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Futility loves company

Dad's in the other room, listening to a book-on-tape. Only, there's something horribly wrong with this tape, and the audio pulses from silence to full volume two or three times a second. And where most people would throw this tape in the trash, or go back to the store demanding a refund, he's turned the speakers as high as they'll go. This gives him more of a window to understand what's being read to him. His mind puts things in context, and makes sense of it all.

That's all great and inspiring and stuff, but as someone sitting 30 feet away, I'm only hearing vowel sounds. And I can't block them out, because they're so unsteady.

I'd tell him this bothers me, but he's got enough frustration just trying to listen to the tape.

This would be one of a dozen episodes that have popped up in the past week or so, where I understand neither the situation nor my response to it. It doesn't make sense, except as a metaphor. Were I reading my life as a novel, this is about the part where I'd put it aside and laugh at the author's unbelievable arrogance.

...which is pretty much what I did this weekend, and I owe some people an apology for disappearing.

The company I work for plays out this scenario countless times every day. Whatever task someone is assigned, you can bet someone next to them knows how to do better. And this incompetence will grate on their nerves, but three thoughts prevent them from stepping forward to show how it's done:
  1. "It's not my place."
  2. "They're trying so hard, I don't want to criticize them."
  3. "At least it's not me."
We had a meeting on Friday, and at this meeting, I took the brunt of management's frustration for several issues in which I was never involved. Tomorrow, this will repeat, only I'll have accepted responsibility to turn those issues around, and my failure to do so will no longer be imaginary. But, why was I singled out? One of the salespeople was kind enough to explain afterwards: because I didn't turn away from direct eye contact. The trick, it seems, is to take fervent notes and never look up from them.

When this is the structure, how can leadership perform? And without leadership, what vision do we follow? Without vision, without direction, what hope do we have?

I'm told that this is universal, that I can expect the same from any company I go to work for. I don't believe that. But as I grow more jaded, more cynical, I have to think I'm diminishing in value to any employer who actually deserves me.

I need out.
Just give me an excuse.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 18th, 2002 09:38 am (UTC)
Not to give generalizations, but I guess I will anyway... People are afraid to be accountable for things, and I guess it’s because of the obvious fear of failure; to let others or yourself down. And, there is also the other thing -- apathy (“It’s not my place” or “At least it’s not me”). How can we break down these factors without the risk of getting jaded in the end?
Nov. 18th, 2002 11:14 am (UTC)
Ostrich meat is healthy, but just doesn't taste as good.
You and I are both smart enough to realize that watching someone fail when you're capable of helping is just as much your failure as theirs. From any sort of religious standpoint (which most people at least claim to subscribe to), you're always accountable. Even from a secular view, your conscience will hound you if no one else does. I just can't imagine any culture developing a code of ethics in which this is considered acceptable. And yet, here we are.

Let's try this on for size:
    Responsibility weighs equally across the community at large. When you don't ask for help, don't ask if help is needed, refuse to help, or refuse to be helped, the community is broken.

That should pretty much sum up our accountability as employees, citizens, or participants in any kind of relationship.

Isn't that what everyone wants, and wants to be part of?

Spread the word.
Nov. 18th, 2002 10:19 am (UTC)
I just want to know why there aren't more books on CD and still so many on tape.
Nov. 18th, 2002 10:50 am (UTC)
Two words:
MP3 piracy.
Nov. 18th, 2002 11:40 am (UTC)
Damn! I didn't even think of that. It would be so much more convenient on CD, too.

As a total aside, do you ever go to Spike and Mike's Classic Ani Fest? I love your user icons. :)
Nov. 18th, 2002 02:14 pm (UTC)
They love you too!
Spike & Mike's Festival of Animation was always the best. (I'm not going to call it Classic, because it was better before they split things off. Variety is a good thing!) But it rarely comes out this way - just the Sick & Twisted. (That's got some great stuff too, but not enough to justify driving to Santa Barbara or Santa Monica, which is the closest even that one gets. I did get to hang out in the recording studio while Greg Ecklund did audio for his first Lloyd's Lunchbox cartoon back at CalArts, though.)

They've finally got a Classic DVD out, but it's missing just about everything you'd want it to have. They waited too long, and other companies have snatched up exclusive video rights to all the good stuff. I was going to buy it anyway at ComicCon this year, but after a few minutes of watching the surviving ike (either Sp or M - whichever isn't dead yet) shamelessly badmouth Disney and the whole of Japanese animation to random passerby's for about twenty minutes, I decided not to hand him my money. I may buy it elsewhere someday, when a healthy chunk of the price is eaten by distributors and retail shelving. But the less I can contribute to that man's profits, the better.
Nov. 18th, 2002 03:20 pm (UTC)
Re: They love you too!
I totally hear you on the variety thing. The last two years only Sick and Twisted has shown up in Berkeley and San Francisco. Disappointing. At the least I would have preferred more variety and less recycling in Sick and Twisted but such was not the case.

Whoa! How did you get to see the audio for Lloyd's Lunchbox? Was it cool??

I didn't want to deal with the Sick and Twisted videos so I recently bought Bitter Films' Rejected DVD stright from Bitter Films. Worth it if only to know the money went to the filmmakers. Plus, the audio commentary version of the film is hilarious. I imagine the Spike and Mike Classic DVD is worth waiting for on the shelves. What's his beef with anime?
Nov. 18th, 2002 04:31 pm (UTC)
more of the same
WAY cool. I didn't know that was available. That just saved me from buying another horrible Sick & Twisted volume. My order's placed and I'm anxiously awaiting it's arrival.

Right place at the right time, really. Greg was a student there, and most of my friends were animators. (Strangely enough, that's how I was able to get to the recording equipment. Being a composer there granted me no such rights.) I only knew him for a few weeks before he dropped out, though. Anyway, he's the only one among them who really made it. Just had a good strategy: create a formula that panders to the lowest common denominator, and extends indefinitely without really evolving. For, you see, Spike and Mike pay more for sequels. Bringing your characters back by popular demand works out well for everybody. (It sounds like I'm insulting him, but this was genuinely planned out in advance, and it worked brilliantly. No sarcasm.)

Not sure where I was going with that when I brought it up, really. To be honest, I thought I deleted that sentence before posting.

Beef with Anime:
You got me. I would think they'd be all over that. You've got a whole country that takes animation seriously as the legitimate artform Spike & Mike used to promote. Constant innovation, no restrictions on style...

I think he was counting on everyone else to be ignorant and prejudiced against anime, so he could sell them an alternative. But in doing so, he just promotes those views, which in turn hurts his own business. (If someone hates traditional animation, and they hate alternatives to traditional animation, what kind of animation do you expect them to buy from you?)

Call me old fashioned, but I don't want to harvest the darkest recesses of our collective psychology, and I'm a little upset by those who do.
Nov. 18th, 2002 05:14 pm (UTC)
Now with more sodium!
Hee hee! Congrats! You'll love it! Quality over quantity.

I do think that Spike and(/or) Mike is shooting himself in the foot by not promoting quality anime (or any other quality animation) and diversity within the artform. We'll see how far he'll get with that.

I didn't realize one of them was dead! What happened?
Nov. 19th, 2002 12:48 am (UTC)
Umm.. He died.
I don't remember. There's probably some sort of announcement on their website. But if I had to guess, I'd say it was a heart attack.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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