Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bustard De Ville plays Peacock

A confession to start with - am no ornithologist, not even a fake one. But I would be damned if I wouldn't be able to recognize a Bustard, especially when he would try hard to play peacock. And yes, I would be damned even if I did recognize him. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. When the Bustard in the peacock avatar comes calling, dear sir, you need to check your stars. And get the hell out. Presto.

Bustard De Ville (BDV) was no ordinary winged creature. Having schooled at the river side campus of the grand company, he had developed a keen sense of entitlement..especially for work done by others. Well to be fair, he was a workaholic. However, he got his highs not from any technical mumbo-jumbo that could emanate from his own (but highly limited) gray cells, it was from his advanced sense of entitlement. If there is one single characteristic that went beyond his exaggerated sense of entitlement, it was his uncanny ability to forfeit it when it suited him the least. Yes, the Bustard might walk like a cat on the ramp, but it can be an eel when you try to catch it.

BDV set about his career with an unerring sense of clarity. Be it the river-side campus and the highly topical assignments he was part of, (ex., deverticalization, as the Bozos from BeerDam would later call it), the move to the then "very happening" sour-grapes valley, then taking refuge at the asylum of Mr CC before injecting copious amounts of "you don't know shit about tech" into the veins of the lethargic, risk-wary Bozos of BeerDam.

You got to give it to him. He could, on the one hand, without flinching an eyelid, tell the dispensable Bozos to go to hell. An instant later, confronted by a crafty query from their boss, he would be the very statue of compliance and obedience, digging up tonnes of (pseudo) technical mumbo-jumbo and explaining why, by being an asshole, he was only doing the organization a favour.

He took to authority like fish to water. And he bettered himself when it came to boot-licking the powers-that-be to get their blessings. His best of course was reserved for dumping his bosses in the wake of opportunity to step up. He mastered this cycle of good-better-best to the point that it became a "mechanical process". Piss of incumbents, get patronage, move up. That's what leadership is all about. Results? Silly, that's a detail that was long delegated.

BDV was a man of action. He lusted for it. He hated status quo so much that if he could, he would rather have green sun light or blue milk or square wheels. It didn't matter to him if it was good, if it was working, or if it was for free. It had to change if he couldn't claim credit for it, if it was there before him, if it was invented by someone earlier and especially wiser.

Armed with a superior degree in power point, he could even sell square wheels to the head Bozos at BeerDam. Of course him being a native of the shroom country, speaking the same language and cracking the same jokes helped. So the grand company fell for his pitch. And pitches, he had dime a dozen. The elevator pitch for the execs, the 10 sliders for senior management, the 100 sliders to STFU for marketing, the 200 sliders to beat the techies with, the 300 sliders for STFU for the barking dogs of fake-lion-country. Every audience got their due. Every one treated to exquisite, fine roasted, crisp slides. So smooth were the slides, and smoother the rendition, I can't but help remark: Lies, Damn Lies and BDV's slides. Hat's off!

And so rolled in the famous Chinese (or more accurately, Taiwanese) take-away. Who wouldn't enjoy a takeaway for a change? The question was how long will you enjoy it? A week, may be two ? A month? A quarter? Don't hate me now. Takeaways, when done well, can be good for your health, your pocket, your environment, your grand children and what not...but will you still like the taste? Especially, if you insist on knowing the ingredients and the recipes? Snake oil, anybody?

And so it came to pass that the takeaway sucked. Big time. Was only suited, at best, for the lesser mortals from fake-lion-country.

The grand old company had to have a descent sit-down dinner, 5 courses and coffee; Good, but not overly sized portions, eminent recipes cooked in clean kitchens, by wax-eloquent chefs. So BDV went hunting. Who could offer this 5 course meal and then some? He came across Uncle Sam, of course. Who better? BDV's due-diligence and crisp slideware concluded - Uncle Sam was the best, by far. Not all people round the table agreed, but BDV's analysis left no other option open. The big boss, probably hesitant if not out right reluctant, agreed. So Uncle Sam it was.

Uncle Sam made the takeaway look ridiculous. That was easy. Uncle Sam made cooking-at-home look tiresome. That was easier. Uncle Sam made it sexy to dine out. That, was the best part!

And BDV, basking in the glory of the discovery of Uncle Sam, proudly took the grand old company out for dinner. A dinner to remember. A dinner to forget - forget about takeaways, forget about home cooking. Delicious starters, well made stakes, highly animated service, followed by desserts - just the right amount of wrong! Couldn't be better, could it?

Monday, May 17, 2010

The rise and rise of Mr Spock

He looked like Mr Spock, he had the same mannerism and the same strong relationship with the captains. Sure, he looked like the man from outer space, especially to people from inner space, who looked up to him not unlike a pimpled teen at the Miss Universe.

Cornerd Cheese (CC) was the technical master of all he surveyed – both wide and deep. The captains would always take his word as the last on all things nerdy. Believe me, there are a lot of things nerdy in the world of idiot boxes. But lets not take credit away from CC for making so many things look nerdy…so nerdy that only he understood it best.

And understand, he did. He could look at picture quality and point to motion artifacts, even if the screen showed a dull faced reporter reading dull news about dull weather in dull England. Yes, he could spot jerks (not the human kind) in every picture that adorned the CRT.. and then the Plasma. While lecturing on the scaling round-off errors his technicians couldn’t fathom, he would mull over the possibility of tv-anytime ironing out those stupid subtitle truncations with one smooth XML schema. Midway, he would switch gears seamlessly to the user interface. He would wonder how simple life would be if the design dogs could be leashed. (He’d occasionally throw a bone at them, but he knew there was no easy way to make them stop barking). For, nothing was worse than letting the designers go all crazy. Neither did they (he’d claim) understand what the market needs, nor were they capable of appreciating the technology constraints. Clearly, the tarty Michel Adams doesn’t sell on the high streets, at least not where CC went shopping.

What did sell on those high streets was innovation. And who better than CC to lay claim to all of it, and then some? To be fair, CC was amongst the first to discover the value of innovation within the grand company. He went about it with a combination of strong passion and humble advertisement.

For a while, he toyed with the idea of small is beautiful, to have a small team delivering innovation for the grand company. Innovation was about breaking rules, he’d say. The Belgians, with all their bureaucracy, were, ahem, less than ideal for innovation. It had to happen on the libertine side of the border. A place where people could envision the TVs that hoi-polloi would lust after. Yes, the goal was to seduce people into buying the best TVs that the grand company would make. And so was born the box which “seduced by light”. In the hallowed corridors of BeerDam, the sweet talkers grudgingly admitted to the value of this proposition. And how, if this box hadn’t happened, they could as well have closed shop and moved on to selling shavers instead, or, (as the newly converted marketing types would pitch in, with a none-too-hidden grin), “water cookers”.

You are as good as your most recent success. But times change, and then you have to prove yourself all over again. Cornerd Cheese knew this. The seduction-by-light would last him a couple of years. But then, what next? He knew he had to run faster than he currently did, just to retain his position. And to get ahead, he had to take the game to the next level.

In the coming years, Cornerd Cheese would go about doing just that. He started by defining the ground rules of innovation, then to patronizing a process of “ideation to productization”, to building up a group of believers, to spreading the gospel of innovation within the higher echelons of the grand company, to recruiting “social and human factors” engineers…all the way to hiring marketing folks to market the ideas from his “idea factory” to the business bozos in BeerDam. No, it was not his intention to build an empire. He had had his share of empire building during his younger days, and now was a lot more mature. Was he to blame if gaining in numbers was a consequence of the enormous burden of innovation he carried? Could anyone deliver as much innovation with any fewer people? He had an answer for the skeptics. Twice yearly, he’d organize a jamboorie, an event where tones of technical and market topics would be thrashed to pulp by all the experts. The result – a neatly bound folder containing amazingly well made (though short on details) technology and market roadmap. This, he would proclaim, is the future of TV. Beaten by technical mumbo-jumbo and eager to get on with life, the sweet talkers would nod their heads. The captain would nod in appreciation and the cheesers in complacency. God was in heaven and all was well.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The rigmarole of Pint Vader

Pint Vader believed he wasn't paid to smile. Not that he didn't smile, nor that he didn't want to, but he would want people to figure out that his was a job where smiling was a rare luxury.

He was always a man in a hurry. No, let me correct that. He was a man in a hurry to be in a hurry. Whether he would win the race was not the question. Whether he would be the first to reach the stadium to start the race ..that was his concern.

While Pint is entitled to his concerns, would being first at the stadium, ever help him? There would be several others who wouldn't bother where the stadia are, but would end up winning all the races. Pint Vader, would have run the long race, all alone, and when he would reach the end, inevitably dead tired, there would be the bozos of BeerDam ..with their faux cheering. Those smartly dressed, smooth operators, kidding him for being late as usual. "What", they would ask in seeming amusement - didn't you know this was a relay, and we are the same team ? Come on, hand me the baton. It's my turn now. See how I will win the race for us, even though you dear Pint are late.

Pint, while still catching his breath, would try to offer explanations. The train started late, he would begin. And then you guys asked for some unscheduled stops on the way. There wasn’t even enough fuel, and I had to manage. But, the smooth operators turned the deaf ear. And Pint knew exactly what that meant. He was condemned to run the race all over again. And again. And again.

Man, did he love to drive the train? It was his life, or even a bit more. He was "to the engine born". But "to the manor born" ? Well, don't you ask difficult questions unless you want to hear lies.

Coming back to the train journeys..every summer, he would rise and look at the horizon. His mind filled with the anticipation of the race. The exhilaration of cutting through wind at high speeds, the momentum generated by the huge number of speeding wagons, the boyish thrill of looking at those stupid cars, waiting at the the railway gates waving him along. Yes, he told himself, I love this job. I couldn't care if others won the race by taking the plane. I will drive the train. This is my model, the "V"ader model of life.

And so, every year, year after year, her herded a bunch of delinquent wagons from their prairies to the platform. He would line them up, with no real help from the line masters. Then he would go about buying fuel from BeerDam. This was no mean task, since the Bozos of BeerDam always played cheap. Each year, they would charge him more than the previous year while giving him less and less. "Faster, better cheaper - that is what you need to be" they told him. "Yes, just like those Asians; from the (fake) lion country", they added for emphasis. "Goodbye Pint, hope you do a better job next time" the head bozo would commiserate, and then they would all get up and leave and go to the coffee shop for their regular fix.

Pint, teetotaler that he was, consoled himself. Coffee was not his cuppa. No, coffee is sour, he told himself. And that bought a chuckle to his usual freckled face. He was, after all, a fox!

Tired, but never defeated, he walked back alone. Not the one to succumb to anger, he preferred to look at the brighter side. The coming race would be great fun, he told himself. So many more delinquents to pull-in, so much of learning to apply, so much of glory if we make the race. Yes, this time, I will claim the glory before the smooth operators come to the party. Heck, if it is up to me, I will not even invite them for a party. For sure there will be no coffee.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Goodbye, Fake Lion Country

Fake Lion Country (FLC) does it to you, especially if you sport some cockiness, wear your expat badge on the sleeve and have a talent to pick the real bananas* amongst the chronically psychopath-etic locals.

Loose Screws, in FLC, lived the expat life with more than usual exuberance and aplomb. In all the years he spent there, he would nary have spared a thought of going back home...as in going back for good. He probably suspected that it would not be for good. There was this lurking fear in the corner of his brain that reminded him at the most inopportune moments that “good”, like in that famous movie, is the first part of a trilogy, a triplet, a triptych, well..whatever. The other two parts, he unwittingly suspected, would eventually unfold. It was always only a matter of time.

And one hot sweaty day in April, it was time.            

As a young lad growing up in shroom country, he had once taken the back door out, on one of those Sinterklaas arrival days. He was of course in no mood to meet with any dressed up Santa. He was there for a night of fun. Unfortunately for him, it was not to be. As he escaped from the back-door, all excited about the forthcoming activities, he had forgotten to cover himself in layers of warm clothing. And worse, as he stepp
ed out, half in indecision about going back to pick up a jacket, the backdoor closed on him – and got latched from the inside. Well, well..what choices did that leave him with? Go back in, from the front door, and endure the consequences. Or, continue in the cold of the night and..endure the consequences. The latter came with hope of reward while the former came with hope of lower risk. Strong headed as he was, he chose the latter. The anticipation of the evening was good. Getting out without warm clothes was bad. And here’s when his heart skipped a beat. What would come next? Let’s not digress too much (or ingress too much into the eminently forgettable experience he had), suffice to say that, what followed the good and the bad, was no different than in the movie title. The triplet had happened. Embarrassed, bruised and cold, not to mention defeated, he came back home..and well, endured the consequences.

Now in FLC for eons, for over the past year or so, LS had the triplet nightmares all over again. Sometimes, it would be about the excitement with which he would run out to grab a new business, followed by the cold shouldering and then, inevitably, the bozos in BeerDam would unceremoniously pull the plug, leaving him to clean up their mess. At other times, it would be about the good expat life. And then the thought of all things good coming to an end. Bad, but bearable. But the bad would end too..and too soon for him, for he would wake up with cold sweat at the thought of trying to figure out what came next.

He told himself that he'd cross the dyke when it comes to him. Yes, he would never want to get there himself. But if he would be left with no other options than go back to shroom country, he would do it. And as usual, with much ado. So, it was with his usual flamboyance, that LS bid farewell to a humongous crowd of psychopaths to board the Royal Airlines Corporation's long long flight back home.

An era of making real TVs in Fake Lion Country, had, most certainly, come to an end.

* Bananas being yellow on the outside and white on the inside, are the predominant species of FLC