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robertogreco : absurdity   23

Semantic Drain and the Meaninglessness of Modern Work
"Stop calling your social media manager a "guru""

"When I was on staff at the International Business Times in 2015, I had an editor who hated jargon. "If you use the word 'space,'" he said once, "you better fucking be talking about outer space." I did my part by creating a Jargon Jar. Into the jar clanked coins every time one of us used "content" or "space" or whatever dumb MBA or tech neologism had been handed to us by sources who sounded like—and were mostly nothing more than—hucksters."

[image: @Galadriel1971: "Trust is changing. Companies like Uber are changing the paradigm by distributing trust @rfordonsecurity @ForcepointSec #ForcepointCLF #cybersecurity @fedscooop"]

Really, jargon isn't all that far off from slang—vocabulary in use within a particular industry, as opposed to a more organic culture. Jargon is the reason air traffic control memes are funny in a bewildering sort of way; it is how an industry talks to itself, creating what feels like a subculture in an environment where the elements of real culture are often prohibited. The gradual creep of jargon outside of its intended industries, though, has heralded an even more unsettling linguistic phenomenon: semantic drain.

Languages mutate constantly; the meanings of words can shift dramatically over the course of just a few years. Take the word "stan," which came into popular use as a derogatory term for creepily obsessive fans thanks to an Eminem song about a creepily obsessed fan named Stan.* Creepily obsessed fans, offended, began to use the term themselves, ironically, and now usage in general is borderline positive. It's weird, and I'm not particularly happy about this particular change, but, well, what are you gonna do.

In the last four or five years, though, I have been seeing more and more words permeating the vernacular that do not have any real meaning—or, worse, words that once had a specific, tactile meaning being drained of that meaning by "corporate culture."

"Content" is the offender that springs most readily to mind. It's a catch-all now, hardly better than "stuff," for one-way communication: the listicle, the 6-second video, the 3,000-word article, the 45-minute video essay, the season of television. I use "content" as an insult, to designate writing I do that has no value. It's not the word's fault. Blame the steady descent of journalism into a hell where you're lucky to make $20 for a 300-word post, and the concomitant rise of advertising as the dominant form of communication in our world.

It's no longer enough to be a reporter, an editor—these titles carry with them the feel of specialization, as though their bearers are capable of doing "only" one thing. A "content strategist," though—that implies flexibility, a knowledge of a multitude of disciplines, the fortitude to work with brands, the ability to create video content that brings in far more ad dollars per 1,000 viewers than words alone on a web page.

You can see a couple different etymologies for this new usage. Most online publications have a content management system that contains text and photos and other elements used in stories; journalists love inflicting their jargon onto the public (I am as guilty of this as any). Or take juicy-mummy capitalist Sumner Redstone’s famous declaration that “Content is king”—referring to the actual content of a movie or TV series, as opposed to the delivery method or format. Journalists and analysts and people on television love quoting juicy mummies, and a game of linguistic telephone ensues.

That's how you go from the "contents may be hot" warning to people seriously talking about "content networks." You see the same phenomenon with "solution," "space," and "product;" with "brand," with "talent." The phrase "corporate culture" is a devilish oxymoronic weed, draining the word "culture" of all its vibrancy and significance. Companies offer “solutions” to problems that don’t exist, because there is no other way to describe that they are offering nothing of value. Even "trust" is being slowly marched toward the gaping maw of late-capitalistic semantic drain, thanks to companies like Facebook and Uber.

[image: "The Unlikely Rise of the Pastel de Nata, and Why It’s Suddenly Everywhere]

"Late-capitalistic semantic drain" sounds like its own uniquely hellish bullshit neologism. But I swear it does mean something: the lack of meaning spreading through English, driven by a corporate monoculture devoted solely to profit.

I have a hypothesis that this semantic drain is tied to the meaninglessness of modern work: These companies are co-opting words with tangible meanings and draining them of such to obscure the fact that they rarely produce anything of value to society, and that their employees are spending most of their waking hours performing labor with no meaning.

The plural of "anecdote" is hardly "data," but I find myself overwhelmed by the number of people in my social circle who are having constant work-related breakdowns, or who are chucking aside any notion of having a "career," because they have seen exactly how much of a crock of shit careerism is. That's aside from the number of people I know or have simply spoken to over the last several years who hate their job, who find waking up to go to their job an increasingly unbearable proposition even if it comes with "perks," even if they desperately need the health insurance. It's not just because their boss sucks, or their coworker eats their lunch: Everywhere in America—I won't speak to the rest of the world; but America, I've been all around—you will find people completely alienated from their labor. That is, they find no meaning in half their waking hours,** the ones they spend "working."

I put "working" in quotation marks because the kind of work I'm talking about isn't really work, is it? When you spend three business days creating a PowerPoint presentation using work done by someone else, only to be told by your boss that you fucked up by making the arrows blue instead of red, do you feel any sense of ownership of the thing you've created, or do you simply repeat to yourself that you need this job to make your student loan payments? When you're on your feet for 8 hours carefully re-folding t-shirts that shitty people looked at and then tossed on the floor like some naughty child, or being berated by someone whose credit card was declined thrice, do you feel as though you've "put in a hard day's work"—or that you've spent half your waking hours being slowly crushed by the weight of the service economy? This feels more like toil than work, doesn't it?

This isn't just a feeling held by me and a few of my more radical friends. Anthropologist David Graeber wrote an entire book on the subject of "Bullshit Jobs." Graeber talks a lot in this book about how most jobs are "pointless," and while objective pointlessness is a hallmark of a lot of modern work, I prefer to talk about meaninglessness, because a job can be objectively pointless but still have some meaning or non-monetary value for the person doing it; a job can also be objectively necessary and not provide any meaning to the person doing it. (Not everyone's cut out to be a nurse.)

William Morris' "Useful Work vs. Useless Toil" essay from the late 1800s shows that the Industrial Revolution was raising the specter of meaningless work, so this isn't exactly a brand-new phenomenon. "As to the hope of product, I have said that Nature compels us to work for that," Morris wrote. "It remains for us to look to it that we do really produce something, and not nothing, or at least nothing that we want or are allowed to use."

Yet modern white-collar work is often completely removed from any sort of end product; it's not hard to see why this distance results in a profound sense of alienation. That alienation is exacerbated when the end "product" is consulting services, or "financial services," or denying a person coverage for a medical procedure, or marketing materials that literally less than a dozen people outside the company will read.

[image: @mgoldst: "Design job description red flags:

"high-pressure environment"
"rock star"
"wear multiple hats"
"earning potential"
"possibility of becoming full-time"
"must know (insert ridiculously long list of stuff here)"]

To counteract this alienation, to obscure the fact that these jobs are, as Graeber points out, "pointless," HR departments and startup founders, in particular, have begun to co-opt plenty of perfectly fine words: "Rock star." "Family." "Guru." "Wizard." "Hero." All they really mean is that you need to have a working knowledge of some system or another and no sense of dignity. The job descriptions that involve these words are most frequently found in the tech sector.

"Looking for a rock star coder to join our family," the HR enchantress writes. "Must be a high-performer who wants to disrupt and can wear multiple hats in a fast-paced environment. Free meals and laundry service!"

This description really means the company wants control over every moment of your day, has no idea what it’s actually hiring you to do, and will never reward you for exceeding expectations, because firstly there aren’t any and secondly you’re supposed to be a rock star, and so should always be exceeding expectations as a matter of course. The HR enchantress is attempting to blind you to this reality with words for things you aspire to in your life, but which you will never achieve (rock star-dom, family), especially if you take this job at a company attempting to create an app that performs the emotional labor your mother used to perform (Mothr).

Let me reiterate: These job descriptions are meaningless because the jobs themselves have no meaning.

[image: @Lucas_Shaw: "Pretty odd to see Hulu, owned by companies with a combined $400B, welcoming "rebels" to a carefully orchestrated advertising event."]

This semantic drain goes far beyond… [more]
2019  orianaschwindt  language  jargon  siliconvalley  words  titles  absurdity  latecapitalism  hucksters  gurus  late-capitalisticsemanticdrain  semantics  work  labor  corporatism  corporations 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Carol Black on Twitter: "I'm sorry, but this is delusional. If you don't read the book the first time for rhythm and flow, just *read* it, you haven't read the book. You have dissected it. This is like the vivisection of literature. There is no author ali
"I'm sorry, but this is delusional. If you don't read the book the first time for rhythm and flow, just *read* it, you haven't read the book. You have dissected it. This is like the vivisection of literature. There is no author alive who would want their book read this way."

"Look, the reality is that most people do not want to analyze literature. It's a specialty interest, a niche thing. There is absolutely no reason all people should have to do this. By forcing it we just create an aversion to books.

[@SOLEatHome "Would you consider someone re-reading a book they love and noticing things they missed the first time analysis? It at least fits what has come to be known as "close reading""]

Kids who become writers (or filmmakers, or musicians) re-read, re-watch, re-listen to their favorite things repetitively, obsessively. They internalize structure, rhythm, characterization, language, vocabulary, dialogue, intuitively, instinctively.

Close reading & analysis is a separate activity, it requires a whole different stance / attitude toward the book. It can enhance this deeper intuitive understanding or it can shut it down, turn it into something mechanical & disengaged.

I think it's a huge mistake to push this analytical stance on children when they are too young. I was an English major, & I don't think I benefited from it until college. Younger kids should just find things they love & process them in ways that make sense to them.

This is one of the many delusional things about the way literature is taught in HS. The reality is you have to read a book at the *bare minimum* twice in order to do meaningful analysis. But there is never time for this. So we just club the thing to death on the first reading.

One of the principal things a writer does is to work incredibly hard at refining the way one sentence flows into the next, one chapter springboards off the last. To experience this as a reader you have to immerse yourself, turn off the analytical brain, just *read* the damn book.

To insert analysis into this process on a first reading is like watching a film by pausing every couple of minutes to make notes before continuing. It's fine to do that in later study, but if you do it the first time through you've destroyed everything the filmmaker worked for."

[@irasocol: How a teacher destroys not just reading but culture. Can we let kids experience an author's work without dissection? How I tried to address this in 2012... "]

[This was in repsonse to a thread that began with:

"This thread details a real school assignment that was asked of a high school student to do while reading a book they hadn't read before. I assure you this is is not something isolated to one school:


Inside front cover: major character with space for...

...character summaries, page reference for key scenes or moments of character development. Evidently these are enormous books.

Inside Back Cover: list of themes, allusions, images, motifs, key scenes, plot line, epiphanies, etc. Add pg. references or notes. List vocab words...

...if there's still room. (big books or small writing?)

Start of each chapter: do a quick summary of the chapter. Title each chapter as soon as you finish it, esp. if the chapters don't have titles.

Top margins: plot notes/words phrases that summarize. Then go back...

...and mark the chapter carefully (more on these marks to come)

Bottom and side margins: interpretive notes, questions, remarks that refer to the meaning of the page (???). Notes to tie in w/ notes on inside back cover

Header: Interpretive notes and symbols to be used...

...underline or highlight key words, phrases, sentences that are important to understanding the work
questions/comments in the margins--your conversation with the text
bracket important ideas/passages
use vertical lines at the margin to emphasize what's been already marked...

...connect ideas with lines or arrows
use numbers in the margin to indicate the sequence of points the author makes in developing a single argument
use a star, asterisk, or other doo-dad at the margin--use a consistent symbol--(presumably to not mix up your doo-dads?) to... used sparingly to emphasize the ten or twenty most important statements in the book.
Use ???for sections/ideas you don't understand
circle words you don't know. Define them in the margins (How many margins does a page have?)
A checkmark means "I understand"...

...use !!! when you come across something new, interesting or surprising
And other literary devices (see below)

You may want to mark:
Use and S for Symbols: a symbol is a literal thing that stands for something else which help to discover new layers of thinking...

Use an I for Imagery, which includes words that appeal to the five senses. Imagery is important for understanding an authors message and attitudes
Use an F for Figurative Language like similes, metaphors, etc., which often reveal deeper layers of meaning...

Use a T for Tone, which is the overall mood of the piece. Tone can carry as much meaning as the plot does.
Use a Th for Theme: timeless universal ideas or a message about life, society, etc.
Plot elements (setting, mood, conflict)
Diction (word choice)

The end. ::sighs::"]
carolblack  irasocol  howweread  reading  literature  closereading  2018  school  schooliness  education  absurdity  literaryanalysis  writers  writing  howwewrite  filmmaking  howwelearn  academia  academics  schools  unschooling  deschooling  analysis  understanding  repetition  experience  structure  rhythm  characterization  language  vocabulary  dialogue  noticing  intuition  instinct  film  flow 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Post-apocalyptic life in American health care | Meaningness

• Much of my time for the past year has been spent navigating the medical maze on behalf of my mother, who has dementia.

• I observe that American health care organizations can no longer operate systematically, so participants are forced to act in the communal mode, as if in the pre-modern world.

• Health care is one leading edge of a general breakdown in systematicity—while, at the same time, employing sophisticated systematic technologies.

• Communal-mode interpersonal skills may become increasingly important to life success—not less, as techies hope.

• For complex health care problems, I recommend hiring a consultant to provide administrative (not medical!) guidance.

Epistemic status: impressionistic blogging during a dazed lull between an oncologist and an MRI. No attempt to validate with statistical data or knowledgeable sources."

"It’s like one those post-apocalyptic science fiction novels whose characters hunt wild boars with spears in the ruins of a modern city. Surrounded by machines no one understands any longer, they have reverted to primitive technology.

Except it’s in reverse. Hospitals can still operate modern material technologies (like an MRI) just fine. It’s social technologies that have broken down and reverted to a medieval level.

Systematic social relationships involve formally-defined roles and responsibilities. That is, “professionalism.” But across medical organizations, there are none. Who do you call at Anthem to find out if they’ll cover an out-of-state SNF stay? No one knows.

What do you do when systematicity breaks down? You revert to what I’ve described as the “communal mode” or “choiceless mode.” That is, “pre-modern,” or “traditional” ways of being.

Working in a medical office is like living in a pre-modern town. It’s all about knowing someone who knows someone who knows someone who can get something done. Several times, I’ve taken my mother to a doctor who said something like: “She needs lymphedema treatment, and the only lymphedema clinic around here is booked months in advance, but I know someone there, and I think I can get her in next week.” Or, “The pathology report on this biopsy is only one sentence, and it’s unsigned. The hospital that faxed it to me doesn’t know who did it. I need details, so I called all the pathologists I know, and none of them admit to writing it, so we are going to need to do a new biopsy.”

But at the same time, each clinic does have an electronic patient records management system, which does work some of the time. And there are professional relationships with defined roles that operate effectively within the building.

I suspect increasing “patchiness” of systems may be typical of our post-systematic atomized era. Understanding the medical case may help predict the texture of cultural and social life as atomization proceeds.

A central research topic in ethnomethodology is the relationship between formal rationality (such as an insurance company’s 1600 pages of unworkable rules) and “mere reasonableness,” which is what people mostly use to get a job done. The disjunction between electronic patient records and calling around town to try to find out who wrote a biopsy report that arrived by fax seems sufficiently extreme that it may produce a qualitatively new way of being.

I would like to ask:

• How does health care continue to function at all?

• Can it continue to function at all?

• How do people within the ex-system navigate a world that mashes up high-tech infrastructure that only sometimes works with pre-modern social relationships across organizations?

• How do they understand this contrast? How do they cope personally?1

• What can we do about it?"

"Perhaps American health care is a bellwether model for the future of other aspects of life in post-systemic world? A pattern that occurs in many other sectors: as systems fail, people fall back on innate communal logic. Politics and the media are obvious current examples."
us  healthcare  systems  2017  medicine  davidchapman  medicalcostdisease  costdisease  economics  bureaucracy  communication  politics  absurdity  media 
january 2018 by robertogreco
John Berger and Susan Sontag / To Tell A Story (1983) - YouTube
"John Berger and Susan Sontag exchange ideas on the 'lost art' of storytelling, 1983."

[via: "Art for him was never something apart from the business of being alive. He was grounded. He struck me as a man who was both supremely astute and perceptive, and a sentimentalist. He could be a wonderfully engaging companion. A 1983 television debate with Susan Sontag – both wrestling with what a story could be – remains electrifying, mostly because they were both struggling with thoughts and ideas rather than trading certainties." ]
johnberger  susansontag  1983  storytelling  oral  oraltradition  howwethink  thinking  companionship  listening  conversation  certainty  uncertainty  conformity  reality  absurdity  meaning  fantasy 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Anti-terror plan to spy on toddlers 'is heavy-handed’ - Telegraph
"Nursery staff and childminders are given 'duty' to report toddlers they suspect of being at risk of becoming terrorists under new Home Office measures"
children  education  government  terrorism  uk  2015  absurdity 
january 2015 by robertogreco
miscellany - "The more we persist in misunderstanding the...
The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life…the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity, and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not. Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds, and join in the general dance.

—Thomas Merton, from New Seeds of Contemplation

Dear Self: so yeah, today’s a birthday. You’re doing the smart thing, paying down on the sleep debt you’ve accrued for the past week or so (20 hours of shut-eye over six nights? Seriously?), reflecting on the time that’s passed since the last time you were here, thinking on how you might invest the next 365 days. Time to remember all the steps you take towards your better self. Today’s theme is rededication. But don’t spend all afternoon. The sun’s shining, and the skies are blue— invitation to get outside and soak it all in. Or, as Merton says, join the general dance."
thomasmerton  contemplation  life  living  purpose  focus  mindfulness  presence  sadness  absurdity  despair 
june 2014 by robertogreco
How ‘platooning’ and data walls are changing elementary school
"Given the obsession with assessment measures in public schools, it’s not surprising that mastering the ‘art’ of data walls is becoming a preoccupation of teachers. Blogs and other popular resource magazines encourage teachers to create student data cards that can be easily moved to reflect new assessment data in each child’s ‘dynamic’ race-to-the-top (of the wall). Reform ‘experts’ and administrators who advocate ‘making data public’ offer no research support for this practice and mistakenly believe that a scoreboard style visual will motivate teachers and students. Nearly as disturbing, is the growing trend among teachers to proudly post their data walls on pinterest. Note that this website advertises itself as “a tool for collecting and organizing things you love.” Is this what we want our elementary teachers to love? Is this really how taxpayers want their teachers to be spending their professional time?

Many educators and concerned citizens see data walls as a reprehensible way to shame and humiliate children, and not all communities are willing to comply. Agustin Morales, an English teacher at Maurice A. Donahue Elementary School in Holyoke, Massachusetts, opposes data walls along with many colleagues in his district, citing them as a cruel way to put students’ vulnerabilities on display in a high stakes testing climate, or, what teacher educator Barbara Madeloni describes as “predatory educational reform.”

Another elementary school “‘innovation” that prioritizes test scores over children is “platooning,” which ends the long-standing primary grade practice of homerooms where a teacher works with the same group of students throughout the year in all of the major subject areas. Instead, each group of students, or “platoon,” moves every 45 minutes or so to a different classroom to receive instruction from a “teacher specialist” in math, language arts, social studies, science, music, art and physical education. Under platooning, even teachers of our youngest schoolchildren are no longer charged with knowing, caring for, and understanding the nuances of their students; instead, teachers deliver specialized content that students are expected to absorb in discrete, ever more hurried periods of time. Ironically, 30 minutes of each school day is lost during these many hallway transitions.

What has precipitated platooning for children as young as 5 and 6 years old and radically altered a core feature of elementary schools? Once again, high-stakes testing and the penalties that face teachers and administrators, especially under the new Common Core State Standards, drives the creation of what could be described as elementary school boot camps for high stakes testing. Platooning students has been underway in many fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms for the last decade as administrators try to game escalating testing pressure in language arts and math by having their “best” teachers instruct all students in these two areas. The remaining grade level teachers are assigned the social studies and science curricula; however, much of their time was and continues to be spent supplementing the efforts of their language arts and math colleagues (again, to improve test scores in these two areas)."

"Who exactly is willing to publicly defend platooning, a school practice that has early elementary teachers and students chasing high-stakes test scores that don’t even begin until third grade, and requires young children to walk the halls 30 minutes of each day to reach their teachers? Do the children of our national leaders and affluent parents who send their kids to private schools get platooned like this, or have their educational experiences reduced to index cards on data walls? Of course not. Why don’t we, as a nation, demand that all students be given the educational opportunities that the children of many national leaders receive at private and affluent public schools?"
via:ablerism  us  education  testing  standardizedtesting  edreform  2014  platooning  pinterest  competition  publishaming  teaching  joeonosko  paulasalvio  cliostearns  policy  absurdity 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Talentism: My Son Won't Do His Homework
"My entire family was completely enthralled by what he had done. It was not only artistically creative and engaging, it actually helped clear up the very nature of the project. Justly proud, we anxiously looked forward to hearing how his teacher responded.

My son returned home from school downcast, shuffling his feet. I asked him what was wrong. “My teacher didn’t like the project, because I put it on the wrong size paper.”"

"But school doesn’t care, because school does not have the objective of helping my son produce the maximum amount of value in the future that he will probably encounter. School cares about ensuring that he knows how to take tests, follow directions and can do math that he will never have to care about for the rest of his life. School cares that he can either prove that he is worthy of being in the top 5% that will go on to be homogenized and brainwashed in a top-notch school so that they are almost completely without originality of thought or perspective or that he gets the hell out of the way for those kids that meet that description. School cares that he can be measured and managed, so that he will be a good little cog in a habitual big wheel.

As a parent I am caught between two worlds. I am 100% certain that school is doing great damage to his future prospects, but I also know that the game is rigged to be in favor of kids who get the right grades. Because recruiters can’t seem to get off the “experience and education” kick that does so much damage to our society and our children, I know that my children’s future job prospects are being controlled by people who have never once taken a critical look at what really goes into producing value for a business or market. They just know that their client (the hiring manager) told them they wanted somebody from Stanford with a certain GPA. And if they can get that butt in that seat they can then go deal with the next client."

[Conclusion is deeply flawed and defeatist.]
homework  absurdity  2007  parenting  school  schooling  education 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Friedrich Knauss - Google+ - "Your entire career will be based on a the equivalent of single tweet."
"CST tests.

60 multiple choice questions for each student.

4 choices for each question.

That's 2 bits per question. 15 (8 bit) bytes per student. The sum total of how we look at their success.

Those 30 bytes get turned into a score between 150 & 600. 450 points (9 bits), except it's not. Because of weighting and quantization, you only get 160ish discrete scores. That's down to under 8 bits per student. (Probably appropriate, because the questions are unique from one level to next, so information about an individual response doesn't correlate to any particular response from the next year).

If a teacher has 28 kids in 5 periods, that's 140 students. 1120 bits of data to evaluate their entire performance for a year.

NY has decided that test scores will count for 40% of a teachers evaluation, & an unsatisfactory rating on test scores prohibits anything except an unsatisfactory rating for the other 60%.

Your entire career will be based on a the equivalent of single tweet."
2012  schooliness  schools  education  testscores  performance  numbers  data  absurdity  assessment  evaluation  tests  standardizedtesting  testing 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Furor en Twitter por historia de Ripetti, el policía semidesnudo
"El ex Carabinero fue removido de su cargo por negarse a cumplir una orden superior. Su caso es uno de los temas más comentados del día." [With video]

[How did I miss this a couple weeks ago?]

[Same video also here: and here: ]
chile  carabineros  police  lawenforcement  absurdity  2011  ripetti  rights  law  abuseofpower  heroes  arturoripettipeña 
august 2011 by robertogreco
YouTube - TEDxEastsidePrep - Shawn Cornally - The Future of Education Without Coercion
[These are killing learning in schools]

No product = Failure [Product is emphasized over process]

What if they don't do anything? [Worry that they won't learn anything if given control of their learning]

3.9 ≠ 4.0 [Loss of motivation, feeling beyond recovery, no meaning]
education  learning  schools  tcsnmy  success  failure  science  teaching  process  productoverprocess  processoverproduct  time  scheduling  schedules  classschedules  2011  shawncornally  inquiry  inquiry-basedlearning  questioning  student-led  student-initiated  openstudio  unschooling  coercion  deschooling  motivation  intrinsicmotivation  extrinsicmotivation  overjustification  schooliness  schooling  creativity  absurdity  wonder  colleges  universities  admissions  gameofschool  playingschool  alfiekohn 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Liz Kuball › California Vernacular
"When you move out to California from back east, you come for a reason… what you find when you get here is that things aren’t what you thought they’d be. There’s some of what you expected…But there’s more: houses w/ cacti & succulents in place of the green lawns you grew up w/; women in bikinis climbing ladders; trees groomed in an archway, the expected path btwn them blocked by a gateless chain-link fence. You answer an ad on craigslist for a used car & find yourself in a boxed-in car lot in Van Nuys & go for pie at Du-par’s afterward, because pie makes sense when you’re on Ventura Boulevard & it’s 95 degrees & the car wasn’t what the ad said it would be. & you’d think that, after all this, you’d become disillusioned & go back home, & some do, of course, but many more of us stay & instead of growing bitter, we hang on—hang on to a world that, to us, is even more fantastic than the one we thought we’d find, because it’s real in its absurdity & because we have stories to tell."
california  losangeles  sandiego  cv  lizkuball  place  surprise  socal  absurdity  reality  photography  disillusionment 
june 2011 by robertogreco
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows — wytai
"wytai: acronym [“when you think about it”]. a feature of modern society that suddenly strikes you as absurd and grotesque—from zoos and milk-drinking to organ transplants, life insurance and fiction—part of the faint background noise of absurdity that reverberates from the moment our ancestors first crawled out of the slime but could not for the life of them remember what they got up to do."<br />
<br />
[via: ]
absurdity  wytai  society  history  human  humans  life  living 
may 2011 by robertogreco
Chile: pagar por trabajar | AméricaEconomía - El sitio de los negocios globales de América Latina
"Vengo del supermercado LIDER (retailer chileno) y los universitarios que empaquetan las mercancías me dicen que deben pagar por ese trabajo. Así es. Ni más ni menos. Son CH$500 (casi un dólar) por cada turno de tres horas, una camisa por CH$5.000 (cerca de US$10) y el polerón de invierno que vale CH$10.000 (cerca de US$20).

El pago lo recibe Universitarios Everest, empresa externa subcontratada por los ejecutivos del supermercado LIDER, que se lava las manos frente a esta obscenidad. A cambio de esos pagos, los jóvenes empacadores reciben la caridad de los clientes, vale decir la propina voluntaria.

No conozco en el mundo otro país en que se pague por trabajar. Este es el extremo de la denominada flexibilidad laboral. Como no se ha podido eliminar el salario mínimo, ideal del neoliberalismo, el sistema ha encontrado subterfugios; en este caso, se aprovecha de la necesidad y fragilidad de los jóvenes pobres para minimizar el costo del trabajo."
economics  work  labor  chile  absurdity  "universitarios"  lider  supermarkets  gratuities  tipping  paytowork  alwaysfoundthistobestrange  2010 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Inside the world's most annoying economic crisis. - By Joe Keohane - Slate Magazine
"It's taken for granted that the peso coin is more valuable than the 2-peso note. " ... "The history of Argentina in the last 100 years is a story of great potential overwhelmed by a genius for acts of pointless economic self-destruction, but even for the Argentines, this is an exasperating state of affairs. The economy is still growing at a robust clip of around 8 percent year over year, but out-of-control inflation, estimated by independent analysts to be around 25 percent, has effectively devalued the currency, making it ironic that coins have become such an obsession. But an obsession they are, worthy of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges' story "The Zahir," about a man driven mad by contemplating a single coin." ... "In some cases, 5s and 10s are effectively worth more than 100s... Save for large purchases, 100-peso notes are functionally useless—imagine trying to trade a bar of platinum bullion for a sandwich and a coffee."
argentina  currency  absurdity  economics  inflation  politics  crisis  culture  money 
february 2009 by robertogreco
Corruption in textbook-adoption proceedings: 'Judging Books by Their Covers' [via:]
"In 1964 the eminent physicist Richard Feynman served on the State of California's Curriculum Commission and saw how the Commission chose math textbooks for use in California's public schools. In his acerbic memoir of that experience, titled "Judging Books by Their Covers," Feynman analyzed the Commission's idiotic method of evaluating books, and he described some of the tactics employed by schoolbook salesmen who wanted the Commission to adopt their shoddy products."
textbooks  richardfeynman  pedagogy  schools  corruption  education  learning  language  humor  mathematics  physics  science  politics  teaching  absurdity  perpetualabsurdity 
october 2008 by robertogreco
YouTube - Bird and Fortune - Subprime Crisis
"John Bird and John Fortune (the Long Johns) brilliantly, and accurately, describing the mindset of the investment banking community in this satirical interview." ... and from months ago.
humor  crisis  meltdown  finance  absurdity  economics  markets  subprime  2008 
october 2008 by robertogreco
Tourists on the march |
"Martin Parr uses his camera to capture the absurd moments of global tourism."
books  photography  tourism  absurdity  travel 
november 2007 by robertogreco
Marginal Revolution: In favor of boring meetings [He's wrong]
"In other words, meetings are fundamentally a form of "social theater" and should be analyzed as such. Now if only speakers had to pay by the minute..."
meetings  absurdity  work  administration  people  social  management 
september 2007 by robertogreco

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