Spring’s bearing down on us. I could feel it when Eli and I took the dogs for a hike to Window Falls at Hanging Rock.
Next week I’m starting a new chapter in my professional life. After 15 years as a solo consultant and orchestrator of what I call a “creative collaborative,” I’m joining Reuben Rink Marketing & Advertising as their director of digital services. I’ve known the folks at Reuben Rink as long as they’ve existed, and we’ve worked together on projects for more than a decade. They’re a great group of people and when I started thinking about rejoining the agency world, they were top of mind. So, on to ’21 and new colleagues and challenges. The last 15 years have been a great journey, but the future looks even better.
Everybody has their best-of lists, so let me be humility-free and offer Pandemic Journal for consideration. It compresses the ridiculousness of 2020 into an hour of reading/guilty pleasure that generated laughter, outrage and a small amount of misguided anger among readers.
If you haven’t yet, check it out.
Grifters often have a blind spot when it comes to detecting one of their own kind, so we shouldn’t be surprised to see the latest chapter of the Wisconsin-Foxconn saga leave the state’s citizens holding an empty bag while the politicos who summoned ruin look for a side door.
A company whose employees use threats of mass suicide as a bargaining tactic might not seem like an ideal partner for the wholesome Dairy State, but a few years ago they simply had to mention “high tech” and “13,000 employees” to get then-governor Walker, a man whose notions about economics arrive in a fat envelope from the Heritage Foundation, to strap on his kneepads and do whatever had to be done.
Even the Carnival Barker in Chief got in on the act, because there was credit to be claimed without actually doing any work besides shaking a hand and grimacing at a camera. And so it came to pass that Wisconsin ponied up $2.85 billion in tax credits in exchange for Foxconn’s promise to hire 13K workers who would make next-generation LCD screens. A wise man would question why a manufacturer of electronic commodities would choose to plop down a new factory in Wisconsin, the state’s sudden love of cheap labor notwithstanding, but no one has ever accused Scott Walker of being a wise man.
Similarly, history buffs might have spoken up about past examples of Foxconn playing bait and switch with rubes around the globe, but I guess the economic cheerleaders in the state don’t believe there’s anything to be learned from the past.
The train wreck that will forever be known as Fox-Con has happened in exquisite slow motion. An empty “innovation center” distracted curious eyes from the lack of actual manufacturing, while “someday soon” became less of a promise and more of a doomed dream.
Yet, some hold on to that dream and boldly believe, against all reason, that manufacturing activity will crank up and Foxconn will add the 12,719 additional employees needed to meet their commitment. But grifters know never to hang around one town too long. To paraphrase a famous movie about swindlers, I guess Foxconn will move on and won’t be getting a straight job anytime soon.
Citizens, pundits and fellow scientists have watched in horror as President Trump returned to the campaign trail, unmasked and in close proximity to aides, supporters and Secret Service agents. How can he do this? I’m asked, and while at first I shared many American’s alarm at this apparently reckless behavior, I now understand the threat is overstated.
In a nifty bit of lateral thinking, I put aside science and turned to thirty years of tabloid history. What I learned caused a zen-like calm to descend over me as I realized that the man who I thought was a super-spreader of SARS-CoV-2 is, in fact, incapable of hosting the virus. There is a simple reason, demonstrated multiple times and documented in the pages of The National Enquirer, other supermarket weeklies and TMZ.com.
Everything Trump touches dies, including:
- The USFL.
- Food and beverage brands.
- Jeffrey Epstein.
- Real estate deals.
- A search engine.
- An airline.
- Countless scams big and small.
- And yes, SARS-CoV-2.
In the same way that an unstoppable money-printing enterprise like a casino can hemorrhage red ink and die after close contact with Mr. Trump, so has SARS-CoV-2 been brought to its metaphorical knees.
I have directed my subordinates to immediately start research into processing his unique qualities into a serum that can be administered to the entire population, I must warn Americans that this wonder cure will not be available immediately, as we must first put safeguards in place to insure that this essence of Trump doesn’t inadvertently kill the entire pharmaceutical industry.
Columbus Day finds the Pandemic Journal staff gathering in the lunchroom to raise a toast to a few hundred years of unfettered genocide. As is our custom, staff members are invited to share their favorite recipes. These range from elaborate dishes to fare you might find in “Microwave Dinners for One.” I would say we don’t judge, but we do, with the advertising team assigning scores on a ten-point scale to each dish. And now it’s my pleasure to share with you, dear reader, a few time-tested favorites.
Publisher’s Punch (from yours truly)
Pour a fifth of pure grain alcohol in a Swarovski Crystal bowl. Add a splash of bottled, processed lemon juice. Stick a curly straw in the punch and drink until the sweet relief of unconsciousness overcomes you.
Cabbage, Just Cabbage (from Frank in Accounting)
Take the only vegetable your wife left you in the divorce. Season with tears. Stab it with a sharp knife. Eat it. Or not. Who’s hungry, anyway?
Crab Cakes a la Sue (from Sue in Research)
Lump crab masks the taste of drain cleaner, so add plenty of both along with bread crumbs, Old Bay Seasoning, and two egg yolks. Mix well, form into patties, bake and serve to those jackasses in HR while quietly reminding yourself that you make 30% less than your co-worker Dale, who is an idiot.
Hot Pockets and More! (from Chuck in the Motor Pool)
Inject Ghost Pepper concentrate into frozen Hot Pockets. Microwave per Jim Gaffigan’s instructions (frozen on the outside, molten in the middle). Pop popcorn and watch the fun.
Let Them Eat Cake (that’s right, another one from me!)
My lifelong pursuit of privatizing gains and socializing risk means that sometimes the axe has to fall on a career. And if it happens during our company lunch the bad news comes complete with a luscious chocolate cake. Who says a life-upsetting event can’t be sweet!?
I’m feeling chastened to think that maybe my use of salty language is getting out of hand. So I’ve sworn-without-actually-swearing to tone it down a bit and only use words that will make a nun smile.
This new leaf also has me rethinking my attitude about various topics. “Smile and the whole world smiles with you,” an old friend used to say, and I look forward to reconnecting with him on Facebook so I can tell him how that worked out after I grinned at a Neo Confederate who was loudly asserting his belief that the South’s 0-1 wartime record is merely a historical quirk that will be corrected.
In the same manner, I vowed to test drive certain beliefs that haven’t sat well with me, wondering if a change of heart could turn my perpetual frown upside down.
I decided to first confront my fear of notions that “science” tells me are harmful. “Don’t fear gravity,” I said to Dave as I casually pushed him over the third-story railing of a parking garage. I count this experiment as inconclusive thanks to Dave’s inability to form sounds or facial expressions, and thus give me any useful feedback.
Pressing on, I put aside my fear of sharp objects, open electrical sockets and fire. An afternoon of fearless experimentation was painful but showed me that a little scarring is a small price to pay for having an open mind.
Fortified by pain, I sauntered among the many homeless in our community and reminded them that they didn’t have to go hungry if they could only summon up some pluck and expand their understanding of what makes objects “edible.”
But a life well-lived is about more than overcoming fear and helping others beneath us expand their horizons. It’s about seeing the world as a reflection of one’s own untroubled perspective. I’m learning to get there, but in the meantime I’ve covered my windows with plywood and play choral music at high volume to shield me from any ugliness that might come my way.
I’ve got to say it’s working for me. Alone with my happy thoughts, I feel a new peacefulness.
Hello America, that’s me standing behind Big Gretch’s left shoulder, translating her words while communicating righteous anger. I am woman–I can fucking multitask. And I am sick of America’s bullshit.
Let’s start with you Wolverine-Watchmen-Red-Dawn-Cosplaying-Halfwits. That’s some tiny dick energy, boys. Your answer to gym closures is to meet in a vacuum cleaner shop and plot to kill elected officials and cops? That’s a fucked up notion of liberty. Think about that while you rot in federal prison.
You, in the White House: Our great nation doesn’t run on favors and praise. If a governor of any party is threatened, the president picks up the phone and calls to express sympathy and offer support. He doesn’t whine about how he didn’t get a thank you note. Grow a pair, child.
All of you people screaming to reopen the economy? Here’s a clue: Test, track, trace and wear a damn mask. The only ones offering false choices about getting the economy revving again are ideologues who hope you’re as mindless as them.
America, get your shit together. You’re pissing me off.
We come to you today as scientists, engineers and researchers in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence. And we have a confession.
Years ago, we intentionally released an early stage research project, a simulacrum of humanity, into the wild. Our intentions were noble: We simply wanted to observe how an obviously artificial “human” would relate to people around him and acclimate to society. In retrospect, dropping off our robot in rural Indiana was a mistake. Unlike New York, where anyone who encountered our cyborg would have immediately seen through its bullshit, Indiana presented a welcoming environment where its sleek appearance wasn’t off-putting and it could adopt a folksy demeanor that went over well with locals.
Even when Mike-bot, as we refer to it, was elected governor we viewed the results as inconclusive and expected our experiment to run out of momentum.
Fast forward to last night and the terror in our hearts that motivated this guest editorial. We’ve watched with growing alarm as our mechanical spawn has adopted and regurgitated a long list of repugnant ideas. Whether the subject is the administration’s coronavirus response, immigration, tax policy, the growing White House rap sheet, or diddling porn stars, our creation speaks in the calm manner of a serial killer who is busying himself with preparations while you watch, bound and gagged on an operating table. The effect is oddly soothing–like knowing with absolute certainty that you’re going to die but also knowing that your killer is untroubled by what he’s about to do.
We bear some responsibility for this, having installed only rudimentary morality and memory circuits in Mike-bot. But we can all agree that at this moment, it’s America tied to that operating table and we should be shitting ourselves in fear.
Before we return to constructing our cyborg-proof panic chamber, we’ll address the fly-shaped elephant in the room. This early edition robot is not equipped with kinesthetic sensors and could not “feel” the fly that perched on his head for two minutes and three seconds. If Kamala Harris leapt over the barriers and pummeled him with a two-by-four, his pallid, shiny face would have shown the same lack of reaction. This is also why sex with Mother is, to her eternal relief, out of the question.