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Watching Swan Lake (So you don’t have to)

It’s gorgeous outside and I have to do some work in the garden area so I’m not going to be watching Swan Lake today.  But if you’re getting rain where you are and you’re looking for a way to kill the afternoon without spending a small fortune on the IMAX version of Godzilla, consider Swan Lake.

As you probably know by now, I cut my teeth on NYCB Balanchine ballets because during my formative years, I lived about 5 miles from Saratoga and spent all my babysitting money on cut rate Saturday matinee tickets.  That ruined me for story ballets.  And when it comes to Swan Lake, I’ve been permanently tainted by the Ballet Trocadero de Monte Carlo.  Whenever I see a ballerina in that feather headdress thingy, I immediately see how ridiculous the whole ballet is and I can’t suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy it.

But I did have some insomnia recently and stayed up to watch a few youtube versions.  So, here’s some quick reviews in case you want to check them out.

Let’s start with the Kirov.  The Russians have this thing down.  Swan Lake is in the Russian bloodstream.  Petipa’s choreography suits the Vaganova technique.  It’s lush and dramatic.  The folk dances are performed very authentically.  (However, I think it was one of the Russian versions that featured a very heavy footed, duck walk transition of the corps de ballet.)  If you are into a full on, serious, melodramatic Swan Lake, go no further than the either the Kirov (Mariinsky) or the Bolshoi.

Paris Opera Ballet.  The biggest tragedy of this version is that the choreography was restaged by Rudolf Nuryev.  The stage looks crowded, the opening dances disorganized.  It’s too much much.  The eye doesn’t know where to look.  However, Nuryev gave male dancers something to do in this ballet apart from serving as human barres for ballerinas.  For example, he inserted a variation for Rothbart, the evil sorcerer, just before the coda of the black swan pas de deux. It makes perfect sense here, showcasing the dancer and giving the principals some breathing time before the exhausting coda with its countless fouttes.  The bad thing is that the tempo of the black swan coda is slowed down so much that the music has a German beer hall oom-pa-pa sound.  So not flattering, not to mention the makeup on Odette/Odile makes her look either dead or seriously cyanotic.  But if you’re into the guys, check this one out.

The Royal Ballet. The Royal has a light touch.  The movements are delicate, unshowy and subtle.  Almost too subtle.  Marianela Nunez and her husband Thiago Soares dance the leads but, weirdly, there’s no chemistry between them.  It’s like the Brits looked at the Russian melodrama and said, “we’ll have none of that”.  They did retain the pantomime though, which helps new users understand the story.  Then there are the costume alterations for the swans in the corps de ballet.  It’s as if the designer took the Willi costume from Giselle and made it sexier.  The push up bodice looks like it was designed by Victoria Secret while the skirt is longer, wispier and more swan shaped.  The headdresses for the corps look like white chocolate Magic Shell was drizzled over the hair in a back and forth motion.  Um, ok.  I’ve now replaced my Trocadero ballet image with one that’s slightly more swan-esque.  I guess that’s progress.

Teatro alla Scala de Milan.  This one was my favorite.  It’s hard to watch a serious ballet for two serious hours.  The Italians must have thought so too so there’s some humor and playfulness in this version, especially in the opening act.  The principals, Robert Bolle and Svetlana Zakharova are superb.  The tempo of the music is faster than the other versions I watched, making the folk dances livelier and giving the cygnet pas de quatre more precision.  The choreography of the black swan pas de deux is different from the Petipa version.  In this staging, they have chosen to use the music from the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, which was originally written for Swan Lake but was dropped from the final ballet, probably because one more pas de deux might have killed the principals.  But in this version, it fits beautifully.  It’s not as dramatic as the original black swan pas de deux and if you’re waiting for the 32 fouettes, they’re done to a completely different piece of music.  This version is more playful.  Odile is still up to no good but she’s more approachable. Less femme fatale, more spitfire. If you’re looking for traditional, skip this one.  But if you want to see dancers kicking up their heels and having a good time dancing the hell out of the music, check it out.

Finally, we can’t end without a clip or two from the ballet version that ruined it for me, the Ballet Trocadero de Monte Carlo.  Here is the quartet of cygnets.  It still makes me laugh.

 

and the corps de ballet and Siegfried:

 

Random things that concern me greatly

I think I made a mistake with the paint I picked for my bedroom.  The color is Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams.  It’s a light gray-green-blue.  I bought a quart to test and loved the way it looked on the white background but now that is is enveloping me (the ceiling wraps around the room in that way only 1950’s style houses can do) it feels too dark.  I’d say the color in this room gives it the style called Early Depression without the glam of Rogers and Astaire. The thought of getting the paint store to remix and then to repaint does not make me happy.

Another thing that does not make me happy: The president spending valuable time on a concussion summit or something that really should be delegated to his Surgeon General.  There are long term unemployed people out here who can’t get full time jobs.  Helllllooooo??  I’m glad I’m not watching TV news because the thought of seeing the most powerful person on earth distracted by concussions instead of exploring why many of us can’t get through HR filters would make my blood boil.

And then there is the faith based initiative thing that Bush II started but which Obama has failed to end.  It takes an atheist* to figure out why the White House has failed to eliminate this office.  But the rest of us can figure out what kind of long time repercussions society will experience when the seeds of bronze age mentality are generously fertilized with taxpayer money.   Here’s a video of Amanda Knief, legal counsel for American Atheists, spelling out why the Faith Based Initiative needs to be eradicated.  (Hint: it has very little to do with religion)

 

 

If only there was a way to more generously fund the VA without having to generate new revenue.  If only there was a pool of money that was not properly accounted for that could be put to use for the VA hospitals…

Finally, Brook is graduating!  OMG, I can barely believe it.  The last 18 months have been a Herculean struggle.  I didn’t think I was going to make it.  Commencement is next week and in spite of the health problems and time out of class, the kid managed to score some serious honor cords and medals for accomplishments in language.  She’s taking a gap year.  Well, we all deserve a gap year at this point.

 

*I’m not an atheist.  I just don’t believe in supernatural beings.  Er, or something.

 

 

 

Pondering Abramson’s firing- again (for the last time)

Update: Here’s a podcast from the Women’s Media Center on the subject of Jill Abramson’s firing featuring Carol Jenkins, Geneva Overholser, Gloria Steinem, and Soraya Chemaly.  They talk about some of the material I posted below.  As to how we tackle the problem of subtle but real discrimination, we need to take a lesson from Finland and open up a Gender Glasses office in the EEOC that will quantify absolutely everything in a suspect workplace.  Everything must be measured from the placement of desks to the time it takes for email to be answered to who reports to who to how many minutes women are allowed to present and how many times they are interrupted compared to a man.  Think of it like following sports.  Men respect statistics and, frankly, I think it is the only way this problem is going to get flushed out into the open.   Otherwise, it’s just our word against theirs.  If feminists are really serious about the issue, they need to lobby legislators to formally create a Gender Glasses type of bureau, fund it and publish the statistics.  You will know who your friends are when they are asked to co-sign the legislation and move it through the committees.

*******************************************************************************************************

I promise this will be the last time I write about this thing because it’s speculation anyway.  But there’s a lot going on here and, in the end, this is primarily a story about how gender stereotypes were used to serve Baquet.  I realize that he’s a likable guy but in the end, Baquet was the primary beneficiary of Abramson’s firing.  I think we have to acknowledge that he had a significant role in it.

The story is complicated by a family dynasty, recent history, embarrassment, loyalty, economics and a fundamental misunderstanding about how modern women (and some modern men) think.  So, this post will be in pieces parts with the hope that it will all make sense in the end.  Some of these pieces come from personal experience that I have witnessed or was encouraged to participate in.  The pharma field has given me a wealth of material to write several satires.

Let’s start with the most obvious factor plucked from another post I read this morning about positions traditionally held by men being replaced by female appointees and the irrational resentment that engenders.

“There aren’t any WOMEN here today, are there?”

1.) The male affirmative action program.  I ran into this one early in my career when the lab I worked for hired a woman to run a medicinal chemistry group.  As far as I could see, she was the only woman running a group of that size in the company.  There were other female chemists who had a few assistants and were running project teams but this one new hire, let’s call her D, was going to have a substantial group of PhD chemists running their own projects working for her.  It was unprecedented.  On the projects I worked on with D, I found her to be very intelligent, incisive, authoritative and, this one is important, calm.  There was no drama.  She was, and still is, a natural leader.

Needless to say, to this day, the chemists at that lab (who were all laid off en masse by Pfizer in 2009, but that’s another story) complained bitterly about why D was hired.  It wasn’t just that she was a token, it was that there were so many other more qualified men that could have been hired in her stead.  I had lunch with a bunch of these guys a couple of years ago.  They are all pretty decent people, even if they are mentally disabled by their Y chromosomes.  When the subject of D was brought up, I laughed at them. They were still convinced that there were better qualified men that could have been hired.  I pointed out that before D started, all of the group leaders were men and several, and I named names, were leaders that no one could stand.  They were irrational or untalented or autocratic or weird.  No one wanted to work for them.  But D comes along and instead of saying, hey, she makes JB look like a fricking nut case, why don’t we replace HIM, we’re getting all upset that she’s not some dude we know.  I gave them case after case of lousy male group leaders and they all agreed that no one wanted to work for them.  Working for D, on the other hand, was a pleasure because it was so damned rational.  So, what was the problem, guys?  Why is the answer always the affirmative action plan for men?  That shut them up and gave them something to think about for awhile.

Sometimes, you need to point out what a warped perspective men have about how the world works.  In some respects, their lives are as disadvantaged as a person who grew up in the ghetto.  It’s all they know.  They’re so used to lousy leadership from half of the men they work for that they fail to see what the real problem is when a woman steps in to a leadership position.

This has been brought up before but the news media represents women’s points of view very poorly.  The ratio of men to women on the Op/Ed pages of the NYTimes is something like 10-2.  Just look at the Supreme Court to see how having even 3 out of 9 people judging while female has had damn little impact on the law of the land.  It only takes one Justice Kennedy or Anonin Scalia in love with his own self and sense of power to hold back modernity in this country.  But for some reason, all I ever read about is consternation over why Ruth Bader Ginsburg is still serving, a question that never came up when John Paul Stevens was serving well into his 90th year.  So, it’s no wonder that our perceptions of women in leadership roles are so twisted.  It’s like the privileged group just now noticed that there are women in the crowd.

2.) The layoffs are coming!  The layoffs are coming!  Anyone working in the last 30 years knows what it’s like to be on the verge of a layoff.  The MBA crowd starts sending out fatwas about money and getting lunch served during 4 hour meetings is suddenly not happening anymore and cuts start really biting into how things are done.  When this starts happening to a group of professionals who are heavily mortgaged and have kids to raise and college to pay for, alliances start to get formed very quickly.  It becomes necessary to find the politically well connected and become their best friend.  You like what they like and hate who they hate.

When the layoff rumors started at my last lab about 2 years before the ax fell, I had a conversation with one of my colleagues who told me a story about his family dynamics.  He said that he had two brothers and in order to get what he wanted, he always sided with the stronger brother at the time.  The brother on top would periodically change and he switched his loyalties accordingly.  This conversation was in reference to why he was siding with the guy who eventually turned out to be our boss just before the layoff decisions were made and not with the woman who was my boss.  He was offering me a choice.  Switch and help drive the knife in or suffer the consequences.  I opted for  loyalty.  I liked my boss and was learning a lot from her.  She was displaced a few months later and got a new job, and almost all of her former group members were laid off pretty quickly.  I jumped to another group and hung on.

I bring this up because I’ve heard a lot of stuff about how even some of the women in the newsroom complained about Abramson.  This is at a time when the CEO of the Times had been making his presence more widely known.  When it comes time to satisfy the shareholders, it’s important that you have made the correct alliance.  It is pretty clear from the posts I have read about Baquet that Sulzberger liked him and had regretted not appointing him instead of Abramson.  So, if the Times staff was in the unenviable position of picking a brother to side with in order to save jobs, Baquet was the one to go to.  In such a situation, it is appropriate and understandable to play up his good characteristics in order to justify why Abramson was stabbed in the back.  It happens all of the time.  I didn’t say it was nice, or fair, or loyal.  It’s just human.  It’s not a reflection on either Baquet’s or Abramson’s leadership qualities.  Pinch liked Baquet and didn’t like Abramson and that’s all you needed to know in order to save your own skin.

3.) Ovaries of Steel.  In this case, I am not referring to Abramson, although that plays into it as well.  No, I’m referring to the person who Abramson was trying to bring in, Janine Gibson, newly appointed editor-in-chief of The Guardian.  Frontline recently ran a two part series on the NSA scandal that everyone should watch for a wide variety of reasons.  What Janine Gibson did was both shrewd and incredibly ballsy and she learned what NOT to do by watching what the Times did with previous national intelligence stories.

So, here’s a quick summary.  In 2004, James Risen of the NYTimes wrote a story about the Bush administration’s possible violations of the constitution through a massive surveillance of American citizens.  It turns out that Risen only knew a tiny fraction of what was going on and Edward Snowden would spell it all out 9 years later.  Risen presented Bill Keller, executive editor at the time with his story and Keller and Sulzberger contacted the White House.  The White House, deep in reelection politics, knew it had a problem on its hands so it invited Keller and Sulzberger to a meeting. It then put pressure on the Times to sit on the story for a year.  The Frontline documentary makes it sound like the White House either threatened the Times or laid a guilt trip on it about “letting the terrorists win”.  Well, you remember the crap that the Bushies were always dumping on its critics.  Same thing.

Fast forward to 2013.  Janine Gibson sends her representatives to Hong Kong to vet Edward Snowden.  They check him out and say he’s legit and the story is huge.  At that point, she also calls the White House- and gives them four hours to respond before she goes to print. She refuses a meeting. Gibson knew that if she met with the White House and they stalled for time or found a way to silence her source, the story would vanish into the ether so she gave them very little time to engage in defensive tactics.  Now, I think Edward Snowden is a hero and Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras were inspiring but when it comes right down to it, none of revelations might have happened if Janine Gibson hadn’t had the courage and intelligence to pre-empt the White House and NSA’s stalling tactics.

4.) Putting it all together.  So, here’s my best guess as to how Abramson’s firing went down.  First, we have Baquet indulging in male affirmative action behavior.  Why shouldn’t he be executive editor?  Also, Abramson’s bringing in this Gibson girl to be his equal?  What?

(I’m going to guess this is when Abramson discovered that she had been underpaid at certain points during her career at the NYTimes.  She probably had to find out what salary, benefits and level she could offer Gibson and in the process, uncovered a pattern of pay discrimination that dated back to the time when she was a deputy managing editor.  Just a guess but the timing seems right.)

Then there is the sense of unease and impending cutbacks.  Baquet makes a lot of friends.  Sulzberger likes him.  Alliances are formed around Baquet.

Then there is the possible embarrassment to the Times if Gibson comes in.  First, it highlights Keller’s and Sulzberger’s toadying to the White House and, secondly, Janine Gibson looks like a loose cannon, something Baquet was likely to highlight during the amuse-bouche.  Abramson is making a rash decision to bring in someone who may get the NYTimes into another Risen situation with all of the potential legal headaches and expenses that would entail.  Did Pinch really want another embarrassing situation on his hands??  Come to think of it, it’s kind of flattering to be on the president’s good side, isn’t it?  And besides, Pinch was one of the forces behind trying to get Caroline Kennedy to take Hillary Clinton’s senate seat.  No doubt, Sulzberger considers himself to be one of the best people.  It just wouldn’t look good to hire this upstart boat rocker.  Did Abramson really think this over before she went over both of their heads to hire Gibson?

5.) The Pilhofer Pilfer.  Women who came of age during the 70’s and 80’s, before The Backlash, grew up believing that there were no boundaries to their ambition.  Oh, sure, we had professors who spent inordinate amounts of time fluffing some pissy little male students instead of us but we could rise above that.  Then we went to work and accomplished and moved into leadership positions and took some risks.  To us, I mean to the females in this cohort, there is a lot of admiration and respect for each other’s talents and life work.  We see ourselves as persons who are women with accomplishments.  However, to the rest of the world, especially to men who for some reason aren’t interested in hearing about the Abramson firing because it is booooorrrrrring to them, a person with Hillary Clinton’s or Jill Abramson’s credentials is still like a dog playing a piano.  They are one offs.

I have also read that women get their first crack at high level leadership when an organization is in trouble.  There are a couple theories as to why this is.  One is that the organizations have run out of other options.  Another is that women are seen as smoothing the waters when there is internal turmoil, although this is really a cultural stereotype.  Women are human beings and can be tough as well if they are given permission to do so.  Look at what happened in Iceland during the financial crisis of 2008.  Johanna Sigurdardottir was put in charge when the country faced down the IMF and the world’s biggest banks.  It initially had a severe recession but has recovered better than Ireland, Spain or Greece.  The risk to women is high in these situations.  If she can’t avert the impending disaster, her leadership is blamed and taints the careers of other women of her stature.

Abramson was put in a tricky position when she took over from Keller in 2011.  The Times is going through a harsh transition due to the changing nature of the media.  From all accounts, she was doing very well.  She was instrumental in putting up the paywall to the news, which makes a hell of a lot more sense than putting a paywall around the Op/Ed pages.  Maybe it wouldn’t have been enough to save her when the shareholders started demanding more for dinner.  Even superhuman accomplishments wouldn’t have been sufficient in that scenario.  And her reputedly “brusque” behavior was not unusual for executive editors of major papers.  I think the gender related complaints were just convenient excuses that Baquet and his allies used to get her out of the way.

But Sulzberger and Baquet are still working with old male brains because Janine Gibson *is* a force to be reckoned with and the fact that she poached one of the NYTimes’ up and coming digital content specialists in the aftermath of Abramson’s firing tells us quite a bit.  It tells us that there are some men who see an advantage to working for strong, courageous women, and that’s a very good thing for the rest of us.

And a very bad thing for the NYTimes.

 

 

Who zoomed who during the Abramson debacle?

bonehead-award-graphicThe fallout from the Abramson debacle continues at the NYTimes.  It sounds to me like Dean Baquet used his Y chromosome to pull a fast one using Sulzberger’s sympathy as a fellow guy.  First, he complained to Pinch or Punch (or whatever) that Jill Abramson hired Janine Gibson at The Guardian as his equal at the NYT in charge of digital content.  Gibson says Abramson told her that she had to get Baquet to buy in to the hire before there was a formal offer and, indeed, there was no formal offer to Gibson regarding the position.  From the New Yorker piece on Abramson’s firing we learn:

Janine Gibson, speaking publicly for the first time about her meetings with Baquet, clouded the case against Abramson somewhat, at least where the accusation of lying is concerned. “I can’t speak to Dean’s understanding, but it was made clear to me that everybody knew everything about what was being discussed,” she told me. “Jill was explicit in our initial conversation when she told me, ‘The first thing I have to do is talk to Dean.’ I’m mortified that these discussions are in public and feel very strongly that Jill should not have been hung out to dry when she behaved honorably and was trying to do what she thought was best for the New York Times.” Gibson has told friends that, not only did she meet with Baquet for lunch on Monday May 5th, she met that morning with him and Abramson together for more than an hour. She had a separate meeting with Sulzberger and Thompson.

That didn’t stop Baquet from whining that that Abramson hadn’t gotten his sign off, as if it were needed (apparently, in spite of Abramson’s title as executive editor, she needed it. We can only speculate as to why this condition exists.).  Baquet says no one told him anything.

But it gets better.  I found this on Jay Rosen’s twitter stream this morning.  It’s a bit from The Guardian:

Guardian News & Media (GNM) today announced the appointment of Aron Pilhofer – currently associate managing editor for digital strategy at the New York Times – to the newly-created role of executive editor of Digital. The announcement was made by incoming editor-in-chief of theguardian.com, Janine Gibson.

Pilhofer, who is also editor of interactive news at the New York Times, will work across the Guardian’s editorial teams to develop and execute new and innovative digital journalism initiatives and tools to help grow global audiences and deepen reader engagement. His new role will see him helping drive the Guardian’s digital transformation, working in concert with a global team of journalists and developers.

He will start in the Guardian’s US newsroom in June and will move to the Guardian’s offices in London over the summer.

So, to recap:

1.) Janine Gibson, editor of digital content (and now incoming editor in chief) at The Guardian interviews with Baquet and Abramson for a position at the NYT as deputy managing editor of digital content.  This position is co-equal to Baquet’s. Digital is the “wave of the future” so it’s important to get someone with experience in this area to do it.  Gibson seems very qualified.

2.)Abramson gives an informal offer to Gibson with the proviso that Baquet signs on. Presumably, the co-equal level is going to rattle Baquet.  In the meantime, she assures Baquet that she will recommend him as her successor to Pinch or Punch (or whatever) when the time comes.  She sets up a dinner for Baquet to talk with Pinch or Punch (or whatever) so his fee-fees can be assuaged.

3.) Baquet stabs Abramson in the back and pulls the gender stereotyped “she is being an autocratic bitch” thing with Pinch or Punch (or whatever).  Sulzberger, having heard about Abramson from myriad male sources before, no doubt, finally gives in and fires her, to appoint Baquet to Abramson’s position.

4.) Gibson poaches Pilhofer from the NYTimes.  Lovely.

Now, we can look at the Pilhofer pilfer in two ways.  The first is that Pilhofer was pretty pissed off that Abramson wouldn’t hire from within and make him managing editor of digital content so he left.  But he leaves to work for Gibson, which looks to me like a lateral move, not necessarily a promotion.  And the people I’ve known who make such moves are the ones who have absolutely had it.  They have a choice and they aren’t going to take it anymore.  Pilhofer would have worked for Gibson if she had gone to the NYT so presumably, Gibson was not the problem.

The second way to look at this is that the NYTimes has lost two stellar digital content specialists in the span of a couple of weeks.  This is at a time when it couldn’t afford to lose digital content specialists.  AND it has fired the editor who was trying to bring in the very person who filched one of their rising stars.  Note that putting Baquet in charge did not stop Pilhofer from leaving, in spite of the now more genial, unfailingly politer news room.

This looks like a boneheaded move but not in any way an unusual one.  The corporate world is littered with the corpses of women’s careers and good ideas and things that could have been but didn’t come to fruition because some dude’s fragile ego and sense of entitlement was threatened.  This is why we can’t have nice things.  So, the NYT has a new executive editor and has lost a good chunk of the very talent it needs to grow in the future.

Way to go, Pinch, or Punch (or whatever).

 

 

It’s not that easy being a trillium

Deer love them so much they nearly wiped them out a few years ago.

Fox Chapel, PA is one of the few remaining places in the country where a visitor can see trillium, a flower associated with stands of old growth forest.  Peak season is late April to mid-May.  Looks like I just missed it.  But there was more to see than trillium on the Trillium Trail on the short hike I took this afternoon, like Virginia Bluebells and every shade of green.  Music is by Jesse Palter from her album Beginning to See the Light.  The piano section reminds me of Vince Guaraldi, one of my favorite jazz pianists. Enjoy.

 

“She’s doing it the way she wants to do it”: Abramson vs Mad Men

Peggy Olson questions herself

Woot!  Talk about timely.  Matt Weiner batted one out of the park last night with Mad Men.  He encapsulated in one episode what many woman go through in the working world every day.  Quick summary: Peggy Olson is the creative for an ad for Burger Chef.  Through a series of unfortunate events, Don, her former boss, now works for her.  Pete, the sales guy, says that when it comes time to give the presentation to the client, he thinks Don should give the presentation, not Peggy.  That’s because Don is the voice of authority, Peggy brings the emotion.  She’s the woman and therefore the Mom voice.

Fans who have followed this show since the beginning must have snorted their G&T through their noses at that statement.  Peggy deliberately rejected motherhood because she “wanted other things”.  But it’s not the motherhood/emotional part of Pete’s stupid assessment that’s important.  It’s that Peggy is NOT the voice of authority, even though she’s capable, bright and in charge of the strategy.

This is what Jill Abramson and other powerful women have been facing.  No matter what their title says, they are ultimately not the voices of authority.  Some dude is.  In Abramson’s case, it was her publisher.  Sulzberger has recently come out saying that it wasn’t gender that forced Abramson out but her management style.  Well, of course!  She was probably just crazy enough to believe that when it came to management decisions, she would get the final say because she was the executive editor.  Instead, I’m guessing that every decision she made was questioned.  If everything was going well, it was because she had talented people working for her.  If a decision went wrong, it was a zillion times worse because she was the agent who made it happen.

Hey, Pinch or Punch, or whatever your silly nickname is, we have seen this play before.  Her authority is only relevant when it turns out wrong.  If everything is going right, she doesn’t get any credit at all.  How many times have I been to presentations where a guy talks and he’s given praise and helpful suggestions.  He even gets to finish.  But when a woman gets up to talk, it’s perfectly Ok to talk over her, force her to explicitly detail every decision and calculation, and then point out the flaws bit by bit until the end can’t come too quickly, if she’s allowed to finish at all.  I’ve even seen male underlings do the dirty work of tearing into a female rival’s work with the ferocity of a Rottweiler while the rest of us sat in stunned silence.  It’s rude, vicious and serves to strip a woman of all authority.  She can’t help but question herself.  What crime did she commit to merit such a public dressing down?  There’s no reason for it except competition.  And they do it because it works.

So, yeah, it’s very simple to make every management failure to look like the biggest mistake in the world if you train enough eyes on it, don’t hold back on the disrespectful criticism and don’t stop the nasty criticism once it starts.  Men are allowed to make mistake after mistake.  Their mistakes don’t count unless the company or top brass is embarrassed, like Howell Raines embarrassed the NYTimes by hiring and promoting Jayson Blair.  But a woman is NEVER allowed to make mistakes because her authority is already so shaky that anything that goes wrong doesn’t look like a learning experience but a catastrophic failure.   That’s a perfect way to inhibit creativity.  Just drop a house on someone the minute they take a risk and get it wrong.

But back to Peggy and Don.  Don was her mentor.  Yes, yes, this is fiction.  But in last night’s episode, he turns up at her office and gives her, not the answer to ad, but something far more important.  He helped her believe in herself and her instincts again.  He gave her the support she needed.  In the last scene, she has the confidence to go on and do it her way.

Now, it’s just a TV show, fergawdssakes, but come on, guys, we’re fricking half the population and it’s the twenty first century already.  Mentor your female colleagues and when the challenges to her authority start flying (and they will), stand up for them.  Is that so much to ask?  Otherwise, you might end up with this guy:

Obama Arrives In New York

 

Instead of this woman (who everyone now seems to want desperately):

 

Yeah, that went well.

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Speaking of Hillary, now that Tim Geithner is out with his book featuring himself as the savior of the global financial system while the rest of us, you know, suffer in the name of shareholder value, let’s look back to the time when one of the presidential candidates proposed saving the homeowners (as authors Atif Mian and Amir Sufi assert was a missed opportunity):

 

So there you have it, folks.  We saved the banks but doomed the economy and many unemployed peoples’ careers due to what may turn out to be an insufficient number of Penis Years.

Now, I realize that there are going to be some bloggers on the left that will roll their eyes and laugh and insist that it was a lot more complicated than that.   I will not deny that many of them were victims of a stellar campaign that convinced them to vote against their own best interests and that campaign should be a textbook case of a social psychology experiment in situational influence that we should all study.  But when it comes right down to it, penis years had a lot to do with it.  We are condemned to suffer by a bunch of dicks.

 

Boys in Boots

Ursula Hegeli, ballet mistress at the Royal Ballet, does an educational series on the history of ballet.  In one of her latest episodes, she takes us way back to the court of Louis XIV, The Sun King.  It turns out that the king had quite a turn out.  I always thought that the turn out was part of the foundation of ballet because the whole body should be “open”.  But it turns out (no pun intended) that the turn out came as a practical solution to a totally different problem.  Take a look: