In a sense there’s nothing to do about e-mail. We have almost completely overcome the use of e-mail to communicate with people. E-mail is this decentralized, open service. It lets you use anything you like to send or to receive messages you can display and organize in any way you like and keep, or delete, at your leisure. We couldn’t keep using a scheme like that. We have to communicate by direct messages channeled through a social-media tech corporation. This lets them sell us quarrels and procedurally generated t-shirts.
But there are still purposes to what e-mail remains. Understanding them will let us understand this doomed system. What their purpose is depends on the context of the e-mail. For example, the first purpose of work e-mails is showing that you are working on whatever you were supposed to be working on. And how you can’t do that unless other people to work on whatever it is they are supposed to work on. The second purpose of work e-mail is to compile lists of take-out orders complicated enough that they can never be ordered or fully paid for. Past that work e-mail lets us know what silly Internet pastime is annoying the IT department. They want very much to tamp it down now.
The first kind of work-based e-mails is easiest to answer. In response to any e-mail of this type, assert good progress. And that you’ve been enjoying some breakthroughs. Still, though, you have to admit that completion is running behind deadline. But allow that it would be easier if not for the efforts of some other person. It’s better off leaving vague “who”, in case the boss tries to work out who. If you work for a large enough corporation, you can leave hints that point to a person who does not, and perhaps never has, existed.
The second kind you can answer by making sure that there is always an extra tub of sweet and sour sauce left over once the lunch is delivered. This lets everyone enjoy the unsettling feeling they have the wrong order. The exception to this is when everyone is ordering Chinese food for lunch. In this case there should be one missing tub.
The third kind of work e-mail is obsolete because it turns out people have phones. The IT department is still very cross about things, but they always will be. It makes them happy. Promise them you’ll never ever use your work computer to play Farmville. If you want them to smile, add that you’re swearing off Friendster, YikYak, and what the heck, Apple eWorld.
Another once-popular form of e-mail was the mailing list. These were created to let people who all liked one thing share talk about something entirely else. The working process here was to have one person notice a fact, real or imagined. When they determine the rest of the list has not sufficiently acknowledged it, they send it on to the list. The response here is then to contradict the fact as being either irrelevant or untrue. This has one correct response, which in the busy days of a mailing list would be sent by five people. That response is that no, the fact has been amply discussed in earlier discussions on the list. And furthermore this could be proven by consulting the archives, as soon as someone finds them.
The alternate use for a mailing list was to have people announce personal moments. These could include a marriage, a graduation, the discovery that one has a child, the announcement one is leaving the mailing list forever except that this time they mean it, or that someone else has been born. There are two stages to answering these. In the first stage send congratulations. in the second, send a cascade of the same twelve puns these threads always use. But you’re forgiven if you slack off. No one person has to respond to any particular messages. This is why every mailing list died out around 2014.
Commercial e-mails are sent by corporations. They believe that your staying in a hotel means now you need someone to suggest reserving a hotel room to you. You need this at least four times a day, so far, based on how little you do hotel-room-reservation-ing. It has to be some kind of insecurity. They realize that, like, a corporation isn’t even a thing. It’s the imaginary friend of someone with capital. Shake your head at the folly of humanity but do not encourage them any.
There are a number of other purposes for e-mail. This number is four.
Hey, is it sometime near the end of May or any of June 2018? If it is, great. If it’s sometime around, oh, August 2018 or later you might want to look here instead. If I’ve written a more recent update about what’s happening in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D., it should be there.
Maybe not; he’s cool with seeing how this plays out. Kelly asks Rex Morgan, M.D., what to do about this. Rex can’t diagnose anything, of course; you need someone who does medicine for that. But he does suggest trying small bites of peanut butter and honey sandwiches until Justin can get seen by a doctor. Justin can eat the peanut butter and honey, solving one immediate problem. But he’ll need a doctor’s note to bring peanut butter in to eat at school. The school participates in the “Let’s Have Angry Old People In The Comments Section Tell Us How Food Allergies Are A Made-Up Thing” program. He finally gives in to peer pressure, and lets Kelly make an appointment with the Morgans. If there’s a promise of no shots and not getting his knee hit with that little hammer. Also if the Morgans make that promise. “Oh never fear,” chuckles June, “we don’t use the little hammer anymore.”
So it turns out Justin has a real actual medical condition that really actually occurs in the real world. It’s called achalasia, in which the muscles of the esophagus don’t work right. It’ll take surgery to treat, so Rex Morgan calls in a friend who practices medicine for it. In non-snarky fairness, I would expect the procedure — a “Heller myotomy” — to be something you get a specialist for. And, come early April, we get some word about why Justin was so weird about seeing a doctor. His mother’s terrified of hospitals. This follows the family story of how her great-grandfather died on the operating table in 1923. This seems ridiculous to me, but ridiculous in a way that people actually are. So I’m cool with it. She’s cool with it too, once Justin gets a haircut and, I trust, promises to wear clean underwear for if he dies.
And as for Justin, who did not die, he would go on to disappoint his friends, who hoped he would do something dopey while recovering from anaesthesia. No; he simply survived a weird medical problem without incident. End story, the 15th of April.
The 16th began the next focus, about the marriage of Buck and Mindy. They’re having it in Las Vegas. They sent invitations to the other player-characters in the comic. “Horrible” Hank Harwood, rediscovered 50s-horror-comics artist, and his son, rent an RV to road trip to it. They’re hoping to make a grand tour of the country. They’ll stop at all the great roadside attractions and see whether Zippy the Pinhead is talking to any of them about Republicans or meat.
(By the way, this week my love and I were at meals reading collections of Zippy the Pinhead comics from completely different decades. And reading individual strips out loud to each other. We’re delighted by early examples of later Bill Griffith obsessions and jokes that could run in normal comics too. There are many more accessible Zippy the Pinhead strips than the comic’s reputation suggests.)
Interwoven with Buck-and-Mindy’s wedding and Hank-and-Hank’s road trip is a less giddy story. Milton Avery, multimillionaire industrialist, died, the same day that his wife Heather Avery gave birth. Heather Avery flies back to Glenwood, where the strip’s set, partly to console herself with the company of the Morgans. Partly to work out how the expected succession crisis at Avery International plays out. This promises great excitement. The last time the succession of Avery International was addressed was when Woody Wilson wrote the strip. Back then, Heather Avery got Rex Morgan to lie. Morgan claimed Milton Avery was mentally competent and in full possession of his faculties and all. So there’s good reason for the Board of Directors to be up for a good rousing fight.
Heather’s opening salvo is to explain how she’s thrilled with the way they’ve been running the company. And she doesn’t see any reason anything needs to change. Corporate/Economic historian Robert Sobel in his 1972 The Age of Giant Corporations: A Microeconomic History of American Business identified this as the ol’ “Not the face! Don’t punch me in the face!” boardroom maneuver. But she also explains how if they screw this up she’ll feed them to a June-Morgansaurus. Should be exciting.
While we wait to see how that plays out might you consider reading up on mathematically-themed comic strips? I’ve got a bunch on my other blog that you might like to hear about. This week I get to show off the Maclaurin series for the cosine of an angle measured in radians! You’ll understand why that’s a thing by the end of the article.
I saw that Sports Authority didn’t get any bids for its stadium naming rights. Somebody else brought it up. I wasn’t prying. I was vaguely sad about Sports Authority going bankrupt, what with how I kept thinking I might go buy one of those nice slick-looking exercise shirts for years without doing it. I didn’t think I had the figure to wear one just yet and I didn’t want to go buying two of them, one for now and one for when I could look good wearing it. But I don’t blame myself for Sports Authority going bankrupt since I don’t think I’m to blame. It would be at least four shirts and a pair of ankle weights that they needed to sell to make the difference. And I already got ankle weights, back in 2010. They’ve been satisfying. They fit well on the shelf in the basement where they can fall onto my toes when I’m trying to get a can of fossilized paint. I forget where I bought them. Anyway, I was willing to let them go to wherever expired companies go without further action.
It was Consumerist.com that told me an asset auction turned up no bidders for their stadium naming rights. Also that they had stadium naming rights, for Mile High Stadium in Denver. I hadn’t heard the Broncos had sold their stadium name but that figures. Corporations like to graffiti just like any of us do. By paying an exposition authority they can get away with it just like the rest of us don’t. Here I have to divert for a real thing that I saw when I was living in Singapore years ago. I didn’t notice any noteworthy graffiti for months which is not a tautology because shut up. When I did spot one, it was spray-painted on a steel girder at a construction site. It read, “I Love Singapore”. Nice trolling, whoever you were.
Maybe I’m numbed to the selling of naming rights to everything. It’s hard to avoid, anyway. Sports venues and like got named for the team that got them built. Or at least the union-busting rich people that bought the place after the team went bankrupt. Or for lumps of matter you could put in your mouth and chew. If that didn’t suffice you could name them for geographical features, which is how we got Madison Square Garden or Mile High Stadium. I’m not saying the geography names were all that good. Madison Square Garden hasn’t been near Madison Square since Coolidge was President. I assume that’s because of a primitive 20s form of Gentrification. Mile High Stadium is actually only eight feet above ground level, owing to the high cost of stilts. But they offered a kind of certainty. They were named for places and you could be pretty sure about places being around. This was before we discovered continental drift and marketing.
And it is marketing. Corporations figure they want people to like them more. I can sympathize. It’s hard liking corporations. They’re not really about doing things that serve any particular good. They’re mostly about holding the rights to leverage real estate transactions. And who cares for that? It doesn’t matter what a company says it is. It’s just an operating entity existing on behalf of a holding company that’s really in it for the leverage. So you can understand how a corporation would try to make itself look better. They pick hanging around professional athletes. That way they can tie their image to an event that will end with any given consumer’s preferred team losing about half the time, and failing to achieve a championship most of the time. This reminds us that corporations how we as people organize to justify doing dumb or offensive stuff. Some places are astounding at naming rights. Lansing’s baseball stadium sold the park’s name to a law school and the field itself to an insurance company. They don’t seem to have thought to sell the name for the stands, or I just didn’t notice. I can’t wait for them to sell the naming rights for the slow-moving line of confused people at the hummus vendor’s.
Still, I’m surprised to learn nobody wanted to buy the Mile High Stadium naming rights. I’d imagine someone to try just for the fun of it. I’m thinking of starting a collection. Between me and all my friends we could probably put up literally hundreds of dollars to the cause of buying me the naming rights for Mile High Stadium. And I know what you’re thinking, that we’d come up with some hilarious syllable goo and pretend that’s the name for the place. First level thinking. We need better. I’m figuring to name it after some other stadium, like, Giants Stadium at Mile High Stadium. Or the Boston Commons Candlestick Veterans Park at Mile High Stadium. It’s at least as good as any other name.
Hm. Maybe I need a little more. I should sell the idea rights to this name.
I bought a car. This was back in 2009, so applause isn’t necessary. The purchase wasn’t recent, by which I mean there were episodes of Parks and Recreation that first aired before I bought it. But ever since, the maker, Scion, has been asking me to participate in surveys. Sometimes I remember to before they’ve expired. They promise everyone who finishes the survey has a chance to win a $500 gift card to somewhere. I don’t believe them, but that’s all right. They know nobody believes them anyway. It’s just fun to be part of the ritual.
One of these surveys claimed the Scion division of Toyota was interested in my values. It asked me to rate how important in guiding my life I placed, for example, “an exciting life”, “protecting the environment”, “curiosity”, and “a world at peace”. I don’t want to say anything against “a world at peace”, which they explained as “(free of war and conflict)”. But I’ve seen more than one Twilight Zone episode with wish-granting. Still, what does all this have to do with me buying a car in 2009?
I don’t know what Scion’s values are. I bought the car because it met my requirements of “having a moon roof” and “not costing more than $20,000” even though somehow it did cost more than that. Is the Scion corporation going through a crisis of conscience and looking for the advice of its friends? Then why does it think we’re friends? They made a car I bought, that’s all we ever did together.
It’s not just Scion begging for my approval. Every company except the bagel shop in the strip mall wants an evaluation of their performance, and they’re willing to promise they’ll pay someone for their opinions. It’s a superficially weird need for approval. And it comes just as finance capitalism manages to almost crush people out of the economy altogether.
I get what’s going on here. Some well-meaning soul hoping to hasten capitalism’s demise has convinced companies they need to have relationships with their customers. That sounds good if you’re stupid, which your basic corporation is. It misses the entire point of the modern economy, which is to not have to have relationships with people. If we wanted a relationship with the people who do stuff for us, we wouldn’t have invented money.
If you want me to help you move you could call on me as your friend. But befriending me takes time, since I’m not very good at talking with people. And it takes emotional energy, because I’m all full of prickly edges and barbed comments delivered in a low voice. Plus I cough disturbingly often even when I don’t have a cold. And you only have till the 30th to get out of the place. Give me enough money that I’ll go along with it, though. We’ll get you to the new place whenever you want and you never have to see me again. It’s a nice arrangement and neither of us has to care what the other thinks of “respecting parents and elders”.
The thing is a corporation is already the imaginary friend of an adult who had money. And the adults don’t even consider using their imaginary friends for something useful, like setting up a teleportation network between the full-length mirrors in different places that share names, like from one Somerset to another. They just want to get their imaginary friends to accumulate more money. The current game for these imaginary friends is to get more money by making real people think the corporations are friends. And since we’re all connected in one big global village this’ll be easy. Just act interested in us and that’s as good as being friends.
Where this goes wrong is if you’re even a tiny little bit weird, then a village is the place you flee from. You go to a city, where if someone asks you questions you don’t feel like answering, you’re free to respond with a ten-minute stream of obscenities, to the approval and ultimate rousing applause of an amused crowd that will then disperse. If you want. Me, It’s hard enough to have the relationships I want to tend. The ones that spring up by accident — the cashier at Burger King recognizes me? — are terrifying — I’ll never go there again. I don’t want to be the friend to any imaginary friends I didn’t have a hand in imagining. If a corporation wants to buddy up, it’s just going to be disappointed in the circles it moves in.
Did you like this blog-reading experience? Would you stick around for a quick survey to give your impressions? There’s a free copy of a Marvel New Universe comic book in it for someone who answers. Restrictions apply, and it might be the comic book about a superhero football team.
The offering comes in the mail from a corporation, one of those big ones that I suspect is a multinational although I can’t work up quite enough interest to look it up. It had the odd size of the smaller greeting cards, and a brown envelope, and that lettering that looks like handwriting if you haven’t looked a lot at handwriting. Clearly, the company, which my Love has been a customer for for years, possibly a decade now, wanted to make sure we had the experience of something with the flavor of a personal connection, so as to convince us to buy something we didn’t want.
The letter got our name wrong in no less than two prominent ways.
Mind you, that’s partly our fault, since the name used to be wrong in only the one way, and getting it fixed resulted in introducing the second glitch. Extremely boring conversations about this have allowed us to determine that the easiest way to get the glitches fixed is to wait for the company to go bankrupt and be liquidated, to be replaced with another company providing similar services which aren’t quite as good but which cost more, at which point we’ll get a chance to have fake handwritten greeting-card type advertisements with even more parts of our names wrong.
I’m just not completely sure that we’re any good at things anymore.
I don’t object per se to corporations spending their money foolishly. A corporation spending money on something pointless and useless is one that isn’t spending money figuring out morally outrageous they can be before they start getting protestors from the respectable classes of society or figuring out how little service they can actually provide before too many customers end their transactions with the use of cudgels.
So, every credit card company in the world has concluded they need to spend their time sending me applications for their cards. That’s foolish on their parts, since I’ve got as many credit cards as I need, plus an extra one to use in case of emergency, plus one that I could use if I felt like digging behind the nightstand where it fell and it’s just too hard to get back there. That would be fine by itself but now they’ve stepped up the sending, to the point that over seven-quarters of the mail every day is appeals to me to get more credit cards.
I’ve done the obvious with the offers; when there were too many to throw out, I used them to build a new breakfast nook, and then a little nook on the side of the nook that I guess could be used for English muffins, and then a little nook on the side of the nook on the side of the nook (I’m seeing those little jam packets from diners in its future), but that obviously can’t go on forever. I don’t even eat English muffins more than like once a year. I’ve got to get this stopped. Things are too nook-heavy as they are.