Monthly Archives: March 2012

Power & Privilege! A Mad Men Post

Is Mad Men the main reason I wanted to start blogging?


I finally saw the season premiere, which left me typically dazed. The moments that took my breath away were also, in retrospect, moments that could perhaps have been a little heavy-handed. But Matt Weiner could come to my house with a hammer, thump me with it a few times while shouting “Race! Gender! Power!” and I’d probably feel good afterwards. Which is one of the show’s longest-standing (and least-discussed) themes: the ways Don uses (violent) sexuality to assert power over women. And men.


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Investing in Employees?

This recent New Yorker financial column made me feel a little better about our economy.

According to a recent Wharton School study, retailers that invest in hiring and training more employees make back between $4 and $28 for every dollar spent. While Surowiecki says that “the reasons for this aren’t hard to divine,” he omits what I believe is a really powerful reason: employee satisfaction. While there is a clear bottom-line benefit to lower turnover (addressed in the article), there is a more powerful benefit to keeping one’s employees satisfied–whether by paying them well, refraining from overworking them, or training them well.

One of the reasons I liked shopping at Trader Joe’s (when I lived near one) was not simply the quantity of Hawaiian party shirts available to direct me to the capers. It was that they seemed to feel pretty good about their jobs. It was just nicer to be around them. Contrast this to, say, a Macy’s. Staffers are hard to find, sure. But they also tend to have so little energy. They are helpful enough, and they even smile. But there’s a big difference between that and the genuine enthusiasm I felt in a TJs. Or even a Starbucks (where even part-time workers famously get full benefits).

Is it really so revolutionary to say that happier customer service employees will provide better customer service?

Surowiecki writes that “there’s a strong case to be made that corporate America’s fetish for cost-cutting has gone too far.” While his article focuses on the retail space, citing Best Buy and Home Depot as examples, I would love this statement to be true across sectors. I have experienced first-hand the limits of overzealous cost-cutting, whether in universities or in private industry. I would be curious to see this research applied in other sectors. My hunch is that it will hold up.


Why Mike Daisey Matters

Mike Daisey’s blog posts bumble between righteous indignation and sincere apology about the media storm surrounding him. Because he made up interviews and events for the This American Life broadcast of his monologue. And then lied to TAL fact-checkers about it. Despite the fact that all he was trying to do was raise awareness about the poor working conditions of the people that make Apple products. And people keep getting mad at him for it!

Thankfully, when his bravado receded, he sincerely and humbly apologized to journalists, to theater folks—especially those in the non-fiction and documentary genres—and to the human rights advocates working to improve the lives of people working in factories such as Foxconn, one of Apple’s key manufacturing partners in China. He apologized to his mother, to his grade school teachers, and to that one high school drama coach–the one who liked to wear eclectic scarves, or who brought an exotic pet, like a sloth, to rehearsals–that helped him believe in himself. He apologized to his cat.

But he didn’t apologize to the people of China—specifically, the Foxconn workers he interviewed—for misrepresenting them. And this omission proves the point I am about to make. Continue reading

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15 Years Late, a Blog

Thinking sketchily

After spending years touring the blogosphere, I have decided to open my own small outpost. This is a forum primarily for my observations about the intersections of media and culture. How are current affairs covered? How is our polarized political culture affecting public discourse? What about the good ol’ representational issues? This was some of my bread and butter as a PhD in contemporary U.S. literature: How are women represented? How does class impact the public conversation? There may also be some book reviews.

I hope to offer somewhat thoughtful posts semi-regularly as I work in communications consulting and seek opportunities to develop intellectually and professionally. Please comment here, connect with me on LinkedIn, share whole wheat pastry recipes, and let me know what you think. I am excited to use this venue to become an ever-better writer and thinker.

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