Print Story The Crowded Cities of Patagonia
Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Tue May 29, 2007 at 09:06:18 AM EST) Reading, Watching, Consumerism (all tags)
Reading: "Let My People Go Surfing", "Barefoot Gen: The Day After". Watching. Consumerism followup.


What I'm Reading
Finished Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard, founder of the "Patagonia" outdoor sports business. Half-promotion, half-manifesto, it boasts about how ethical and high-quality, the business is, and how they got that way.

Bit too generic to be really bovel: a lot of trendy companies talk that talk now, though Patagonia appears to actually walk the walk as well. Some interesting content on how to put quality first, to ignore salesmen and focus groups and talk to the user, to manage every link in the supply chain, to make your own previous line of products obsolete, to constantly innovate. Some interesting case studies too.

Not sure how applicable it is in general though. It's all very well doing all this if you're a premium product, but not every company can be at the premium end of the market. Also Patagonia is a private company, so there's nothing on whether it's even possible for a publically traded company to be sufficiently ethical.

Still, good to see someone deconstructing the dreary myths of business: Yvon Chouinard boasts of being un-driven, a generalist not an obsessive, uninterested in competition, but has been highly successful. Suggests that the culture of Western business management is just a cultural artifact.

What I'm Reading 2
Barefoot Gen: The Day After (vol. 2) by Keiji Nakazawa. Second volume of the semi-autobiographical comic-book memoirs of a Hiroshima survivor. Like the first, not exactly a barrel of laughs: powerful and depressing. Gen and his mother encounter further prejudice and forced humiliation in the aftermath of the bombing.

Notable incidents: attempted suicide of a girl who finds herself disfigured, boats full of corpses, people going crazy in the aftermath.

Watching
Saw Spider-Man 3. About what I expected. Didn't find the 140-minute length as annoying as I expected: helped that I carefully dehydrated myself beforehand, the cinema was near-empty, and we got seats with massive legroom. They seem to have tried hard to add enough villains, comedy and sub-plots to fill the time.

Good points: effects, action sequences and pacing were OK. Bad points: even for a dumb action movie, has the most contrived idiot-plotting since Revenge of the Sith. Work-rival just happens to stumble into cathedral while he's fighting the evil parasite-costume? College lab-partner just happens to be romantic target of work-rival, daughter of police chief, swept out of office by malfunctioning crane? MJ is forced by Green Goblin to dump spidey, but finds no way to communicate that to him?

Verdict: not brilliant, but there are worse things to do on a rainy weekend.

Museums
Went to see the Photographing Britain exhibition at Tate Britain. Another big, unfocused exhibition, rounding up photos from the beginning to the present day. Some interesting stuff there, like some early coloured photos of Edwardian England, and some celebrities like the tiny original of the famous Brunel portrait in front of the Great Eastern's chains.

Quite interesting, not too crowded. Unlike paintings, though, I find famous photos generally seem much the same in person as in reproduction. Maybe because they're fairly small, generally in black and white, and don't have the variety of textures that oil paintings do.

Consumerism follow-up
After this diary, bought the Canon PowerShot A550 Canon recommended by chuckles and clover_ He sounds happy with it. Will probably be lost, stolen or smashed before I visit them next though.

Unreasonably tempted to buy one myself, but doubt I'd use it: haven't even used the cameraphone much lately and I've got that with me all the time.

Belated random annoyance
My parents are always bitching about how hard it is for them to program numbers into their mobiles and new land-line phones, getting us to wrangle this recalcitrant technology for them.

However, it's perfectly possible to just punch in the number the old-fashioned way. How come that isn't an option anymore?

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Punching numbers into phones by hulver (4.00 / 1) #1 Tue May 29, 2007 at 12:22:44 PM EST
My Dad moaned at me the other day about the phone. I was round at his house and had to ring J at home, so I picked the phone up, dialed the number and rang her. When I'd finished he said "Why didn't you use the speed dial?"

It's not a phone I've used before, so I wouldn't be able to quickly figure out how to use it. I don't know what position in their phone's memory my phone number is in, so I'd have to scroll through all the numbers to find mine.

Easier just to dial the number (which I know very well, it's a memorable number) the old fashioned way.
--
Cheese is not a hat. - clock

That camera is a real bargain by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #2 Wed May 30, 2007 at 12:10:15 AM EST
Didn't know you could get anything half decent for less than £150.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

Western business management a cultural artifact? by Alan Crowe (4.00 / 1) #3 Wed May 30, 2007 at 03:31:09 AM EST

The Society for Barefoot Living exists mainly as a mailing list. Even there it is largely accepted than one wears shoes at work.

Imagine going to work barefoot! You boss tells you to put some shoes on and you don't ask why, you ask "How will that earn a return on the shareholders capital? Will customers pay more? Will our suppliers charge us less?"

I find it intuitive that such questions would be taken as sarcastic and insubordinate and be found unacceptable.

If we can distance ourselves from our social embedding and protective intuitions that get us safely through the day, we can become aware that something odd is going on. One turns up to the office to preen and quarrel, dominate and submit. One must also maintain the fiction that the difference between what the customers pay and the suppliers charge pays our wages, because it is true. Notice the strange way in which the fact that something is true forces people to pretend it is true; to mouth the words, while still ignoring the substance.

I find the example of going to work barefoot fascinating because two contradictory things seems so obvious, both that it doesn't harm profits so should be tolerated, and that it is unacceptable, showing that work is not really about earning a living.

My guess is that most of western business management is cultural artifacts with no grounding in the search for profit. I also guess that it is hard to shrug off the artifacts, or even recognise them, because they are so much part of social life.



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