On art and the raving of lunatics…

Taylor Swift has apparently made a video.

The right wing is charging her with being overtly political. The left wing is accusing her of cashing in on the latest cause.

Maybe they’re both right… but they’re most assuredly both wrong too.

I’m old enough to remember the early days of music videos. The good ones were always edgy or outrageous. The best of them were incredibly controversial.

It seems to me that art in its many forms probably should be controversial. It should make you think. It should take your breath away. It should drive you to consider uncomfortable ideas.

Here’s the important part of today’s message, though… if people saying words makes you too uncomfortable, you always have the option of changing the station. In all my many years of life, no one has ever walked up to me, forced my eyes or ears open, and made me an unwilling participant in art. The artist chooses what to do, and I choose whether I’m going to engage with it.

Having a hissy fit because you don’t like a video makes you look and sound like a complete raving lunatic and guarantees that I can’t take you seriously as an adult human being.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Facebook live video. I get it, Zuckerberg. You did a neat thing and can push live video direct to my phone. That’s nifty. But really what I need my social media to do is compliment my daily activities, not attempt to hijack and monopolize them. One of the reasons I still like Facebook is it isn’t time dependent. I can check my news feed periodically throughout the day, check responses to comments, laugh at a few cat pictures, and then move on. Getting 20 notices an hour that friends and pages I follow “went live” isn’t helping. Thank God now that it’s become a thing you did at least give us a toggle switch to make it go away.

2. Rescheduling. If you have a meeting set up with one of the gods on Olympus and the date and time of that meeting gets changed three times in as many days, you know all you need to know about the priority of the effort in which you are engaged. Look, I’m perfectly fine being a low priority, but it would be helpful to know that well in advance so I can allocate my own time spent working on a particular project appropriately.

3. You and the team. I got an email a few days ago asking for “me and my team” to review something. While it’s adorable that anyone things that my work output is the collective group effort of some mythical team, it’s just me down here banging shit out every day. Those reports you’re getting, those briefings you’re reading, those endless meetings being attended, that’s me. It’s not a vast team of people coordinating this jackassery. I’m an army of one down here in the belly of this particular beast. However, if you do indeed believe this product to be the work of a team, I believe it’s high time we started talking about a step increase and a title bump.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Your iPad is not a video camera. Just because it has that capability doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to whip out your tablet computer and start swinging it around trying to catch the perfect shot. They make small hand held devices specifically for that purpose. In a pinch, catching a quick video clip with your phone is even a perfectly acceptable solution in most cases. The only things that really happen when you hoist your iPad over your head to catch that unmissable moment are: 1) You get bad quality video and audio recording of an event that’s allegedly important to you; 2) People behind you can’t see what’s going on; and 3 (and I can’t stress this one enough) You look like a total douchenozzle. It’s still a relatively free country and I can’t stop you from doing it, but you just shouldn’t want to.

2. I’m not a wizard. As I’ve stated previously and often, I can do it all, but I cannot do it all at once. I like to think that’s more a simple function of the linear nature of time rather than a personal failing on my part. You, of course, are free to disagree with that assessment. With that being said, one of the things you need to know is if you give me something to do, then tell me that I am required to go sit in a four hour long meeting, the thing you wanted me to get done will not be complete 30 minutes after the end of that meeting. I’m many things, but a wizard is not one of them. That’s a sad state of affairs, but it’s unfortunately true. I would love to be all things to all people, but so long as I continue to be given the opportunity to spend half the day in meetings that preclude doing any actual productive work, I’m afraid that’s just not going to be possible. The decisions about where I go or what I’m focused on are largely out of my own control, so sorry I’m not sorry.

3. Climbing over people in the middle of a ceremony is not acceptable. If you arrive late to a ceremony or event and things are already underway when you wander in, there really are only two acceptable courses of action: 1) Stand quietly in the back and wait for an intermission or other pause in the action to take your seat; 2) Find an open seat somewhere on the periphery and put your ass in it. What you shouldn’t do is show up two thirds the way through the event and climb over top of people who have been sitting respectfully like decent fucking human beings to get to a spot “your people” have been “saving” for you since twenty minutes before things started. What you really, really shouldn’t do is then climb back out over top of these same people after your special snowflake has been recognized and interrupt everyone within earshot for the second time in ten minutes. You my dear, inconsiderate woman, like your friend with the iPad, are a total douchenozzle.

Doing it on webcam…

I work for a guy who likes to think his time as a system administrator in the late 1990s qualifies him as an authority on issues of office technology. If those of us with a passing awareness of tech, this is a very bad situation. It means we’re in a position of being forced to agree with ideas and recommendations that are not only expensive, but also doomed to sink into the befuddled mire of advanced middle-age angst over technology that is one of the defining characteristics of our “leadership cadre.”

Two years ago, we were instructed to buy two dozen webcams and run a test with our agency’s behind-the-firewall proprietary knockoff version of Skype. The test was, as I described it at the time, less than successful and we recommended shelving the project. Most of our test bunnies couldn’t figure out how to plug in their cameras and of the ones that did, only a handful managed to actually use them. I’m pretty sure they just ate the microphones we sent them. To be fair, I should point out that this failure wasn’t completely the fault of the doddering soon-to-be retirees. The network infrastructure in our building was something less than robust enough to handle the “load” of several simultaneous streaming audio/video connections. It was sort of fun to say something, run to the office across the hall and see yourself “in real time,” but we decided that wasn’t going to be a real plus-up to our collective productivity. After the abysmal initial test, I assumed the idea was left to die quietly in desk drawers and file cabinets around the country. As is so often the case, I was wrong.

I discovered last week that we ordered 50 more webcams to be issued to all of our field offices to “improve communication” and “facilitate meeting online,” since the organization doesn’t have money for our traditional cross-country boondoggles these days. Now, if I had even the slightest notion that any of these devices was actually going to be used, I’m all for outfitting every computer in the office. It would be great to have one official feature on my work computer that I’ve been using for free from Google for years. My concern is only that we already find it nearly impossible to get our “leaders” to pick up the 100 year old pice of tech that’s already on their desk and talk to one another or call in for a teleconference. I have no idea what makes us think we’ll be able to get them to use “magic” to talk across the intertubes?

Then again, it might be fun to watch them try.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.