Everything in creation is subject to differentiation. Face it. Some things are different from other things, and some things are different in some manner or mode from seemingly identical other things by reason of use, application and context. Yeah. Yeah. I know. Get on with the fucking story.
Bullshit can be so awful, so disgusting, so insulting to your intelligence, that it ends up becoming a euphemism for its source, such as, for example, “I’m from the IRS and I’m here to help you”, or the notion that you can call an IRS help desk for assistance in filling out your income tax forms. At the other end of that telephone call is someone who has been through a course on how to use a “help” call to extract the most possible adverse information. You have to know where the line is between helpful government and dangerous government. In dealing with the government, you have to know more than just the fact that Ted Kennedy is a disgusting piece of shit. You also have to know that his opposite number on the Republican side, Tom Delay, is also a disgusting piece of shit – he belongs in a cage at a zoo with the sign in front saying “Malignant Dwarf”. And that’s just one of many starting points in understanding government. They sure do need to rewrite the civics text books. Bicamerality means that you are getting screwed in and by two chambers. Ask yourself the question whether the three branches of government could ever pass the three prong test. You don’t even know what the three prong test is, right? Forgetaboutit!
Here in Texas right now we have a great deal of really positive political bullshit. Kinky Friedman, a rockabilly Jewish musician whose group is called The Texas Jewboys is running for governor. To me it is a great slap at the pompous assholes of the religious right who want the State of Texas to be monitoring and regulating your every function and desire. It doesn’t matter what God said about everyone having free will. To the religious right free will means that you have the free and unencumbered right to obey whatever it is that they tell you. We are getting close to critical mass on these dirgistes assholes, and we need an anarchist in the Governor’s mansion for balance. Since under the Texas system the governor is just an impotent figurehead position anyway, having the Kinkster as governor would be great, and I support his candidacy completely. Maybe under his governorship we can reopen the LaGrange Chicken Ranch whorehouse, and the Texas Aggie football team won’t have to travel all the way to Mexico for free pussy when they win a football game anymore. The can just go a tad down the road to LaGrange and the Aggie boosters can buy em some good old Texas white pussy like they did back in the good old days before the religious right closed down the Chicken Ranch. Our values were better back in those days too. Back then all you needed for a really great evening was chicken fried steak, cold beer and some great pussy. Texas high school pussy was probably the greatest, but it was very dangerous because you often ended up having to marry it.
Bullshit can also be great, producing belly laugh stress releasing joy. I know about lots of bullshit, some of it is funny bullshit. Can I catalogue it? Let’s see. There’s Lawyer Bullshit. I know a lot about that. We’ll make that Category One Bullshit. There’s Art Bullshit. I know a lot about that too. That’s Category Two Bullshit. There’s Saloon Bullshit. I do know something of that. That will be Category Three Bullshit. Of course there’s all that hilarious Religious Bullshit. Yeah, right. Category Four for that bullshit. And finally, let’s discuss Corporate Bullshit. Today most corporate bullshit may be found in their audited financial statements. Corporate Bullshit would be funny if it weren’t so destructive and wasteful. But let’s see if we can bring ourselves to laugh about Corporate Bullshit as Category Five.
CATEGORY ONE – LAWYER BULLSHIT
Very little lawyer bullshit is funny bullshit. Except when we are really doing something worthwhile for someone, we are our own bullshit in the way we take ourselves more seriously than we merit. Every lawyer knows from experience in meeting other lawyers that a moron can pass through law school, pass the state bar examination and become licensed to practice law. Each of us knows lawyers who scored well on examinations, but who can’t analyze any practical situation, apply the appropriate principles and come to a useful set of recommendations and solutions. Many don’t even know where to start, where to go, how to get anywhere, but are too arrogant to say simply that you should consult someone else. They pretend they know what to do and make it up as they go along. That is really bad lawyer bullshit. Clients suffer when that happens. Idiot lawyers clog court dockets with time wasting delay for no substantive reason, either because their client doesn’t want to face judgment day or because they simply are too lazy to do the work to be ready for trial. Lawyers constantly whine about “lawyer jokes”, and regularly lament the sorry repute in which the profession is held by so many people. If the effort were expended to fix the reasons for the bad repute instead of whining about it, things might improve. Many lawyers do try to improve the situation, but, alas, all too few.
On the other hand, cries of lawsuit abuse are also largely unfounded. The reason we hear so much about large verdicts in personal injury cases is that they are so rare. If they happened every day they wouldn’t be news. The justice system tends to work the way it is supposed to work. There is really no need for new laws to address the issue. There is already plenty of authority. If judges used the authority they already have to control what goes on in their courts, most of the “problems” would disappear. Interestingly, the cries of lawsuit abuse come in the main from companies that regularly injure people seriously and want not to have to account for their wrongdoings.
Funny lawyer bullshit begins with the quaint practice of not using one’s first name. It seems to imply additional significance if one uses the first initial and the middle name, followed by the last name. John W. Muckenfuss becomes J. Wilbur Muckenfuss. Whenever I encounter a lawyer who does that, the poor bastard starts out with a credibility deficit. The first initial, middle name folks are usually stuffed shirts as well. Puffed up lawyers also spend a lot of time reminding you of their supposed credentials and achievements. In addition to being ridiculous, it causes me to wonder just how much of those credentials and achievements are real and how much simply made up for effect and untrue. These folks also have walls covered with certificates and plaques, usually signifying nothing. In addition to diplomas and admission to practice certificates to various courts, they have framed certificates and plaques that signify membership in various organizations, like the National Geographic Society. They think that we don’t know that you get the certificate of membership whenever you subscribe to the National Geographic magazine. It’s an advertising gimmick, not a certification of anything accomplished or of any important principle subscribed to by the certified bozo.
The next bozo-like artifice is the certificate or plaque that proclaims the named individual to be a leading light, a top lawyer, a super lawyer, one of America’s Best Lawyers. All these foolish, pretentious certifications are purchased. You buy them. Some years ago, when these companies started selling these directories of the best this that and the other, if you bought a subscription to the book your name went into it. Once you were in it, your name would remain there for so long as you continued your subscription. For those who came along later, when the program had established itself as a proper marketing tool, acceptance into the society of the certified to be wonderful morphed into a program of your getting your drinking buddies to sign statements of how great they think you are, vouching for you, so to speak. Of course, the more you bought drinks for people, the more quickly you accumulated the requisite signatures. This is the model still used today by Martindale-Hubbell for their attorney ratings. To get to be rated “av”, their top rating, you have to get “letters” from various and sundry other lawyers. If you’re really naďve, you take it seriously and go about asking folks whether they would be so kind as to write such a missive. Adequately eulogized, you are then graded “av”, somewhat like grading beef only more tasteless and vastly less reliable.
The ultimate bozo gambits are those practiced by lawyers in Washington, D.C. There one must pretend to be “connected” politically, to be an intimate of the high and the mighty and to drop names of the glitterati with every breath. I recall going with my boss at General Mills to visit a Washington law firm to discuss the possibility of hiring them to represent the company in a major antitrust case being brought by the Federal Trade Commission. We were ushered into HIS office and the door closed as his “secretary” left the room. He smiled and sorted himself out for a moment to give the secretary time to get back to her desk, and then he picked up his telephone and said to his secretary that he would be in conference with us (which she already knew, having just ushered us into HIS office) and that he was not to be disturbed unless it was the White House on the line. It was so transparent that my boss looked at me as if to say let’s get the hell out of here. We were from Minnesota and assumed to be somewhat impressionable. We should have come in wearing buckskin clothing and coonskin hats. The positive side was that, as the contact person with this law firm, I was on the receiving end of all their client perks – the hunting trips, the parties that were Z List parties that no one of any significance ever attended, introductions to people who were supposedly “connected” to important personages, as evidenced by the fact that they carried around little tokens/gifts bearing “seals”. For example, I received a pair of cuff links bearing the seal of the Vice President of the United States, since that person was then Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota. I was also let in on the inside information that all the really important Democrats from Minnesota always stayed at the Georgetown Inn, and that became my headquarters whenever I was in town, which was about twice a month. In those days, a really good room at the Georgetown Inn cost about $ 55 a night. The location was great. You could stagger back to your hotel from any number of the greatest bars in town. You could within five minutes walk to the Rive Gauche Restaurant where the Kennedys were reputed to dine upon occasion.
One of the very funniest of these situations involves all the folks who worked in the Nixon White House. On their walls were displayed pictures of them shaking hands with Nixon and his Vice President, the felon Spiro Agnew. When Agnew left the office, the pictures of these bozos shaking hands with Spiro came off the walls. When Nixon disgraced the Presidency, the other pictures of these people shaking hands with him came down off their walls. I used to enjoy asking what happened to all the pictures that depicted a Nixon administration tenure. Yesterday I was in a shop in Navasota, Texas that had an old picture of Tricky Dick framed and for sale. I asked them whether they had problems with people breaking into the shop at night trying to steal the Tricky Dick Nixon picture. They were not amused.
When I was a law student I worked for a noted antitrust professor, S. Chesterfield Oppenheim, this country’s leading light on the subject of antitrust law. He was chairman of the American Bar Association Section of Antitrust Law, and I was taken by him to their annual spring meeting in Washington, D.C. I recall two really great instances of bullshit on that trip. One was that he sent me to the State Department Protocol Office with a list of the names of the personages to be seated at the banquet head table, and they gave me a seating chart that was a complete clusterfuck. The idiot who set it up had all the men seated to the right of the Chairman and all the women seated to his left, in order of “rank”. The participants, of course, blamed me for this. I was persona non grata for two days. No one would believe that the incompetent seating chart had really been made up by the State Department Protocol Office.
The second wonderful moment on that trip was that the Rive Gauche Restaurant had sent to the good Professor an invitation to bring his intimate friends there for dinner as the guests of the restaurant. He wasn’t interested in such foolishness and gave the invitation to me, telling me to take some friends there for a grand evening. Utterly lacking in funds for the trip, I was staying in a group house occupied by a cult of the unwashed pseudo Hindu followers of Swami Paramhansa Yogananda, who haunted a place out on Western Avenue, Northwest known as the Temple Of The Golden Lotus. My contact there was Swami Peter, a kid I went to high school with back in Charleston, South Carolina. You have to close your eyes to conjure up the image of a bunch of bozo white boys dressed in Indian costume who loudly disclaimed all things material and the absolute preference for commitment to Self Realization. They belonged to the Self Realization Society, led, of course, by the good swami Paramhansa Yogananda who was reputed to be so holy that when he died his body did not decompose for over a year. Feeling in their debt for the hospitality of their ashram, I took them all out for dinner at the Rive Gauche Restaurant. I made a reservation for fourteen people, which must have caused the Maitre D to think that I was some sumptuary. No one worth less than millions could take fourteen people out to dinner at the Rive Gauche.
When I arrived with the entourage of unduly pale male people dressed in outlandish attire, they must have assumed that this was some delegation from God only knows where. We wined and dined for several hours, and these vegetarians ate more meat than anyone might have expected, since it was free meat. The meat they avoided was meat that they had to pay for. When the check came, I simply whipped out my “invitation” to come to the restaurant with my friends as the guests of the establishment. The scene that ensued included, among other things, the suggestion that I must have stolen the invitation. What a fucking hoot!
CATEGORY TWO – ART BULLSHIT
I just love art bullshit. It is all hilarious bullshit. If you really want to experience great bullshit you have to be at a party with several “fine art” dealers who have had a lot to drink and watch these pseudo art scholars compete in forging the names of Miro, Chagall, Dali, Picasso and Calder. These are all easy signatures to forge and are all originators of pictures that have been ripped off by forgers to an unbelievable degree. My big regret is that I lacked the insight to steal the table cloth on which these guys had practiced forging these artists’ names. I wish I had that cloth framed in my office now. That would really be a work of art.
I got into art fraud long ago in a consumer protection mode piece of litigation against an art dealer who was passing off restrikes as original etchings by Cezanne and Renoir and the like, selling as investment grade art for $ 150 restrike etchings that may have had a value of $ 20 with absolutely no potential for value growth. Of course he was selling these to bozos who knew nothing about the subject, the folks who regularly attend benefit art auctions, sometimes in response to adverts for opportunities to acquire fine art at “auction” bargain prices and often promoted as fund raising events for churches. Preachers either don’t know these auction guys are just itinerant scammers or they know and don’t care, so long at the money is raised.
Fine art bullshit thrives at every level of the art trade. The most famous connoisseurs and art dealers to the very wealthiest are notorious for being thieves of the first order. The history of the early twentieth century’s most renowned art dealer, Joseph Duveen, and the period’s most famous connoisseur, Bernard Berenson, acting in concert to fleece the likes of Mellons, Vanderbilts, Astors, Rockefellers, Kresges, and Carnegies reads like a Damon Runyon story. ARTFUL PARTNERS is a book I recommend for real reading entertainment.
Wealthy collectors rarely bring lawsuits when they find out they have been scammed into buying a forgery. First, they don’t want it known that they really have no idea what they buy and are just sheep to be fleeced. Secondly, they know that they can donate their collection to a museum (along with funds to build and manage the wing named for them to house their collection that they are donating) and that the curator will not vet the collection. A curator never looks a gift horse in the mouth. He/she takes the donated collection “as is”, frauds and all, smiling all the while, bragging to his board of trustees about having acquired it. He may very well know what in the collection is worthless, and these he will keep in the basement, undisplayed. Many times the curator is also oblivious to the forgeries and puts them up, as the viewing public has no idea what they are looking at anyway.
The forgeries issue comes up mainly because the IRS keeps a board of fine art “experts” who will weed out forgeries from donated collections for the purpose of disallowing a portion of the charitable deduction taken on the giver’s tax return. The practice would be to deduct the current market value – based on phony appraisals – which is a sum far greater than the purchase price was years ago when the collection was being acquired. If you do the math, you understand part of the motivation for the practice.
If you really want to experience great bullshit, take something of value, a painting, a sculpture, an antique, a piece of jewelry to a fine art or antique or fine jewelry dealer for an appraisal. The first question out of his mouth will be “Do you want an insurance appraisal or a tax appraisal?” Almost any art dealer will happily give you a certificate of appraised value for twice the amount you paid him for the piece. The most crass amongst them will actually advert that what you buy from them is guaranteed to appraise for at least twice what you pay for it. Of course it is they themselves who provide this “appraisal”. The most egregious “appraisals” are those given by “oriental” rug merchants. These gentlemen are the opera buffa of fictitious pricing. They glibly mark a carpet price at $ 16,000 and then offer it to you, if you are ready to buy it right now, for $ 3,500, cash on the spot, with an appraisal for the $ 16,000 value. They go out of business so frequently that their inventories may at one time have come from “the orient”, but most likely were purchased at some other rug merchant’s bankruptcy auction. A “Persian” carpet offered for $ 16,000 was probably purchased out of a bankruptcy sale for a few hundred dollars as part of a “lot”. When you go to bankruptcy sales to buy “Persian” carpets by the truckload, you can really buy them cheaply.
There is a variation on the bankruptcy sale that is called the “Going Out Of Business Sale”. Every few years a rug (or any other kind, but “rug merchant” epitomizes sleaze) merchant who wants to open a new store at a new location holds a GOOB sale at the store he is closing. He is usually back in business at the new location before his going out of business sale is over. He isn’t going out of business. He is only moving to a new location. GOOB sales are such a scam that you now have to have a GOOB sale special license to hold one, and you are limited to one GOOB sale license a year in cities that have GOOB sale licensing requirements. The same holds true for furniture stores. I remember back in the good old days, anyone in the furniture business would simply have a store fire and “sell” the inventory to the insurance company. The really adroit would, of course, already have a warehouse full of new inventory to replace that “lost” in the fire. To take it up a notch, they would claim that they had just moved the new inventory into the store and that it was the new inventory that burned up in the fire. This was typically not true. DUH! I know some actual very funny true stories about this practice, but I can’t name the people yet without having to defend a lawsuit. If I outlive the scoundrels, maybe I’ll rewrite this with the actual names. The reason that I know about this so vividly is that the scoundrel in this particular instance decided that he would pour gasoline around the store and light candles. Supposedly by the time the candles burned down and ignited the gasoline, he would be elsewhere with a bunch of folks and have an alibi. He forgot about gasoline fumes. The fumes went off before the putz even got out of the building and he almost got his ass blown up. He was caught of course. The fire was huge, and the emergency room folks, when they heard the news of the fire, reported having had the furniture store owner in the ER for burn treatment, smelling of gasoline. DUH! The newspaper coverage of the fire and of his trial was some of the best journalism in the history of Charleston. The same guy was almost killed by an arsonist he had hired to burn down a home he had built as a present for his daughter. She, spoilt thing that she was, complained that the house wasn’t to her taste, so he had the arsonist burn it down for the insurance money. Then he refused to pay the arsonist because the chimney had been left standing, and the arsonist threatened to kill him. You really have to be a low life to refuse to pay your arsonist! He had a brother who was a bed wetter, and the joke around town was that it was such a shame that he couldn’t burn down his brother’s house because the guy would just piss on the fire and put it out. We had some colorful folks in Charleston in those days.
Speaking of colorful folks, Porgy – the character in Porgy & Bess – was a real Charleston character. He was a smelly amputee with no legs who rode around in a child’s red wagon pulled by a goat. It was a toss up which smelled worse, Porgy or the goat. Porgy made his living by never bathing. He would ride in his goat wagon up and down King Street, stopping on the sidewalk right in front of a store. He stunk up the place so badly that no one would enter the store. The owner would eventually come out and pay Porgy to move on. He would then go park in front of another store. This was told to me by someone who owned such a store and said that he regularly paid Porgy off to move elsewhere. But I am digressing.
The next time that you enter an art gallery – not a museum, but one that sells “fine art”, take a few moments and notice the “décor”. You will see, in addition to the walls on which the inventory hangs, a small library/book shelves filled with art books about the genres and periods that the store offers for sale. The owner, if present, will always be dressed in a suit, with Mrs. Owner attired as though she were going to church in a very fancy neighborhood with a wealthy congregation – very conservative and understated – almost faculty frumpy, but not quite. Understated wealth and faculty frumpy are shades of the same “look”. The background music will always be some string quartet. The manner of address will always be haughty. The less well known you are, the haughtier it gets. Please try to remember not to laugh or snicker, for now that you can identify the mise en scene of the art dealer scam, the temptation to chuckle, laugh and snicker will be overwhelming. If they are really good, they will take one look at you and go on with whatever they were doing when you walked in – you aren’t worthy of a greeting, as you haven’t bought anything from that store yet. On the visits after your first purchase you may get a wave as you enter. If you feel like you are regarded as an ignoramus, from their overall demeanor, it is because you are being regarded as an ignoramus. DON’T FUCKING LAUGH! Just enjoy the game quietly. Remember that if you laugh, you will be asked to leave the store. (Just kidding) You may find yourself being interviewed as though you had to apply for permission to be a customer. It’s part of the game – DON’T LAUGH!
A caveat! Pictures stores in malls are not the same genre as the “fine art” gallery. This won’t play out the same way in a mall pictures store. Neighborhood art and framing shops are not the same thing either. If you want to meet and mingle with the fru fru, artsy fartsy folks in town, join the museum. The museum will have “functions” at which the artsy fartsies may be seen and at the “galas” where you will eventually meet the “fine art” dealers in your town. Don’t count on being able to elbow your way into this company. The only place you will see them is at these museum functions and if you shop at their stores. They won’t accept invitations to dinner at your home, and don’t expect to be invited to theirs. Here in Houston you can also see them at the local “disease balls”. One of the fast tracks to moving out of your trailer park social status and into the ranks of the movers and shakers in Houston is to hire your own self a publicist – to get your name in the papers when you eat at an expensive restaurant, and to host balls that are fund raisers for medical research into some disease – hence the name “disease balls”. Be prepared to spend a lot of money! It’s a lot like it used to be when an up and comer sought to join a “club “ in England. He needed sponsors. If you were a member of a very exclusive club and were approached to sponsor someone not the scion of a member’s family into membership, you would first sort him out socially by way of reputation. Satisfied as to his repute, you would then allow him to purchase from you your very worst possessions – the money losing properties and the forgeries in your art collection – for outrageous sums. When you deemed yourself to have been adequately compensated, you would introduce him to another sponsor (several were usually required) so that he could then sell the applicant some of his white elephant possessions at outlandish prices before passing the bloke along to his third potential sponsor.
Arrivistes are always fair game – as it should be. And if The Lord did not intend that there be shearing, She would not have created so many sheep!
CATEGORY THREE – SALOON BULLSHIT
For almost all of my adult life I have been the pluperfect fan of bars, saloons, cocktail lounges, pubs, beer joints and blind pigs. Accordingly, I have amassed an encyclopaedic body of knowledge about their mystique, their magic, their bullshit as it were.
Saloons – here used as a collective noun to refer to all the possible forms of business establishments calculated to operate by selling alcohol to the public – have the same romantic attraction that you experience when you meet a really attractive woman. You get the hots for it. You have such a positive event experience that you just have to come back for more. That’s the bullshit. Just like the most interesting people have the most interesting bullshit, saloons have outasight bullshit. Instead of taking it home and getting it neked and having a sexual encounter in the physical sense, however, you allow the saloon to take you into its home, strip you of your assets and have a sexual encounter with your credit card. And you have the exact same stimulating enjoyment while it is happening to you. And, ultimately, when it is over, just like making sexual love with a woman, you just wanna go to sleep.
And, like women, different salons have different, distinctive allure. I like almost all of them. But it depends upon the context of the day. If I have spent the last several hours sitting on a motorcycle seat, I might be less picky about where I want to stop and enjoy happy hours – yes, happy hours – why be happy for only one hour?
I recall blue collar bars in small mill towns where I have had delightful evenings after a long ride when I am walking funny because my ass hurts and my back and legs are stiff. Now if I were stupid enough to call my doctor and tell her that my ass and legs and back hurt from riding a motorcycle all day long, she would tell me to take a few Advils and a hot shower and go to bed and get a good night’s sleep. That’s why I never call her. She just doesn’t understand shit when it comes to end of the day pain and how you handle it. The mill town bar is always a mouldy, musty, smoky, never been cleaned in years, greasy ass joint where working class folks go at end of shift. Since they are really the salt of the earth – as far as I am concerned – it’s a great place to mingle with real people who have real issues and very plain spoken, unsophisticated directness when they talk. If I were a college dean, I would require that students take a course in mill town bar talk so they have some benchmark for simple, basic expression. What college kids – not students – kids – learn now is contrived expression, the “artful” use of language calculated to make something sound better than it is and to make the speaker seem better than s/he is. I have made it a particular point in my life to learn how to say something - no matter how complicated it may seem – in plain talk. When I am opposing a lawyer who is trying to put lipstick on a pig in presenting his case, plain talk that directly and without detour addresses the problem takes you into the jury room. Jurors remember favorably the lawyer who told it like it is in the most basic manner. But what, you may ask, if you are on the wrong side of the issue? The answer to that question is that you settle disputes where you are on the wrong side of the issue. You don’t take them into a public trial so that the good citizens of the jury can confirm for everyone to see that you are/your client is a fucking asshole. My problem with most business dispute trial lawyers is that they won’t risk losing the fee by telling a client with money that he shouldn’t let his ego rule over good sense. To be sure, there is a nicer way of saying that, but that’s the message that needs to be given. The best win/lose trial records are owned by the lawyers who are best at picking winning cases to try. Sometimes you just have to take gas because everyone on every side of the case is an asshole. But most of the time you can and should kick your own client, even if s/he is right, into settlement mode. I am digressing. Back to saloon bullshit.
In the blue collar bar the biker is always welcome. It’s the closest thing you’re ever going to find in “instant family” in a town you’ve never visited before and are just passing through. It’s a great feeling to be accepted instantly into the camaraderie of total strangers. In the Midwest there is the strange custom of marking the front label on every bottle of booze with the price of a drink from that bottle, in large vivid numbers printed with a crayon. That way no one is embarrassed by having to ask or to worry whether they can afford to drink from that bottle. Putting that information on the bottle is an act of kindness and consideration. No one knows how long the big jar of pigs feet and the big jar of hot links, floating in vinegar, have been there, or the condition of its contents. You eat that stuff at your peril. If you aren’t accustomed to eating that shit all the time, and your poor guts don’t know how to cope with it you leave it alone. On the other hand, a cold beer with old pickled pigs feet or old pickled hot links works a lot better than a spa day for quick weight loss. There’s nothing else in the world – except maybe childbirth – that feels like the consequences of eating that crap. Face it – you aint really a biker anyway if you haven’t experienced real bad cramps.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the very upscale bar. You know – the kind where you really could run into James Bond or the head of the Unione Corse – where drinks are very expensive and excellently prepared and served a la beau manniere. Here you show up clean, shaved and well dressed, and you bring along your university vocabulary. There is no jar of snacks sitting atop the bar. If you would like something to snack on, you ask for a bar menu. These establishments also have their own great bullshit. For openers, the prices are calculated to keep out the riff raff, people looking for “drink specials” and “happy hour pricing”. And not having to drink with that sort is part of the value received – if that’s what you’re in the mood for. We do a certain amount of that at Muldoons – no special promotions or reduced prices – special drinks and prices attract punks. Good folks are also attracted by special prices, and you may lose their patronage if you don’t price promote. But, at least in my opinion, in my bar I prefer to miss out on good patronage that is very price sensitive if I can keep the punks away. Punks are trouble. I don’t need it. To be sure, I have been known to be a bit of a punk myself upon occasion, but I do that where it is expected – not at the bar at the Saint Regis or The Plaza.
Very upscale bars are wonderful if you don’t “do” them all the time. Sometimes it is just very nice to relax and enjoy something that is done with great style, understated, with an aura of refinement. The bartenders in the upscale bars tend to be Irish or German. The Irish are natural born servants, and Germans are either at your throat or at your feet. When they are behind the bar serving drinks, they are at your feet. It’s great fun to see an Irish bartender in a very upscale bar serve an Irish customer. There is ambivalence in his face. He is proud that another Irishman has “made it”, but there is a little bit of “how dare you come in here” in his demeanor as well. It is very subtle, and if you don’t know to look for it, you’ll miss it. That is my idea of really good theatre, great bullshit.
What we know in America as a pub bears little resemblance to the Irish or English pub in its natural habitat. Not only is the attitude different, but what is served has a different profile as well. In the UK and in Ireland, beer is not as cold. They consume a lot of bitters. We drink more lager. What they drink in the UK and in Ireland still has a bit of nutritional value as part of its attraction. Guinness Stout was very recently adverted as having “A Loaf of Bread in Every Pint”. In the “old country” the nutritional message is still a bit of guilt being dealt with – a reason for doing something that keeps the doing of it from being wholly wrong. In America we are more honest about why we drink and don’t look for health conscious excuses.
In the UK and in Ireland they drink very little liquor. And when liquor is served in a public house both the measure of the drink and the price are regulated by law. There is no free pour drink like we have here. Recently in a small village pub I asked the barman how he made a martini. He took a bottle of Martini Vermouth off the shelf and said that he simply poured a bit of it into a glass and put it in front of you. That is what they call a martini. I asked if he would like to know what a martini is in Texas, and he got his pad and pencil to write the recipe down. When I told him that it was six ounces of very good gin and about a teaspoon of good vermouth, either over ice of stirred with ice and drained into a cold stem glass, he was gob smacked – simply amazed. “Why I’d have to charge 25 quid for that!” he said. That’s about $ 35 in American money. This was in 2002. I explained to him that there is no limit on drink size in Texas and that a martini in Muldoons was about $ 8. He was astounded. To be sure, the state liquor tax people assume that you will get about 27 drinks out of a fifth of whisky, and you should expect to incur a tax impact for free pouring large drinks. But it all sorts itself out. If you pour stingy drinks here, no one will show up. You just adjust your price to see to it that you come out right. Most drinks other than a martini will be around two to three ounces here, plus whatever mix you use if you are serving a mixed drink. The rationale for regulating public drinking in the British manner is that the aristocracy do not yet believe that the ordinary people have any right drinking in the first place. And so it is deliberately made expensive to discourage the practice. And the aristocracy don’t drink in public anyway. They do their drinking either at home or in their private clubs, where the lesser sorts can’t see them doing it. They won’t admit to the class conscious aspect of the regimen because it isn’t politically correct to do so. But that vestige of class distinction remains very palpable.
If you want to know what I consider to be really grand saloon bullshit, from my own personal perspective, I refer you to “Evening At Muldoons” elsewhere in this anthology.
I always seem to find the perfect bar for me in every city. Some acquaintance will lead me to it or I will hear of it in casual discussion at some other establishment. In Detroit, when I had an office there, Galligan’s was considered “the annex” at my law firm. If I wasn’t in the office, in court or out of town on business, you could find me at the front end of the bar at Galligan’s. In San Francisco it was The Washington Square Bar and Grill – “The Washbag”. When it closed I went into a period of mourning and grief from which I thought I would never recover. Just being a Texan in The Washbag was in and of itself going to lead to great bullshit with the locals who had, in most instances, never seen a Texan outside of the movies. Californios will, at first at least, believe anything that a Texan tells them. Their idea of what Texas people are like is so extreme that they can well imagine that we all still ride horses and fight with Indians – a/k/a Native Americans. My World Champion Hog Wrestling story was most effectively told there.
CATEGORY FOUR – RELIGIOUS BULLSHIT
I used to think that we have taken the concept of church and state separation too far – so far in fact that it seemed we were using the concept to make war on religion. After all, religious symbols like postings of the ten commandments and manger scenes have been part of our culture of mixed belief systems since time immemorial. I openly criticized pinko liberal commie assholes for attacking God through the misuse of constitutional principles. Now I see what they were afraid of and I owe them an apology. It’s the bullshit of the religious conservatives that scared them and that ought to scare the living shit out of all of us.
They have confected all manner of euphemisms for the beneficent description of who they want us to perceive them to be. They call themselves things like “people of faith” and their organizations now get public funding as “faith based” public service charities. In truth, seeing through their bullshit, they are nothing more than the religious zealots and tyrants that the theocratically motivated have always been. No mode of government that was ever centered upon religious beliefs has ever managed to avoid becoming tyrannical. I don’t care whether these sumbitches call themselves ayatollahs, orthodox rabbis, preachers or any other variety of pseudo “godly” designation, all they really want is to be enthroned in some manner that enables them to dictate how the rest of us conduct our lives.
Seems like every time I look, I am reminded that God ordained that we should all have free will – we would make up our own minds and take our lumps for making wrong headed decisions. But it is our call, not the call of some religious asshole. The religious assholes who claim a monopoly of knowing what is right deny God when they reject free will. There is no free will if we are not free to make choices, even bad and wrong choices. The mission is to inform so that people have better capability to make better choices. The religious zealots cherry pick the teachings just as much as everyone they criticize. The Falwells and the corrupt opportunists who follow the lead of his ilk support placing the government in our bedrooms and in our families by force at our most private moments. This is what the Constitution sought to avoid. Give a religious zealot an inch and you have incipient tyranny needing to be stifled. How much of their bullshit will it take to open out eyes to the evil of religious “leaders” and the vicious slime like Congressman Tom Delay who panders to them for the support of their “followers”. Apparently the sexual assault of children doesn’t even result in rejection of the corrupt institution that hides the assaulting priests. These people should be summarily slaughtered – no due process – no time wasted – just let the parents have em for about an hour. Instead they are celebrated. This is evil bullshit.
If it takes defacing the walls of public buildings to erase the slogans of the religious right, then so be it. We can redo architectural niceties more easily than we can rebuild the damaged lives of the victims of religious predators.
Perhaps the biggest bullshit of all is the notion that “it is the principle of the thing”. It is never “the principal”. It is always that there are various principles needing to be assigned priorities in the sorting out of life’s dilemmas. We who do not claim to be “ordained”, “elected” or “chosen” constantly wrestle with our consciousness of what is “right” and the forces that seem to us to require that we sometimes do something other than an absolute “right” in order to manage as best we can the issues that confront us from moment to moment. We don’t do it perfectly. We aren’t expected to do it perfectly – in compliance with absolutist doctrines. We do it as we have the light and the grace to perceive how best to do it. Those who would tell us what to do all the time should apply their absolutist standards to their own conduct and leave the rest of us the fuck alone.
CATEGORY FIVE – CORPORATE BULLSHIT
Bullshit occurs when a bunch of idiots are placed in charge of serious activity. Since an idiot cannot possibly discern concepts like quality control, personal relationships and risk analysis, bad shit happens. For example, General Motors management is incapable of producing cars that compete effectively with foreign cars and make money doing so. Instead of bringing in people from outside the company with exposure to how things are done to produce quality vehicles at a profit, they bring in public relations people and advert agencies. The result, of course is complete stupidity. They decide not to advert the vehicles themselves, but to advert that “We are professional grade people”. In the first instance, they are not quality people, but idiots. If they were professional grade people they would be capable of managing the assets for which they are responsible in a profit producing mode. To do that they would have to produce competitive vehicles. Since they do neither, they can’t possibly be professional grade people. Since the entire premise of their core message is false, the company does not make money from operations for years. And when interest rates decline sharply, as they have in recent years, their GMAC financing arm can no longer carry the financial burdens of incompetent and money losing operations. As Abe Lincoln said, “You can’t fool all the people all the time.”
There is no surplus of genius at Ford Motor Company either. Their speciality is to follow the General Motors lead and put their luxury car names on small, less expensive vehicles. The ridiculous notion is that such name sharing will impart incremental value to the cheaper, even less well made vehicles. WRONG! As in the case of General Motors, the effect is to dilute the value of the luxury names by associating them with vehicles that are not luxury vehicles. DUH! Now that they have trashed the Jaguar franchise by making what they deem “cheap” Jaguars, Jaguar is regarded as no longer a prestige product line and does not sell enough cars to make a profit. BRAVO, CHAPS!
Chrysler sold out to Daimler, and Daimler executives at Chrysler came out with Chrysler cars with a Mercedes-like front of the car look. They upgraded a few other aspects of the cars as well, but the quality control is still at Chrysler level, and Chrysler buyers won’t/can’t pay for Mercedes quality anyway. One rather astute observer recently commented, “When all is said and done, why pay thirty-five thousand dollars for a Chrysler, when you can get a good Japanese car for that kind of money?” And too many old folks like me remember the experience of buying a new Chrysler vehicle and having really serious quality problems with it. When the warranty claim was made, I was informed that the warranty policy at Chrysler was (and probably still is) you fucking bought it and you fucking own it. Fuck you! The corporate abbreviation for the policy was/is known as YFO.
Similar genius is regularly applied to marketing planning. Calling everyone at home at the dinner hour to insist – yes insist and call every fucking day for a week – that I switch my phone service to MCI is the best statement of the mental acuity of MCI management. Guess who isn’t switching to MCI. Not that I would have switched anyway since they had previously cheated me on phone rates by offering me a seventeen cents per minute rate and charging me twenty six cents per minute, and then denying that they ever offered the lower rate in the first place. No one pays rates like that anymore, but in those days seventeen cents per minute was considered pretty good. They stopped calling when I informed the caller about my opinion of his mother. The fact that the head of MCI-Worldcom, Bernie Ebbers, was just convicted for being a thief and a fraud suggests that the corporate culture probably hasn’t changed at that company since I had the unpleasant experience to have been their customer in the past.
In addition to the bozos, thieves and scoundrels who occupy upper management positions in America’s companies these days, there are thousands of hard working diligent folks laboring in the ranks of lower management. These folks know how the mechanisms of the company really work. These people are in the trenches, dealing with the customers and trying to overcome the impediments that the upper management bozos put in the way of getting things accomplished. Part of the grossly unfair dilemma they have to deal with is that when they learn of shenanigans in the company, they have to make the self sacrificial choice of whistle blowing and losing their jobs and any possibility of rehire elsewhere and something called “doing the right thing”. The sacrifice is just too big to oblige lower ranks to impale themselves upon the vengeful pikes of the scoundrels at the top. If they can find a way to publicize the malfeasance anonymously, wonderful. If not, then I don’t believe families should be punished as the reward for “doing the right thing”. Right now that’s how the system works, and that’s just very awful bullshit. I suppose they could simply seek employment elsewhere, and where that can be done without difficulty, that would be the best choice. Otherwise, I would hold the lower ranks blameless, even if they know of the bosses being crooks.
The upper management bozos are, in the main, people who are in positions that are beyond their abilities. Lacking know-how, they play CEO theatre or president theatre. This is a game in which they do what their predecessors did, not necessarily with regard to substance, but at least with regard to form and appearance. The problems they inherited do not get solved. They bring no insights into how to improve the business environment within the company or with its customers. They have been trained in their B School curricula that it is important to keep shuffling the deck so that meaningful comparisons are difficult or impossible to make between their tenure and the tenures of those who were in the position earlier on. And so, if the company loses money in operations, they combine divisions, create management groups, make geographical realignments of groups and divisions, and hold meetings ad nauseam which everyone must attend to explain what has happened and what it “will” accomplish, content that could easily be put into a very short email message. The meetings are usually held in a locale that the head bozo in charge would like to visit for some personal aggrandizement, golf, tennis, skiing, fishing, you-name-it. What could have been a less-than-lunch expense email becomes a hundred thousand plus dollars waste of company time, money and productivity that is resented by all the real working folks who had to fall behind in real work to go to this awful bullshit meeting where the arrogant boss made them sit in a room and listen to him boringly explain something that practically never remedies any situation or problem, always turns out to be counter productive, and is always resented. Sometimes the bozo hires a “consulting” firm. This bunch of nit wits conducts a “study” of the situation to be addressed, something that is rarely even liminally competent, and makes idiotic recommendations that are in furtherance of what the bozo boss said he expects. These recommendations are gleefully welcomed by the boss who told them this was what he wanted them to recommend in the first place. Now he can say that his idiotic ideas have been given the imprimatur of the outside consultants. The consultants have certainly never consulted with any of the folks in the company who actually do the work, so they have no competent input at all. And of course, why have competent input that might give a different impression from that given to you by the goon who hired you in the first place?
Having a degree certifying that you are a B School person is now considered much more valuable than actual experience. Bright people usually get squelched in any institution. Independent intelligence usually has to move out and go it alone to prove up what ever it is that they have to offer. The great ideas that revolutionize anything must always go outside the company to flourish. What Bill Gates did with Windows is a perfect example. He would never have been allowed to do what he did inside IBM. Warren Buffet would never be tolerated in any large company. He either owns it, is a director who is not employed there or he has nothing to do with it. Face it, Jesus couldn’t get his church to move beyond its narrow perspectives either.
There are many more categories of great bullshit, and I could go on forever. But this is already the longest vignette in this anthology.
Bullshit is an indispensable part of a healthy life. You can’t be emotionally stable or secure if you don’t have any competence at bullshit. If you think you are above it all, you are simply delusional.
By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
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