Friday, November 29, 2013

Can't. . . Breathe. . . Need. . . Air

Neckties are a funny thing.

People love them or hate them. They wear them proudly, as a badge of success. Or they struggle under the weight, like the chains worn by Jacob Marley, Scrooge's dead business partner.

First introduced as the cravat by King Louis XIV of France, ties made their way to England, and on to America. They were originally worn by wealthy gentlemen, but were soon worn by any man who wanted to appear well-dressed.

Neckties are said to symbolize power, success, wealth. They are also said to symbolize oppression and strangulation of middle management. They're even said to be a phallic symbol, which is why I never wore a tie tack.

Now they're the cause of a sex discrimination complaint filed by a British government employee.

Ian Jarman, who works for the Department for Work and Pensions in Birmingham, England, is filing an official complaint against his employer for sex discrimination, because they're forcing him to wear a tie at the office.

Jarman has gone tie-less at his Job Centre Plus office (official motto: "In England, we spell it 'centre.'") for 26 years. But ever since a new dress code was introduced, he has been forced to wear one. He has already had two disciplinary hearings for failing to follow the new code, and risks losing his job if he goes without a tie again.

Jarman told a BBC interviewer he's upset because "Women are allowed to wear an open shirt and trousers, many even wear a t-shirt. If I wear an open shirt without a tie, it's a disciplinary offence for which I could potentially get the sack — it's sex discrimination."

However, a spokeswoman from the DWP disagreed. "The dress code was introduced in April to give a more professional appearance to staff who deal with members of the public," she told reporters, dressed provocatively in a Cate Coles green and russet evening dress. "We require a smart and professional image from all of our staff, but there is no specific requirements for women."

"See? See?!" shouted Jarman, pointing his finger accusingly at some female co-workers wearing sleeveless t-shirts with "Neener Neener Neener" printed on the front.

"It is ridiculous. I have done this job for 26 years without wearing a tie and it has never affected my ability to do the job," said Jarman, who believes a person's clothing has nothing to do with their professionalism.

Many strippers may disagree with Jarman's idea of clothing and job performance, he does have a point. If an organization makes a rule for one sex, but not the other, that's discrimination. Requiring a man to dress a certain way without making similar rules for women is unfair. And those rules would result in a lawsuit if the tables were turned.

I've spoken with a number of companies that don't have specific dress codes for women for fear of sexual harassment lawsuits. Instead, they require "professional/appropriate dress for women; suits and ties for men," which creates problems for people like Jarman.

And thanks to some gender fashion confusion over the years, certain male fashions have become acceptable for women to wear, causing even more problems for men.

In the '80s, I lost count of the women wearing men's sport coats with the sleeves rolled up because it looked "kicky." But, short of a fraternity prank gone horribly wrong, you'll never see men wearing dresses on a regular basis.

Don't get me wrong. It's not my place to dictate fashion for anyone. I would never tell a woman what she should or shouldn't wear. This will change when my daughters become teenagers.

However, I'm struck by the double standard of what is "acceptable" fashion: men would be laughed at and even arrested if they ever wore a dress in public, but women are free to wear suits and ties if they like. Some would argue this is fashion discrimination and extremely unfair.

Not me, of course.

I wear pants. Very rugged, extremely macho pants. Pants that have a charcoal grill in the pockets. Pants that can be used to put out small house fires.

I would never consider wearing a dress. Not to make a statement against fashion and gender inequality. Not to show solidarity for Ian Jarman in his fight against sex discrimination. Not even if I just wanted to feel pretty.

They just make my butt look big.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Mistaken Identity Leads to Wrong Haircut

Last week, someone stole my haircut, and left me theirs.

No, seriously. A case of mistaken identity led to me getting a buzz cut like I haven't seen since I was seven and my mom gave me a summer crewcut.

I went to my local men's hair care place. I won't name it, but will say they often show televised SPORTS while a stylist CLIPS your hair. They also store your name on the computer, along with the kind of haircut you usually get. Sort of like haircut records.

There were several other men waiting for their turn, so I signed in and sat down. Ten minutes later, a stylist — I'll call her Betty — walks out and calls "Erik?"

A guy next to me says, "Yes, that's me." He stands up and walks back with Betty.

Betty, I found out later, asked the guy, "Is your last name Deckers?"

"Yes," he said.

I should have been suspicious from the very beginning. It turned out this man wasn't named Erik at all. He was a fake.

His name was actually Eric, which is completely different. Note the disreputable 'C' in his name. I should have been tipped off, because he had shifty eyes that made him look like he was casing the joint. Men who spell Eric with a 'C' have a suspicious look about them. But I always assume the best of people, and I thought nothing of his sinister behavior.

After several minutes, the other Erik/Eric left, looking pleased with himself, like he had received a special gift that wasn't meant for him.

Betty came back out. "Erik?" I stood up.

As we walked back, she asked, "You get the four all over, right?"

I didn't know what this was. I assumed it was some haircut record code that signified my particular dashing style. Turns out it means using the 1/4 inch guard all over your head.

"I guess?" I half-asked, not sure what to say.

Betty pulled out the clippers and went to work.

When I tell this story, people have asked, "didn't the clippers tip you off to the problem?"

Sadly, no. My hair is thick and lustrous, and often requires an initial clipping just to lighten the bulk, so their scissors can cut more easily.

After a few minutes, Betty said, "I'm nearly done. Tell me what you think."

"Done?!" I thought. "What about the scissors?" I reached up and felt my hair.

"That's a lot shorter than I usually get," I said, trying to hide the worry in my voice.

"What do you usually get?" asked Betty.

"What I came in with, only shorter!"

"Aren't you Eric Demara?" (Not his real last name).

"No, I'm Erik Deckers."

Betty showed me his haircut record: "Eric Demara. 4 All Over."

"Oh God." The blood drained from my face.

Betty could not apologize enough. She explained what had happened, how she had asked the other guy if his last name was Deckers, and blah blah blah, and all I could think was "none of this is making my hair grow back."

But I said nothing. I was in shock.

Then Betty said, "This haircut is on me."

I thought, "No, it's on me, for the next six to eight weeks." I still said nothing.

She asked, "Do you want me to trim your sideburns?"

"No, thank you." I just wanted to get out of there.

"Do you want me to trim your eyebrows?"

"No, because I want to keep them," my brain shouted. But I just said "no, thank you."

When I got home, I emailed the owner, who I've known for a few years, and told him what happened. After a couple back and forth emails, in which he apologized several times too, I asked him not to do anything to Betty. It wasn't her fault.

She did everything she was supposed to, I said. She asked the fake Eric if his last name was Deckers, and he said it was. What should she have done, accuse him of lying? Tell me I was too handsome to get the "4 All Over" and to try something else?

No, in the end, the fault belongs to Eric Demara for not knowing his own last name. If he had just listened, I'd have my regular haircut, and I would be happy.

My biggest regret, other than having the haircut of a retired Army colonel, is that Eric Demara is probably looking in his bathroom mirror right now, thinking, "You know, I look pretty awesome. I'm glad I didn't get my usual stupid haircut."

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Evil Henchmen To Strike, Issue Demands

Dear Dr. Sinestro:

Due to the unwillingness of management to meet our reasonable demands, or to engage in rational, non-violent discussion that does not involve lasers, the minions of the Sinestro company have no choice but to organize a strike which will begin at exactly 12:00 midnight, Monday, December 2, 2013, and continue until we can reach a reasonable agreement on several core issues.

The strike is being organized by, and will have the full support of, the Amalgamated Union of Minions, Lackeys, and Henchmen, Local 287. We have also been offered assistance by the International Federation of Gun Molls, the Alliance of Sidekicks and Junior Partners, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Our minions have received strike kits, and we will receive strike pay to replace our already-meager salaries — one of our core issues.

We have also taken the regretful, but very necessary step of filing charges of unfair labor practices with the California Labor Board. While our original filing, and the CLB office building, seem to have been devoured by a giant mutant platypus, the case was already entered electronically, and one of their many branch offices will handle the matter. We have been asked by the CLB not to disclose which one until the surviving members of the panel convene to hear our charges.

State labor regulations stipulate that, as a result of our filing, management may not hire replacement minions while the case is being decided. We believe this is a necessary step to take, and that management will realize that we are indispensable to the day-to-day running of Sinestro Corp, and its subsidiary, Facebook.

In the past, our demands have been met with dismissive replies of "BAH!" and "Dr. Sinestro has no need of labor negotiations." Two weeks ago, management even ejected Minion 29164 (aka Ken Sanderson) into the lava pit.

We also strenuously object to management’s ham-fisted reliance on using attack badgers during staff performance reviews, spraying workers with zombie gas to mitigate inter-departmental conflicts, and the use of Minions as human shields while management makes yet another last-minute escape from the Guardians, the Scarlet Paladin, or Captain Liberty.

For the duration of our strike, we will picket the Sinestro Secret Headquarters at 2317 Oak Street (across from the In-N-Out Burger), until the following demands are met:

  • Increased uniform allowance by 30%.
  • Improved safety gear, including laser glare-reducing goggles.
  • Paid holidays off, plus a free day for birthdays.
  • Remove all laser piranha from the 3rd floor water cooler.
  • Death and dismemberment benefits for families, including same-sex couples.
  • Dental.

Striking workers will picket on the sidewalk — which is considered public property; we have also obtained the necessary permits from the city, and they are being kept on file in an undisclosed location — on a 24 hour basis, and will prevent any attempts to bring in replacement workers (scabs) or deliveries of robot replacements.

Further, while we are normally opposed to their cause and everything they stand for, several associate members of the Guardians will provide security for our picket line, in case management employs zombie strike busters to disrupt our lawful gathering.

We believe that our cause is important and just, and we, as employees of Sinestro's Global Empire and Hair Care Products, need to know that the company cares about our health and well-being. We hope for an immediate and peaceful solution (especially one that doesn't involve lava pits), so we may renew a close working relationship with management once more.


Minion 37894 (aka Kelly Larson),
Chief Doomsday Countdown Technician and Shop Steward

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, November 08, 2013

Stupid Spy Versus Stupid Spy

Have you ever been making out with someone, stolen a quick glance to see what they're doing, only to realize they're also stealing a quick glance?

Of course you haven't! Who does that?

I'm, uh, only asking for a friend. His name is, uh, Johnny Macintosh.

Back in the 1980s, comedian Rich Hall wrote several books called Sniglets, and he called this situation "glantics."

You couldn't really point out that you knew the other person was looking, or that you knew that they knew that you knew, because it would completely ruin the moment.

Or so I've been told.

At the same time, you couldn't just let the look go unspoken, because you were thinking about it, wondering what the other person was thinking. And he or she was wondering what you were thinking. It would get in your head and that's all you can think about, which is saying something, considering what you were doing at the moment.

I was reminded of glantics when I heard the latest story about how Brazil got caught spying on several foreign diplomats, just a matter of weeks after they canceled a presidential trip to the United States after learning our National Security Agency was spying on them.

What do you call that, espiontics? Surveillantics? Staggering hypocrisy. . . antics?

According to a story from the BBC, it was revealed that operatives from Brazil's national intelligence agency, Abin, had been following and photographing American, Iranian, and Russian diplomats. The New York Times said that puts Brazil in an "uncomfortable position."

That's because Brazil had already expressed outrage after we were caught spying on Brazil (and many other countries) by reading companies' and government emails and listening to their phone calls. And now they were caught spying on diplomats working in their country.

In Brazil's case, the NSA had hacked into the computer network of their state-run oil company, Petrobras, so they could monitor emails and telephone calls. In their defense, the NSA originally thought they were hacking into a brassiere manufacturer.

After the news about the NSA broke, Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff postponed a visit to the United States, which we knew several hours before he announced it.

Jose Eduardo Cardoso, Brazil's justice minister, told reporters that the NSA's spying activities were "an affront to Brazilian sovereignty."

But he said that Brazil's spying activities were "completely different." They weren't spying per se, said Cardoso. Rather Brazil was conducting "counter-intelligence" operations so they could "verify whether other countries" were spying on them.

In other words, "I was only hiding in your bushes to see if you would try to hide in my bushes. Your spying cancels out our spying, so that's, like, totes different."

I question the logic of Cardoso's defense, however. If the diplomats in question were easily followed and photographed, then they were either 1) very bad spies, or 2) not spies.

If he's correct though, then Brazil's spy network must consist of four Barney Fife-types and a point-and-shoot digital camera. And their agency didn't so much leak that they were spying on the diplomats, as someone had accidentally left behind a folder marked "Top Secret Spy Plans. Keep Out! This Means YOU!"

In what can only be called a major fit of global irony, reports about the Brazilian "counter intelligence," which Abin confirmed, were leaked to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper. Abin later received a bouquet of flowers and box of chocolates with a note that read, "Dear Brazil, Now you know how it feels to get ratted out. Suck it, hypocrites. The United States."

Actually, the U.S. State Department was pretty okay with the whole "counter intelligence" thing. Maybe it's because they weren't in a position to actually point any fingers at anyone, maybe it's because they were secretly filling out mail-in cards for bedwetting cures and adult magazines.

"As we have indicated in the past, all nations gather foreign intelligence," said the U.S. State Department, without rolling its eyes. "So we're still good, right? I mean, you can't say what we did was bad and what you did was okay. That's totally hypocritical, bro."

I don't agree with the NSA spying on its own citizens in an attempt to keep us safe (we're still supposed to have our civil liberties) or other countries (they have their sovereignty). But I also don't believe Brazil's "counter intelligence" claim that they were only checking to see if they were being spied on.

Save the lame excuses for when your wife catches you "interrogating" her best friend.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, November 01, 2013

Tater Tillers In a Tizzy Over Term

Erik caught a cold from his family this week, and is lying in his deathbed, pointing an accusing finger at all of them. As we await his return next week, we're reprinting this column from 2005.

In this age of Political Correctness and perpetual victimhood, someone somewhere is always complaining about certain words or phrases.

"I don't know if I feel comfortable with that term," is the battle cry of the PC whiner.

Then they express concern over the word "battle cry," because of its violent overtones.

And then wonder why they were picked on by playground bullies.

The latest PC whiners are complaining about couch potatoes.

British potato farmers are concerned that the term "couch potato" is doing irreparable harm to their tubby tuber. They're afraid the image of a slovenly fat guy slumped on his sofa, watching Baywatch reruns will have a negative impact on the image of a potato as a healthy food item. So they're demanding the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) strike the offending term from its pages.

This past June, 30 British tater tillers protested outside Parliament to publicize their efforts at reforming the image of their cash crop.

A couch potato is defined by the OED as "a person who spends leisure time passively or idly sitting around, especially watching television or video tapes." A British potato farmer is defined as "a bunch of whiny crybabies with too much time on their hands."

"We are trying to get rid of the image that potatoes are bad for you," said Kathryn Race, head of marketing at the British Potato Council (official motto: "No, not a council for British potatoes.")

Actually, no one has ever said that potatoes are bad for you. Eating deep-fried slices of potatoes every day for 30 years is bad for you, but that's a different story.

The last time the British Potato Council made the news was after a much-publicized street brawl with the British Lightly Breaded and Deep Fried Fish Council, which caused fish and chip sales to plummet nearly 60%.

The protesting spud studs seem to have generated some strong interest in their cause. Not only has Nigel Evans, Member of Parliament for the Ribble Valley in Lancashire, offered legislation in support of the anti-couch potato movement, but Antony Worrall Thompon, an alleged British celebrity gourmet chef, was also at the protest. "Potatoes are one of the UK's favorite foods — not only are they healthy, they are versatile, convenient, and taste great too. Life without potato is like a sandwich without filling," he told reporters.

He then held his hand up to his face like a phone and said, "Call me, Food Network!"

Recliner manufacturers are also joining the protest movement. Earl Roosevelt, Chief Marketing Officer for Lazy Guy Recliners, actually ran across the street to speak to a reporter, pausing for a brief rest on the way.

"We don't see why couches should get all the attention. Reclining easy chairs have long been a place for people to kick back, relax, and spend evenings and weekends watching TV."

He then fell to the ground, gasping for breath.

Reporters also spoke with French potato farmer Jean-Claude Meunier. He was unconcerned about the entire affair, since the French term for couch potato is actually American.

"Hey, we're just glad you guys quit saying 'Freedom Fries,'" Meunier told a reporter from the Washington Post.

Race did concede, "Of course it is not the Oxford English Dictionary's fault, but we want to use another term because potatoes are healthy."

The campaign is also backed by nutritionists who say the vegetable is low-fat and is high in vitamin C. They also believe cookies are a "sometimes food," so I don't trust them.

"(Couch potato) is a very derogatory term, which potato growers find very offensive, and I can see why," said Worrall Thompson. "The potato is very healthy. It should be part of a balanced diet."

It's good to see British potato farmers tackling important issues, like whether the word potato is being used to mean someone who's slothful and lazy.

I'm glad the 4000 members of the British Potato Council think striking "couch potato" from the dictionary is so much more important to the planet than, say, getting large shipments of potatoes to Sudan and Ethiopia, or other parts of the world where people are starving.

Thank you, British Potato Council for making us aware of how damaging and harmful the term "couch potato" is, and not, you know, helping people who actually need it.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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