Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Finding Wall Street Funny - Part 7

SJ + JG = BS

Scarlett Johansson graces the cover of my latest greatest punching bag, the April edition of the Wall Street Journal Magazine. “Scarlett Johansson does it her way” reads the trite teaser down in the corner. I suspect the cadre of writers who became the billionth entity to use that one were trying to set a certain tone for their feature article: Scarlett’s supposed no-nonsense, to hell with societal expectations, Look you middle-class low-life, go pay your taxes style of straight shooting.

It also seems meant to imply that Miss Johansson’s accomplishments have all come of that damn-the-torpedoes attitude we’d all love to emulate if only it didn’t mean ending up at the unemployment office. Yet we learn – if we do our research – that dear Scarlett’s skin was too thin for rejection at those TV commercial auditions so her mommy agreed to drag her only to movie casting tryouts.

If you’ve been following this bonfire of vanity (and who hasn’t?) you are already well-aware that WSJ is clearly bent on feeding its readers page after stultifying page of bull turds, and Jason Gay, who picks up the pen for this feature on Miss Scarlett, wastes no time in exchanging that pen for a shovel.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Finding Wall Street Funny - Part 6

Palatial Inheritance & The Shallow End of the Gene Pool

Failed CEO Laudomia Pucci.
Laudomia Pucci lives in a 15th Century, 150-acre estate in the Tuscan countryside. From the pose she strikes in the photo on page 85 of the Wall Street Journal Magazine that we simply can not stop making fun of, it is difficult to tell whether she feels embarrassed and awkward or stupidly entitled. She inherited the estate and the family’s fashion business in 1989 at the ripe age of 29 and, as stated in the article Fortress of Fashion (a title which will become clearly ironic in a minute), “took over both the business and creative sides.” As the next (and, one writer predicts, last) in a long line of fashion conquistadors, she found her unearned responsibility "a challenge.”

Presumably because working for Daddy all those few short cushy years wasn’t.

Her razor-sharp mind becomes immediately evident as we are told, shortly before we start barfing in repulsion at the photos of what this numbskull was born into, that Laudomia “knew” when she took over for her deceased father that her ticket to ridiculous wealth – the family’s “fashion legacy” as it were – was in trouble. And Ms. Laudomia, whose name sounds suspiciously like the Italian word for Laundromat, waited 20 years to do anything about it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Finding Wall Street Funny - Part 5

Time is a Waste of Money

The fifth installment in the series. These people have no idea the fodder they are providing.

Imagine: someone comes up to you and asks to take your picture. “Okay,” you say, because you’re cool like that. But then the person asks you to dress in this gold foil suit. And strike a pose like you are feeling the beginning stages of a hernia. “Now, look at the camera like you know you’re sexy!”

Um…come again?

Now imagine you are showing up at the studio for the eightieth time, to have people take your picture for $5,000 an hour. Same gold foil get-up. Same hernia pose. “Now, look at the camera like you know you are sexy!”

Not so hard anymore, is it?

Now imagine you are the cameraman. Or the guy who holds the big illuminated umbrella for the cameraman. Or the person who buys the magazine with Miss Golden Hernia on the cover.

No matter who you are, if it’s your first time the whole thing seems ridiculous. Why? Because it is. Stick around, though, and everything changes. No matter who you are – the model, the cameraman, the umbrella man or the chump who buys the magazine – this sort of thing goes to your head. “Now you know you are sexy!”

This has got to be the dynamic behind WSJ’s ridiculous magazine. Because if they saw their watch ads like a normal person - or like a person like me - they simply wouldn't publish them. Fortunately for the rest of us they are too into themselves to understand.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Finding Wall Street Funny - Part 4

Putting the 'nary' in 'luminary'.

Continuing our deconstruction of the Wall Street Journal Magazine, April 2014 Edition, we rate the (un)importance of six so-called "luminaries". But first, a dissertation in marketing in the 21st Century.

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Enough of this biology-blurring bullshit. Michael Jackson looked like a complete freak trying to make himself look white. So someone please give me a sane explanation for this ad for white shirts (I guess) that features an androgynous mannequin looking out a window, one plastic hand resting above what may be the swell of a breast in a sultry, sexy Does this mean I am a woman? pose.

Michael, you were a stellar performer but you had serious issues. And I’m not even counting the whole McCauley Caulkin thing. For anyone who is drawn by this androgynous marketing trend, hear this: Buying someone’s shirt is not going to help you figure out who you really are let alone deal with it.

How’s that for a theory?

This mannequin seems to be gazing with prescient confusion at the opposite page, where we see WSJ Magazine’s six April “columnists” – so dubbed because they have each managed to write something to fill one column of space. These people are also referred to as luminaries, which compelled me to do a little research – starting with the definition of luminary. This because WSJ’s first columnist, Simon Doonan, is said to be “the creative ambassador for Barneys” and I couldn’t imagine an ambassadorship to a purple dinosaur requiring or resulting in being luminescent.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Finding Wall Street Funny - Part 3

Have Nasal Dexterity, Will 'Work'.

They say when you lose one sense the others grow more acute. Nowhere is this postulate more evident than in the case of our perfumer friend Frederic Malle, made famous in Part Deux of our WSJ Magazine deconstruction.

This two-page fairy tale about Monsieur Malle would have us believe his super olfactory powers are genetic in nature and nurtured through the child labor imposed on him by his own mother. But considering he would on any day (let alone the day of his big interview with the Wall Street Journal Magazine) wear that suede Bordeaux and ox piss suit with a black-and-white checkered shirt and a tie as wide as the Seine and as depressing as the winter sky over the shores of Calais, it stands to reason that poor eyesight was the true catalyst for his supposed nasal dexterity.

And it is Frere Frederic's nasal dexterity that has brought him his success. Not as a wine connoisseur can tell at a whiff the difference between a 1986 Chateau Cos D'Estournel Saint Estephe and a 1989 Chateau La Conseillante Pomerol, but as the annoying guy two cubicles down who sticks his nose in the you-know-what of every person up and down the supply chain. That color scheme he wears is a tribute to, he says (and a thinly-veiled marketing ploy directed at, he doesn't say) big-time French book publisher (and, we can assume, heavy wine consumer) Editions Gallimard. Malle also endeavors to create fragrances "inspired by real people, such as his aunt or his father's charismatic best friend." I could never claim nasal dexterity, but I'd certainly bet a perfume that smells like anyone's father's best friend is destined for the personal care section at Wal-Mart.

"Mon frere, que ponce vous a.... Excuse moi, Monsieur Bruno,
why do you take ze perfume on ze tongue?..."
Whatever his father's charismatic friend smells like, something Friendophile Freddie is doing apparently works. Because assuming the rest of the article is fair representation of his professional life, there's not much else that one could call work.

Atop the second page of our expose on Frederic Malle we see him enjoying a light breakfast - Fage yogurt, some apple and English breakfast tea - to "maintain a clear palate" it reads. Pardon my French, but if you want a clear palate wouldn't it make more sense to just have a Perrier? There must be something secret in the way he eats that Fage yogurt.

"Do not talk to me about atmospere, zere is an avocado
in my Matryoshka doll!..."
So he gets his clear palate to his office and Skypes with his underlings in Paris - to make sure they haven't gone on strike - and then whispers with his assistant about his upcoming travel plans.

He goes to a fragrance manufacturer to "sniff scents" - next to a colleague who, evidently, prefers to taste them.

After a meeting with an architect, during which he puzzles over the rotten avocado someone left inside his Matryoshka doll, he heads uptown for a well-earned drink with Alejandra Cicognani, a high-profile publicist whose client list is noticeably devoid of any reference to Frederic Malle's perfume empire.

"No, I... Well, I... Yes, I will hold... Oui..."
On closer inspection we see that the photo of Frederic Malle and his drink is devoid of anyone named Alejandra Cicognani.

I'm no perfumer. Nor am I an expert on articles about perfumers. I didn't even know perfumer was a word until I read this article.

And after all this I still don't know what makes a great perfumer. Yet there's Frederic, a WSJ Magazine demi-god and purveyor of sweet-smelling snake oil.

I should get a publicist. Or maybe I just need to start treating my Fage yogurt like the magic potion it is.

NEXT UP: We (meaning I) will break down the comments of WSJ's six "taste luminaries," five of whom show extremely bad taste by talking mainly about themselves.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Finding Wall Street Funny - Part 2

The Value (or not) of a Name

This post is part of a series inspired by the April 2014 Wall Street Journal Magazine and the silly, self-and wealth-aggrandizing people who, I am guessing, have no idea as to the irony in their blither they put forth. Which makes for great fun for the rest of us. Check out the first part HERE.

When it comes to buying a car there are two ways to decide for sure which one is right for you.

One involves taking a test drive, to get a feel for how the car moves, how it handles, how it cradles your butt and how easily you are able to fiddle with the sound system while blowing through a yellow light.

The other involves how awesome you believe people will think you are because of the kind of car you drive. Think BMW.

Buick's advertisement in the April WSJ Mag involves neither a test drive nor a name that invokes even a slightly improved sense of worth. Instead they offer this compensatory bit of false allure:

The Buick Lacrosse: So comfortable it's like a mini-vacation between work and home.

Really?

Those who equate vacation with comfortable are generally the ones who prefer to spend their vacation stretched out on a chaise longue with a pina colada. In a Buick, this mini vacation would not occur between work and home but rather work and the ICU.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Finding Wall Street Funny

Humor Of the Moneyed, By the Moneyed, For the Rest of Us

I've had this Wall Street Journal Magazine sitting on my desk for three weeks. (No, that's not the funny part.) On the cover Scarlett Johansson looks back with an expression somewhere between sultry and amnesic. My wife doesn't like it one bit. Probably because she is not amnesic and thus has a hard time being sultry for me.

The topic of this issue is The State of Taste; below this a teaser that invites us readers in a very upper-class font to find out how Scarlett 'does it her way'. Titillating words, meant to induce the reptilian part of my brain to make me flip through, looking for a flesh-heavy photo spread if not a pull-out centerfold.

I was quite disappointed.

As consolation I know that our esteemed financiers are not letting leggy fantasies of Scarlett Johansson distract them from their main and very real purpose of screwing all of us equally.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

In Memory of March 11, 2011

In between getting the kids ready to leave the house and changing the kids' clothes and diapers to get ready once again to leave the house I'd like to take a minute to share three events taking place in New York City today, to commemorate the 3-year anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake.

1 - Consortium for Japan Relief - http://nyjapan311.org/

2 - Together for 3/11 - https://www.facebook.com/TOGETHERFOR311

3 - "Memorial services for victims of Earthquake and Tsunami" - http://www.jaany.org/monthly_events.html

Three years after the triple disaster over 130,000 people are still displaced. Please help by purchasing my personal account of being there in Fukushima: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0984364714

From Japan, thank you for your support.


Monday, February 24, 2014

In Support of Those Who Remain...

From my kitchen table in New York the events of March 11, 2011 seem a distant memory.

For those still living in Fukushima, for those displaced to other areas, some of them mothers and children separated from their husbands and fathers who remain in Fukushima to work, the rumbling has yet to stop.

Three years on, the rebuilding of towns, of communities, of lives continues - as it does anywhere disaster strikes. This is why I am grateful to be teaming up with Catholic Relief Services in the ongoing effort to give an assist to those who need it most.

Proceeds from the sale of For Now will be passed on to CRS, to help many thousands of people still in need.

So please, grab a copy, and a couple more for your friends. Help spread the word throughout your own circles. Influence others to help by sharing your thoughts on the book in an online review.

And please, keep those who continue to suffer in your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sochi Recap #2: Slovenia 5 - Houston 0

The medal count slowly continues to rise in Sochi. And with the US sticking around the top of the leader board millions of Americans continue to scream "We're Number One!" for doing nothing but drinking beer and cheering from their barstools. And while I take comfort in China being out-medaled by countries like Switzerland, Sweden and Austria, I watch the US and Russia beating on countries one-tenth their size and I feel my nationalistic pride mitigated.

In high school sports (as least as far as I can recall - it's been a few years) teams were put in conferences and, particularly for state championship bragging rights, competed in groups based on size of school.

In college, schools are placed in divisions based on a number of factors including size of school, size of football stadium, scholarships granted and suitcases full of cash handed over in back-campus parking lots.

In the Olympics there are no divisions, no groups. Everyone competes on one big global playing field (figuratively speaking). So to speak of medal count as a measure of a country's success can be misleading. If Russia scores more medals than the Netherlands where's the pride, really? Russia is 8 times the size of the Netherlands in terms of population and, here in Sochi, they know all the best parking lots for handing over suitcases full of cash. So when considering the number of medals a country has won, that country's population (in terms of people and suitcases) should also be taken into account.