Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blogospherical 'Nouncement

Y'all, I am taking a break. An internet break. Back in like a week, hopefully recharged. In the meantime, check this out:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Customer service, part two of I hope three but who am I kidding?

Wow, part one was a long time ago. Oops.

So, in that part I wrote about how the nature of customer service jobs alienates the "customer" from the "service" provider, even when both parties should share class interests. Now to look at it from the other direction, the perspective of the worker.

There are several mechanisms at work here that work towards ensuring that the alienation is complete. The most obvious is the one I briefly mentioned in the previous essay: the customers hate the employees, so the employees naturally come to hate the customers.

Another mechanism is, basically, Stockholm syndrome: the employee comes to identify with the employer. I saw this in operation the other day when management called a meeting to unveil the new "attendance policy." It was essentially the same as the old one; my understanding is that it was intended more to standardize things across the entire company (whether this means US-only or if they're actually trying to standardize policy transnationally, I don't know). A bunch of my coworkers weren't happy with it, though. Why? By providing for a system of "warnings" before "termination" for "non-compliance," it was too lenient. "The attendance policy should just be 'You have to come to work,'" one of them said, to widespread agreement. "What else does it need to say?" Here, the workers have come to identify with the needs of their employer to such an extent that they don't even remember that they have their own needs, let alone that these needs should be more important to them.

This comes to be in exactly the same way that Stockholm syndrome occurs in a kidnapping or hostage situation (or an interrogation or abusive parenting or any number of other unbalanced, coercive relationships): the party with power mixes cruelty with an appearance of kindness in such a combination as to maximally disorient the party without power, to convince them that the cruelty and the kindness are directly related to their own behavior. (Reinforcing this is also the true purpose of most of the inspirational and self-help genres, which I'm sure I'll get to examine in more depth if I ever get back to the goddamn QBQ.) So, returning specifically to customer service, our employers take away enormous chunks of our lives, filling them with the degradation of telephonic (or face-to-face, depending on the type of customer service) abuse, insulting lectures on "attendance," wall-to-wall surveillance (at my job, they record our calls--and have a "mentor" system in place to remind you that they listen to them--they monitor what our computers are doing, and they have signs up everywhere saying that the "premises are under video surveillance" and that "security is everyone's job"), required daily groveling in the hopes of future advancement, and demands to perform to a level made essentially impossible by lack of staffing and by inadequate tools. But they pay us! And even give us (a little) paid time off! And (shitty, but better than no) health coverage! And if we're extra good, extra devoted, well, at some unspecified point far down the road, we might get more of all that! Or at least manage to hold on to what we have without losing too much of it! They're so good to us. They love us. And hey, we're lucky to have a job (my goal is to include that link in all three parts of this series).

At my job, at least, they make sure it's all working by holding quarterly meetings to tell us that yet another three months during which none of us has seen a raise has brought corporate profits above and beyond projections. This is supposed to make us feel happy and proud of our work, and for a good portion of us, it seems to do just that.

So the indoctrination goes, and so when faced on the telephone with unruly customers who have the nerve to object to something the company--now thought of as we--did to them, we view the customer as a personal enemy. Instead of thinking "I wish I could get the company I work for to give you a refund, but I'd put my job in jeopardy if I did that too often," or similar, we think "I can't believe these people want me to give them a refund." We might even think that clients demanding refunds are eating away at our raises, as I heard someone I work with say the other week. Never mind that new accounts for fiscal year whatever are trending higher than goal and that profits company wide are blah blah million dollars higher than projected, and still no raise is in sight. Or whatever--despite all the vagueness, that is of course just one specific example of how the thought process works. It's applicable to all sorts of different situations, though, in exactly the same way. The customer wants x from me, but I don't want to give it to them because the company doesn't want to give it to them--and I am the company.

Thusly, ergoly, and in conclusionly (TM the baronette), we in the underclasses begin to identify more with our overlords than with other members of our own class, and the exploitation continues.

Part three, should it ever swirl into existence, will cover the alienation of worker from worker within a customer service setting. I'll probably talk more about attendance.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I have to stop just making fun of people

I've been wanting to start being more constructive, but, come on. This showed up in my blugfeed at 3:52, followed by this at 5:22. The same day.

In case you haven't checked back yet

JRB's back from his vacation, and that is awesome news for us.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It would be funny even without Starbucks

In some internet peregrinations I just stumbled upon this daily kos diary from late August, and I really just assumed that even there the headline had to be a joke, or at least a kind of self-deprecating bit of goofery.

But, y'all, I read the article, and it is not. It is dead fucking serious. And that, my friends, is hilarious.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Kuleshov Effect

Eric Martin, some yahoo named Gulliver whom Martin quotes approvingly, the New York Times article they are both responding to, and thirty Helens agree: the United States is militarily involved (if you know what I mean) in Yemen in response to the terrifying incident of the underpants bomber.

Which is funny because didn't that happen on Christmas day? And don't I have here an MSNBC article dated December 18 fessing up to U.S. missile strikes in Yemen? (That earlier article, incidentally, is a marvel of propaganda, but then I'm sure you knew that without even having to read it.)

Eric and Gulliver are innocent little babies here, repeating fiction as truth because they specialize in being uncritical of the narratives they're spoon-fed, so long as the one holding the spoon is both liberal and reputable. Which of course the New York Times is. Let's look at that reputable liberalism in action, shall we?
The debate is unfolding as the administration reassesses how and when to use American missiles against suspected terrorists in Yemen following a botched strike in May. That attack, the fourth since December by the American military, killed a provincial deputy governor and set off tribal unrest.

The Yemen quandary reflects the uncertainty the administration faces as it tries to prevent a repeat of the Dec. 25 attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner by a Nigerian man trained in Yemen.
Isn't that clever? End one paragraph with the accurate*-yet-vague "since December" timeline, start the next paragraph with the accurate-and-specific "Dec. 25" event, and let the reader assume from there. Faulty memory and the (terribly convenient!) closeness of the events will do the rest.

*Yes, I'm sure we were in Yemen earlier than the MSNBC article admits, but for now I'm gonna give it to them for convenience sake. (Convenience's sake?)

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I don't pay much attention to what the Atheists* are babbling about on the internet aside from scanning posts by PZ Myers and occasional other similar nincompoops for particularly egregious nincompoopery. But it has come to my attention that, apparently, some of them are using their freethinking, unfettered, rational brains to believe, probably based on lots of supporting evidence, that Obama is an atheist himself.

Now, this actually seems kind of likely to me, despite all of Obama's public religioning, because it's hard for me to believe that he cares about anything bigger than himself (except insofar as such things must be destroyed). I kind of doubt this is what the Atheists are saying, though I can't be sure because Myers doesn't actually link to anybody and I'm not about to go looking. It seems much more likely to me, though, that this is just more of that bizarre liberal projection that Obama still seems to enable (though thankfully not as strongly as he used to): "I'm an atheist, Obama is just like me but cooler, so he's probably an atheist too!"

Myers, to his credit, isn't buying it. He's not buying that weird D'Souza anti-colonialist thing, either (on the liberal response to which I hope to have more later). But let's see what he's selling instead.
Look, it's so much simpler. Obama is not a socialist or a communist or a Luo tribesman. He is a centrist politician from Chicago who believes in improving peoples lives incrementally by working step by step through political compromise. He pisses off the liberal, progressive wing of the Democratic party because we want him to be bold and aggressive, and he's not, and because he's also comfortable with the military-industrial status quo. He really annoys the wingnut right because he wants to move the country away from their dreams of a Reaganesque/Randian capitalist paradise, and he is…slowly and tentatively.

That's really all you need to know to comprehend what Obama is doing and how he works. It's sufficient to explain everything.
Mr. Myers, freethinker, scientist, man of reason who only believes what there is sufficient supporting evidence for: on what evidence are you basing your conclusion that Obama believes in improving peoples lives? Can you lay out your logic in connecting this with being comfortable with the military-industrial status quo? Please state for me the steps Obama is taking, slowly and tentatively even, to dismantle the capitalist paradise.

It's very, very simple. I don't believe in god, but even if I did, I could see it. Obama cares about himself. Obama is trying to amass power and wealth to himself. In order to further this goal, he is working to maintain and further empower the system which gave him the power he has now. Improving people's lives doesn't need to enter into it. Occam's razor, Mr. Myers.

Myers and his fellow Atheists say that religion is insanity, because it's believing in things without evidence. But at least it is possible to posit "god" on top of what we see, without denying what we actually do see. What Myers is doing is creating a fictional alternate reality that flies in the face of all logic and evidence. I'll take religion over that any day.

TANGENT It's funny to me that pretty much every mainstream reaction to Obama, positive and negative, involves assuming that he's "secretly" what you want him to be: a progressive**, a communist, an atheist, a Muslim, an anti-war reformer, an anti-colonialist tribesman; always with one of those whatever-dimensional chess games going on. I realize that our society is the society of the lie, of fiction, but this is so much more on the surface than usual. In a way it's kind of great, but in a much more powerful way it's just kind of terrifying.

*As opposed to people who don't believe in god but don't particularly care if you do.
**Whatever that is.

Monday, September 13, 2010


There's an odd tendency that a lot of people have (myself, in my weaker moments, included). I've always been vaguely aware of it but it's been coming to my attention more and more in recent weeks. This tendency, whose existence I have introduced mysteriously so as to "hook" you into reading further, is to question other people's motives for liking things.

Consider this, from Rate Your Music member dnieper111's review of Lucio Battisti's 1974 album Anima latina (cut and pasted, so apply [sic]s as needed):
[G]eez, look at all these hyperbolic reviews. Unearth's review, for example. Funny how a high average rating seems to trigger so much subconscious sycophantic self-deception:

"I need to listen to this a hundred more times before sufficient words will form. I need to place these exquisite forms and colors within my framework of sound interpretation. I need to assimilate the rareness of this beauty completely before I can explain to you why this is one of the supreme examples of recorded art I have ever encountered. For now, just leave me alone with it."

Yeah, unearth, you *get* it don't you?

I wonder what prompted that review: was it genuine enjoyment of the album, or a desire to appear knowledgable about a highly rated obscure album that's far removed from typical pop music? A desire to tell himself "I seek to understand this album. I am noble and honest in my musical listening. I appreciate subtleties, and I have the ability to understand the nature of all music."

...a review like this, which basically says "This is a great album, but I don't know why..." is the best example I've seen of the fawning and delusional hyperbole that is an undercurrent for so many RYM reviews. Its purpose is not to honestly review the music but rather to make the author appear knowledgeable to others and, even more importantly, himself. I suspect a lot of the delusion is at a subconscious level. Unearth really *thinks* he's on the way to genuine appreciation of a genuine masterpiece. And what prompted that? The high rating at RYM and a bunch of other uber-hip reviews. The reason this straw hipster of mine gives the album a 5 is, I believe, its high average rating, NOT because he really likes it. The straw hipster is a textbook sheep.
Leaving aside the fact that hipsters are, in my experience, generally known for disliking things in order to look cool, I don't really understand the point of all this unpleasant, nasty psychoanalyzing. Unearth's review, admittedly, is a bit overwrought, but...well, it's hard to write about music, especially music as unusual and, yes, exquisite, rare, and supreme as Anima latina, whose beauty and power I certainly wouldn't be able to write effectively about if I listened to it a hundred more times. It is a great album, and I don't know why.

Basically my question is: why does dnieper111 want to question Unearth's reason for loving the album? Judging from the review, Unearth had a genuinely affecting experience listening to the album and wanted to share that. I can relate. Most of the posts on this blog labeled "music" or "tv" or "movies" or "books," and a lot of the other ones as well, are a result of exactly the same impulse. It is true, I suppose, that people will frequently "fake" this in order to present a particular image of themselves--I'm sure I'm guilty of it from time to time, myself--but to my thinking such a practice is, on the one hand, harmless, and, on the other, less likely to occur if people in general become less prone to cynically dismissing descriptions of emotion as mere posturing.

If I say that I had an unexpectedly transcendent moment once, listening to Buffy Sainte-Marie's "God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot" while walking in the snow, am I bragging about listening to semi-obscure music? Or perhaps bragging about my ability to experience genuine emotion? I'm not sure, maybe I am, but it's true either way. What if I say the same about, say, being one of thousands of people watching David Bowie in a stadium decades after his peak? Surely in that case I'm bragging about something else. If I say that a low quality video of Ike & Tina Turner is powerfully moving to me, why is a certain blogger's immediate response to obliquely accuse me of falling victim to the song's "legend," liking it only because it was a massive flop? That blogger went on to more directly (though not directly enough to give up plausible deniability should it be needed) call me ignorant and stupid, which was unpleasant, but it's that weird psychoanalyzing at a distance that really ended up bugging me. What if people like "River Deep - Mountain High" because they like it? Why must we assume that everything is a hipster pose? Once you start assuming that, it becomes an inescapable circle--because after all, nothing is more of a hipster pose than assuming that everything is a hipster pose. Starting with an assumption of insincerity is not going to take you anywhere good--or maybe I should say that, at least, it's not going to take me anywhere I want to go.

I know I'm not a paragon of acceptance, and I know I frequently make fun of people. Honestly it's not something I love about myself, though I at least try, when doing it, to keep focused on the content of what people are saying and doing rather than on bitchy second-guessing about the secret desire to seem cool that is supposedly driving what they say and do. Again, to stave off any potential accusation of hypocrisy, I know I'm not always good at this. Getting better at it is on my fucking bucket list, OK?

I don't really know where I'm going with this. It's an unfortunate thing that people do that I wish they--we--wouldn't. It's something I want to try to do less. There are a lot of norms of human interaction that deeply confuse and depress me, even as I engage in them myself, and this is one of them. I don't really know why anyone would want to navigate a world where every statement of feeling, every expression of emotion, every little "I like this" or "I don't like this," is examined with intent to judge.

In other news that makes me feel like never leaving my house, liberals are misguided, anarchy would be cool, Obama murdered more people, and wage slavery is a system to be opposed. I'll let you know if any of that changes.

Friday, September 10, 2010


If you are very patient with or, better yet, fond of ambient and drone music, you may be interested in my new album-length track Coma, which I have just posted to my Bandcamp page.

If you don't have a taste for that sort of music, please don't listen to it, as I don't want you to hate me.

Another picture

I imagine the woman in the lower right was just caught at an inopportune moment as her expression changed, and that this was actually like the happiest moment of her life, but to me it looks like she's having a far more appropriate reaction to encountering such a horrific beast:

I would probably flee in terror, too.

(I am, incidentally, working on a real post. I make no promises, however.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Someone who's handy with photoshop, do something with this picture (which comes to me via Duncan) right this instant.

Just a quote, no commentary, dead tired right now

An anonymous commenter at ioz's:
Well I for one am deeply--deeply!--upset about the fact that David Petraeus's predator drones have burned at least one Koran every time they blew up a residential building in Afghanistan, Yemen, or Iraq. I mean, think about it. Is it plausible that a Taliban Number Three Leader would not have a Koran in his house? That's at least 341 Korans burnt right there! Not to mention all the houses they missiled on the suggestion of someone's neighbor who got sick of hearing their teenage son mangle the solo from Stairway to Heaven at 2 in the morning.

So someone tell David Petraeus to just stop burning Korans! It's inflaming the Muslim world.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The products of my decadent lifestyle are insufficiently pleasing

Warning: if you like album art, DO NOT "upgrade" to goddamn itunes 10. It's pissing me off so much. I'm very particular about my album art, and have expended a lot of effort getting the highest quality images I can possibly find for every one of the many hundreds of albums I have in itunes, and now the largest I can view them in the only navigation setting that works for my purposes is, well, tiny. Fuck you, Apple. This is by far the worst thing you've ever done.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Police Have Been Wonderful

One of Chumbawamba's two contributions to 1985's Dig This: A Tribute to the Great Strike.

Line of best fit

Melissa McEwan, on the Discovery bomber (all links original):
Thus has the meme that Lee was a leftwing terrorist begun.

But, of course, it's not quite that simple. Lee's manifesto is indeed leftwing insomuch as environmental protection has become associated with the left since conservatives haven't been particularly interested in conservation since Nixon started the EPA. Lee's eliminationist views on immigration, however, are closely aligned with several prominent rightwing anti-immigration groups, and his position on human population control ("NO MORE BABIES!") is, suffice it to say, profoundly anti-choice.

Like most of the other domestic terrorists who have struck recently, there's not a totally cohesive ideology underlying his actions. He is certainly more left-leaning than, say, Joseph Stack, but, like Stack, it's a mixed bag of grievances.
For McEwan, committed liberal, everyone is either a liberal, a conservative, or someone lacking a "cohesive ideology." Now, one might say that lacking a cohesive ideology is a good thing, but that's kind of irrelevant, because James Lee did have one, as anyone reading his manifesto without the blinders of the false left-right divide can tell.

There are portions of his ideology one might agree with or disagree with to a greater or lesser extent (I for one wish he had taken the power structures of civilization more into consideration when deeming all of humanity parasitic; there is a large difference in parasitism between a member of an indigenous society still living on their landbase, someone like me typing away on my computer in my climate controlled house, and a member of the elite, steering the course of war and industry from their climate controlled estate; and also, yeah, the immigration stuff is what I would consider deeply misguided). There are certainly aspects of his methods that leave something to be desired. His specific points of obsessive focus--Discovery, Daniel Quinn--are sometimes a bit puzzling. But to say that his thoughts weren't "cohesive" is simply untrue.

The sycophants of power will always distort and belittle the motives of those who oppose power, and they don't even have the decency to stop when power mows its opponents down. James Lee seems to have had some difficulties, and while I am not exactly opposed to turning the violence of power upon itself, I think perhaps his was not the best way to do it. But that is no reason to claim, or to imply, that he didn't know what he was doing, or that his mind was a mess and so the points he raises can be dismissed. The scales are different, but it's the same reasoning that calls suicide bombers "cowardly," calls WTO protesters breaking windows "violent thugs," or defines anarchy as "chaos"--and chaos as terrifying.

Everyone, to some degree, internalizes the needs of power. It is important, when we see this happening in ourselves (and we should always be looking for this), to root it out and destroy it. Don't define yourself along the left-right split, because the very words are lies. If you have what some would call a non-cohesive ideology, you're doing something right.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Nothing whatsoever, never

But whether or not Iraq achieves a durable, non-violent resolution to its political conflicts seems to me to have nothing whatsoever with the presence of American soldiers and it never did.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Going to NYC is exhausting...

...especially as a day trip from Providence, and especially in the summer. How people can live there is a mystery to me. My brother's art continues to amaze me, at least.

I have nothing approaching the mental or physical capacity to actually write a post, so instead I'm going to quote the always-lovely JRB of ladypoverty. If you read this blog, I'm sure you read his, but if you're one of those who doesn't read blog comments, you may have missed this:
People have more tolerance for each other when they don't exhaust it all in the daily appeal for life.

The same fools that show such obsequience at the job erupt into a furor at the slightest misunderstanding in the street.

When we spend all our tolerance for one thing we don't have it for another.
Yes, yes, yes, a world of yes.

I hope to be back with more of my own thoughts tomorrow. For now, I am going to fall asleep watching the calmest movie I can find in my house.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Those eyes....

Why is Digby wasting her time with all those silly golfing ads when she could just post a closeup of Boehner's terrifying, terrifying eyes?

That's all. Now I'm going for real.

In lieu of actual posting

I've actually posted this video before, but it's the best damn thing on all of youtube and possibly in the entire world, so I'm posting it again:

Just a startlingly powerful performance in every respect, filmed as perfectly as could ever be hoped for. The Ikette in the middle, incidentally, is P.P. Arnold (and please do click on that link, especially if the only version of "The First Cut Is the Deepest" you know is the shitty Rod Stewart one or, god forbid, the even shittier Sheryl Crow one).

Going to NYC real quick to see my brother's gallery opening, back early Friday if the hurricane doesn't decide to murder Rhode Island after all. I've got lots of stuff I want to write about so I hope it doesn't. The Baronette and I may also have some new music of our own to share soon.

UPDATE Contrary to what a "certain blogger" implies, I'm not a fucking moron; I know this is a lipsynch. Shockingly, the word "performance" can refer to more than just live noise-making. Also, in the future I will be sure to list every single deficiency in everything that moves me, just so that those who are infinitely smarter than me won't feel that they have to. In general, whenever I like something, I will make sure to shit on it. I apologize for all these failings in this post.