I recently had a conversation about mandatory fun at work, and my interlocutor pointed me to this classic article:
Like a diseased appendix bursting and spreading infectious bacteria throughout the abdomen, fun is insinuating itself everywhere, into even the un-hippest workplaces. Witness the August issue of Inc. magazine, the self-declared "Handbook of the American Entrepreneur." Emblazoned on its cover was "Fun! It's the New Core Value." Beneath that was a photo of Jonathan Bush, the CEO of athenahealth, which helps medical practices interact with insurers. Bush was tearing his shirt apart to reveal a Batman costume underneath, the same costume in which he gave a full presentation to a prospective client after making a deal with one of his employees that if the latter lost 70 pounds, the management team would dress as superheroes for a day.
But that's just the beginning. There are 18 pages of similar stories to instruct and inspire employers to keep their employees happy at all costs, because happy employees make for happy customers. There are rubber chickens, Frisbee tosses, mustache-growing contests, pet psychics, interoffice memos alligator-clipped to toy cars, and ceremonies that honor employees for such accomplishments as having "the most animated hand gestures." Perks include on-campus wallyball courts, indoor soccer fields, air hockey, ping pong, billiards, yoga and aerobics classes, company pools and hot tubs, and Native-American themed nap rooms so that employees can sleep (sleep!) at work. And that's all at just one company--Aquascape, a supplier to pond-builders based in St. Charles, Illinois.
Here's an abbreviated list of the jollity that will ensue at your place of business if you follow [funsultants'] advice: "joy lists," koosh balls, office-chair relay races, marshmallow fights, funny caption contests, job interviews conducted in Groucho glasses or pajamas, wacky Olympics, memos by Frisbee, voicemails in cartoon-character voices, rap songs to convey what's learned at leadership institutes, "breakathons," bunny teeth, and asking job prospects to bring show and tell items such as "a stuffed Tigger doll symbolizing the interviewee's energetic and upbeat attitude" or perhaps a "neon-pink mask and snorkel worn to demonstrate a sense of humor, self-deprecating nature, and sense of adventure."
As I was reading the article, I got an email about my company's ongoing mustache-growing contest.
Here's my fun from last week. Feel the joy:
Yes, I'm actually in training this week that is required of everyone at my level. This morning we did an exercise on meeting planning. Our table came up with the following responses to the "Meeting Expectations/First Five Minutes" part:
- Show appreciation for the meeting: "Mr. Wirtz, thank you for taking some time to meet with me today."
- Confirm available time for meeting: "You mentioned you had about 15 minutes this morning. Is that still the case?"
- Offer a look back...how did we get here? "As you will recall, yesterday we discussed releasing my godson from the personal service contract he has with you, in exchange for $10,000 in cash."
- Briefly state the goals / objectives for the meeting: "I was hoping that we could revisit that conversation today, and that you would reconsider your position."
- Agenda: "To help us meet these goals, I thought the following agenda might help us. First, I will make you an offer you can't refuse, and second, you will sign the release my attorney has prepared."
- What other areas to be covered? "I assure you, if you do not consider my offer, you will cover the release in a personal and compelling way."
- Brief introductions of...
- Your firm's capabilities: "I am not sure you know about my organization, but perhaps I could provide a brief overview."
- Your team/colleagues in the meeting: "Let me introduce you to my colleague, Luca Brasi."
- Have a few "Killer Questions" that initiate dialogue: "Now that you understand Luca's role in this meeting, would you please sign this release now?"
- Listen, be present, and probe; be "sincerely curious" in your follow-up questions: "I insist that this is the best offer you will ever receive from me, and I am eager to learn your position on it immediately."
- Begin to wrap up with a few minutes remaining: "Thank you for your time. I am pleased that we were able to come to an agreement so quickly."
- Summarize what you have heard: "I understand that you are also pleased with the outcome, and that $2,000 is a sufficient release fee, as we have just agreed."
- Define specific next steps and, if appropriate, schedule follow-up meeting: "You will very likely not see me again, but I assure you, if a subsequent meeting is needed, perhaps because you have discussed this meeting with your colleagues or the Attorney General, Mr. Brasi will follow up with you in a timely and decisive fashion."
The other scenarios we batted around the table were more, ah, risqué, to say the least.
One of the funnier things I've seen recently:
Today seemed like the right moment to recollect this short poem from Luis d'Antin van Rooten's Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames:
Raseuse arrête, valet de Tsar bat loups,
Joues gare et suite, et sot voyou.
As van Rooten's commentary makes clear, the wolves were really at fault.
...brings us Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!, the NPR news quiz hosted by actor and playwright Peter Sagal. Last week, one of the panelists presented an extended joke about Poland. Never mind that the panelist is probably of Polish descent; the piece annoyed the Polish consulate:
Peter Grosz, an actor and TV writer who has appeared as a panelist and guest host on "Wait Wait," offered a supposed news item referencing a joke asking how many Poles it takes to screw in a light bulb.
Host Peter Sagal revealed the light bulb tale wasn't true, but instead another item about road-crossing chickens was the real news. Listeners later called "Wait Wait" and the Polish Consulate to complain that the joke was in poor taste.
In a letter to Danforth, Paulina Kapuscinska, consul general of the Republic of Poland in Chicago, said the joke played up false stereotypes of Poles and Poland. It presented National Public Radio, which distributes the show, as "promoters of prejudice," and such jokes "are some of the most unsophisticated of jokes, which offend the intellect of NPR listeners," Kapuscinska wrote.
[Show producer Mike] Danforth replied with an apology, which the Polish Consulate posted on its website Thursday.
"I can't disagree with your judgment that the content of our October 26th show was unsophisticated and insulting to the intellect of NPR listeners. I'm afraid just about everything we do on 'Wait Wait' offends the intellect of the NPR audience," Danforth wrote.
People. Please. Danforth is right; it's a comedy show. The volume of Jewish jokes that Jewish host Sagal tells every week should have been sufficient notice that maybe, just maybe, they might make fun of other stereotypes. Get over it.
After a year at sea, a sailor returns to his home port and walks into his favorite bar, and everyone turns to stare at him because his head has shrunk to the size of a grapefruit. Finally, one of his oldest friends asks him what has happened. And the sailor tells this story:
"We were at sea, and it was fine weather with a fair wind, and there wasn't much to do that day, so I decided to do a little fishing. I felt this immense tug on the line, and when I reeled in my catch, what had I caught but the most beautiful mermaid in all the seven seas!
"And she said to me, 'Mr. Sailor, sir, please, won't you let me go! I am a magical mermaid, and I can grant you your very fondest wish if only you'll release me.'
"And so I said to her, 'Well, Miss Mermaid, ever since I went to sea, I've had only one dream: to make love to a mermaid. So if we can go below...'
"But she interrupted me, and said, 'Alas, Mr. Sailor, I'm sorry, but that's the one wish I can't grant, because as you see, I'm a woman from the waist up, but I'm a fish from the waist down.'
"And so I said to her, 'Well, that's OK, Miss Mermaid. Why don't you just give me a little head?'"
Via Andrew Sullivan.
Via Microsoft's Raymond Chen, a real-life example of how a batter can get three strikes on one pitch:
During his plate appearance, Vinnie Catricala was not pleased with the strike call on the first pitch he received. He exchanged words with the umpire, then stepped out of the batter's box to adjust his equipment. He did this without requesting or receiving a time-out. The umpire repeatedly instructed Catricala to take his position in the batter's box, which he refused to do. The umpire then called a strike on Catricala, pursuant to rule 6.02(c). Catricala, failing to comprehend the seriousness of the situation, still did not take his position in the batter's box, upon which the umpire called a third strike, thereby rendering him out.
But before I could watch that video, YouTube served up this one, which made me laugh out loud:
I'll poll some of my friends to find out if it's as funny to people in the UK as it is to us Americans.
It's good reconnecting with stuff that has been lost for years.
Like the Jewish Samurai, for example. And the quiz proving executives do not have much in common with pre-schoolers. And let's not forget the four Jewish sons.
Somewhere in the mists of time I have notes about why I released so many jokes in batches. As I move to a new blog/content platform this fall, I'll post what I find.
Earlier I surmised that automating the process of extracting my old jokes from the ancient braverman.org site would take less time than hand-copying them. Well, duh. It only took two hours to write the script, lint the very few entries that needed it, and push the lot up to The Daily Parker.
So, for those of you who have missed all the jokes—there are just under 200 of them, all published from May 1998 to November 2004—start here, then skip to here, and then keep clicking the calendar control.
I'll call out my favorites once I re-acquaint myself with them. This one goes at the top of the list.
Now, programming trance ended, I am off to bed.
After a short experiment yesterday at lunch, in which I put up three original braverman.org posts from 1998, I've added all the content from May 1998.
A couple of things came up during this process:
1. dasBlog, whose open-source project has ceased active development, won't display any of the entries for a particular day if any one of them has any errors in its HTML. That is really annoying.
2. In frustration, I started looking for other blog engines, and came upon Orchard. I'm intrigued. The extension model seems like it would work really well for me, it's in active development, and it's cool. I have a little time this weekend to play with it.
For now, enjoy the jokes from 15 years ago.