Welcome back to "Ask Alex", where I answer all of your stupid questions with even dumber answers. Have a question you need answered? Tweet it, email it or submit it here and I will get to it (maybe) next week.
I’m back after a Thanksgiving break, and...well, I kinda rushed through this one. Sort of a busy week, and I was almost thinking of putting this off. But then I was super hungover today and didn’t feel like doing anything else, and my office like 100 degrees so I am sweating like Lena Dunham in hot yoga and this was all I could bring myself to do. Unfortunately, that is probably not a recipe for my best work, but there isn’t much I can do about that...I’m just gonna post this and go home and take a shower to cool down…
Fisky has a question about the War on Christmas, which was going to get a smarmy answer about everyone claiming to be a victim of something, but I didn’t feel like getting yelled at, so it’s about non-terrible Christmas music. TJ just refuses to accept the truth about coffee, and tries to New England-shame me into denying what I know to be true. Lady Catherine can’t figure out why everyone loves “Roxanne” so much, but I think I have some ideas. Then I have some non-funny ideas about Twitter and its War on Conservatives for FoxyCon.
Finally, we talk office dress codes with Proper Opinion!
Submitted by: FiskysaurusRex
Have we finally ended the War on Christmas?
We have, and it looks like Christmas won.
I’ve been called the resident Scrooge by my fellow Misfits, which isn’t terribly accurate. I don’t like Christmas music, particularly, but mostly I don’t like the all-encompassing month-long obsession over Christmas. It is such a mad rush to cram so many things into so little time that it ends up being rushed and hectic and not that much fun. On the plus side, I get to eat tons of food that other people pay for, and I get dressed up a lot, so that’s nice…
But, to prove to you that I am not a Grinch, I am going to follow up on last year’s piece on terrible Christmas Music with a brief list of the five best Christmas songs:
5) Anything by The Temptations - In 1970, The Temptations made “The Temptations Christmas Card” and it’s fucking brilliant. I think of the garbage that gets played every year at this time - Johnny Mathis? Perry Como? ANDY FUCKING WILLIAMS?!?!? - while this soulful, serious and legitimately great collection of Christmas songs goes unheard. Other than maybe Mariah Carey, I don’t think anyone consistently does Christmas as well as the Temptations. I mean, just listen to what they did with the totally garbage “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and then try to explain why the greatest nation in the history of the planet has to listen to Andy Fucking Williams every year. It is a goddamn national embarrassment.
4) Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Bruce Springsteen - Don’t @ me, you know you love it. Other than Badlands and Born to Run, this may be Springsteen’s best song… Yea, I know it has Bruce’s cheesy over-signing, but c’mon...it’s a stupid song and it kinda rocks. And Clarence is getting a new saxophone!!!
3) The Christmas Song, Nat King Cole - Perfection. Absolute perfection. There is nothing special about this song, and there are a million pedestrian versions, but Nat King Cole is so perfectly suited for this song, and it for him, that no one else should ever make it. This is, in fact, an argument I made last year:
Cole’s version of this is Christmas song perfection. Not that it’s the best Christmas song, just that it is an exquisite take on this particular tune. It’s simple and heartfelt and highlights the singer’s extraordinary talents. So, why, at this time of year when we are supposed to be celebrating God’s son, would we so offend him by trying to improve on perfection. Unless you are a singer who plans on getting to heaven and immediately telling God what he needs to improve, you should probably pick a different song.
2) All I Want for Christmas is You, Mariah Carey - I am not a huge Mariah Carey fan, but goddamnit can she do Christmas. This is the best of at least three really great Christmas songs she has made, and there may be even more. Only one problem: most people associate this song with Love, Actually, but...Jesus F. Christ people, that movie is awful!!!
It is supposed to be a charming romcom, and it is full of the worst, most despicable behavior I can possibly imagine. Pining secretly for your friend’s new wife? And her encouraging that because she finds it adorable? I don’t care how absurdly hot your abs are, Keira Knightley, this is not acceptable behavior. It’s not romantic, it is fucking creepy!
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is boning the chubby intern...left out is the part where he is impeached, ruining any chance he had for real legislative progress in the last three years of his term, but then he gets redeemed and becomes filthy rich and a hero and icon of an entire party, right up until he is politically disposable, when they finally turn on him and acknowledge that he is also probably a rapist and should have resigned 20 years ago. Meanwhile, the chubby intern is brandished a national laughinstock and has her entire life ruined for the crime of being seduced by a handsome, charming and powerful man.
I’m not even touching on the stupidity of the guy proposing to a chick he has never had an actual conversation with because they don’t speak the same language...seriously, why not just date for, I dunno, like a month?! Professor Snape is the only guy in the whole movie who pays for his despicable behavior, and he didn’t even get to actually cheat on his wife to be held accountable for it!
There are like 22 storylines, and the only one that is remotely charming is the one between mini-Prince Harry and the chick from Suits. And Liam Neeson is so fantastically lovable in the whole movie that, hells yeah, he should end up randomly finding a supermodel-single Mom at the Christmas concert.
Anyway...the whole fucking movie is terrible, and it makes me ashamed to be a woman that so many of us love it so much. But none of that is Mariah Carey’s fault, so her song still gets #2...
1) Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), Darlene Love - Ms. Love is helped by having great material (both U2, with Darlene Love singing Backup, and Mariah Carey have made great versions of this song, which is just a really good song), but her desperate, emotional pleadings put this a step ahead of anything else you hear at this time of year. Towards the end, when she begs “please, please, please, baby please come home!!!”, that’s not just a woman who misses a warm body...that’s a woman being torn apart by a broken heart.
Actually, maybe this sort of proves my Grinchiness, because this is really kind of a depressing song...you don’t know exactly why her Baby is gone, but it is pretty clear that he is not on assignment with his local news team, or deployed overseas.
No, he left her, probably for a younger, better-looking new woman, and he is absolutely, positively not coming back. She’ll spend a week desperately hoping, then she will start tweeting about him as if we don’t all know who he is, claim she was unscrupulously taken advantage of, make some veiled references to sexual assault and just generally make a complete ass of herself on Twitter.
Wait...I might be mixing my stories up here...
Submitted by: TJWFW
I don't understand this. You live in an area where the economy rests on Dunkin selling coffee and donuts, also celebrating the history of throwing out the real garbage; tea. Coffee, bacon, and puppies are all we have left. Why do you hate America?
So, once again last month I politely reminded you all that coffee tastes more or less like liquified, burnt axle grease, and then you proceeded to yell at me en masse as if you don’t know that I am right. “Oh, but it has caffeine!” said the people who are unaware that caffeine is both an addictive substance and also available in pills. “It is warm and settles my stomach!” said the people who have never met soup.
Being on the right side of history can be a lonely and difficult place, but those of us with moral conviction are ordained by God to bear the slings and arrows of lesser men and lead them towards the light. My dislike of coffee is not an opinion, nor is it a preference. It is no less than a spiritual quest to bring truth and divine intent to the unwashed heathens. I don’t want to say that I am basically Jesus, but people have noted the obvious similarities...
Story time! I was in Dunks a couple of years ago, behind a woman in line who was, um...how can I put this delicately...about the size of a beluga whale. I am not talking about being a little heavy, I mean that she had fat rolls on top of fat rolls. She was 350 lbs if she was an ounce.
She was obviously ordering for a whole bunch of people, but it was still kinda gross to hear her rip off “Three bacon, egg and cheese bagels, two sausage biscuits, two dozen - mostly chocolate covered and jelly- 100 munchkins, seven snack and go wraps.” Then, she closed with “And an extra large caramel iced, extra cream…
And Sweet N Low.”
Because you can’t go through life without making some sacrifices now and again.
Submitted by: Lady Catherine
How come every dude on the planet likes that damn song (Roxanne)
I have two theories. One, it is super fun to sing. (Question: why is the old SNL sketch with Sting on the elevator not online anywhere?)
Second, it appeals to male fantasies about rescuing distressed women. In the song, Sting is pining for a prostitute, and singing about how he can save her from having to “sell her body to the night.” No word, of course, about what else he may offer the lovely Roxanne...he’s just hoping that “hey, you can quit your job” is enough to close the deal.
Well, bad news, Gordon...there’s a pretty strong chance that Roxanne doesn’t want your saving, and an even stronger change that she doesn’t want you (well, if “you” aren’t a super hot, mega-famous rock star, but that is just sort of a detail). Roxanne may actually like being a prostitute, for one. Sure, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for the right girl in the right situation, there are worse jobs. I mean, Matt Lauer’s assistant had to have sex with him, and she didn’t get any kind of a bonus for that...she still had to do his filing, write his letters and buy his co-workers sex toys for Christmas
For particularly educated and engaging girls, being an escort can be a fairly lucrative career that doesn’t really involve anything other than being yourself and having sex with the occasional ugly person. Obviously being a street hooker is a somewhat less fulfilling job, and substantially more dangerous, but that still doesn’t automatically mean that Roxanne wants out. And, of course, he didn’t bother to ask...he just assumes that he knows what she wants.
But that’s really not the point of the question. Back to the song, let’s also acknowledge his real motivation here. Sting isn’t doing this out of respect for Roxanne or basic decency or kindness, he is doing it because Captain TantricSex just doesn’t want to pay her hourly rates for the 22 hours it takes him to have sex.
There is a point in many client-consultant relationships where the client is so reliant on the consultant that it makes more sense to try and hire them on full-time. Generally speaking, a professional services firm charges about four times an employee’s hourly rate (so, if a staffer earns $50,000/yr, which translates to roughly $25/hr, their billing rate is probably $100/hr). If the client gets to the point where they are paying for, say, about half of a person’s time and thinks that they will do so for the foreseeable future, then it usually makes sense to just create a position and hire them full time. You lose the flexibility that comes with a consultant, and the organizational expertise, but at some point the economics become compelling.
Which brings us back to Sting... A hooker’s utilization rate (the percentage of her hours that she can actually bill for) is pretty low. An accountant or a lawyer can bill nearly their entire 40 hours of work in a good week, but hookers would have a hard time getting paid for nearly that much time. Because of that, the hourly rates can be quite expensive. One of my very favorite Twitter follows works (or has worked) as an escort, and you can probably assume that she is out of your price-range: she’s super smart, highly educated, an accomplished athlete and utterly gorgeous. She commands tremendously high fees because there are a lot of (kinda pathetic) rich men who want to spend time with women like her and not that many women like her.
Actually, I should amend that...non-addict hookers are expensive, and I am kind of assuming that Roxanne meets that criteria. I have a hard time imagining that Sting is this worked up about running off with a toothless meth junkie. Sting probably just thinks it is cheaper to let Roxanne move in and start eating whatever food he has in the house than to keep paying her the exorbitant cost of his day-long bone fests.
I’m not totally sure how Sting being cheap and having sex for days at a time relates to the love of the song...but, I dunno, sometimes I get off track.
Submitted by: Foxy
Why does Twitter hate Conservatives?
I’d say it is mostly the small hands, extra toes and lazy eyes. Those can be really off-putting.
First of all, I wouldn’t say that Twitter “hates” Conservatives. But it is clearly less tolerant of off-color, aggressive or edgy speech from the right than it is the left, and much more tolerant of abusive behavior from the left than the right. Keith Olbermann, for example, has spouted vile and abusive threats against all kinds of people without ever being suspended, while similarly obnoxious gasbags like Milo Yionopoolistichristican’tspellhisname was thrown off permanently for similar behavior.
There are also instances of conservatives saying things in a biting tone that the left finds “offensive” but are arguably factual statements. I can point to at least two instances of right-wing accounts being thrown off of Twitter for suggesting that transgenderism is a mental disorder. I don’t necessarily agree with their assertion, and their tone in saying it was unquestionably and intentionally harsh, but their underlying point is, at worst, arguable (varying medical standards bodies called it a mental disorder until somewhat recently). Similarly acerbic rhetoric about overtly religious people, as one example, does not get the same level of scrutiny from the editors at Twitter.
I think the reasons are pretty simple, really. Twitter is a San Francisco company. It was founded by San Fran folks, grown by San Fran folks and is now mostly staffed by San Fran folks. Like any company, its values are both an intentional decision to appeal to the local workforce, and a function of that workforce...company values can be something of a self-reinforcing cycle. Dallas-based ExxonMobil is always going to have different values than Detroit-based GM or New York-based JP Morgan.
Every company has a “political” bent, it is just usually not something that affects anyone outside of the company. What kinds of benefits do they choose to offer? What causes do they support, both directly with their own giving and indirectly by facilitating employee giving? What sorts of policies do they implement around work/family social issues. What often gets missed, however, is that these political beliefs are much less often about the owners or managers of the company trying to enforce their own moral code than they are about attracting and retaining talent and, inasmuch as it impacts customers, appealing to customers. (There are obviously exceptions to this).
I walked in the gay pride parade last summer with a group from Novartis, the mammoth Swiss pharmaceutical maker that maintains a biotech research facility in Cambridge. One of my husband’s work-friends was walking with her wife, a scientist who works there, and we went with them. Why does Novartis sponsor a float in the parade? Why were they so aggressive in offering same-sex marriage and domestic partnership benefits to employees a decade ago? It certainly isn’t because the largely-Swiss board has some hidden agenda...it’s because those are values that are broadly shared by the highly-skilled people that they are trying to hire from a VERY competitive labor market. Not only do they want to be welcoming to talented gay people, but they want to be appealing to the very large numbers of chemists, biologists and physicists that want to work for a place that is welcoming to gay people.
A place like Exxon, who’s most highly-prized employees are petro-chemists, geoengineers and the like educated and located in Texas and the Midwest, is going to naturally seek to support different values among its employees because the people they are trying to recruit have different values. Some of which is definitely geographic: a brilliant and motivated math and science student in Texas is more likely to study Geology than the same kid in Massachusetts, who will likely be drawn to robotics or computer science. Being from different places, they are also likely to have different values. Schools and industries work together, locate near each other and reinforce these kinds of talent pools.
Which brings us to Twitter, which is different than all of these other businesses because those values impact a lot more than the employees. Twitter is a media platform that has to have an editorial bent because they have to have people making value judgements on things like harassment and offense. Those are, by nature, subjective judgements, and the people making those judgements are almost certainly going to be people who live, work and spend most of their lives with people in the San Francisco metro area.
So, when the people who make judgements see intentionally belligerent or otherwise questionable speech, they are more likely to react negatively to the right than the left for a simple reason: they are much more likely to agree with the underlying point of the left. If I tweet: “Islam is a regressive cult that hates gays, women and non-Muslims and is a danger to Democracy and human progress” I am more likely to run afoul of the powers that be than if I were to say “Christianity is a regressive cult that hates gays, women and non-Muslims and is a danger to Democracy and human progress.” And the reason is that the editorial bent at Twitter, driven by the demographics of the people who work at Twitter, is going to be more in line with finding the first one a more inflammatory statement, regardless of any argument we have about the underlying truth.
So...long and overly serious answer that can probably be summed up as “Liberals build good consumer technology, and they are going to run it according to their own ideas.”
Submitted by: Prop Op
Thinking about going goth. Think that falls under business casual?
I have to be honest, I think it probably does, provided you meet a couple of important criteria. You can’t wear jeans...your black pants will need to be some kind of slacks, not black jeans. Your black boots will have to at least be dressy enough to be considered non-casual. Doc Martens are going to be...well, pretty borderline. You may need something a little less clunky. And you'll need to keep the hair and facial piercings in line with policy.
A lot is going to depend on where you work. Is it an advertising agency or other creative firm? You can almost certainly get away with just about anything. A tech company with a super lax dress code? Same...you’re going to fit right in. Starbucks? Some hipster bar? I feel like it is expected. But a lawyer? Or, like, a loan office at the local bank? You are going to have a really hard time pulling goth off.
Have I mentioned my dress code revolt here before? I work in a business-professional office. All suits, all the time. No casual Fridays, no casual summers...it is as formal as formal gets. More often than not, I am in a skirt suit, but I have some pantsuits, too (truth: my butt looks better in skirts). Every one is navy blue or some shade of grey, and it is really rare that I ever wear heels smaller than 3 inches (cue the short jokes!!!)
It is maybe the only thing I dislike about my job.
It is also something that I am single-handedly leading a revolt against! I started dressing down a little bit a couple of summers ago, and gradually upped the ante on my casualness. I started wearing more casual skirts...sometimes with no stockings!!! Or leaving my jacket off all day. I also began encouraging the guys to leave the jackets in their offices and some of the other women to do the same.
By last summer, I had not only gone pretty casual all summer (boho skirts!!! wedge sandals!!!) but I had gotten most of the admins to follow my lead and many of the guys to stop wearing ties. I officially considered my quest won when the managing partner told us in mid-August that we would have to go back to the real dress code after Labor Day. At that point, I just unilaterally decided that we now had a summer dress code.
I don’t want to claim that I am the Martin Luther King Jr. of the office, but I don’t want to discourage the many, many people who do make that claim…
Anyway, without knowing more about what you do or where you work, it is hard for me to really opine on your new goth plan...so I say, just go ahead and do it and let us know how it goes! I’ll be happy to give you some tattoo suggestions if you need advice to get started...
Alex’s random old song of the week
Well, I already gave you five...how much do you want out of me? OK...how about the greatest instrumental in Rock History. It’s so good that I don’t even think there is a second place. And I absolutely defy you to NOT turn the radio all the way up and open your windows if you hear it in the car…
Let’s go ahead and call it a tribute to Lady Saapho! The Allman Brothers Jessica.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.