Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Every year is an election year

How many times have you been watching the news and heard a reporter/pundit say something like, "But don't expect anything to be done about it any time soon. After all, it's an election year."

Elections are purported to be this sacred ritual we're supposed to honor and participate in. Yet the skeptical tone of the "it's an election year" line tells you all you need to know about elections; sorry voters, can't expect anything practical this year. Why not? Because this year we're holding those holy elections you're conditioned to revere!

Leaving aside what this says about the fatal flaws of elected government, today's 24/7 news cycle and the constant need for content means that for all practical purposes, now every year is an election year, so the likelihood of government honesty is even lower. There are no "off years" where officials might temporarily abstain from the more conspicuous pandering of the campaign trail, which at least theoretically would allow adult thinking to sneak into the process.

Simply put: the political junkiedom/news entertainment trend that has spawned this 24-hour news monstrosity is making the political process even more cynical and duplicitous. Far from being "watchdogs," the "political junkies" and news celebs have actually made it harder for the Washington shills to take a day off from shilling.

I suppose I should lament this development, but as it is the news celebrities and their glassy-eyed patsy fans who are often the most zealous about declaring it our "duty" to vote, it is more fun to sit back and watch them transparently betrayed by the process they celebrate.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Foodies will eat anything because they'll believe anything

Manhattan is famous for its quaint little specialty restaurants. Some are enjoyable. Who doesn't love a Hungarian deli? But lately the lovable shops have become outnumbered by surreal foodie hubs that appeal to a total of four freakish palettes. The specialty shops have gone from specializing to festishizing.

You walk through the Village these days and encounter tempting delights like:

Crepes and Capers!

Cayenne Muffin Sliders

Mama's Grilled Cheese Milkshakes (served by poodles on mopeds)

None sound appealing, but because they're so specialized, foodies (who claim not to fall for America's unfortunate eating trends) can't help themselves.

A perfect example of this is The Meatball Shop. People keep harassing me to try it. I have asked those who have gone there: before The Meatball Shop, when was the last time you had a meatball sandwich?

I don't know, 15 years?


But all they do is meatballs! It must be good!!!

You hate meatballs! And you're a vegan!

Yeah, but you can get vegan meatballs!

If you have to get a fake version of the restaurant's specialty to justify going there, you shouldn't be going there. I don't care if Groupon had a special.

I'm going to open a restaurant that only serves school lunch food. That's right. The kind of crap that made you gag when you were in it's at a restaurant! Complete with angry, wart-laced lunch ladies and warped plastic trays that have been in use since the Civil War.

Of course, too much choice is better than too little. Better to roll your eyes at New York's fetishistic cuisine than to be stranded in some part of the country where they really do Thank Goodness It's Friday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Anyone but Obama (or anyone else)

Mitt Romney's main selling point is that he supposedly has the best chance of beating the incumbent. It is not unlike Bob Dole in '96 (remember being instructed to "VOTE FOR A WINNER" back then?); horrible candidate, but bland enough not to scare voters away. I don't have a calculator handy, but I don't recall Mr. Dole doing very well.

Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich are all riding various strains of the supposed anti-Washington surge. I don't deny that this surge exists, but when you see how little candy it takes to lure supposedly small government Tea Party-types into the white vans of "movement conservatism," it is impossible not to laugh (seriously, I have tried).

Assisting Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich in this toothless anti-Washington backlash are familiar small-government mascots like Steve Forbes. And what is the primary message of these mascots? Doesn't matter which Republican is nominated...we just have to beat Obama! Gotta get a Republican back in! The fact that Republicans flooded back into Congress in 2010 without so much as causing an intermission in the Obama Circus never seems to come up...

Turn on Republican radio. Watch Fox. Count how many times you hear about the evils of "bureaucrats," "politicians" and "Washington-types." And what do these rants ultimately conclude? Put your faith in Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich; all long-time bureaucratic, politicking Washington-types.

Tea Partiers; at least try to notice the paradox. The notion that it will make such a difference having Romney, Santorum, or Gingrich in Washington shows a faith in Washington not unlike what inspires Obama's supporters. So much for opposing D.C.

Blindly believing that crowning a Republican means the end of Obama's machinations not only defies recent history (2010); it defies the history of elected government. But keep telling Obama supporters they need to "brush up on their history."

These "two" sides deserve each other.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Greed is good. Hunger is better.

We have all the heard the famous "greed is good" speech from the film Wall Street:

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.

Apart perhaps from Ayn Randians, this speech doesn't sit well with most people; mainly because the word greed is used. The word greed upsets the left for obvious reasons, but even many capitalism-friendly, free market boosting Republicans aren't comfortable with it. After all, greed is one of the seven deadly sins, and many of these folks profess some type of religion.

But consider how much different the reaction would be if the word greed was replaced with hunger.

Hunger is right, hunger works. Hunger clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Hunger for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.

Hunger is good conveys effectively the same message as greed is good. The constant hunger for MORE. The hunger for money, love, knowledge, etc. Free market sloganeers would be all over it:

"Hunger for success is what drives the entrepreneurial spirit!"

"The private sector has that hunger those public sector bureaucrats lack!"

"Thank goodness for the hunger of Steve Jobs!" (is there any conversation he's not involved in?)

"Hunger is good" wouldn't be a guilty pleasure at all. Even your typical dime-store commie (there are no dime-stores under communism) would cheer the "hunger for knowledge" part.

I guess what I'm saying is what's in a word? As usual...A LOT. Because if it weren't for the scandalous nature of the word greed, the speech wouldn't have raised so many eyebrows in the first place.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The ONLY Sales Tips That Matter

Sales is one of the most talked about, written about, and mythologized occupations. Unfortunately, much of the writing has come from non-salesmen. This isn't surprising. When a profession reaches such a steep level of visibility, reams of outsiders are bound to comment. And like other much discussed professions--the soldier, the boxer--the inherent drama of being a salesman lends itself to dramatization.

Because so much ink has been spilled about sales, everyone thinks they have something to add to the conversation. The fact that most of these commentators have never spent an hour in sales doesn't deter them from chiming in. And given how ubiquitous sales motifs and fictional accounts of salesmen are, you almost can't blame non-salesmen for thinking they have usable advice for those who do sell. I guess the only remedy is to somehow shift the focus to another profession. Maybe I should write an iconic play called "Death of an HR Administrator".

It doesn't stop with fiction. All kinds of "how-to" sales guides are published each year. Some are encyclopedia thick. None deserve to be. There isn't much to say about the nuts-and-bolts of sales, and the nuts-and-bolts are so tedious that reading them offers all the fun of being burned alive without the sweet release of death part. This is why books about sales typically fill in the gaps with wispy sales "philosophies."

It has been my experience that the salesmen who do the most philosophizing are the ones who do the least actual selling. The only sales pitch they're capable of is selling themselves to the clueless sales directors who keep hiring them.

The salesman who can "sell ice to Eskimos" is a myth. Sometimes a hot chick can sell ice to Eskimos, but then a hot chick can sell a lap dance to a man with no lap. Hot chicks can be plugged into most professions and gain an edge (see Danica Patrick).

And even a hot chick has her limits. When a market is saturated, when demand has cratered, when the public stands up as one voice to reject your brand (New Coke, anyone?), your product ain't going to move. A hot chick couldn't do anything with a Vegas condo right now (neither could Houdini for that matter).

Here are the only sales tips that matter (notice that the list isn't even long enough to be a table of contents, let alone a book):

1) Be on time. This is one of the few things you can control, and being late always puts you in a compromised position; you're off your game, you have to open with an apology, and you risk annoying your prospect (which leads to more compromises).

2) Don't wear anything ridiculous. The point of a suit is to build credibility, not be pimped out. Everywhere has heard awful tales of salesmen in "cheap suits," "sharkskin suits," "linen suits," etc. People inherently dislike salesman, especially loud salesman, and ESPECIALLY loud salesmen in loud, cheap, linen suits. Don't dig a hole for yourself by dressing like an arch-nemesis of Batman.

3) Be a retort man. Begin by offering some details about your product, then wait for the prospect to lead the conversation into other areas. The more he talks, the more likely he will be to believe he is actually getting what he wants. Along the way, just counterpunch as cleverly as possible and keep him doing the majority of the talking. The more he talks, the more of his hand he is likely to reveal. And when you're doing all that listening...

4) Listen (or pretend to listen) demonstratively. Be animated about it. Do lots of scribbling on your pad so it seems like you're taking copious notes. Scratch your chin a lot. All these moves create the impression that the prospect's requests are being considered and that he is therefore winning the negotiation. If he thinks he is winning, he is more likely to say yes. Remember: Pretending to concede means having to make fewer actual concessions. And when you do ask questions...

5) Only ask open-ended questions. Yes-or-no questions include NO, and the last thing you want to do in sales is make room for the word "no." (this is also useful when talking to a woman you hope to seduce).

There you have it. The Glengarry sales tips. If my blog had existed 60 years ago, there wouldn't have been a Willy Loman.