Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thank you, Lady Liberty

--Another essay from class. The Art of Persuasion. It's good business, that manipulation. Oh and, if you're in a hurry, ignore the behemoth of a paragraph in the middle. I had to explain a concept. This is my reaction to a powerful corporate exec who came and spoke about his trade of "changing minds." The bullet points highlight tips he gave us.

Every day, I find in my belly a growing righteous anger. I guess that’s what happens when you’re stone sober. The world gets sharper. Your elbows keep nicking its edges. After the fifth bloody scrape, you yelp, “Cut me a break!”

“Jules I don’t get it,” I said. “This guy was incredible. But all that creative energy. Wasted on what? Convincing people to buy and buy and buy. Seems so…”

“Consider,” he said in his usual I’m-a-super-smart-economics-major-and-I’ll-soon-be-at-MIT-to-change-the-world-with-my-masterful-knowledge-of-it, “would this energy exist were it not for the lucrative incentives?”

Ah ha. Isn’t it the truth. We only work if there’s a carrot at the end of the stick, and the rest is distraction. I sighed and said “you’re right” and slept away the afternoon to forget my naivety.

Later, my friend Cici arrived. I had convinced her to see an anarchist writer speak, and while we walked, I told her about our visitor guy. By then, I had digested what he’d said. Felt his CEO principles could be applied beyond marketing.

Sure, I’d heard the shop talk. Learned the differences between a brand promise and a tagline. Found out what advertisers and public relations people do, along with the essential truth, which is not as complicated as its name implies.

But more importantly, I was reminded about the building blocks. Rules so basic they transfer from paid work to art genre to plain old living—like the concept of flooding the pool. I do this all the time. A weekend is approaching and I want to do something. First, I think about someone who’d be interested. (i.e. I’d never ask Jules to go to a dive bar, but he’s the first I call when I want to play tennis.) Then, I contact interested parties, “What are you doing this weekend, want to play mixed doubles?” Some say yes, others say I’m busy, and the rest don’t pick up their phone. I end up with a good game and a fun time with my friends. Same thing went when writing grants, getting people to come to a performance, anything that involves involvement, really.

Point is, people are so distracted (busy, lazy, apathetic and I’m not exempt) that you’ve got to be realistic about your odds. Comfort is, once you stick your foot in the door, it’s a whole lot easier to pry open.

Last night, Susan and I got delicious cheap pho. Really good stuff. Limes and basil and soaked in hoisin. Anyway, over our steamy bowls, we chatted about the business of doing good work and our pesky morals and the possibilities of freedom in this restrictive capitalist system. Susan, who works for a successful non-profit book press, spoke about one of their board members, a wealthy corporate guy.

“And yet,” she said, “he spends his time reading our books and giving his money to our cause—how am I any better? He likes to sell sports equipment and I like to support artists.”

I agreed and we concluded that unless we totally drop out of the system—practically impossible in this era of globalization—we are its willing participants. I like my cozy fleece pants that keep me warm during spring cold snaps. There however might be a distinction between mindless consumerism and necessary clothing items, especially when the landlord refuses to turn up the heat.*

She continued, “maybe it’s just a matter of priorities. Attempting to live a life aligned with your values.”

To this, I slurped more pho, and panicked a little, thinking about my coming plunge out of the institution, which has so comforted me with its seasons and rigid structure and compartment notebooks. I love nothing more than the first and last days of school—they fit like perfect spoons. The tingly excitement of starting fresh, and the breezy whir of a few months freedom. Knowing you’ll be back to see everybody again.

- Start with what you know
- Give intangible gifts
- Anchor, then fly
- Break through the clutter
- Sell emotions
- Don’t trust conventional wisdom

- Reorient yourself into someone else’s shoes
- To get in their mind/footwear, RESEARCH
- Then think as they think, see as they see
- Watch your world grow
- Sell them stupid products like Nike shoes

- Flood the pool
- Only court those with interest
- Distill them to a powerful elixir

- Be careful how you present your product
- They will think what you offer them (i.e. money deep)

- Knowledge based creativity
- IE::: If you want to respond via art, do ten times more research you think is necessary, and then speak your piece. Otherwise you look like a fool.

*Among other ethical matters.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Health care

*This is a response to an email my cousin sent my family about the difficulties his immigrant wife had with our red-tape-happy government. Because of this, he believes a national health care system is impossible. I disagree,

Hi family, Kristi here. I just arrived home from Thunder Bay, Ontario, where my friend and I stayed with a local Canadian family-- two pastors and their son. We were connected via an online community called
Couch Surfing. This is a great resource for young people looking to be travelers and not tourists, all for free!*

Anyhow, during a conversation about the striking differences between American and Canadian governance, arose the subject of universal health care. Of course the two states are disparate in population and history and geography, resulting in a wholly other ideology. However.

We are more alike than not.** And if it is a representative democracy that America supports, a government of and for the people, than these similarities should not be ignored. Indeed, if change is to happen, cannot be ignored.

Just as we feel justified in encouraging other countries to follow our lead when we've got it right (college system, bill of rights, etc.), we must take our own advice.

It is only wise to listen to our friendly neighbors to the north. For if they, our culturally similar, equally moderate counterparts can manage to supply everyone - not just the lucky ones - with health care, so too can we.

For example: Alcohol sales in Canada are regulated by the state. They have a beer store and a liquor store, and both are heavily taxed. This tax surplus goes towards their national health system.

Yes this is only one example. But it is simple steps such as these that work towards fostering systematic change.

How many of us have a high school diploma? What about access to resources such as the police force, libraries, and even the right to free legal counsel? These are public amenities, ones tax paying Americans take for granted. As they should.

So why is health care not among these inalienable rights?


*Our stay really was wonderful. They opened their hearts and home. And fed us a delicious dinner to boot! To me, this kind of cultural exchange is the best way to gain perspective on your own worldviews.

**Especially us in the Midwest! Thunder Bay looked eerily like Minot. Coincidence? I think not. Conspiracy?


postscript: I know that the task of reforming a behemoth of a system is HUGE, but we've got to. We just do. I also have some hunches about why blue collar Americans are so wary of change, especially when the change is for people like them. As in, poor. Those will come another day, friend. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A bio of mine

My choice muffin is the bran-carrot-raisin-oats. But it’s got to be moist. If it isn’t almost half baked, the thing is best tossed in the compost heap. And that’s how you can tell I’m a PIRG-er! I joined MPIRG the first week of freshman year, lost in the most populated place I’d lived in, looking to meet active anybody’s. The U was teeming with young people way more radical than I could’ve imagined – shit, they did shit! – and MPIRG helped me be part of it. Mom still tells her friends about her crazy daughter organizing Take Back the Night, “I’m not sure exactly, but I tell ya what, those girls owned those streets.” After graduation is, don’t judge me, the Peace Corps. If I have any advice, it’s this: learn a useful language in college. Cause man, as much as I love sign language, it sure isn’t an international tongue, and I’d really like to see this world of ours. There I will be teaching English. There is still up in the air, but the Feds seem to think I’d make a good Russian. And let’s face it. They are the ones taking the fingerprints. State Board is an entity foreign to me, much like the Feds. Though, I am an alternate to this Board. Why did I run? Because I wanted to see what the fuss was about. Because I love strategic planning. Really! The whole business about visioning fits right in with my Meyers-Briggs type. So in conclusion, you are cordially invited to the Monday meetings of my current taskforce, the Women’s Taskforce. We’re serving ginger punch and sherbet at our next gathering, and you friend, we’d love to see you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Be careful who you pretend to be"

Those words weren't written by me-- they are from the pen of, none other than, Kurt Vonnegut.

It's good advice isn't it? Let's pretend to be happy interested intelligent people. Because that's who we'll become. Provided our poor abused planet survives for us to be realized. But maybe the damage has already been done.

Hooray! Let's throw up our hands in blissful despair. Ha. I'm trying to be funny. It's not working. I've been sitting too many hours, looking too long at the screen. I apologize. :)

Here is an assignment of mine. It is supposed to be a reading review, but it somehow turned into story. Aren't those the breaks?

- -------- --- - - - ---------------- ------- -- -- -- - - - - - ------ - - - -

Botchi is my friend. He is a short red-haired young man who especially enjoys the stories of Marikumi and penning “well girl, it’s called Solsbury Hill. It’s my anti-musical.”

The two of us get along because we’re neighbors and ride the bus together and enjoy things like hip hop shows and guerilla workshops.

Yesterday, I convince him we’ve got to check out this reading.

“It’s part of the Carol Connelly series,” I tell him. “Geoff from the Lit 6 Project will be reading! Yeah?" He's doing his characteristic shrug-and-nod. It means yes.

"And Heather Mcelhatton is the main event. She’ll be reading from her new book, Pretty Little Mistakes. It’s a choose your adventure, but for adults—how cool is that? ”

“Dang girl, I don’t see why not. Meet you at Coffman Union?” He asks.

“See you at six,” I say.

We get on the bus. Botchi had just come from his Japanese novels class, and I, from a steamy afternoon at the library computer lab.

Immediately we began chatting. Norwegian Wood! Real Karaoke People! We were excited, thinking we were well on our way to a books-filled evening at the Turf Club.

The Club, we thought, was a place where we could throw back a few and listen to authors read and tell us about the ways of the world.

It'd be dingy, dark, smoky.

Non-readers would sit in the back, all supercool and aloof. Heather would start reading. She'd ask the audience to choose their adventure. They'd perk up. They’d realize, right there, the power of the written word. They’d shake off their drunk and declare “That’s it! Hand me the Proust!”

I know, I know. The thing was supposed to be at the University Club. But somehow, our minds had replaced avenue with club.

So when we arrived at the Turf Club on University Ave., we looked inside—there were no signs of the reading we were supposedly five minutes late for. Only a couple drunks.

I tear off my backpack. “Botchi we can make it.” I say. “If we catch a bus, we’ll only miss the first reader.”

“Sure if you think so,” he smiled. “Girl, I like your style. It’s positive.”

We run for the twenty-one, pounding the windows as it pulled out. Meanwhile, I’m frantically calling around

TO BE CONTINUED... (after I listen to this podcast. just today, discovered npr's fleet of ear candy. good god, i'm in heaven! check 'em out.)

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I know, I know-- it's been awhile. Things get busy. Life speeds up, and before you have chance for pause, it's autumn. Pretty soon, snow'll be flying.

But you already knew that.

I've realized this blog can be a place for essays. I have another blog where I rant. Mostly about dreams and the love life, and mostly in fragmented "creative" language, whatever that means.

According to my seminar professor, the only way we can transform our private ramblings into some semblance of literature is if we provide context. And I'm not sure I'm ready to ground last night's dream about being made into a sandwich just yet. Must spend another year recording the surreal. And then, maybe, I'll be able to relate it to regular everyday life.

So I like this more controlled space. A place where sentences are ordered; thoughts, regulated to single, one-syllable points. Very tidy. I like tidy. Its parameters give me room to breathe.

On to the topic at hand: THE MEETING.

This semester, I'm working for two ---very--- different organizations. One is Bedlam Theatre, an avant-garde cooperative theater group made of anarchists and system haters. They triumph the new. Later, I will post more about them.

The other is working for "creative services" at University Relations.

Although lately I've been entering data to a computer (A process my computer geek roommate so kindly calls 'digitization'. Sounds professional, doesn't it?), I normally write stories about professors. About anyone connected to the U, really. If you're researching or philosophizing or following the Russian mob who stole your credit card, we'll cover it.

But we're undergoing a systems change.

"What is our voice?" asked Martha, the editor-in-chief, over eggs and coffee. "We need to be clear about what we want to say," she said. "Otherwise, they'll take over."

The U of M - a 2 billion dollar bureaucracy - wants to turn the web homepage - our main domain - over to the marketing department.

This means we won't be writing stories to provoke readers into thinking critically about the U. Thinking hard about, for example, its research. About which private corporations with private interests are funding what affects the public.

Often at their expense.

Corn oil companies funneling money into research supporting destructive high fructose corn syrup. Figure out how to make cheaper. Replace it with sugar. Call it natural. Pour it down the throats of we gluttonous America. Grow our waistlines wide. 'Til one day, we wake up, bloated, lumber to the Target and throw money at the Zone, South Beach, Luna. Pour more money into the industry because of the industry.

Instead, we'll write what Rick calls "Rah! Rah! U!" stories.

Pieces about Regents professors and College Bowl winners that tend to fall flat like soda; fizz-less cans of empty calories. Where we don't talk about lobbyists or why the strikers struck or...

But are we really much different from any other American university?

It is all that suprising that Bobby Brunuinks makes eight, ten, twenty times the janitor? I don't think so. I hate to say it, but I don't.

I. FEEL. DISCOURAGED. (sorry i'll finish it later, just want to post something--anything, to be rid of the 'everyone is a teacher' nonsense. ima cynic, yo. ;))

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Everyone is a teacher and a learner

The last post was in March, and now it's May, time keeps flying away!

Thankfully, besides the take home test I'm putting off, I am done with classes. Till May, where I'll take an intensive Sign Language session to finish my language requirement. And then the summer classes start...

The reason I'm combining warm weather and stuffy-school-must-be-dones is a program called HECUA. HECUA stands for Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs. This is just a fancy acronym for an education program designed to address social issues.

And there are all sorts of issues to be addressed: environment, poverty, immigration. You name it, they've got a program for it. Most programs are in the U.S., but HECUA also operates in Scandinavia.

I will be in the Writing for Social Change program. This is exciting because of the small class (only 10 students!), the writer-teacher, meetings with artists and their funders, reading socially conscious texts, workshops and discussions and can you tell I'm excited?

We take classes all day Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the opposite days, we work for a non-profit related to our study. So I will intern at the Loft, prolly with young writers or spoken word.

The idea is that students get to put social justice-ee ideas into practice. See how theory actually works. Everyone is a teacher and a learner. Engage in the world. Learn to think critically. That whole bit.

Whoop whoop! : Should be a really valuable learning experience.

In other news, am on the hunt for a summer room. Roommate wants his girlfriend to move in, so I'm out. Am considering a vegetarian co-op for a change of pace. Might be fun to work for vegetables and live with another five people...

Now that the semester has slowed to a stop, I will be writing more and about more than just me. As always, thanks for reading and lots of love!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Job Searchin'

I am on the hunt.

Where can a college girl find paying work these days? Never mind one that's in her field of study. I just want a 9 to 5, ten dollar an hour employment, and please no field canvassing or nannying.

Is that too much to ask?

Goldpass dot com. This is the University website where employers seek young undergrads for work in specific markets. You post your resume, then search for jobs under categories like 'non-profits', 'horticulture', 'marketing'. Sounds easy enough. And it is, but here's the catch:

Most of the jobs are unpaid.

The cold hard cash part is absent. Zilch. Not happening. Black hole there.

"Come work for our company! You will learn super great job skills while working for a diverse company! We encourage you, young employee, to be a mobile global worker. Join our team! "

Category: unpaid internship. Blast.

So far I've applied to (count 'em) nine jobs in various fields, just cause they pay. I might be working for IBM Communications, or maybe I'll be an adviser for the College of Liberal Arts, or if I get really lucky, I'll be working for public radio. Who knows! This girl will take whatever she can get.

I just get the itching feeling that we student workers - who have years of job experience, not to mention schooling - are under appreciated.

Case in point: This morning, I had an interview for the Loft Literary Center. This is a place where writers can take classes, have conferences, bind books (seriously), and do their writer thing. I thought, hey, why not learn from the best?

So I email the internship director, send her my resume and show lots of enthusiasm. She sets up a meeting for this morning, 10am at the Loft. I come at my interview best and wait...and wait...and wait...

An hour later, she still hasn't shown up, so the receptionist tells me that we'll have to reschedule.

See what I mean?!

Ah well. That's life. And anyway, it's a beautiful day here! So I guess if jobs are my main complaint, I'm sitting very pretty.

Happy weekend!