Monday, November 25, 2013


The last several days I've been mentally composing, discarding and recomposing my thoughts on the pertinent subject, "Defining Incompentency Downward," which comes to mind whenever I see or hear fresh news reporting about the Obamacare roll-out.

It seems that my entire life, especially following college, has been spent trying to become competent at one thing or another, and once I attained it, putting that competence to work.

It hasn’t been at all easy, but a long time ago in high school (where whatever natural aptitude and talents I had were still sufficient to get me through what I now realize was "the audition") I first read Plato's admonition: “Hard is the good.” 

I believe that, and although it isn't a total surprise to me that I was once able to achieve competence in the academic study of art history at a fine graduate school (I was, after all, interested enough in the subject to choose risking long-term penury by pursuing it deep down the rabbit hole), the fact that I was ultimately able to become a competent lawyer staggers me because mystery, abstraction, and indifference reigned supreme for me in law school.

When I first heard President Obama say that key next steps in the Obamacare roll-out included a “re-roll-out,” “rebranding” and “remarketing,” my initial thoughts were: a) how superficial; b)how expensive; and c)  who's going to pay for this?

Throughout my career I’ve worked with skilled marketing and sales executives extending all the way from junior trainees to CEOs.   

None of these individuals were ever easy on themselves. Most were financially astute and hewed to the maxim “spend the company’s money as if it were your own.”   

I have witnessed and weathered my share of corporate difficulties, even disasters, but until the Obamacare capers and fiascoes, I have never seen such bottom-to-top incompetence and complacency  daily on display.  Serious drug abusers I have known (ironically, all in IT jobs) did far better work with more pride and attention to detail.

N.b.:  I am not forgetting the cur-like serial dishonesty (by-product of contempt, malevolence and perhaps sociopathy) attending the Obamacare incompetence, but that is a subject for another blog. 

Roxy Music: Remake/Remodel (Link)

John Lennon: Gimme Some Truth (Link)

Addendum:  An executive who formerly worked as a senior marketer for Pizza Hut told me this story one night.  At Pizza Hut, the biggest reluctantly pondered imponderable and existential internal corporate question was discerning why Pizza Hut made such lousy pizza.  Long study and massive expenditure ultimately revealed the answer: they had an oven problem. 

Pizza Hut ovens, which franchisees were required to purchase, simply could not produce good pizza.  The company devised a retrofitting plan, altering design, and solving the problem. 

However, on a parallel track, the company also ran a cost/benefit analysis comparing total re-engineering costs with the price of remarketing/rebranding; i.e., turning out the same vile product but simply promoting it (presumably) more effectively.

Pizza Hut's Remakers/Remodelers came out on top.   

And that is why Pizza Hut pizza is still beneath contempt.  

My wife always says: "These are the Dark Ages, but even in the Dark Ages people lived enjoyable lives."

Dave Edmunds: Get It (Link) 




  1. And one has to think that having smart wives also helped. I mean, before the invention of artificial light, where else were we to turn, in pursuit of the elusive naomi-watts? (Surely not to wind turbines, I say... by the by we've heard that lately one of the blades flew off a rig and took out several Shetlands in one mad swoop! Not to say I tell you so, but there it is.)

    1. Thanks for following this all the way down. I found Caroline's comments (made in the kitchen one morning; I wish I could remember what prompted them) profound and comforting. I hadn't realized until recently, when I saw some turbines up close in Massachusetts and then started reading more (including the story about Duke Energy and the bald eagles in Wyoming) how very bad the wind turbine situation was, although things I had read previously about their effect on bats really disturbed me. Then when doing some rudimentary picture research for this, I found an article detailing Bryan Ferry's recent comments about them. (I was already aware of Ralph Percy, the Earl of Northumberland's, anti-turbine stance.) I really love these few Roxy Music photos, especially the bottom one, which I'd never seen before. Caroline's job involved in part overseeing publicity shots and they're really, really challenging to get right. This one was certainly an outtake. Late in her career, Caroline worked with the country artist Emmylou Harris, who is very beautiful in real life and, Caroline says, uncommonly nice. People were always telling Emmylou how beautiful she looked in photos and Emmylou (to whom this was just part of the job) explained to them all the hours she spent with a wax pencil in her hand excising images from contact sheets to winnow things down. Ferry definitely has a pretty reliable sense of his own visual image, whatever other faults and inconsistencies he displays. I used to think of Ferry and Eno as a kind of Andre Breton/Tristan Tzara pairing until I realized that they weren't, that was a superficial thought, and I kind of had their roles (or what I perceived as their roles) reversed. Happy Thanksgiving. I should stay in bed today taking care of a messed up back, but that won't be possible. Curtis