Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Amalur Lure

At this point it really does seem like heaping on, but The New York Times last week had a good long piece on Curt Schilling’s stumble on the mound of life.

The article basically recounts how Rhode Island got duped into investing big bucks in Schilling’s misadventure: 38 Studios (named after the number that Schilling wore for the Red Sox), a video game company building a game called “Amalur.”

From the start, his [Schilling’s] goal was to build what gamers call an MMORPG — for a massively multiplayer online role-playing game — along the lines of the crazily popular “World of Warcraft,” and to get what he called “Bill Gates-rich” in the process. (Source, here and throughout: NY Times.)

Can’t blame a guy for wanting to get “Bill Gates-rich”, I suppose.

I spent 10 years of my life working for a company that was going to “the next billion dollar software company” – when the only billion dollar software company was MSFT, and a billion dollar software company was a pretty big deal. We were not all going to get “Bill Gates-rich”, but we were going to personally profit big time. Which made me think it wasn’t a bad idea to take a pretty substantial pay cut to go there.

In the process of not becoming “the next billion dollar software company”, we managed to suck about $40 million out of the wallets of our investors. And just like being a billion dollar software company was once a big thing, so was $40 million in walking around money.

And, even though we’ve all become jaded about what exactly constitutes big bucks, it still is.

Thus, the $75 million that Rhode Island invested in Schilling’s company is significant.

The RI investment resulted from a somewhat chance meeting that David Carcieri, then the state’s governor, had with Schilling.

I said, ‘Well, what are you doing?’ ” Mr. Carcieri recalled .... “And he said, ‘I’ve got this business, this company, creating video games.’ Which I knew nothing about — my grandkids know more about it than I do. But he was describing it. He said: ‘It’s a great little company, it’s growing,’ et cetera. And he was looking to grow it further.”

More to the point, Mr. Schilling let drop that he wasn’t getting much help in Massachusetts when it came to the financing he needed to expand, and he was frustrated. You can imagine the heralding trumpets that must have been blasting in Mr. Carcieri’s ears as he listened to Mr. Schilling dangle hundreds of jobs in front of him.

Within a few weeks, Mr. Schilling, a novice in the gaming field, was wowing other local politicians with his outsize presence and his grand ambitions to build a Microsoft-like behemoth. And soon Rhode Island’s lawmakers were rushing to approve a deal to make the state Mr. Schilling’s angel investor. The tiny, struggling state issued $75 million in bonds so that Mr. Schilling’s company, called 38 Studios, could relocate to Providence and unleash the world’s next killer fantasy game.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time: woo a techie company to the state, with bonus points for it being run by Curt Schilling, he of the iconic bloody sock, he who had broken the curse and brought a World Series championship to sports-besotted New England for the first time in 86 years. It all played into Rhode Island’s desperation to do something about its high unemployment rate, its desire to do something high tech before it was too late, its desire to one-up Massachusetts.

So Rhode Island fell right in, despite the fact that every venture capitalists that had taken a look-see had taken also taken a pass on investing in the company.

“It just felt really good, when this all started, to have the sexy sports celebrity from Boston who seemed to like Rhode Island and showed up in Rhode Island, and who built this exotic new business, even though no one knew what it was,” says the historian Ted Widmer, who grew up in Providence and works at Brown. “It seemed like the digital economy, or biotech, or whatever. But then it turned out that it wasn’t the new digital economy. It was some 13-year-old’s medieval fantasy.”

That’s not really an accurate assessment of Mr. Schilling’s start-up, but neither is it entirely off base.

As it not surprisingly turns out, Schilling – for all his confidence and charisma - didn’t turn out to be much of a businessman. (Perhaps the “ama” in “Amalur” comes from amateur.)

Among the other kinda-sorta-crazy things Schilling did, he brought on a fantasy author, R.A. Salvatore, to “create a fantasy world with 10,000 years of back story, racking up a bill (still unpaid) of almost $2 million.” (This has to be one of the biggest pay-off/non-pay-offs any writer ever received.)

While Salvatore was probably the highest paid/non-paid employee, the average salary for the company was a whopping – and near mystically numbered, given Red Sox lore – $86K.  He also picked up responsibility for the old mortgages the employees he was recruiting were leaving behind when he wooed them to Rhode Island, which is not the norm for start-ups.

He also made wild, hockey still sales projections. (Where have I seen those before????)

Internal folks had encouraged bringing “Amalur” to market in small-bite releases.  But Schilling wanted to go for the brass, massive, multi-player, online whatever ring.

He seemed to think that he could will Amalur into being, in the same way he had always been able to pitch his way out of a bases-loaded jam, even with a throbbing arm. His certainty reassured employees on Empire Street [the company location], who had no idea that he was running out of money.

I will say that I’ve logged plenty of years working in companies run by super-educated, super-experienced, super- cough, cough – savvy businessmen who had no problems running those companies into the ground, or near ground, saved only by some fire-sale purchase by someone looking to pick a few pieces up on the cheap.

So it’s not as if Schilling’s not being the world’s most astute businessman on the face of the earth is the entire problem here.

I will say, however, that what he does seem to have in common with the failed business boyos of my past is massive ego, massive confidence, massive hubris – and all the other massive attributes that tend to suck people in.  Not to mention a massive inability to listen to voices of caution, which are inevitably viewed as too doomsday, too negative – just way too corrosive and anti-success.

Here are the dimensions of the 38 Studios disaster:

By the time 38 Studios closed its doors for good in June, dismissing hundreds of employees in an e-mail, the company listed $150 million in debt, $22 million in assets and $320 in petty cash.

In the wake of 38 Studios’ demise, Rhode Island is grappling with the decision of whether to default on the bonds, thus screwing with the state’s credit rating, or repaying the bondholders, to whom it has a moral but not technical obligation.

All this has prompted the current governor, Lincoln Chafee – who had gone hands-off on 38 Studios during his early tenure -  to sue Schilling et al, claiming they had hoodwinked poor little Rhode Island.

In his defense, Schilling claims that Chafee deliberately let 38 Studios go bust by not kicking in the survival bit that would have mattered at the company’s hour of need.

This is a circumstance I have lived through several times, and, in my experience, that survival bit in the hour of need tends to matter not, and only prolongs the inevitable.

I suspect that Rhode Island won’t get much financial satisfaction from their suit against Schilling. He may have been a blustering braggart, a piss-poor businessman, but the state of Rhode Island was oh-so-willingly able to buy right in to the vision that 38 Studios was going to save their economy.

Even if they “win” against Schilling, doesn’t sound like there’s much there to be gotten:

Mr. Schilling said he had basically lost his entire baseball fortune in 38 Studios. Months later, he would auction off his bloody sock.

The bloody sock!

Sockless Curt, say it ain’t so!

Monday, April 29, 2013

We don’t need no stinking regulation? Tell that to Rana Plaza and West, Texas.

As I write this, they’re still finding survivors in (and dragging bodies out of) the Rana Plaza building, in Dhaka Bangladesh, where thousands of desperately poor people stitched away. And stitched away so that those of us who live in the more economically advanced parts of the world can stuff our closets and drawers a lot fuller than we could if the people doing the stitching were working under safer conditions.

Wasn’t I just writing about this a couple of months ago?

Yep, that would be last December, when the topic was the late-November Tazreen Fashion fire.

Maybe this time the apparel companies who profit from having their manufacturing done under such horrific conditions will start getting serious about trying to do something about them. As the death toll mounts, my hope is that these companies – which, in the Rana Plaza round appear to include Children’s Place and Benetton – will stop hiding behind the ‘see nothing/hear nothing’ protective coating of working through layer upon layer of middlemen – the coating that gives them deniability, and, in turn, gives us consumers the ability to live in blithe denial.

Question: How often do I think about the conditions under which the clothing I wear is made?

Answer: Only when something like Rana Plaza happens.

Sure, it’s not easy for apparel companies working with countries like Bangladesh, rife with corruption and full of millions of people for whom making the $.25 an hour – half of what I made baby-sitting in 1964 – is worth the risk of death. And that risk is very real. In the past ten years, between fires and building collapses, more than a thousand garment workers in Bangladesh have been killed. The final tally at Rana may well end up doubling that number. (For more on the not-so-wonderful world of sweatshops, see the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights). As I wrote in my December post on Tazreen, I’m not arguing for a return to the days of Pajama Game. Hey, I worked in a boot factory, so I have no illusions about how swell these jobs are.

Industries will move to wherever they can operate most “cost effectively.” That’s going to mean lower wages. But do those wages have to be that low? I’m sure that $.25 an hour goes further in Dhaka than it does in Boston, but still… And does it also have to mean ghastly working conditions?  


At the site of a collapsed factory complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh, rescue workers searched among the rubble as distraught family members of missing workers waited for word of their loved ones… 

Rana Plaza was evacuated on Tuesday after a crack appeared on an exterior wall, but factory managers coerced workers to return to their jobs the next day, workers said. Mr. Rana [the owner], who told workers on Tuesday that the building would stand "for another 100 years," according to workers, hasn't made any public comments since the collapse. Attempts to reach him weren't successful….

On Friday, limbs of victims protruded from the fallen masonry and volunteers sprayed scented air freshener around the site to obscure the stench of decomposed flesh.(Source: WSJ Online.)

The factories in Bangladesh could do with a bit more regulation, don’t you think? Maybe it’s time for us to look at our tags and encourage our brands to be a bit more forceful when working with the companies of origin. (Just checked, and I’m wearing clothing made in Cambodia, Tunisia, and Mexico, but I’ve no doubt got some Bangladesh in my closet somewhere.)

Meanwhile, back on the home front, where some parties seem to believe that our businesses are being stifled, just smothered by unnecessary regulation, we have the horrific fertilizer explosion in West, Texas. Which seems to be the result of a combination of lax regulatory enforcement:

Documents reviewed by The Huffington Post indicate that the last time regulators performed a full safety inspection of the facility was nearly 28 years ago. The entity with primary authority to ensure workplace safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, last visited in 1985, according to OSHA records.

Since then, regulators from other agencies have been inside the plant, but they looked only at certain aspects of plant operations, such as whether the facility was abiding by labeling rules when packaging its fertilizer for sale. (Source: Huffington Post.)

And insouciant, feckless, A-OK-ism on the part of the company:

In June 2011 -- less than two years before the explosion -- the private company that owns the plant, the West Fertilizer Co., filed an emergency response plan with the Environmental Protection Agency stating that there was "no" risk of fire or explosion at the facility. The worst scenario that plant officials acknowledged was the possible release of a small amount of ammonia gas into the atmosphere. (Source: Huff-Po again.)

Not that it matters all that much to the families of those who were killed, or to those who had their homes and livelihoods destroyed, but it will be interesting to see whether, on the regulatory end of things, this was caused by incompetence, or a lack of funding because, after all, we don’t need no stinking regulations.

Then there’s this:

The fertilizer plant that blew up in Texas last week warned state and local officials but not federal agencies that it had 270 tons of highly volatile ammonium nitrate on site, according to regulatory records. (Source: CNN.)

It’s certainly interesting to note, however, that the fertilizer plant didn’t mind telling the state and locals that they had such a volatile brew on site, but neglected to let the feds know…

I’m sure that every last one of us could, within five minutes, come up with some totally BS, nonsense regulation. But we can’t let that translate into equating regulation with evil.

All we need is Rana Plaza and West, Texas, to remind us of that.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Home Opener

On Wednesday, I went to see the Red Sox play.

While it was not the home opener – that was a few weeks back: BEFORE – it was my first game of the season. More importantly, it was opening day for Boylston Street, site of the bombings, the first day that cars could pass, pedestrians could amble, and businesses could open.

To me, one of the great pleasures of urban life is walking to and from a ballgame. 

Fenway Park is about a half-hour’s walk from my home: straight shot up Beacon or Comm (lovely residential blocks), hook a slight left at Kenmore Square and you’re there.

Walking to, you walk with optimism, joy, anticipation -  picking up crowd energy and crowd buzz as you near the park, amplified by the scalpers, sausage vendors, tee-shirt and cap hawkers, program sellers, street musicians, open-air bar crowds, and the occasional political/religious pamphleteering crank. Walking home, depending on outcome, can be either a buoyant experience ( W ), or an exercise in the teeth-gnashing, second-guessing, and invective slinging that is familiar to all sports fans ( L ).

Walking to the park on Wednesday to meet up with my old and dear friend Marie, who was driving up from Providence, I veered off my usual path.

I wanted to reclaim Boylston Street.

It could not have been a more gorgeous spring day: mid-sixties, not a cloud in that big blue sky. In the Public Garden, which I walked through on my way to Boylston, the flowering trees were all in full bloom. The forsythia were out. The weeping willows in leaf. The Swan Boats afloat.

I wouldn’t say that Boylston Street was exactly thronged. Weekday normal would be more like it. The outdoor restaurants were full. Most of the shops were open. Lots of pedestrians, lots of cars, plenty of tourists, parents with kids, and, as I moved further up the street, folks in Red Sox gear (and, occasionally, Oakland colors, the A’s being the day’s rivals).

Boylston Street is not my immediate neighborhood, but it’s a short walk, and it’s more commercial than my neck of the woods. It’s where I meet lunch for friends at the Parish Café. Where I poke around Marshall’s, and buy the basics when Talbot’s has its sales. It’s the Lord & Taylor’s where I bought my last business suit (December), the jacket-to-wear-to-the-wedding (September), and a patterned sweater I can’t decide whether I love or hate (July). It’s the nearest Trader Joe’s, where I head when I need to bring appetizers somewhere. It’s City Table, our regular Sunday night go-out-to-eat spot.  It’s the Lindt Shop where I buy the chocolate for my orange-chocolate pound cakes. It’s the CVS and ATM I use when I’m in Back Bay. It’s the library. It’s the Pour House, where I’ve had untold burgers and rum-cokes. It’s the Marathon Sports where I get my Win, the only detergent that gets the sweat out of workout clothes.

Marathon Sports, site of the first explosion – site where many victims were taken, and makeshift tourniquets appmemoriallied using the stores ware: running shirts and the like - is still closed. There is a small memorial on the spot where the bomb was set off, and the passer-bys all seemed to pause for a second or two, keeping a reverent distance from the memorial, as if it were cordoned off.

Another block up Boylston, there’s a second memorial, in front of the Forum which, like Marathon Sports and a few other places is still closed.

Next door is Abe & Louie’s – where, last summer, I had dinner with a couple of clients, and spotted Carlos Santana at a table near us  - which also remains closed. You could see workers inside, cleaning it up, and, parked in the front corner, a jogging stroller abandoned when a parent swooped their child up and fled.

Any way, things were almost back to normal for those of us for whom things will be able to get back to normal.

At Fenway, there were a few reminders. We were all “wanded” on the way in. And they introduced some Watertown police officers, who stood on the roof of the visitors’ dugout to a heartfelt standing O.

But mostly, the game was good old normalcy. (Other than the fact that, as penance for their sordid showing last season, which followed their late-season swoon into an unprecedented collapse in 2011, the Red Sox were doing two-fers on hot dogs for the month of April.) The game had enough drama and excitement to it. For a weekday, 4 in the afternoon game, there were precious few empty seats. People lustily sang Take Me Out to the Ball Game and Sweet Caroline.

The Red Sox won, 6-5, putting all – make that most – thoughts of the 13-0 drubbing they’d gotten the night before out of our minds.

Marie offered to drive me home, and while being in her company for another few minutes would have been wonderful, it was out of her way. And I wanted to walk down Boylston Street one more time.

Lots of people out walking, lots of people sitting out eating, lots of people  – Bostonians and out-of-towners alike – reclaiming the city on what was, on Boylston Street, opening day.

Back to normal, pretty much, for those of us who did not lose loved ones, who did not lose limbs, who did not have friends or family members who were harmed, who did not bear witness to this grievous event.

But how long will it be before we are, any of us, able to walk this street without thinking of those for whom there will be no getting back to normal? Without seeing, in our minds’ eyes, little Martin Richard, shyly and proudly holding his sign?

In the popular photograph, Martin was shown holding a sign that read: “No more hurting people. Peace.”

Thursday, April 25, 2013

When headline says “When Work Resembles A Video Game, Millennials Thrive”, Baby Boomers gulp

E=mc2 and “This above all, to thine own self be true” aside, I’m enough of an old croaker to believe that not all complex thoughts can be reduced to 140 characters.

That there are such things as too much information and too little privacy.

And that work is work and, unless you work for Electronic Arts or Curt Schilling’s old company, video games are video games.

So, when I see a headline that says “When Work Resembles A Video Game, Millennials Thrive,” I’m a bit taken aback in my granny chair. Would this not be like reading that “When Work Resembles A Pinball Machine, Baby Boomers Thrive?” Would that not have given our forefathers and fore-managers from The Greatest Generation the willies?

The article focuses on folks who work in call centers, which are plagued by high attrition and low morale resulting from:

…dealing almost exclusively with unhappy customers, the agents in a high-volume contact center often receive limited training, low pay, and may have little to look forward to in terms of advancement opportunities or positive feedback (on those rare occasions when their interaction with a customer does go well). (Source: Forbes BrandVoice)

(I must note that, although it’s on the Forbes site, this is not really a Forbes article: it’s a payola “article” from Microsoft Dynamics (which is MSFT’s customer relationship management offering), supposed to demonstrate something that we in the biz call “thought leadership.” (As an aside, and – truly – nothing to do with the video game thougt piece, I am of the considered opinion that a lot of what passes for “thought leadership” is, more or less, “thought followership” and/or what we in the biz call the TVSP, or the thinly veiled sales pitch. But that’s a topic for another day. A day that will occur after I retire.))

Anyway, after setting us up with a catalog of the tough challenges that call centers face – which, having recently spent the better part of two days trying to get Comcast to restore the e-mail address (mine) that someone’s chemo-brained husband (mine) had accidentally deleted, I realize are quite profound – the article, pardon me, the Brand Voice, goes into the particular characteristics of the Millennials who, because of the crappiness of the jobs and the crappiness of the economy, are employed in large numbers by call centers.

Nothing we haven’t heard before. The Millennials are used to constant feedback. (Translation for Baby Boomers: constant stroking and bogus, the wonderfulness of you, praise. Translation for the Greatest Generation: mollycoddling). They spend an awful lot of time playing online games “earning badges, points, and respect as they track their own progress and that of their peers (often quite publicly)”. (Translation for Baby Boomers: give me a break. Translation for the Greatest Generation: frittering away their lives.)

And they supposedly have “an unprecedented ability to multi-task.”

Sorry, unless they can back this up with some statistics, I really don’t believe that the Millennials are any better at multi-tasking than prior generations. I will use my multi-tasking self as Exhibit A, pointing to my childhood ability to watch TV (challenging fare like Wagon Train and My Three Sons), read a book (challenging fare like Nancy Drew and The Mystery of the Old Clock, and Donna Parker, On Her Own), roll my curl-resistant hair into Spoolies, and eat fudge ripple ice cream (out of a Melmac bowl, which has nothing to do with multi-tasking, but I do want to set the scene.  That Melmac bowl was boiled-egg-yolk yellow; the Spoolies were pink.).  Oh, and I could simultaneously carry on a conversation with a sibling, who was also doing some variation-on-a-theme multi-tasking on his or her own. The boys, I will note, were not rolling their crew-cuts into Spoolies.)

The very nature of the contact center environment makes it an interesting test bed for experiments with incentives, culture changes and other management techniques. As any contact center manager can tell you, the traditional systems of incentives and rewards will change behavior and can improve efficiency and effectiveness, but will do little to create an enjoyable work environment where agents feel excited to come in each day.

The answer, is, not surprisingly, Microsoft’s gamified with partners:

…real-time ‘leader dashboards,’ which show how many points and badges they have achieved today while interacting with customers, and that rank their performance against their friends in the neighboring cubicles. This highly interactive scenario of rewards and incentives, known in the industry as “gamification,” is being adopted in large, high volume contact centers at leading companies with promising results.

Wonder how many gamifying points the customer service reps from Comcast earned while talking to me a few weeks back? Are points taking off when you can hear the customer’s teeth grinding?

Anyway, this gamifying is “incentivizing” (is that even a word?) and it’s “making it more fun for [call center employees"] to go to work everyday.” (Reaction from Baby Boomers: Fun? Suck it up, you wusses. You should enjoy your work, but there should be a Jersey barrier between work, which, however enjoyable, is work, and your outside of work life with, hopefully, entails some fun. Reaction from the Greatest Generation: Candy-ass infants. Work isn’t meant to be fun. That’s why it’s called work and not fun.)

And as more Millenials enter the workforce, we believe that gamification could have implications beyond the contact center and sales force automation.

Can’t wait for a physical or root canal given by a gamifying doctor or dentist! Looking forward to a gamifying lawyer redoing our wills. A gamifying cop answering my 9-1-1 call. A gamifying waiter pouring my wine.

It’s enough to make a Baby Boom gulp.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Belieb it or not

As Amsterdam tourists do,  Justin Bieber paid a visit to the Anne Frank House on his recent trip to that city.

In the House’s guestbook, Bieber famously – since everything Master Bieber does is done famously – wrote:

“Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber."

Generally, what people write in guestbooks stays in guestbook, and are read only by the folks who put their comments on the same page, and/or by obsessives who flip through a bunch of pages to see a) where guestbook signers are from, and b) whether it’s possible that anyone ever wrote anything interesting in a guestbook.

I’ve been to the Anne Frank House, and I suppose I signed the guestbook – maybe just my name and “Boston”, maybe with something fascinating, profound, revealing. Like “lest we forget.” Or “never again.” Or “I am moved beyond words.” Which I was: The airless rooms. The thin curtains. The thought of these families locked in together, in fear, in danger for so many years. The picture still tacked to the wall – was it of a movie star? I’ve forgotten. But I do remember that Anne avidly read movie magazines.

My first thought on reading Bieber’s note was ‘what a vacuous, narcissistic twit.’ Hey, I’m at the house of Anne Frank – whoever she was; some girl who kept a diary that my fans read? – because my peeps thought it would be good publicity. Might as well make the most of it.

Callow youth, I told myself. Shallow youth.

What would you expect from someone with little by way of education, surrounded by handlers, unlikely to have any true friends or many people who want to be with him “for himself” – whatever “himself” means beyond being a mega-bucked teen idol who likes $$$ cars and has millions of fans – 37 Twitter followers! – for whom hallowed be his name.

The rest of the world, of course, heaped right on: callow, shallow, narcissist, twit…

But then I started to think about just what Bieber had written, and to ask myself just what was so terrible about it.

“Truly inspiring to be able to come here.”

So maybe he wasn’t the one who initiated the visit. Maybe it wasn’t his idea. Maybe it’s all part of crafting his image.

But maybe before he was discovered, he actually read the book. Or at least saw the movie.

Let’s face it. Except for the hardest of hard-hearts, the Anne Frank House is – well, maybe I would have used the word moving, or heart-breaking – inspiring.

“Anne was a great girl.”

Okay, “great” may seem a bit breezy, but, from what I can tell, she was a great girl, with a lively mind and a good heart. She was also a real girl. She fought with her sister. She had a crush on Peter. She was moody. She didn’t get along with her mother. She liked her father a lot better. She hated being cooped up. She got her period. She had a sense of humor. She had hopes for a better world.

What is it that most of us say about the kids we know and love?

I don’t know about you, but there’s been plenty of times when I’ve said she’s a great girl, or guy, or kid, about someone.

“Hopefully she would have been a belieber."

Admittedly, this is a tad sell-centered and, thus, somewhat clumsy. Maybe he should have written: how awful that she didn’t get to experience what other girls her age did. Or how tragic that she and so many other great girls and boys never got to grow up. But what’s wrong with wishing that a kid who should have been able to be just a kid actually got to be just a kid?

Who doesn’t want a world where kids get to be kids, and not worried about being hunted down by Nazis (or blown up by terrorists)?

Maybe she would have been a belieber of her day, the Dutch equivalent of a Frank Sinatra-swooning bobby-soxer. Maybe she would have been a snob, looking down her nose at pop-culture and rolling her eyes when her friends went nuts over the Dutch equivalent of the Tommy Dorsey Band, while secretly admitting that Benny Goodman played a mean clarinet.

“It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

That’s Anne Frank, by the way, not Justin Bieber.

I’m not a belieber, but, belieb it or not, I’m giving him a pass on this one.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I spy with my dummy little eye

Somehow, I missed the news last November about the mannequin spies, but I’m making up for lost time now.

At first, I thought they were talking about surveillance dummies on the lookout for shoplifters, but, no, these dummies serve a higher purpose.

Fashion brands are deploying mannequins equipped with technology used to identify criminals at airports to watch over shoppers in their stores. Retailers are introducing the EyeSee, sold by Italian mannequin maker Almax SpA, to glean data on customers much as online merchants are able to do.

Five companies are using a total of “a few dozen” of the mannequins with orders for at least that many more, Almax Chief Executive Officer Max Catanese said. The 4,000-euro ($5,130) device has spurred shops to adjust window displays, store layouts and promotions to keep consumers walking in the door and spending…

To give the EyeSee ears as well as eyes, Almax is testing technology that recognizes words to allow retailers to eavesdrop on what shoppers say about the mannequin’s attire. Catanese says the company also plans to add screens next to the dummies to prompt customers about products relevant to their profile, much like cookies and pop-up ads on a website.  (Source: Business Week.)

So, bad enough they have dummies watching us, they’re listening in on our conversations, too.

Not that I have all that much to worry about. After all, if you take away AARP and Centrum Silver, I’m no one’s idea of the ideal demographic.  I can’t imagine Talbot’s is going to spend $5K to try to figure out whether I’m going to take the navy turtleneck, the teal turtleneck, or both.

And that name EyeSee? A little too much “I see, said the blind man, but he didn’t see at all” to my way of thinking.

This story, of course, raises all sorts of questions. I won’t even bother with the invasion of the privacy snatcher ones.

My burning question is: when did the French-ified word mannequin replace the less genteel manikin? And when did manikin replace the word dummy, which was what these folks(?) were called in my long-ago youth.

Is dummy a pejorative? Is it non PC? Is it possible to insult an inanimate object? (Or what used to be an inanimate object.)

Whatever they were called, the dummies of my youth were nowhere near as smart as those of today. Nor were they as “real” looking.

Dummies back then were all this kind of pinky-beige color, more beige than pink, and just a shade darker than the decidedly non-inclusive Crayola color “flesh.” The female of the dummy species were all blonde, if painted on butter-cup yellow can be said to be blonde. They all had blue eyes, too. The male dummies – man and boy a like – had medium brown hair, and medium brown eyes. To me, they all looked like Protestants, and they all seemed to be stuck in amber. They all had the look and feel of having been produced in 1946, when the good old U.S. of A. got back into manufacturing all the goods we’d been deprived of during Big W-W-II.

Dummies were, I believe, made out of plaster, as I seem to recall some low-rent Worcester department store with a dummy with a broken wrist, exposing its chalky white innards and metal rod bone.

In any event, the dummies I grew up with were a far cry from the pricey – and diverse – mannequins from Almax. Sure, they make blondes. But they also make dark-haired beauties, which, while you can’t exactly say look real, look more real than mannequins did when they were known as dummies. One thing that’s stayed constant: they all look bored. Maybe the ones that see and hear will perk up a tad now that there’s something going on in their heads.

What’s going on in their heads is software and sensor-driven:

This software analyzes the facial features of people passing through the front and provides statistical and contextual information useful to the development of targeted marketing strategies. (Source: Almax)

I’m a marketer, and I’m all over targeted marketing strategies. But in this context, are there three more dreaded words in the English language?

I don’t even like it when Amazon suggests a book.

Almax, by the way offers about 800 different models, “variously sized and positioned, representing various ethnic and physical features, with more than 1,500 realistic, stylized and semi-abstract heads.”

Good to hear, given that variety – and the availability of the semi-abstract head – is the spice of life.

After reading up on them, I thought it would be good to take a quick, haphazard inventory of mannequins while strolling around Boston on Sunday (enjoying the beautiful weather and the blessedly large crowds).

Neiman Marcus has “real” dummies, but a lot of stores seem to have dummies without heads (semi-abstract or otherwise).

Then there was this rather interesting mannequinShark Blog, which I spied with my very own eyes on Newbury Street. I was relieved that it was headless, eyeless, and earless and, thus, could not be checking me out. But then it occurred to me that the shark might be so armed.

Far more disturbing – with or without sensors and software – was the mannequin next door to son-of-Jaws.

I had to press my nose up to the window to see that those were, indeed, exposed ribs and not shadows. What’s the message here? Anorexia or bust? Anorexia or no bust? Very disturbing.

Newbury Dummy

Not that I’d want it spaying or listening in on me, but give me this statuesque Swedish dummy, any old day.


Look like anyone you know?

Monday, April 22, 2013

That was the week that was…

I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the past week, and what it’s meant for Boston and the country.

The shock, horror, sadness, and outrage we all felt after Monday’s bomb attack on our friends and family, our city, our special holiday, our Marathon.

I’ve already forgotten whether I even set foot outside the house on Tuesday, so all-consuming was the news. (So crushing the pictures of little Martin Richard, and, as they were identified, of Krystal Campbell and Lingzi Lu. Heartbreaking.)

On Wednesday, I ventured out early. As I walked through the Boston Common, I passed a few National Guard members (including a couple hauling a major league Dunkin’ Donuts bag; America really does run on Dunkin’),and their vehicles (not quite sure what they were: jeepish-tankish), and their tents. 

As I usually do, I picked up some trash along the way.* As I stooped to pick up a mega-Burger King cup, the thought did occur to me that it might be booby-trapped.

But I decided not to live in fear, picked it up – cursing the slob who’d dropped it within 20 feet of a trash can – and threw it away.

My morning’s destination – the gym – was in a building a couple of doors down from the Mexican Consulate. Which had a guy posted out front carrying a machine gun.

This may have made the Mexican Consul feel safer, but it did not make me feel safer. On the contrary, it made me feel frightened.

I expected the armed camp to be in full evidence when, later in the day, I took a train from North Station to visit my sister. I was carrying with me some information on the chemistry of fire – info that my husband (the former chemist) had pulled together for our niece, who has a paper on the topic due soon. The info included a chemistry book, generously outlined and commented in my husband’s red pen, which, admittedly, some might take for the work of a madman. When I was leaving the house, Jim warned me that, if I were searched at North Station, the searcher might think I was up to no good. Hard to believe you have to worry about a high school chemistry project, but you never know. I tucked it under the Tupperware I was returning to Trish.  But there was no – blessed relief –  mega security presence at North Station, and I was able to hop my train without delay, which made me feel far better than the armed guard at the Mexican Consulate.

The next morning, on my return to Boston, I took my usual cut-through Mass General Hospital on my way home from North Station. I knew there were bombing victims still being treated there, but was nonetheless surprised/unnerved to see men – were they Homeland Security? – stationed out front of the hospital carrying machine guns. As with the Mexican Consulate, this did not make me feel safe. It made me feel sorry. (Later in the day, the President paid a visit to MGH to meet with some of the bombing victims, so perhaps that was the reason for the souped-up security. I will say, however, that the back of the hospital was not thus secured.)

By Thursday, Boston was all a-vigil. I didn’t participate in any of them “live”, but I did watch some of the very moving memorial service on TV.

By this point, all the Boston Strong “stuff” was starting to irk me a bit. As if wearing a tee-shirt that says Boston Strong is really going to do or prove much of anything. As if there were ever any possibility that Bostonians were going to go collectively to pieces. (Fat f-in’ chance of that.) I was about to call BS, when I realized that I was the one choking up a bit when I saw this tribute that had appeared in The Chicago Trib, especially since just before I came across it, I’d seen a picture of Martin Richard that had been taken at a Bruins game.

Tribune Sports: Hang in there, Boston

And that I completely thought it was sweet and touching that the Yankees sang Sweet Caroline – a Red Sox anthem of sorts – during their Tuesday game.

Boston Strong, Sweet Caroline.

Time like these, we’re all entitled to gather our comforts where we may.

Then there was this one – which pretty well expresses the general ethos and essence of this city. Needless to say, it didn’t make me tear up . It made me laugh:
Keep Calm

Especially when you realize that three of the victims, Martin, Krystle, and Sean Collier, the MIT cop murdered Thursday night, have Irish lineage.

(Boston is, of course, more than just Irish, or even Irish-by-osmosis, as one local African-American politician once claimed was true of all our citizens. And, thus, we were cheered when Red Sox great David Ortiz, Bostonian by way of the Dominican Republic, told the crowd at Fenway on Saturday: “This is our f-in’ city.” Right you are, David. Right you are.)

What also made me laugh was the fact that, by special request of the authorities, Dunkin’ Donuts throughout the area were kept open on Friday while other businesses were asked to close. (Maybe all of America doesn’t run on Dunkin’, but Boston does – and so do the PD’s around here.)

Thursday night, of course, the FBI revealed the pictures of the suspects, and a bit later it was search-on.

Friday, like everyone else in the area, I was glued to the television. We were, after all, on city-wide lockdown, with little else to do but spin between one TV station and the next, one website and the next, one Twitter feed and the next. A disquieting quiet in the city: no car noise, few people seen on the streets.

As it turned out, I almost missed the climax, my husband and I having turned on House Hunters International to see if the woman from Los Angeles would go with the fixer-upper near the Louvre or the over-budget place in Saint Germain (spoiler alert: fixer upper); and whether the family from South Carolina would take the infinity pool or the gated community in Belize (spoiler alert: gated community). We did not find out which place the Walshes of Summit, NJ, chose in Anguilla, as my sister Trish texted me to let me know things were coming to a head in Watertown.

It goes without saying that, like every other decent person on the face of the earth, I am thrilled that they got Suspect Number Two. And that they got him alive.

The less said about Suspect Number One and Suspect Number Two – those evil POS - the better. But I will admit to being curious about what’s going on in that 19 year-old’s head just about now. Terrorism with your bro seemed like a cool idea at the time, eh pal? Well, no more girl friends, pickup soccer games, tweeting, or joints for you, you little bastard. Martin Richard’s life stopped at 8 years of age, thanks to you. Now yours- whether physically or metaphorically we have yet to learn – will stop at 19. Doesn’t seem like quite a fair exchange though, does it? What we all wouldn’t give to give Martin the gift of years. There’s really no payback here that’s quite enough of a bitch.

(At first I thought there was some possibility that the younger brother was duped by the older brother into thinking it was a prank, a statement, a smoke bomb. No harm, no foul. Of course, after Monday at 2:50 p.m. he would have certainly known that this was the real deal. At which point, it would have been time for the 19 year old boy to man-up and turn his brother in. But this fleeting thought was before I heard that the younger brother, hiding in the Watertown backyard boat, had scrawled on the tarp something about his brother’s being a hero…)

But, grateful as I am that they got their man, and thankful I am that they did so without any further loss of life, and acknowledging as I will that the the forces amassed for the manhunt were all there with at least some possibility that they could lose their lives, while I was watching the Watertown manhunt, I couldn’t help but think that deploying all those forces, locking down all these cities and towns (sure, maybe Watertown and the places adjacent to Watertown made sense, but all of Boston?), was maybe just a bit over the top.

Maybe if I’d lost a child or a leg I’d feel differently, or if I lived in Watertown, but when I saw all those state troopers lined up next to the Arsenal Mall, standing there with their Smokey hats, arms folded behind there backs, doing – well, there’s no other word for it – nothing, my first thought was ‘this is overkill.’  As I did when I saw those thousands of “forces” massed for the hunt.

And I have plenty of concerns when I think about how for every Officer Friendly, there now seems to be an Officer Hardass wearing combat boots and carrying an assault weapon.

We really need to think long and hard – as a city and a country - about whether all this show of force makes us any safer, or whether having the force to show means that we’ll just naturally find more occasions when we feel forced to show it.

Anyway, we’re now back to normal, or near normal, or new normal. (At least those of us who didn’t lose a child or a leg, who will never get back what they lost.)

I really hope that, come next Marathon Monday, come next Patriots Day, people don’t have to go through patdown security to get to the finish line. That the 26.2 mile route from Hopkinton to Boston isn’t lined with staties with their hands behind their backs. That twice as many people will run, and twice as many people will watch. That Boston Strong – it’s starting to grow on me - means that we won’t be cowed. And that we won’t need – and don’t want – an armed guard on every corner so that we can feel safe. Even if it does mean that there may well be another nihilistic, cowardly bastard out there, with some pathetic axe and the need to irrationally grind it by screwing with us.

We’re a long way, fortunately, from being a police state.

Let’s see if we can keep it that way.

Meanwhile, if you want to make a donation to benefit all of the victims of the Patriots Day bombing, you can do it here.


*I know, I know: goodie-two-shoes. But I’ll tell you just what inspired me to do become a regular trash-picker.

A couple of years ago, on a frigid February day, I was walking across Boston Common when I saw an elderly woman paused at the opposite end of a long path that was thickly iced over. (The city actually does a good job of keeping these paths clear, but there had been a melt the day before, and a freeze overnight, and it was early…) I was cutting around, walking through the crusty snow, and I hollered to the woman to wait up, that I’d help her over the moderately-difficult-to-navigate snow.

The woman – both beautiful and beautifully dressed: a real Beacon Hill grande dame - gratefully took my arm, introduced herself – Nancy Ellis – and told me it was her 85th birthday. We chatted for a while, and she told me that she was on her way over to the New England Medical Center, where she was a regular volunteer. I told her that I hoped that when I’m 85, I’ll be going out on a cold, icy day to volunteer.

Nancy Ellis looked a bit familiar, and after a moment or two I realized that she was George Bush’ sister. When I asked her if this were so, she smiled and said, ‘Yes, and George Bush’s aunt, too.’

Anyway, Nancy Ellis had an empty Poland Springs bottle tucked under her arm, and I offered to toss it for her.

She then told me that, whenever she walked through The Common, she would pick up some trash along her way.

Heading out to volunteer on your 85th birthday, in the dead of winter, and cheerfully picking up after some slob while you’re doing so.

Now that’s Boston Strong…

Friday, April 19, 2013

Kool-Aid and the Kool-Aid Man get a makeover

Well, here’s the news you’ve been waiting for.

Kool-Aid is now available in liquid mix.

So if you want to stay hydrated without having to drink boring old water, and you don’t want to fuss with the powdered version of Kool-Aid, you’ll now be able to get it the sweet object of your desire in liquid form

This is, by the way, nothing new for Kool-Aid.

The liquid mix is a return to Kool-Aid’s roots. It began as a syrup called ‘‘Fruit Smack’’ in 1920. The product wasn’t modified into a concentrated powder until 1927, when it was renamed ‘‘Kool-Ade.’’ The current spelling followed in the early 1930s. (Source: Boston.com)

Wow! Marketing renaming genius as far back as the early 1930s!

But the really big news here is not that Kool-Aid is going back to its Fruit Smack roots. It’s that the Kool-Aid Man – Oh, yeah! – is going to be getting a face lift, nay, a species lift.

The Kool-Aid Man’s species change operation is taking him from a human in a pitcher costume to a computer-generaKool-Aid Manted whatever. On the creepiness continuum, this is actually an improvement over the guy in the pitcher costume. Still, it’s one more acting gig gone bye-bye. But one actor’s job loss is one CGI designer’s job gain.  No word on whether it, having replaced a “him” (or, I guess, “her”), will also replace the cartoon character version.

And speaking of character, the Kool-Aid man is also having a personality transplant.

No more strong, silent, foam-filled type, breaking through walls with little more to say than “Oh, yeah!”.

Erica Rendall, senior brand manager at Kraft Foods Group Inc., says the new ads are intended to fill in the blanks in Kool-Aid Man’s character so people can relate to him.

‘‘He said a few things here and there (in the past), but he really didn’t have a developed personality,’’ she said.

Okay. Let’s see if I have this completely straight:

Kool-Aid used to have an actual human being dressed up in a giant foam pitcher, but somehow he wasn’t relatable.

Now it’s a graphic image, but, one with a “developed personality.”

Personally, I don’t know if that will make he, she, or it all that much more relatable.

I mean, Tony the Tiger had a personality – loud – and I never really felt the need to relate to him. Speedy Alka-Seltzer had a personality, too: perky. Yet I never felt the desire to relate to him, either.

In fact, I can’t actually think of one brand character that I can really relate to.

Jolly Green Giant?  Mr. Clean? The Charmin Teddy Bears?

Since when are these characters supposed to be relatable?

But that’s perhaps just jaded, ancient me.

Maybe I should wait to see the Kool-Aid ads before making a forever declaration here.

Hey, I may be jaded and ancient, but I do want to think of myself as someone who’s open to the possibility of new relationships. Maybe this one will do the trick:

In one of the new commercials, the scene opens with the character’s round silhouette behind a shower curtain. When he steps out, he’s a clear pitcher of water and he explains in a voiceover that his life isn’t all ‘‘cherry and sweetness.’’

Life not being all “cherry and sweetness”? I’m down with that. In fact, I pretty much figured this out just about the same time that the original Kool-Aid Man  - the cartoon fellow who sang “Kool-Aid Kool-Aid. Tastes great. Kool-Aid, Kool-Aid. Can’t wait.” – was born in 1954. (Not that I knew anything about Kool-Aid other than the jingle. We were a Zarex house, which, like Fruit Smack, was a liquid “soft drink mix.”)

And if you need any more evidence that the new Kool-Aid Man is one of us:

‘‘I put my pants on one leg at a time,’’ the voiceover notes, as he stands in front of a pantry full of Kool-Aid mixes deciding what to wear. ‘‘Except my pants are 22 different flavors. I've got grape pants, I've got watermelon pants.’’

Trying to decide what color to wear? Who, other than parochial school students, doesn’t ask this close-to-existential question each and every day?

Of course, I don’t have 22 different color of pants to pick from. There’s black. There’s blue. And there’s khaki. That’s pretty much it. But on the sweater and tee-shirt front? Way, way, way more choices than 22.

So, oh yeah, the “what to wear” quandary is definitely one that’s relatable.

But is that going to be enough to friend the Kool-Aid Man on Facebook, let alone run out and buy some mango Kool-Aid Mix (powdered or liquid). Not very likely.

Wonder what other personality traits they have up their sleeve?

I suppose it’s possible that  there is one that will actually get me to drink the Kool-Aid.


And a pour from the Pink Slip pitcher to my sister Trish for pointing this ultra-important story out to me.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

You ought to be in movies, Worcester edition.

Many years ago, some time in the 1980’s, my sister Trish and I were in Worcester and came across a tee-shirt with the Eiffel Tower on it, and the words “Worcester: Paris of the Eighties.” Naturally, after observing a moment of WTF-ness, we bought it for our friend and fellow Worcester girl, Michele.

We often wondered just what was up with that, but fast forward a couple of decades and I learned from my friend and fellow Worcester girl, Mary, who lived in Worcester at that time and was part of the literary community there, that this was actually a slogan used by the Heart of the Commonwealth. Mostly in reference to the city’s arts scene.

Those who have logged any time in Worcester may be a bit perplexed about any Worcester-Paris analogy, however artsy Worcester was at the time.

If Worcester were going to be any place in Europe – other than the obvious choices like Wroclaw or Birmingham – why not Rome which, like Worcester, is built on seven hills?  As an aside, building a city on seven hills makes sense in sunny Italy. Less so in winter-mix New England. But nonetheless, Roma got seven hills, Worcester got seven hills.

(And as an other aside, this confession: I have no idea whether Wroclaw is ugly; I picked it solely on its ugly-ish name – for all I know, it’s a charm spot. Birmingham is an old industrial city. Enough said there.)

As for the famous tee-shirt, quite wonderfully – since I intend to get one or two of them – it’s back, available at ChipSylvania, which is in Providence, not Pennsylvania, by the way, and which is offering the shirt – black on red, or white on black -  for the low, low price of $20. This is the excellent descriptor:

A classic weird shirt from “the heart of the commonwealth” Worcester MA. We will not explain this item. You either need it or you don’t know what it is.

Well, I’m afraid I both need it and don’t really know what it is.

I guess you had to be there in the eighties, which I most decidedly was not.

In any case, I will be placing my order, and will or won’t wear the shirt when I’m next in Worcester, when I will or won’t stop by the new – just opened in January - Paris of the Eighties Café.

It is, of course, just not enough that my hometown was the Paris of the Eighties.

Of late, it’s filling in as the location for a movie that takes place in New York in the 1970’s.

Or so I learned when, in my desire to put off working on a client white paper on hypervisors, I checked out what was happening in Worcester on its online newspaper-of-record.

Movie crews were busy yesterday [actually, last Thursday] disguising downtown Worcester as 1970s New York City. A Studio 54 sign - or at least a replica of the one that hung outside the famous nightclub - has been installed just off Main Street on a Mechanics Street building. Honey Dew Donuts in Harrington Corner now looks like an off-track betting joint. And across the street, the front of the WCCA-TV 13 building is starting to resemble a cinema, with white marquee signs put in place this morning. (Source: Worcester Telegram.)

Studio 54! OTB!

Worcester’s on the map!  Or New York City’s on the map, and Worcester it playing it.

This is going to be a big-time movie, by the way.

No name as of yet, but this “1970s-era story about gambling officials who bribed New Jersey authorities to get a gaming license” stars Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams.

Talk about your A-list!

I actually love seeing movies that are filmed on the wrong location, if only so I can play the smarty-pants role that, I’m afraid, comes quite naturally to me.

All those reputedly Boston scenes that are shot in Toronto…

And a few years go, I watched the movie Conviction, which was supposed to take place in and around Worcester County. I kept looking at the scenes and saying, ‘that doesn’t look like Worcester’, ‘that doesn’t look like New England.’

Sure enough, it was filmed in Michigan, which only looks like New England if you’re not a New Englander.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how Worcester comes off as New York City.

But my first reaction is: Oy!

If the Paris of the Eighties bon mot confounded me, I’m now having a heck of a time trying to decide whether Worcester is the New York of the Seventies or the  Hollywood of the Teens.

Too hard for me! You’ll have to decide this one for yourself.

(Start spreading the news. I’m leaving today. I want to be a part of it, Worcester, Worcester.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Take a memo, Miss Jones

With the return of Mad Men, secretaries are once again in the public eye, in a way that they are, pretty much, no longer in the private eye.

Mad Men’s Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency is built around a charmingly retro (if gallingly sexist) division of labor. Secretaries screen calls, arrange meetings, manage calendars—and often make great wives—allowing their bosses to create life-changing ad campaigns and go out for boozy client lunches. Tellingly, everyone’s desk looks fastidiously neat. Those were the days. (Source: Business Week.)

That’s for sure.

Once the technology was such that people could write their own memos, pink collar support for rank and file white collar workers started going dodo-bird.  And once DYI apps for filing expense reports, let alone the ability to book your own darned flight on Orbitz, became available…

I was never a real secretary. (I never had any shorthand.) But between dropping out of a PhD program and dropping into business school, I did work off and on as an office temp: answering phones, filing, filling in forms, typing memos and reports and letters (that were given to me on legal pads, written in long-hand). Sometimes I got coffee.

And I am of an age when secretary was a solid profession that many women pursued – some with secretarial work as their end-game (up the ladder to executive assistant or office manager), some as an entrée position. Katherine Gibbs, perhaps the most prestigious secretarial school, had, in fact, something called an Entrée Program that helped liberal arts grads who didn’t want to teach get a toe-hold in the business world.

My mother was a secretary, as was one of my cousins.

I do know that by the time I got out of business school in 1981, there was very limited administrative support provided to anyone other than the head guys – at least in the tech world, where I landed.

Yes, someone answered the phone and left you a message on a pink message slip. And someone made your travel reservations for you. But if you wanted to write a memo or a report, well, that’s what the computer was for. Even if it was a mainframe that you accessed through a dumb terminal. Even if there were only two fonts to play with – Times Roman and Helvetica.  And especially if you were a woman.

Because the truth was that, in the first place I landed after business school, the female admins were a lot more likely to do things for the guys than they were for the women. Our admins were smart and capable, but many of them bore quite a bit of resentment towards the women who were sitting in the offices rather than the cubicles, going on the business trips, and taking home checks that were bigger than theirs were.

I remember asking one admin if she could do some copying for me.

Her response?

“That’s not my cup of tea.”

I didn’t pull rank, but my manager – at that point a woman – went a bit ballistic when she saw me standing at the copy machine.

Fast forward a few years, and I did end up with an admin reporting to me. She supported my group (about 25 people), and I can’t really remember much of what she did: booked meetings, ordered lunch when the meeting was held at noon, did the photocopying. By that point, we were pretty much doing all our own letter writing – it was all e-mail – and producing all our own documents. Expenses were filed online. There was a corporate travel group that made our reservations. But mostly we were on our own.

What’s been the impact of the decline in the admin function?

In Women Laid Off, Workers Sped Up, a paper for the Roosevelt Institute, authors Bryce Covert and Mike Konczal note that women lost 925,000 jobs in “office and administrative support” occupations between 2009 and 2011. And they point out that the continuing “speedup” within the economy has workers taking on ever-increasing burdens, often without extra compensation.

So when you ask yourself why it is that people have to work longer hours these days, it’s to some degree because they’re doing “for free” what someone else used to be paid to do for them.  (Of course, another reason why people work longer hours is that many of the the vaunted “productivity tools” are actually anti-productivity tools. And, yes, that’s you I’m talking about, Power Point. After all, in the days of the 35 mm slide show, you created your presentation and were stuck with it for six months. With Power Point, you can keep changing it ad infinitum. Without, of course, any resultant benefit to your organization.)

Those at the C-level, of course, continue to enjoy administrative support, which makes plenty of sense:

For someone earning close to $1 million a year, an $80,000-a-year assistant needs to help the boss become only 8 percent more productive for the company to break even. “When workers see the boss loading paper into the copy machine, the theory goes, a ‘we’re all in this together’ spirit is created,” writes the article’s author, Melba Duncan. “But as a management practice, the structure rarely makes economic sense. Generally speaking, work should be delegated to the lowest-cost employee who can do it well.”

When I think about working full-time in my great old age, I sometimes think that it would be fun to work as an admin in some local school – maybe at Suffolk Law or Tufts Medical. If the boss-man (or boss-lady) could live without the dictation, I’d be great: I’m organized, efficient, a decent typist, an excellent editor, a proficient Power Pointer and Exceler, a researcher...

As long as no one asks me to take a memo, Ms. Rogers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What was, up until 2:50 p.m., a glorious day…

Whoever they are, whatever their motive.

May they rot in prison for the remainder of their puny, miserable lives.

Nihilistic bastards.

And guess what?

Next Patriots Day, 27,000+ marathoners will run. And hundreds of thousands folks – locals and tourists – will cheer them on. The Red Sox will play at Fenway to a full house. Kids in tri-corn hats will watch the re-enactment of the battle at Lexington Green.  Etc.

Take that, assholes.


Nothing more to say…

Monday, April 15, 2013

Oh, it’s a jolly holiday in Massachusetts. (No wonder that it’s Massachusetts that we love.)

Today is Patriots’ Day, which is celebrated in Massachusetts and in Maine, probably because Maine used to be part of our fair commonwealth.

Anyway, it’s an all-round wonderful holiday for many reason, including that:

  • It’s quirky and regional.
  • It reminds us of great deeds.
  • Although there’s no guarantee that the weather will be anything other than sucky, it does let us know that spring is just around the corner.
  • It means the Swan Boats are back in the Public Garden.
  • The Boston Marathon is run, and Boston will take on a very cosmopolitan, international city air. Plus, I’ll get to see all the runners walking around with their mylar blankets, looking like baked potatoes.

Patriots’ Day is not our area’s only quirky holiday.

Until recently, Boston city workers got off Evacuation Day (the British left Boston), which conveniently occurred on March 17th, so that the workers could knock off for St. Patrick’s Day without having to be official about it, and Bunker Hill Day. These were unofficially known as “hack holidays” and the city has pretty much done away with them. Which is good, because there’s no reason anyone should get these days off. And which is bad, because it’s one more indicator of the homogenization of local culture, which used to be wicked pissah and is now getting sort of bland.

In any case, I took the occasion to poke around and see what other peculiar holidays different states observe.

In New England, Rhode Island – for whatever reason –celebrates VJ Day (now called Victory Day), while Vermont, quite charmingly, observes Town Meeting Day.

California gets it for diversity, with Caesar Chavez Day and, in Oakland, Korematsu Day, which honors Fred Korematsu, who opposed the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.

Alaska has Seward Day, when they give thanks to William Seward for saving them from being part of Russia. And Hawaii has King Kamehameha Day.

Somewhat predictably, a number of southern states have holidays commemorating the Confederacy.

Texas gives a nod to Confederate Heroes Day, while Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina still observe Confederate Memorial Day. Personally, I think that  - given the somewhat less than glorious associations that surround the Confederacy – this one could maybe be folded in with regular old general-purpose Memorial Day. Alabama also throws in on Jefferson Davis’ birthday, while Georgia – not Virginia – gives a shout-out to Robert E. Lee.

And, remembering the ladies, Susan B. Anthony Day is observed in Florida, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, while Rosa Parks Day is celebrated in Ohio, and Pennsylvania gives Helen Keller a day of her own.

Indiana observes Lincoln’s Birthday – which is February 12th – on the day after Thanksgiving, which makes no conceptual sense, but does provide a nifty four-day weekend.

Illinois quite sensibly celebrates Lincoln’s Birthday on Lincoln’s Birthday. They also have Casimir Pulaski Day.

Hands down, the oddest holiday I came across was Śmigus-Dyngus, which is a big deal, apparently, in Buffalo New York, and in the states of  Indiana, Michigan and North Dakota.

Śmigus-Dyngus (also known as lany poniedziałek, meaning "Wet Monday") is a celebration held on Easter Monday in Poland. It is also observed by Polish diaspora communities, particularly among Polish Americans, who call it Dyngus Day….Traditionally, boys throw water over girls and spank them with pussy willow branches on Easter Monday, and girls do the same to boys on Easter Tuesday. This is accompanied by a number of other rituals, such as making verse declarations and holding door-to-door processions, in some regions involving boys dressed as bears. The origins of the celebration are uncertain, but it may date to pagan times (before 1000 AD); it is described in writing as early as the 15th century. It continues to be observed in central Europe, and also in the United States, where certain patriotic American elements have been added to the traditional Polish ones. (Source: Wikipedia.)

Throwing water on people, flogging them with pussy willow branches, reciting verse, and boys dressed as bears? Move over, Casimir Pulaski, have we got a holiday for you.


Source for holiday info: InfoPlease and Wikipedia.

Here’s how Pink Slip commemorated “the shot heard round the world” in 2011. (Last year I was in Rome, where – for obvious reasons – they don’t celebrate this day of days.)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Scott London: yet another white-collar bonehead who’s wrecked his life for next to nothing

This week has, as always, brought with it enough life-wrecking news to satisfy the most avid WTF-seekers among us.

The other day, it was a posse of drunken Boston College seniors who, while reveling on St. Patrick’s Eve, broke into an apartment and trashed it, causing $25K worth of damage.  Of course, given that the damage wasn’t quite enough, they went into the basement of the building and tore a dryer off the wall, severing the gas line and starting a gas leak. They were caught because one of the crew, feeling a bit of post-rampage accountability, called the gas company to report the leak.

Not clear what BC will be doing about these about-to-graduate boyos, but, since there doesn’t appear to be any statute of limitations on Internet “news”, prospective employers and prospective in-laws will no doubt be finding out about them for a good long time to come. The good news is that, perhaps when we approach a zettabyte or yottabyte of data per capita, someone will decide that most “Big Data” is boge data, not worth paying the storage fees on. (Not to mention that at some point all this nonsense data is going to start getting just too big to search.)

Anyway, yesterday brought the news that a former KPMG auditor is being charged by the Department of Justice for passing on confidential info to a pal, who used it to make a bit of walking around money by doing a little insider trading.

Scott London, the info provider, didn’t get all that much for his troubles  - except, perhaps, the good long prison sentence that awaits him. Nope, London sold himself up the river in an orange jumpsuit for:

…about $25,000 in cash, a Rolex watch and fancy dinners, London said in an interview with The Times. (Source: LA Times.)

Although he’s also likely to have the benefit of an upcoming orange jumpsuit fitting, London’s golfing buddy made out better:

…Bryan Shaw, an Encino jeweler, …used the information to make about $1 million in stock trades on the two companies.

Those two companies were Herbalife and Skechers, by the way.

The fact that Herbalife may well be a pyramid scheme, well…ain’t life grand?

The criminal complaint filed in federal court Thursday also portrays London as far more culpable and intimately involved in all details of the trading scandal than he had previously acknowledged with The Times and other media outlets.

In some cases, London called Shaw two to three days before press releases of KPMG clients were issued and read him the details that would soon be made public. He also tipped him off to mergers and even strategized with Shaw on how to conceal his trading so that the two would not be caught.

Shaw apparently didn’t do such a good job at “concealing his trading”. The Feds got suspicious about his uncanny market-timing on Skechers and Herbalife, so Shaw was nailed first. It almost goes without saying that he went all full-cooperation/state’s ev. So if he does do time, it will probably be shorter than London’s.

With Shaw’s cooperation, the Feds set up a sting operation involving a bag of cash, handed by Shaw to London in a Starbuck’s. (I’ll have a Venti Latte and a sack of loot, please.)

Both Shaw and London are mea-culpa-ing all over the place.


I cannot begin to apologize for my incredibly stupid actions. There is no excuse for my wrongful conduct. I accept full and complete responsibility for what I have done and know that I will spend the rest of my life trying to make up for my tragic lapses of judgment…I expect that my actions will result in significant civil and criminal consequences, but I realize that this is the painful price I will pay for my transgressions."


"Every day since this occurred I'm saying to myself how stupid I am…I have no idea what I was thinking. I don't know why there was a lapse of judgment but there was."

London said he barely benefited.

"I gained very little," London said. "He gained a lot and yet I bore all the risk."

Advantage Shaw on his my-bad. And note to London: yes, Shaw gained a lot more than you did – it cost him $25K and a Rolex to make $1M? That’s a dandy looking ROI – but you, in fact, did not bear all the risk. But that’s neither here nor there.

The question is how did a couple of middle-aged, middle-of-the-road golfing buds decide that this might be a good idea?

London was a CPA, a KPMG partner. Surely he could have afforded his own Rolex.  Did he just want to play the show-off, the guy in the know, with his old pal Bryan Shaw?

And what’s Shaw’s story? Was he sick of being the wholesaler who couldn’t afford the big rocks he was wholesaling?

$25K and a Rolex?  Even a million bucks?

Bernie Madoff’s scheming almost makes sense: he was living really large!

But these two-bit crooks?

What a couple of bone heads: careers in shambles, families humiliated, and a good many years of regrets (some behind bars) ahead of them.

Maybe the love of money really is the root of all evil. (Or at least a good part of it.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

See North Korea and Die

Ever since former NBA “star” Dennis Rodman – God’s fool or what? – spun over to Pyongyang to buddy up with Kim Jong Un, I’ve been keeping half an eye on what up in North Korea. My interest has, of course, escalated over the last couple of weeks, as Kim Jong Un’s madness has escalated.

I don’t feel bad that I’m scratching my head over what his intentions might be. Apparently, the folks in the State Department who are expert in things North Korean are scratching their heads as well.

If he’s not “just” sabre rattling for some internal political purposes, and he’s really daffy enough to launch a nuclear strike on South Korea or the US, all I can think of is that, as the third generation “leader” to brutalize, brainwash, and starve (physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, culturally) his countrymen, he’d only nuke us in the hopes that we’d nuke him back, then run in with a souped up Marshall Plan and rebuild his country.

Scary, indeed.

But while I was roaming around trying to find out the latest Kim Jong Un news, I stumbled across the website for the mendaciously-named Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Anyway, the website is a combo-package of tourist boosting, business development, and online store.

Having chosen – for whatever limelight-licking reason - to tour North Korea, Dennis Rodman is, apparently, what my father used to call a “mental midget”.

Who other than a mental midget would want to spend time in Pyongyang?

Pyongyang is the replica of past, present and future of the country, which one can learn and experience the history, brilliant culture, wisdom, talents and gorgeous manners of the Korean people as well as the breathtaking city views.

…It is blessed with Mangyongdae, native home of President Kim Il Sung and Kim Il Sung University where the revolutionary achievements of General Kim Jong II are associated. Pyongyang is richer in monumental structures including the Grand Monument on Mansu Hill and the Tower of Juche Idea.

Just how grand is the Grand Monument on Mansu Hill?

See for yourself:

The Grand Monument on Mansu Hill shows in formative art the immortal history of the Korean people who conducted revolution under the leadership of President Kim Il Sung.

That would be Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, I believe. (And we get unnerved by the prospect of rising generations of Kennedys and Bushes!)

Then there’s the Monument to Party Founding,party_founding a design depicting “the hammer, sickle and brush seized by a worker, a farmer, and an intellectual.”

Just what is there about totalitarian countries that make them go in for such ghastly and soulless “art”, so devoid of any spirit, wit, or beauty? This is not, of course, particular to North Korea. I’ve been to East Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, and have seen plenty of remnants of the monumental works erected under the Communist regimes. As if living under one of them wouldn’t have been depressing, terrifying, and spirit-crushing enough, without the oversized reminders.

For a change of pace, there’s the Spy Ship Pueblo, which those of you who were around in the late 1960’s may remember.  Let’s hope that nowadays we have more sophisticated means of keeping tabs on just what North Korea is up to. 
More interested in business development?
The DPR of Korea (North Korea) will become in the next years the most important hub for trading in North-East Asia. 
Not at the rate they’re going, I’m afraid.
Lowest labour cost in Asia.
Now that I can believe. When there’s nothing to eat, and nothing to buy, well, that has a tendency to keep wages down.
Highly qualified, loyal and motivated personnel. Education, housing and health service is provided free to all citizens. As opposed to other Asian countries, worker's will not abandon their positions for higher salaries once they are trained.
Now that I can believe, too.
Which reminds me of the old joke about the USSR.
How are things going, Ivan?
Can’t complain.
Stable. A government with solid security and very stable political system, without corruption. 
Well, I guess the part about stability is true.

Then there’s the online shop, where for a mere 2DVD Mass Gymnastics 60 Anniversary5 Euro, you can purchase the DVD of the 60 Anniversary of Mass Gymnastics.Or an English-subtitled version of the movie The Blood Stained Route Map. (Perhaps it loses something in the translation.)  The movie Song of Retrospection also sounds like a good one. (English subtitles! New!)  Perhaps O DVD Movie Song of Retrospection (ENG Sub)Youth would be more to your liking. (Also subtitled. Also new!) Or A Forest Is Swaying.

Something tells me, of course, that Kim Jong Un and the other North Korean elites don’t do much singing of the song of retrospection or introspection. Plus I bet they get to choose from a broader array of DVD’s. Can you imagine what the average culture starved North Korean would make of Netflix?

Nothing to do with movies, but I was in Berlin a couple of months after The Wall fell, and the KaDeWe – (West) Berlin’s answer to Harrod’s – was thronged with East Berliners walking through the food halls just gaping at the goodies.

Right about now, North Korea is a plenty scary place.

Let’s just hope that the current Cherished Leader is not so insane that he’s willing to set off World War III, annihilating what there is of his country in the process.

How is it that there can be so many comic aspects to something that is so terribly tragic?  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Buy it by the pound. (Samoa Air weighs in.)

Man years – and many pounds – ago, when I was less reluctant to reveal my weight to anyone other my primary care physician, I had occasional occasion to fly into Westchester Airport.  I can’t remember the airline that I flew, but I do recall that the plane was some type of Fokker that resembled nothing so much as a refrigerator. I know little about aerodynamics, but what I did know led me to be amazed that these planes were capable of becoming airborne.

Some of what it took was adjusting the seating plan.

When you checked in to get your seat assignment, the clerk would ask you what you weighed – or size you up. You were then assigned a seat so that the plane was balanced.

While I was doing regular business travel, I was also on a flight – still on the ground – when they announced that, unless the plane was able to shed a few LB’s – I think the magic number was 1,800 – the headwinds were such that we wouldn’t make it to Dallas without a refueling stop. I can’t remember what the incentive was, but they got a few folks to exit, and we made it to Big D without making a stop in Charlotte. (I do remember at the time being surprised that the level of tolerance was fine enough that as little as 1,800 pounds made a difference in our ability to get from Point A to Point D.)

Fast forward a few years – and a few pounds – and my husband and I were in Galway. We decided to take a day trip to the island of Inishmore and, rather than take the floating vomitorium (which we had experienced on an earlier trip), we thought we’d take flight. The plane was almost literally a puddle jumper. From Connemara International Airport in Rossaveal, you could see Inishmore.

Anyway, we made our reservations in Galway City, and the person in the tourist office told us that, when we got to the airport, we would be weighed. Since I knew quite well that I would not be found wanting, I laughed and told the clerk that it wouldn’t be possible for me to lose ten pounds by the next morning.

“Sure, the scale is all very discreet,” she charmingly assured me.

If you are familiar with the concept of the Irish whisper, you will have some idea what the Irish notion of “discreet” is.

Sure and didn’t the Rossaveal scale have a screen the size of Big Ben’s clock face? And wasn’t it there smack dab in the waiting room, facing the row of chairs where the passengers awaited the boarding call?


For some reason, perhaps because the pilot was able to size us up, perhaps because there were only three passengers: me, Jim, and a woman from Milwaukee named Sheila, they ended up not weighing us for the 10 minute flight.

Given my weighty history of flight, I was interested to read that Samoa Air is going to start charging by the pound.

Customers flying Samoan upstart carrier Samoa Air Ltd. on short international hops to neighboring American Samoa are set to pay US$0.92 per kilogram, or $0.42 a pound, for each flight. (Source: WSJ Online.)

This could prove embarrassing on your expense account, when your colleague put in for $50 for her ticket, and you were looking for reimbursement for, well, more.

But on these small planes, it seems to make absolute sense.

This is especially the case in Samoa, where more than half of all adults are obese, making passenger weight no small concern for an airline with a fleet of planes that have three to ten seats a piece.

That means a significantly overweight passenger could drastically reduce a plane's capacity, which could threaten revenue.

The airline notes that this will help ensure passenger comfort. I’m guessing it will also help ensure passenger safety – hard to image ten majorly girth-ful passengers trying to simultaneously deplane during an emergency.

Passengers booking online with Samoa Air are asked to provide their approximate weight and that of their luggage before being given an estimated fare.

Which is, of course, necessary if you want to have a coherent reservation system.

However, passengers tempted to lie about their weight are warned on the website that they will be weighed ahead of boarding, which is standard practice for passengers boarding very small propeller planes.

Other airlines may not be so tempted to follow suit, “because of discrimination concerns.”

Instead, US carriers make those who don’t fit in a regular coach seat to pay for an extra seat if the flight is full.

I’m not quite sure how this works.

If the flight is full, and a double-wide passenger shows up, where does the extra seat materialize from?

In addition to discrimination concerns, another obstacle in the way of pay-by-the-pound airline pricing for anything other than baggage, is the hassle factor. Having to weigh everyone on a 747 pre-boarding would be a complete drag. Of course, with the sensors available nowadays, it could probably be accomplished while people shuffled along in line. Or with vision technology that could estimate your weight.

Still, I can’t see it happening just quite yet on mainstream airlines.

Nonetheless, it is no fun when you’re seated next to an oversized passenger whose body mass is encroaching on your space, especially given how puny some airline seats have become. It’s also no fun when you’re monkey-in-the-middle, and the arithmetic-challenged travelers on either side of you don’t realize that you are entitled to 2/3’s – not one-half – of each of those armrests that abut your arms.

At least this is the math that works on a three-across. On a five-across, things get trickier. Passengers One and Five get their full solo armrest, plus .2 of the shared armrest. Passengers Two and Four get .8 of the armrest shared with Passenger One or Five, and .4 of the armrest shared with Passenger Three, who is entitled to .6 of each armrest.

Think of how difficult it is to explain this to passengers, let alone confound them with the concept of weight-adjusting – and weight-pricing – everyone on the plane?

But if the day comes for the Big Weigh-In for the Sky, I really do want enough warning to shed that pesky ten pounds of overage.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Annette, Annette, Annette. Annette Funicello passes on.

This has been a sad week for a number of different constituencies.

For Tories, there’s the passing of Dame Margaret (“No Compromise”) Thatcher, who is now out to permanent pasture with Ronald Reagan and John Paul II. I suppose they can pass the time crabbing about liberals.

For those who prized floral shifts in hot pink and lime green, Lily Pulitzer has passed on to the Palm Beach in the Sky.

And for us Baby Boomers who grew up envying the kids in the Mickey Mouse Club, and who craved a trip to Disneyland, Annette Funicello  the nicey-nice-nicest of the original Mouseketeers, has died at the age of 70.

I have always had a special place in my little heart of hearts for Annette. At a time when kids of TV were for the most part blandly WASP-y, Annette was clearly one of us. No, she obviously wasn’t one of us as in Irish Catholic, but she was obviously ethnic and obviously – at least to those of us with refined Catholic radar – a Catholic.

When it came to ethnics, if you set aside for a moment that all of the Mouseketeers were Caucasian, old Walt didn’t shy away from obvious ethnics. In addition to Annette, there were all those Irish boys:  Mouseketeer drummer and dreamboat Cubby O’Brien;  Kevin “Moochy” Corcoran – who looked just like one of the McCullough brothers from around the corner; and über dreamboat Tim Considine, who usually got to be Annette’s boyfriend.

Annette was also the first celebrity I ever saw in person.

When I was seven or eight, the Mouseketeers went on tour, and a subset of the crew came to Worcester to make an appearance at the Stop & Shop in Webster Square.

This was right in our neighborhood, and I felt completely honored that the Mouseketeers – who, of course, could have appeared anywhere – chose our little neck of the woods.

Although the Stop & Shop was less than a 10 minute walk from Our Lady of the Angels Grammar School, it was not the direction we walked home in. So my friend Bernadette’s Aunt Anna picked us up at OLA after school, and drove us down in her little black Rambler.  We got there early, and I was beside myself: Bernadette and I were right at the front of the rope line. We were pretty confident that we were in such prime position that we would likely be the recipients of handshakes, smiles, and maybe even autographed b&w photos. Mouseketeer groupie heaven!

Alas, seeing Annette was not just my first experience with celebrity gawking. It was also my first experience with the madness of crowds, and the teenage boy lust factor.

Because although Bernadette and I got there first, we were soon displaced, pushed back by a wild bunch of twelve and thirteen year old boys – jostling, hollering, near-rabid - hell bent on getting close to (as I figured out a few years later) Annette.

Crestfallen – and asking each other why those big boys were so mean, and why they wanted to see Annette to begin with, since they were clearly too old to be watching the Mickey Mouse Club – we found Aunt Anna, and stood there at the outer reaches of the now cold, now gray, now dreary Stop & Shop parking lot, hoping that we’d at least get a glimpse of the Mouseketeers when their bus arrived.

Well, lucky us!

The bus pulled in just where we were standing, and there Bernadette and I were, a few feet from Jimmie Dodd, MC of the show and one of the two adult Mouseketeers – the other was Roy the cartoonist. Not that we liked Jimmie Dodd. Who actually liked him? Even as kids we found him creepy and phoney. That grin? A leer!

Nonetheless, the thrill of seeing someone as famous as Jimmie Dodd!

A couple of other Mouseketeers followed Jimmie off the bus.

I don’t remember who they were. Darlene Gillespie? Tommy Kirk? Cheryl Holdridge?

I would have remembered if Cubby O’Brien or Tim Considine (my true heartthrob) had been there.

And then, ecce Annette Funicello.

But, but, but…

She didn’t look like our Annette.

She didn’t have her ears on. Or her prim Mouseketeer skirt. Or modest Mouseketeer tee-shirt.

She looked like a movie star. She looked like Liz Taylor. She looked like a grownup!

Sure, Annette was older than we were. We knew that. If Bernadette and I were seven or eight, Annette would have been fourteen or fifteen.

But we didn’t expect the grownup hairdo. We didn’t expect the bright red lipstick. We didn’t expect the full-length, leopard-skin coat.

Apparently, the mob of early-adolescent boys had figured out what to expect. As they used to say, va-va-va-voom.

Anyway, we didn’t get autographs, but we did get to be no more than three or four feet away from Annette.

Annette, as is well known, went on to make Beach Blanket movies. But as my sister Kathleen has pointed out in her wonderful Annette commemorative post over on My Rolled Trousers:

…she and Frankie and the gang were way over on the other side of the Great Cultural Divide of 1967. Summer of Love didn't include any beach blanket bingo as far as I could tell. (Full post is here: Not So Merry Mouseketeers.)

Nope. When Annette was in her early twenties making movies with Frankie Avalon, I was in my teens, snobbily preferring Bob Dylan to the Beatles, and going to Worcester’s Fine Arts Theater to see Bunny Lake Is Missing, Séance on a Wet Afternoon, and other “deep” black and white movies. (Black and white was how you knew they were really deep.)

But if I never went to an Annette-Frankie movie, I never lost my affection for Annette the Mouseketeer. Not the Ava Gardner knock-off in the leopard skin quote, but the nice girl. The sweet girl – remember the Disney serial when Annette came to town to stay with Aunt Lila and Uncle Archie, got dissed by the bitchy Roberta Shore, but she ended up with – tada – drop dead gorgeous Tim Considine. The little Italian girl from Utica, NY, who showed to all the world that an ethnic Catholic could be a Mouseketeer.

By all accounts she was  - in real life – a genuinely nice, sweet, and decent person who died too young. (And, yes, 70 is too young.)

Glad she got to have Tim Considine as her Disney beau.

------------------------------------------- ------------------------------

Cute couple or what?


As for the title of this post, the theme song from the serial Annette used the refrain “Annette, Annette, Annette”.