Rogue Ink

May 18, 2008

Well played, Julian Bond

Filed under: Entrepreneurship,Well Played — Tei @ 7:20 pm
Tags: , , ,

I told myself I was going to write on this blog every day. I made a pledge, in fact. A solemn vow. Which I have hereby broken, and none of you will be surprised to learn it was all my mother’s fault. Well. And my brother’s.

You see, he had the audacity to graduate today. Yes, I KNOW. Most inconsiderate of him. And mom’s a sucker for ceremonies, so my sister and I flew out, and my family and I have been sitting all morning on the National Mall (which, by the by, is the most idiotic name for the center of the DC monuments that I personally can conceive of. I realize all other malls took their cues from the National Mall, and I don’t care. Now that the word ‘mall’ generally connotes Forever 21 and those really nasty and yet somehow irresistible cinnamon rolls, I feel that perhaps the plaza in which you are flanked by the White House and the Washington Monument should have a better name. ‘Plaza’ would, in fact, do nicely.

Actually, considering the current occupant of the White House, perhaps ‘Mall’ is in fact appropriate.

Never mind. Forget what I just said.

Anyway. My brother had his convocation on the National Mall this morning, and I couldn’t see him at all because the gardeners who tend the stretch of grassy lawn in the middle of the National Mall did not see fit to equip it with stadium seating. Also, it was raining, so umbrellas sort of obscured the view. But if the ‘visual’ people were on strike that day, the ‘audio’ people were in fine fettle. Those microphones expanded above and beyond their prefix. I could hear everything in slightly more volume than I generally use on my iPod while listening to a particularly rousing rendition of ‘Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy‘. I could not, in fact, focus on the book I brought, foreseeing the problem of lawn = no stadium seating in advance. Which is how I came to be listening to the current President of the NAACP, Julian Bond.

Julian Bond gave one of the best speeches I personally have ever heard.

I say this as an avid follower of the current election (yes, I too have a crush on Obama). I used to be a theater geek, and theater geeks hear a lot of excellent speeches, because oratory is what we do. This guy was amazing. He was powerfully compelling, he dropped a couple of well-placed unexpected jokes, which are the best kind. Stealth funny is perfect for speeches.

He clearly had an agenda that had driven him for most of his life (when he was first elected to the Senate, they wouldn’t let him come serve, to which I say BOO to the 1965 Georgia legislators). He has an amazing history of civil rights advocacy, including being a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and work in the Senate for the state of Georgia. His grandfather was a slave, and his great-grandmother was a slaveowner’s mistress. This man stood up in front of an immense crowd of people and declared his grandfather’s bastard status, and for that I commend him, particularly since he had a point.

He called upon the generations of his family and the years of the civil rights movement to say that many people fought hard for the opportunities that were in front of the graduates, and (there was subtext here, he didn’t actually say this precise thing) if we waste the opportunities for which thousands upon thousands of people risked their lives, their welfare, and their safety, we are, as a nation, ungrateful punks.

I thought, ‘much as I hate being a punk, he has a serious point.’

He’s right. No ancestor of yours, whatever your heritage, ever worked or struggled or starved or fought for you to sit on your butt and play Halo 3 all day. I’m pretty sure they had other things in mind. The freedom to play Halo, most certainly. They fought for that. But I think they’d be a little irritated to find out that with all the time you spend on it, your ten-year-old nephew keeps killing you.

I’m a woman, and I own my business, and that would not have been possible a hundred years ago. Screwing around with that business is not cool. It will bring Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a whole slew of angry feminists down upon my head. Simone de Beauvoir will be pissed, and I don’t know about you, but I am not so cocky as to think I can contend with the vengeful ghost of Simone de Beauvoir. I have seen enough episodes of Scooby-Doo to know that they have used up all the benevolent ghosts.

So well played, Julian Bond.

You also told a really awesome anecdote whose segueway made sense at the time but which I cannot currently duplicate, but which I found so amusing that I will relate it now, and you all can take it however you will.

Two men are standing by a river (let’s say they’re fishing, just so they’re not standing there in this anecdote like dufuses). They see a baby floating in the river, a la Moses, in a basket. They wade into the current and rescue the baby, pulled him to shore. Just as they reach the bank, they see another baby come down the current, so they wade in again, catch the basket, and bring her to shore. The third baby comes swooshing along a moment later, and one of the men, instead of wading into the river to rescue it, starts running along the bank upstream as fast as he can, making little skoosh noises with his shoes because they’re pretty damp now.

The other man yells after him, “Where the hell are you going? We have to save that baby!”

“You can save that baby!” says his friend. “I’m going to go find out who’s throwing babies in the river and beat the hell out of him.”

Actually, what Bond said was ‘make him stop’ but I like to think it would be a semi-violent sort of stopping. Throwing babies in rivers ain’t cool. You can quote me on that.

Anyway. Don’t throw away your babies, your legacy, or the rind of your Parmesan cheese. I know an Italian lady in Firenze says you can throw that in your next pot of soup, and it will be tasty, and then you can invite me over for dinner. Because I am about to confront airline food for the second time in five days, and I could do with rescuing.

And Well Played to my brother, too.

My brother graduated George Washington University today with a double major in History and Geography. He’s going to make the best goddamn eccentric professor-scholar ever, and I’m very proud of him.

Subscribe. More race-gender relations tomorrow, because Crystal of Big Bright Bulb and I had a discussion.

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April 16, 2008

Well Played, Wells Fargo, or: When Is Buddha Going to Bring the Compassion?

When I was a wee and bonnie lassie who occasionally spoke in a Scottish accent, I had a bank account with Wells Fargo. Actually, my parents did, and when they wanted to teach me about having a bank account, they opened me an account there as well. What I understood about banks initially, since I didn’t have a checking account or an ATM card, was that once the money went in, it never came out again. Unless Mom took me. Which meant no spontaneous toy purchases without her say-so. It was a good deal for Mom.

I got my own checking account when I was eighteen. Here’s how I decided to pick my bank:

Washington Mutual allowed me to withdraw funds, for free, from their ATMs, from my Wells Fargo account.

I thought, how cool. How awesome. A bank that isn’t all about profits. A bank that wants me to get my money when I need it no matter if my particular branch has a handy location. This is a bank that totally gets me, that will take care of me and my need for gum paid by ATM card. Well played, Washington Mutual, thought my eighteen-year-old self, and I signed up on the spot.

It’s six years later and the honeymoon is most definitely over.

First of all, now they do charge you for withdrawing money from their ATMs if you have another bank account. So much for the good Samaritan act there. I am told, every single time I want to contest a charge, that I must go to the branch where I originally opened my account. What is the point of having a national bank if you have to go to a local branch every time you want something other than a deposit? Here was the final straw:

I overdrew my account with a large check. That’s fine. I approve of that. I would rather pay an overdraft fee than bounce a check. But then a few other minor purchases went through. A $4.00 latte. A $11.24 grocery purchase. From weeks ago. Both of those incurred fees too. The fee has gone up every few months from when I initially opened my account. It’s now at a whopping $33 per overdraft. That’s a hundred bucks, folks. For one overdraft (that, incidentally, overdrew by about ten bucks.)

Now, in the past, I’ve been able to talk to banks about situations like these, show them that I remedied my overdraft, and talk them out of the two fees that were for previously-made purchases, with the logic that, had they gone through a day earlier, there would have been no problem. Usually, just asking nicely will get you there.

I remember going to Wells Fargo almost in tears about this when I was about fourteen. The bank manager blinked at me, barely even listened to my explanation, and fixed it all right up. He actually took all the fees off, even the one I legitimately deserved. And patted me on the head and sent me about my way. I think he may actually have offered me a hard candy or something. Maybe I’m romanticizing. But I have never romanticized a single moment with WaMu.

This was, quote for quote, the response I received from the phone representative:

“We no longer provide that courtesy.”

Courtesy was the perfect word. I loved it, even while I thought about strangling her with my shoelace. Not ‘we don’t provide that service.’ It was, ‘we don’t provide that courtesy.’ WaMu has officially embraced its discourteousness. What the chick on the phone was telling me was this:

“We here at Washington Mutual are not interested in being helpful to you. At all. We are, in fact, discourteous jackwads. We intend to put that on our business cards. Where it used to say ‘we’re all about making things better for our customers,’ it will now say, ‘We are all about being discourteous dipweeds.'”

See, I love courtesy. I think people who hold the door for me are tiny saints in human form. I love it when the waiter unfolds my napkin, I get positively giddy when the bartender comps my drink. When the grocery clerk tells me not to worry about the penny on my purchase of $5.01, I nearly swoon. I would be so grateful for the courtesy of reversing two little overdraft fees that I would continue allowing them to overdraft me, and reap the benefits, for bloody years to come. But instead, I’m going back to Wells Fargo. Because Mom knows best.

Well played, Wells Fargo of my youth. I’m coming home.

In a related note, my kung fu studio in New York automatically charged me for the next three months of class, even though I’d told them I wasn’t coming back. She told me I hadn’t signed a form. I was bewildered. It was Christmas Eve. I didn’t have any money. She remembered that I had said I was leaving, that I had asked what I needed to do, and she’d never given me this form. She remembered me leaving, wanting to leave, asking for the right forms, but she just kept saying, “It’s not our policy to refund.”

For fuck’s sake, these are BUDDHISTS we’re talking about. Aren’t Buddhists supposed to be compassionate? Where’s my goddamned compassion?

The final note: customers who believe in your inherent goodness will never leave you, even if they have been occasionally shafted by you. If you apologize, and fix it, you will have a loyal customer forever. Knock off ten bucks from the tab, give ’em a free fifteen minutes of your time. You can charge whatever you want. Nobody wants to deal with Bureaucracy Nazi. No one.

April 9, 2008

Welcome IttyBiz Peeps!

Be it known that Naomi over at IttyBiz is my deep and abiding nemesis forthwith, for the cacophony of readers she hath brought to my tiny little blog. As proof, I give you this taunting little note she left me:

Haha. Now you’re going to have to start writing “Content is king” all over your blog and using numbers in your post titles because YOU’RE A REAL BLOGGER NOW! Na na na na NAAAA na.

Oh, very clever, most excellent adversary. Very clever indeed. You think I will be overwhelmed, but I shall prevail! And live to blog another day. Today, actually. ‘Cause, you know. I’m already here.

Today, I’m going to answer an astoundingly relevant question from one of my new commenters, which is: What is it you write about over here, exactly?

I’m SO glad you asked.

No, really. I prepared for this. I had a whole diagram plotted. Graphs and charts and the whole shebang.

Unfortunately, sticking a diagram in here is an aspect of bloggery that I have not yet mastered, so I give you instead

THE ROGUE LIST OF AWESOME

Rogue Ink is going to provide you with a slew of great information on writing professionally, freelancing by the seat of your pants, and blogging rogue-style (which is to say, with no idea what I’m doing). Why Rogue? Because no matter how desperate the situation, I will manage to wiggle my way out of it. I will climb trees, pick locks, and seduce devilishly handsome men to do it, but I will post daily, goddamnit. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. I’ll be adding things to this as they become necessary.

  • Entrepreneurship: I will be officially founding (and by officially founding, we mean “putting up money to register with the state of Colorado”) my copywriting business, Good Ink (because not everyone likes the idea of a delightfully mischievous rebel writing for their company), on May 1, 2008. I’ll be chronicling all the ups and downs of that venture, including any marketing and business-running advice that has proven useful to me. The good news: my mother’s a marketing guru. The bad news: my aforementioned nemesis is also a marketing guru, and as we have seen, she will stop at nothing. Stay tuned for the ensuing exciting chronicles. If they’re really good, we’ll make them into a comic book.
  • Copywriting: By dint of its being my bread and butter (no, not literally, that would be greasy and disgusting), copywriting is the only topic on this bog on which I am able to speak with authority. And so I shall do so. With aplomb. And that bread and butter. Toasted.
  • Blogging: For the real experts, go check out the ever-growing list of blogging blogs in my links. The stuff you find here on blogging is strictly for newbies, but if you’re like me, you get so desperate looking for matter-of-fact information (HOW do you add an RSS feed?) in a world full of professionals that some of the things I recently figured out may be just what you’re looked for. Here’s hoping.
  • Journalism: I have a dream that one day I will write for Mother Jones and The Atlantic Monthly. I secretly want to be Tom Chiarella. I want to write epic, amazing stories that will make you weep and think and wonder softly to yourself late at night. Until that day, I write a little column now and again for the SF Chronicle’s Employment section, and will be keeping you posted on any new tricks I discover in journalism. And if I ever get any idea what’s really going on in the White House, rest assured, you will hear about it.
  • The War on English: Screw the war on Christmas. Christmas isn’t going anywhere, and I think we all know it. There are, however, powerful threats to the English language out there, and they will stop at nothing until we are all babbling as incoherently as those typo-endorsing, phonetic spelling, technology-addicted HEATHENS who live in the lower ranks of the comment filters. We, the Coalition of English Majors, shall not take this assault to our beloved language lying down. Nay, we shall blog about them, and we shall blog with a righteous fury, and they will know that we are free writers here. Freelancing writers, for the most part. But still. Free as all hell.
  • Off Topic: And now, as Monty Python says, something completely different. These will be the posts that are utterly unrelated to starting, owning, and running a freelance copywriting business. Except insofar as they will generally be starring the exploits, antics, and personal irritations of yours truly, who is the starter, owner, and runner of said freelance copywriting business.
  • Quotes: Quotes are sometimes from famous people, sometimes from other bloggers out there, and mostly just whatever I felt like repeating. It is distinct from Out of Context in that these people wrote it down, and thereby gave their implicit permission to be quoted. Whereas the Out of Context folk were stealth-quoted. That’s why it’s called Rogue Ink. For the stealthiness.
  • Well Played: Sometimes there are people who just do it up right. Occasionally, I’m going to give them some props. Because I grew up in Oakland, and that’s what they called it.

Today’s well played: Naomi of IttyBiz.

A clever gambit indeed, sending your readership over here. I would almost think you meant well. Oh, but I know you have secret plots in store, I do indeed. I will be watching you VERY closely.

If only because your blog is kind of, as we have mentioned before, ridiculously awesome and hilarious. And offers incredible insight into what entrepreneurs should do when they’re scared shitless (this would be me), as well as cutting commentary on bad marketing, truly unique SEO words, and some of the funniest analysis of the current media scene I’ve yet encountered. And your husband is absolutely adorable, and clearly loves you in a deep and abiding fashion.

For making me welcome, for sending your readers, for being clever and funny and encouraging and calling me a bitch several times in a way that somehow made me feel as though I had attained a new level of epic, I would like to say, well played, Naomi. Well played indeed.

Duel at dawn? Your place or mine?

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