I was staying at Doc Russia’s house, his next words were:

“So what are you doing there? How do you spend your time?”
“Writing. Grieving. The occasional trips to the range and the pub with Doc, I suppose. But mostly just writing and grieving.”
“Ah. Well, the War Office [Mrs. FM] has just told me that your bed is made up and ready for your arrival.”
What?
“My dear boy, if all you’re going to be doing is moping, writing, drinking and shooting, then you may as well do some of that in England as in Texas.”
“But I can’t afford to fly over to the U.K.”
“Don’t worry about that. I have BA Miles to spare.”
“Mr. FM, seriously: I have little or no money, especially when it comes to Expensive Britain. All I could do is stand the occasional round of drinks.”
“Your money’s no good over here, old chap. Just leave everything to us.”
“But, but… I don’t want to abuse your hospitality. How long could I stay? ”
“As long as you like. A couple months or so should do it.”
“That seems like a hell of an imposition.”
“Dear heart, it isn’t at all. Frankly, I’m going to be out of the country quite a bit on business, and I’d feel better knowing that Mrs. FM won’t be all alone in the house while I’m gone. Also, we’re going on holiday for a week or two, and I’d definitely feel better if FM Towers wasn’t standing vacant during that time. So you’d actually be doing me a favor.”
“I don’t know what to say…”
“And you can go and visit The Englishman and your other friends while you’re here, of course. Just use the Range Rover. We’re also planning a hunting trip in Scotland and some high-bird grouse shooting later in the year, so you may as well join me for those.” Pause. “Oh, and as you know, Doc Russia and Combat Controller are coming over for the Scotland deer hunt too, so we can all get together and have a good time. There’s also Goodwood [Festival of Speed] and trips to Royal Berkeley and Bisley for some shooting, but we can work all that out later. I almost forgot: The Englishman wants us to do a tour of historic pubs in the West Country, so put that onto the schedule too.”
Then came the killer question which decided the whole thing.
“And Kim: exactly when were you thinking of interring Connie’s ashes in The Englishman’s Long Barrow, anyway?”

When I’d picked myself off the floor and could speak again, I looked at the calendar and made the travel arrangements with Mr. FM. Circumstances permitting and catastrophes aside, I’ll be leaving for Britain in late June. And wow, it looks like I’ll be getting to do Bucket List Entry #2 a lot sooner than I thought.

So there you have it: I now have yet another reason to live — just one in a long line of reasons to live, all made possible through the unbelievable generosity and kindness of friends.

I don’t know what I did to deserve all this, but to quote the silly Rogers & Hammerstein song: “Somewhere in my youth, or childhood… I must have done something good.”

And for the first time since I whispered good-bye to Connie on that dreadful day in February, I absolutely know I’m going to survive this thing, and it’s all thanks to my friends. Amazing.

The Moon Through A Dusty Window

After I posted Every Picture Tells A Story last Saturday and admitted ignorance as to the artist behind the wonderful cartoon, I received an emailed suggestion from Longtime Reader Michael G., who included a link which didn’t give me the answer, but it did take my breath away.

You see, I have (yet another) deep, dark and deadly secret: in my yoot, I was addicted to pulp fiction novels. At the time (early 1960s) they were deemed Way Too Racy for a young boy by my parents, so I was forbidden to read them. I don’t know why they were worried: in my nine-year-old innocence, I had absolutely no idea what the sex scenes were all about, and I just skipped them to get on with the story (I told you I was innocent). Needless to say, the parental ban simply turned the novels into catnip for a cool cat like myself, so with the assistance of a scandalous uncle (who was only seven years older than I and therefore keen to help me out), I worked out a plan: I’d give Uncle “Locky” my pocket money to buy the novels “for himself”, and then after he was done with them, I devoured them (by the dozen), reading them late at night after my parents had gone to sleep to avoid detection, using either a flashlight or, if the batteries had died, reading by moonlight if available — hence, a partial explanation of the title of this piece. Here’s the actual cover which triggered this post:

…and I got it from the treasure trove behind the link in Michael G.’s email.

To say that I was captivated by the covers of these old, long-forgotten novels would be the understatement of the year. Regrettably, none of the titles rang any bells in my memory — give me a break, it was over fifty years ago — but good grief, I spent hours looking at the covers this past weekend, still as enthralled as I was when a pre-teenager.

Of course, nowadays the blurbs could legitimately be terms “false advertising”, because seldom were the salacious hints actually depicted in the stories, mostly because of censorship whether editorial or governmental. And yet fools like myself (and there were probably hundreds of thousands of us) continued to buy the silly things week in and week out, hoping against that this time there’d be a really racy scene instead of something like:

“Come here, Big Guy,” she said, slipping the robe off her waiting body…

…followed by a chapter break. And I’m not even sure that that would have made it into print. Those were innocent times, my friends, and I’m thinking that I prefer them to our “modern” times, where “How To Suck Your Man To Orgasm In 30 Seconds” could be on the cover of Woman’s Daily — and the Cosmo cover would be even  more explicit.

And just to finish: I think that “The Moon Through A Dusty Window” is a brilliant title for a novel — it could-a been a contender, it could-a been somebody…

It could have been Hemingway’s.

 

Bill Clinton, Terrorsymp Asshole

Like just about any normal person, I was sickened at this picture of Bill Fucking Clinton standing over the coffin of dead Murderous IRA Scum Martin McGuinness, offering his condolences and a touching eulogy. Why would he do that? From Peter Hitchens comes this little nugget (scroll down towards the end of the article if you follow the link):

 

Mr McGuinness was beyond doubt one of the heads of Europe’s most successful terrorist murder gangs. We cannot know what he may have done with his own hands, but we do know that he repeatedly ordered the killings of others. There is little doubt that he also approved acts of torture and kidnapping.
He did this for many years.
He did not stop doing so because he was sorry. Nor was he defeated. Delude yourself as much as you like, the widowmaker McGuinness was the conqueror of Britain. It is our army that went home. It was our surveillance equipment that was dismantled on IRA orders. The IRA kept their guns. We were the ones who had to disband the Royal Ulster Constabulary and its devastatingly effective Special Branch, because the IRA hated them. It was we, the vanquished side, who released scores of gruesome terrorists from just jail sentences.
It was we, the losers, who granted a de facto amnesty to any such killers we had not yet caught. It was we, the beaten, surrendered side, who had to remove the symbols of our former power, the Union Flag and the Crown of St Edward, from cap badges, flagpoles, official buildings and documents. It was we who agreed to pay the widowmaker McGuinness a salary of more than £100,000 a year, much of which he handed over to ‘the movement’. Why, we even forced the poor Queen to smile at him.
In the end, as we have agreed, we will also hand over a large piece of our sovereign territory to a foreign power. What sort of idiot calls this victory?
McGuinness was aided in this by the US President Bill Clinton, who happily travelled to this terrorist killer’s funeral. This is a piece of history I witnessed personally: Mr Clinton, trying to win back Roman Catholic working-class voters disgusted by his views on abortion, took money and backing from Irish America.
And when they came and demanded payback for their help, he kicked Britain in the stomach and welcomed Sinn Fein into the White House. And the British Government, seeing which way the wind was blowing, wavered in the face of terrorism. My, how it wavered.

The sooner the Clintons — all of them — vanish from the face of the planet, the better we’ll all be.