Archive for the ‘Timing’ Category

Service of Food as Art

Monday, June 1st, 2020

Food is missing from too many American tables and in the short-term, between record unemployment and Covid-19’s impact on prices, the appalling situation promises to get worse.

Simultaneously two gallerists attempting to keep an oar in the water while galleries are closed worldwide during the pandemic selected to promote a 1990 installation by Cuban-born visual artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres involving a cookie.

Hunger in America

According to Thomas Franck of writing in mid-May “The Labor Department reported Tuesday that prices U.S. consumers paid for groceries jumped 2.6% in April, the largest one-month pop since February 1974. The spike in supermarket prices was broad based and impacted items from broccoli and ham to oatmeal and tuna.


“The price of the meats, poultry, fish and eggs category rose 4.3%, fruits and vegetables climbed 1.5%, cereals and bakery products advanced 2.9%, and dairy goods gained 1.5%.”

Lauren Bauer writing in the blog reported a 460 percent increase in mothers who said the children in their households 12 years and under “were not eating enough because we just couldn’t afford enough food.”

Interactive Cookie Installation

It is against this background that Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled (Fortune Cookie Corner),” is being installed at 1,000 sites around the globe. It is promoted/resurrected by Andrea Rosen, show curator and director of The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation who is partnering with German art dealer David Zwirner. Sarrah Cascone wrote about the exhibitions on

Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled (Fortune Cookie Corner)” Photo:

The original installation had 10 thousand fortune cookies piled up in the corner of a room. Today there will be from 240 to 2,000 cookies featured in the homes, museums or public places that Rosen selected via her choice of participants. Viewers are encouraged to help themselves to a cookie.

Cascone wrote: “The owner needs to follow specific but open-ended parameters in manifesting the work, which can be installed in more than one place at a time—making it perfect for our current moment, when much of the world is under indefinite lockdown.”

The curators, artist’s friends and colleagues invited to participate supply their own cookies. Rosen said “halfway through, everyone has to regenerate it to the original size. So everyone has the opportunity to experience both the potential loss within the piece, and also the notions of rebuilding and regeneration that is a very important part of the work.”

Rosen, told Cascone: “This is one of the only works in the world that can travel and be accessible right now. There’s so many people right now trying to do incredible online projects. Felix can actually afford people a physical experience with an artwork—and not just looking at it, but thinking about it, and their involvement and what it means to them.”

My post isn’t about the validity of the installation: It passed the test within the art community. However the timing strikes a false note for me for involving food in a frivolous way at a time when it is missing from so many tables. What do you think?

Even if the piles were made up of basic comestibles accessible to people needing help, the fact that they would have to reach down on the floor for the food and take only one or two packages lacks respect for the situation’s severity. Your thoughts?


Service of Late Night Shopping Online

Sunday, January 12th, 2020


Erica Martell suggested this post after buying a vacuum cleaner late one night that, she wrote, she’d been thinking about for some time. A few days later, I fell for a drastic discount on a Marimekko jumpsuit. Martell continued: “People have some interesting late-night shopping habits.”

Mary-Ann Russon, BBC News business reporter wrote “New data from the John Lewis Partnership Card shows that one in 15 purchases are now made between the hours of midnight and 06:00.

“The research shows that the number of purchases made in this period rose by 23% in 2018, compared with 2017.

“Retail analyst Chris Field told the BBC that technology improvements have prompted this new trend.


“‘It’s partly to do with the more recent generations of mobile phones, and the retailers are becoming much more sophisticated,’ he says.”

We’re not speaking peanuts. According to ” Online shopping is growing so fast that the global online shopping market size is predicted to hit 4 trillion in 2020. And in the US alone, we’re expecting to have 300 million online shoppers in 2023. That’s 91% of the entire country’s population!”

In the infancy of QVC, a colleague bought drawers full of jewelry. I missed that temptation. There’s something else about looking at fashions on my phone during a boring TV show or commercial. The compelling photos and ease in buying are part of the attraction.

At what time of day do you buy online? Should you stay away from websites that sell items that might be tempting to you when you’re tired?


Service of Who Will be Left? Are Companies Jumping the Gun?

Thursday, December 21st, 2017


I covered this subject in October in “Service of Why Now? Does Today’s Indignation & Punishment of Sexual Harassment & Assault Have Legs?” Why the same subject so soon again? The topic continues to haunt me as it expands like wine spilled from an entire magnum of red on a white tablecloth. The corporate skin and ear, once so thick and deaf to women reporting abuse, has suddenly become thin, sharp-hearing and trigger happy.


What inspired today’s post? I couldn’t find the Tavis Smiley show last Wednesday night and the next morning learned that PBS suspended the distribution of his show due to misconduct allegations against him.

The PBS investigators wouldn’t tell Smiley who is accusing him of what, he said in a Facebook video, [and later on Don Lemon’s CNN Tonight]. On Facebook he added: “I have never groped, coerced or exposed myself inappropriately to any workplace colleague in my entire broadcast career, covering 6 networks over 30 years.” I wonder if he’d had help with his statement from his lawyer as the word “inappropriately” hit me funny. When is groping, coercion or exposure appropriate in an office setting or am I being picky and naive? Later he admitted to one or more consensual relationships with staff.


As I mentioned above, Smiley is not employed by PBS; it distributes his program which makes his case different than Sam Seder’s. Seder, an MSNBC political commentator and podcast host of the “Majority Report,” was fired and for a different reason: He was accused by a far-right activist for writing an “inflammatory tweet he posted in 2009,” according to Jonah Engel Bromwich in The New York Times. The cable channel had the grace to rehire Seder after thousands signed a petition in Seder’s favor, reaffirming that the tweet in question was “meant to be satire.”

The tweet: “Don’t care re [Roman] Polanski, but i hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/ a great sense of mise en scene.” Seder was reacting to support of Polanski by the French culture and foreign ministers. It was “a cutting parody of a statement defending the director,” wrote Bromwich. As you may recall Polanski “was arrested in Switzerland in 2009 in connection with” the rape of a 13 year old in the 1970s.

Here’s MSNBC president Phil Griffin explanation for reinstating Seder in Bromwich’s article: “‘We made our initial decision for the right reasons — because we don’t consider rape to be a funny topic to be joked about, but we’ve heard the feedback, and we understand the point Sam was trying to make in that tweet was actually in line with our values, even though the language was not. Sam will be welcome on our air going forward.’”

Office romances are mundane. Some go sour; others are forbidden according to company policy. I wonder how investigators are able to distinguish which accusations described abusive and frightening behavior and which may have at one point been consensual. Might any represent payback by a jilted lover or even by an ignored, delusional, colleague or staffer hoping to catch the eye of a celebrity or boss?

Companies are free to fire whom they want but I get the feeling that fear and chaos in the C-suite has resulted in some too-quick reactions. Smiley is not on trial and is not an employee so I suppose nobody owes him any information about who reported him.

Is it OK, appearance-wise, for companies to revert to this country’s witch-hunting puritan roots and indict without a trial? Does this reaction let off the hook executives who previously dusted complaints under the rug and often fired the women who reported them?

Kudos to MSNBC for reinstating Seder but shouldn’t the company have investigated first and fired Seder second? And what about all the real cases of abuse and coercion involving average citizens affecting hotel and restaurant workers? Do they count?


Service of Why Now? Does Today’s Indignation & Punishment of Sexual Harassment & Assault Have Legs?

Thursday, October 19th, 2017



The namesake furniture for which Jay Wellingdon Couch is known was invented in 1895 but the proverbial casting couch had been around for many years before. So why, after some well publicized, [and millions of sub-rosa], sexual harassment and assault instances that caused momentary ripples of disdain for years, are corporations and organizations jumping on board the “do-the-right-thing” train now?

Anita Hill’s accusations of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, when he was being vetted for his job, had little resonance in workplaces nationwide. Yet suddenly we see mass firings: of Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, many at Uber and Amazon’s head of its entertainment studio, Roy Price.

Roy Price, left, & Harvey Weinstein. Photo: Photo:

According to Ben Fritz and Joe Flint in “Amazon Suspends Head of Its Studio,” in The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Price’s suspension comes soon after a female producer went public about a 2015 sexual-harassment complaint she made against him and after actress Rose McGowan unleashed a storm of criticism at the company for being in business with Mr. Weinstein, the former Weinstein Co. co-chairman who was ousted over the weekend amid numerous allegations of sexual harassment.” So what did Amazon do about the female producer’s complaint between 2015 and now?

The king of sexual harassment appears to be Harvey Weinstein who was allegedly busy casting his movies and for his enjoyment for some 30 years. I can’t put my finger on why it took so long for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and The Producers Guild of America to recognize something its board members must have known about for eons, waiting until just now to eject Mr. W. from its memberships. Surely word about the reputation of a fellow such as Mr. W gets around.


There’s a “Me too” initiative on Facebook where women are posting the following: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” I wonder: While the objective may be honorable, is there a twinge of a boast associated with this initiative? Is the implication that a woman isn’t/wasn’t attractive if she doesn’t join in or admit to having been harassed or assaulted?

The injury, pain, and anxiety for the harassed and assaulted women is no more or less today than before. So it has to be something about today that’s different.

Is the indignation a flash in the pan or does it have legs? Will it blow over just as fury over gun violence does after mass murders of innocent victims? Huffing and puffing galore with “hearts and prayers,” for victims and their families and yet nothing is done to close down machine gun sales. Do you think that the entertainment industry and marketers of products and services finally recognize the economic power of women? Or is something else afoot?


Service of Deadlines

Thursday, April 28th, 2011


Joseph S. Nye Jr. was on Book TV on C-Span 2 the other weekend discussing “The Future of Power,” at a February 15 presentation taped at the Center for a New American Security. When I tuned in he was discussing the difference in cultures between academic and government work.

His example was a hypothetical research paper due at the White House at 3 pm. As the deadline approached, the writer, from academia, thought the project could be better, that currently it was a B + and with a bit more work could be an A. So he polished and tweaked it until it was perfect. It arrived at the White House at 5 pm.f-grade1

Government Grade: F. Why? It got there too late to be used.

We’ve discussed writing blog posts, press releases, proposals, late breaking news or anything deadline-related. There comes a moment you must give up the work because in most cases, nobody can pay for Pulitzer Prize-winning copy.

more-time1It’s not only in academia that you can plead for an extension, though in Nye’s example, the person didn’t ask for one. I’ve never worked in government. In business, you can usually ask for one, though it isn’t a smart idea especially if you’re responding to an emergency or a scandal or announcing a product launch you’ve known about for eons, press kit material for trade show introductions or the guts of a press kit to distribute at a press event.

I don’t believe in missing other people’s deadlines nor do I ask for extensions.  Why? The Golden Rule. It’s awful when you are left in the lurch by someone else who misses their deadline whether a vendor, free lancer, partner or staff. Contractors and repair people have a reputation of not showing up when expected and giving no warning. You may have the hard deadline of a January wedding reception at your house but be prepared to cut the cake in an unpainted dining room on an unfinished floor.

In Nye’s illustration had the writer contacted the White House to ask for more time, he/she might have heard: “Don’t worry that it’s not perfect. We need the information in it to help us make a decision.” It seems to me that the imaginary person was thinking more about him/herself than the recipient of the research.

Are deadlines a part of your life? What do you do if you see you can’t meet one?


Service of Bad Business Decisions

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010


When a small business owner hears that a bigger business has made an obviously bad decision, it doesn’t feel good, but it helps put things in perspective when aggravating little glitches occur.

bigvssmallbusinessBig business or little, quarterbacking after the fact is the easiest thing to do – like in the BP oil leak fiasco – even so it does seem inconceivable that a company, as huge, as experienced and as reputable as BP, had no viable contingency plan to address potential disaster in something as fraught with risk as deep sea oil drilling, yet still went ahead and drilled.

But then who am I to talk? I lost a bundle when I didn’t sell my AIG stock when rumors spread about its possible insolvency. A respected advisor told me, “It has a tremendous franchise, and is too big and diverse to fail.” So this small business owner made a big mistake, but only her family suffered-nobody else’s.

thingsgowrongThe only good that is likely to come out of these bad mistakes is that they should serve to remind us to be on our guard. Let’s face it things do go wrong!

Not all business decisions are as bad as BPs [or mine about AIG], but some show incredible short sightedness and are so obviously unnecessary. Some board members met after work at a hotel bar in midtown Manhattan a few months ago. The quiet space is on the second floor of a place that’s far from a household name either for New Yorkers or most tourists. It offers no skyline view and there’s nothing spectacular about it other than it is comfortable, centrally located and mostly empty. The cash register must have rung happily that night between drink and snack orders for 20. We were told when we made a reservation for a second gathering that it would cost us $500 on top of the price of what we ordered. This is NYC, folks, with zillions of bars that welcome our business. Our reaction: “Fahgedaboudit” as native New Yorkers would say.

And who, at a company with a stellar reputation like Johnson & Johnson, would approve substandard manufacturing practices for infant and children’s meds leading to a recall and Federal investigation? The plant is in the US, in case you aren’t following the story.

My last example relates to museum security. Perhaps you saw the piece in The Wall Street Journal by Ulrich Boser, “This is No Thomas Crown Affair.” The inspiration was the recent robbery of five paintings at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris. Boser wrote, “The museum had been about as secure as a woodshed. The alarm system had been malfunctioning for almost two months, and replacement parts had not yet arrived,” and he noted “…many museums have not done enough to protect their collections, and art crime has become one of the world’s largest criminal enterprises.”

It’s a shame that some people feel that what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine, but we know that they do, so if you are in the museum business, one of your responsibilities is to protect the art as a bank protects the safety deposit boxes and cash in house and adults protect the children in their care. So who made the decision to buy another artifact or picture when the budget should have gone to keep all the works out of the hands of thieves?

What are some blatantly bad business decisions that you’ve noticed or read about and what is your reaction?


Service of Pet Peeves

Thursday, May 27th, 2010


Sharing a pet peeve with friends takes the edge off and allows me to move on quickly to important things. Here are 10 of my mine. Many of the circumstances have been changed to protect the innocent:

**I’m glad to lend you a pen when you come to a meeting without one–it happens to everyone–but please return it.

dinnerparty**Inform me privately of an important development that affects me rather than tell me in front of a million people. Example: A partner or boss announces major news–retirement, extended trip, sabbatical, operation, bankruptcy–to a client or table full of dinner guests. I don’t like to hear daunting information in a crowd.

**This is similar. If you want to give Aunt Mamie’s oil painting to a neighbor, don’t ask me if it is OK in front of the neighbor. Give me a chance to respond in private. The answer might surprise you.

**I take my coffee with skim milk. If I am buying the coffee, I want the cup I get to have the skim milk in it. I don’t want to put down my pocketbook, newspaper and tote to open the coffee cup lid, find the right milk container, pour the milk, replace the top and find a napkin to clean drips.

**Make it easy on volunteers. Don’t expect me to find the attachment you sent last week or remember from last month the phone and code numbers I need to enter a scheduled conference call. Send me all the info each time you want me to react.

rollingeyes**Don’t roll your eyes if I ask a question. There’s an equal chance that your instructions weren’t clear as that I’m stupid.

**If you don’t want to do something, don’t offer to do it and then forget.

**People crowd subway doors leaving a bubble of space in the middle of the car. When I politely ask to squeeze in to take the unused space, they stare at me in anger and don’t budge. If I don’t want to be late, I have to shove in.

**Drivers who pull out in front of me, just as I near their road, causing me to slam on my brakes, are an irritating and hazardous bunch. Most of the time there isn’t another car behind me for miles. I’ve asked taxi drivers about this. They tell me that it often happens to them, on a rain-slicked street, and the drivers, leaving a garage or parking spot, have the newest, fanciest cars.

blindturn**Municipalities that ignore countless dangerous intersections without taking steps to add traffic lights and/or signs or make easy fixes that would save lives and reduce accidents, flabbergast me. How come there is no money to fix or alter them but there is money to pay for funerals, hospitalization, body and car repairs or replacements?

grrrrI no sooner finished the list when an 11th   pet peeve happened. As I came in this morning, shoulders loaded with bags, balancing coffee cups and angling to free up a hand to pull open the door, I noticed a young man standing on the sidewalk less than two paces away from the handle. He looked at me but didn’t budge to help. Grump.

Boy, do I feel better just getting these out of my system! Please share your pet peeves.


Service of Wait Staff

Thursday, March 25th, 2010


People who wait tables in the U.S. don’t get the recognition they deserve. Theirs is an honorable profession in countries like France, where food, its preparation and service are admired and people are trained to do it right and are respected, promoted and remunerated accordingly.

Here, for many, this job is a way to pay the bills between acting gigs, during high school and college or until a “real job” comes along.

Being a great waiter or waitress takes a combination of instinct, practice and talent and is most often rewarded by grateful customers.

waiter2Those who hover and interrupt a million times to see if everything is alright may think they are doing a great job. Their boss should let them be a guest for a meal in the restaurant. Maybe they’d understand how their incessant intrusion ruins the momentum of the ask in a business lunch or dinner or the effect of a joke or the impact of a story’s punch line, making the restaurant an inhospitable place in which to entertain customers and friends.

Waiters who observe that everyone is eating contentedly, that wine, water or soda glasses and bread baskets are full, who come promptly when someone calls or gestures to them, don’t need to pester. Such ineptness reminds me of the PR newbie who calls a reporter or blogger just to see if their press materials have arrived-never enough reason to disturb anyone.

timingTiming and pace of food delivery is critical. I don’t know what the waiter does when the kitchen moves the main course out while his customers are still enjoying their appetizers. But if I am sipping soup and the main course comes, I don’t finish the soup and am annoyed.

There’s such an easy solution: Ask guests if they are going to a concert, event or meeting after lunch or dinner or if they are pressed for time for any reason. This helps determine the appropriate speed. We go to a Mexican restaurant in Tivoli, N.Y. where the youthful staff is great at this.

If the restaurant owner doesn’t care about guests and is focused on turnover, there’s no hope for timing. In this case, the owner should either raise prices to discourage the stress of a crowd waiting for tables, or be prepared to lose steady customers who dislike being rushed. If not, a good waiter shouldn’t–uh, wait–to go elsewhere.

Do you have ideas of how to upgrade the role of waiters and waitresses in today’s job landscape? Are there things that annoy you when you eat at a restaurant that can easily be fixed? What are some of the things your favorite waiters do that make you want to return to a restaurant?


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