Thursday, 7 June 2007

Issue 6 - Sidewalk Rage

Blogs are fun. It's amazing who reads the triffle I think up, and how many people get upset when they are left off the mailing list. It's a strange sense of the modern age that the further away we are from you, the more likely you are to read my propaganda. Of course, if I was just standing next to you in the pub talking this sort of stuff, you'd either find another pub, or at least politely disagree. When I blog, I'm always right - the complaints office is the box with the plastic liner and recycling logo under my desk.

With success comes responsibility though. See, this all started off as a rant from a vaguely frustrated Kiwi (with material occasionally plaguarised from a very disgruntled Australian) about, not to put too fine a point on it, life in America. The problem is that now I have to apologise to all of the Americans who are reading this, because you've all muscled in on my project (although I do refuse to apologise with a "zed", and absolutely not with a "zee"). The final straw was when I started forwarding this to my colleagues at work - a rich source of material scythed down in one swift stroke.


So, what are some interesting topics from this week?

How about my cousin Dave, living the high life in Boston (Baaah-sten), a 30-minute flight and a psychlogical world away from New York. Dave is a bass player in a band in his spare time, but his day job used to be as a graphic designer for an accounting firm - not one of the defunct ones, but if you wince at the gentle moo of Italian cows making milk for a certain diary company, you'll know who you are. Now, being a bass player is way cool, compared to working for an accounting firm, so it was not the end of anyone's dreamtime in the gloaming when the time came for heads to roll and Dave was one of them.

The cool thing here is that he can say that he used to work for the "creative department".

Of an accounting firm.

See, if he had worked for Arthur Anderson, some would have said it was the auditors who were working for the creative department....

I'll bet they didn't sack the guy who thought of that name. In fact, he probably helped sponsor the Sarbanes-Oxley Act through Congress.


In Baah-sten, they are very friendly, relaxed and reasonable people - so long as you think the Red Sox are the only thing there is to believe in on a baseball field. So - a quick history lesson: baseball was invented, the Red Sox were pretty good around the turn of the century, but didn't win a thing after that. Not a sausage. Not a skerrick. Nothing. Like, really nothing. Hang on, wait - no, still nothing. You get the picture - that's a lot of waiting.

The NY Yankees on the other hand won everything, year after year. The Yankees are so successful that they have that sort of collective arrogance which goes with being a legend in your own lunchbox. They are all megastars, hired on rock-star salaries, with a fanatical following of fans all with matching lunchboxes.

Then last year, the planets aligned, the gods smiled, and the Red Sox came back four times from certain death in the playoffs against the Yankees to set up a World Series appearance (don't get me started on the "World" thing) which they subsequently won. So wonderful, so great, so well done, so unbelievable.

It's all so.... so last year.

The new season has started, there are 162 games to play, and it's all history. All that emotion, all that hot air, all those books, photographs, anecdotes and column inches, all last year. The stories about the champions are today all kitty litter and chip wrapping. People struggle to grow rice and live in a house again in Sri Lanka, and in the US billions of dollars flutter around in the sports industry. All of that economic activity on pastimes - no wonder George Bush got tired of owning a sports team and started a war over oil. It must have seemed so much more productive to him.

So, Baah-sten is a beatiful place, with very friendly people. Just tell them you hate the Yankees (even if it's true), and you'll get along fine.


Walking around midtown NewYork has given rise to a new condition in the flightless kiwi - sidewalk rage. The problem with having our head office at Times Square is that the whole world visits New York, just to get in my way. I've written before about Times Square as a collection of flashing lights and mobile billboards, but at ground level not a lot moves. Seriously, wildebeest migrate across the Serengeti faster than the average tourist can determine whether the lights have changed to "walk" from "don't walk". And just like the Serengeti, you can't look in any direction without seeing a wildebeest with a fresh new "I [heart] NY" t-shirt, chewing the cud of this morning's pizza.

When I'm struggling to get to a meeting and trying to step lightly down Broadway, I feel like a cheetah with an elephant sitting on its tail. I can jump from side to side and yelp in frustration, but in the end I'm only going to go anywhere when the elephant does. Kim seems to have the technique well established - she can flit like an angelfish through coral. Perhaps I'm the elephant here after all.

I now take a massive black 400-page diary as my notebook to meetings. It's too big and heavy to be practical, but when I carry it on Broadway, I'm never mistaken for a tourist, and the red sea seems to part in front of me. It makes sense really, because I'm what they all came to NY to see - a harassed NY banker. All I need now is a syndicated lunchbox.


Some footnotes:

1. For those who didn't get the accountant's inside joke about the cows' moo - Deloitte & Touche took over the audit firm Grant Thornton a few years ago, who cheerfully ticked off every year on a non-existent asset of not less than one BILLION euro on the balance sheet of Parmalat, an Italian diary company. Ouch.

2. Sidewalk rage isn't actually my phrase, although it is a good one. Thanks to Debbie in the MSCI Barra FCG power-team for coining this one.


And a thought to finish:

Slaves to fashion take note - combat fatigues now come in pink. Excellent for camouflage if you are conducting guerilla warfare in a Barbie shop....


(Thanks to Kim for that joke. I can't think of them all myself!)

Have a good week!

PS - if you haven't already, please sign up for a passport and register on the website. This way you stand less chance of being forgotten if I even lose my mailing list! The link is at the bottom of the link below

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