Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Let's Talk (About Mental Illness)

In the mid-to-end 1990s, following the telecom boom and as the World Wide Web was just beginning to be used as a means for self-promotion, companies were trying to present a more humane side by publicly showcasing the benefits their employees could take advantage of, such as an in-house daycare services (Patagonia, SAS) and gyms, multiple team-building retreats per year (Philip Morris, Distributech), State of the Union-type gatherings in exotic locations where spouses were welcome (Industrial Alliance, Toyota), etc.

For many of these companies (Google, Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Industrial Light & Magic), the ethical treatment of their employees translated into additional sales; for others, however, additional expenses meant nearing the brink of bankruptcy.

And, thus, because every major action brings forth an equal reaction, the 00s brought with them budget tightening, with organizations looking mainly to reduce what they saw as expenditures: wages, customer service, free coffee, lowering their standards from “excellence” to “satisfying” or “good enough”, extending their client base’s patience to its limit. Some cut on the big expenditures such as rent, travel or daycare. Others, such as American Apparel, saw their managers take on a more hands-on approach that was not appreciated by their employees.

What we are left with in the wake of a noble idea like #BellLetsTalk is to bring attention to such things as employee comfort and peace of mind, as work-related exhaustion and depression now accounts for 90% of mental illness in North America, among other overwhelming statistics such as:
19 Frightening Workplace Mental Health Statistics(This infographic was crafted by Officevibe. )
So when Patagonia (and Goldman Sachs, for what it’s worth) claims it has a 25% lower turnover rate, that 100% of moms return to work after maternity leave and that morale is always high, when, in Canada, a dozen of the Top 100 Employers (according to the Globe & Mail) offer family-related perks and benefits, when ten of the Top 100 Employers (according to Fortune Magazine) in the U.S. offer daycare - including five insurance companies (Aflac, Atlantic Health, Meridian Health, Baptist Health South Florida and Bright Horizons Family Solutions) - it may be time for some employers to think about certain expenses, particularly those related to employee morale, as investments in current and future productivity instead of just money thrown away.

Which brings me back to #BellLetsTalk, a smart initiative and tool in de-stigmatizing mental illness in Canada, in getting people to talk about it and trying to find solutions to the problem. Marketing-wise, it’s also pure genius, as social media was saturated with Bell’s brand name for an entire day in support of a great cause.

If only they didn’t have a couple of public-relations disasters on their hands involving their firing of medium-profile employees over their asking for help in dealing with… mental illness.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Video Of The Week: Cage The Elephant

The difference between imitation and inspiration is that imitation always pales in comparison.

Inspiration doesn't guarantee quality either; not all ideas are good, and not all good ideas turn out great in practice. But once in a while, things pan out for the best.

In Cold Cold Cold, Cage The Elephant hit such a moment; in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with listening to The Animals and The Rolling Stones a lot - and there is no way to listen to too much of them either. And when listening to Eric Burdon, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards enough leads to the best 60s song to come out of the 2010s, something has gone right.

Singer Matt Shultz directed the video, which harkens back to Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange in theme and Eyes Wide Shut in visual style:

The video comes on the heels of a memorable performance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and a Grammy nomination for best album, for 2015's Tell Me I'm Pretty, produced by The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Keith Olbermann And The Meaning Of The Second Amendment

Has Keith Olbermann lost it? Maybe a little. By losing his job at MSNBC for donations made to Democratic Party candidates after appearances on his show (Countdown), he has taken a turn for the more opinionated, sometimes stepping over the line in terms of fact-reporting to get his political point across. At times, that has meant he sounds as nutty as Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannitty (albeit with a totally different worldview and civil perspective), despite looking poised.

On the other hand, there were too few dissident voices in the news during George W. Bush's turn in the White House - with the consequences that we have seen (the largest foreign attack on U.S. soil, two wars, at least one of them fully unwarranted). The media had been way too lax and the entire planet suffered. I see how he would feel he needs to teach Americans the Right Way and, failing that, wanting to knock some sense into them.

All told, I think we're better off with him having some sort of wide and official platform.

Nowadays, Olbermann has a webseries called The Resistance (formerly The Closer, it was changed following Donald Trump's victory), hosted by GQ Magazine. Today's video brings home a point many scholars try to teach about but that people are too thick to open their eyes to regarding the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Video Of The Week: The Smashing Pumpkins

"Tomorrow's just an excuse away / So I pull my collar up and face the cold, on my own".
- Billy Corgan, 1995.

Winter's upon us, ice covers the streets and sidewalks - and perhaps even our hearts. The warmth is so far away, a few of us may not even get to experience it again. And in this cold, all I hear are the words to The Smashing Pumpkins' Thirty-Three, the first song Corgan wrote after the seminal 1993 album Siamese Dream which ended up as the final single released from the two-disc epic and so-aptly-titled Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness.

Mellon Collie sounded tragic, and in many ways it was. It was the last record the "classic" Pumpkins line-up ever recorded, although said line-up was usually just used sparsely in the studio, with Corgan performing all instruments except drums himself, save for a piano or guitar solo here and there, courtesy of James Iha. It was also one of the harshest tours in rock history, as one 17-year-old fan was crushed to death at the Dublin show, and with touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin overdosing on heroin in New York, resulting in Melvoin's death and Chamberlin's expulsion of the group.

The band didn't stop the tour, however, recruiting studio drummer extraordinaire Matt Walker (who also appeared on later studio singles and 1998's Adore) and keyboardist Dennis Flemion; the band played the Molson Centre on September 11th, 1996 (I won tickets to the show by calling in at CHOM, the local rock station), and released the following single and video (co-directed by Corgan and then-partner Yelena Yemchuk), filmed in stop-motion and leading up to a re-enactment of the Mellon Collie album cover at the end:

Monday, January 2, 2017

Bread Face

Via The New York Times (via BuzzFeed, Vice and Instagram...) comes Bread Face, a woman who, well, uh, likes to smash her face into bread.
Is it art? Is it comedy? Is it just a weird fucking fetish? Is it just that it feels good?

If you can, look up the one where she does it over a super-salty pretzel from Brookly hipster spot Black Forest, over Jennifer Paige's 1998 pop hit Crush... as much as I love pretzels, I'm just worried she'll get salt in her eye(s).