Monday, October 20, 2014

Sky Rockets (and Diggy) in flight

In the weeks leading up to his death, my husband came up with a list of places he wanted a bit of his ashes to go, and I’ve been working my way through his list. And through the small canister of remains that Mt. Auburn Cemetery held out from the bulk that are interred there, in a lovely spot on Azalea Way.

One evening, when we were talking about “the list”, Jim mentioned that he was willing to spend a good deal of money to have his ashes sent into space. A good deal of money. As in half of what was in his IRA.

And while I am not one to deny a dying man his wish, I told him that it would have to be a two-fer, because the only way I’d pay that much to have Diggy slip the surly bonds of earth would be over my dead body.

“Oh, yeah,” he said and laughed. “That must be the brain tumor talking.”

But I told him that I’d find a way to get him there cheaper, and I immediately found a couple of places on line.

He liked Celestis. I did, too.

After all Celestis’:

….heritage encompasses over 30 years of global leadership in private sector space missions and applications including:

  • the first ever private launch into outer space (1982),
  • the first private, post-cremation memorial spaceflight (1997),
  • the first lunar burial (1999)

Jim was a science guy, a math and physics nerd, with a complete fascinating with space exploration. So Celestis looked like it had the right stuff.

Plus it’s also the memorial spaceflight provider to the stars: hippie guru Timothy Leary, Gene Rodenberry (originator of Star Trek, which means little to me, but Jim was something of a fan), and Gordon Cooper. Gordo was not necessarily Jim’s favorite astronaut, but, as played by Dennis Quaid, he was definitely Jim’s favorite character in The Right Stuff.

So for a lot less than Jim was initially willing to spend, he’ll be heading into space a bit later this morning, sky-rocketing off from Spaceport America at 10 a.m. Eastern.

UPDATE:  The launch pad was struck by lightning – maybe Diggy’s not ready to launch – so his spaceflight has been postponed.

Right now, I’m kind of wishing I’d gone to New Mexico for the launch, but I’ll be able to watch it online. (I had considered going over to Mt. Auburn for the event, but didn’t want to trust that I’d be able to watch it on my aging Blackberry.)

UPDATE:  I’m no longer kind of wishing that I’d gone to New Mexico for the launch.

The option that we/I chose is just the straight up-and-down (think Alan Shephard), rather than the more expensive orbit flight (think John Glenn), or the quite pricey lunar orbit or deep space launch (think Neil Armstrong and Captain Kirk). 

Unless there’s some disaster, I’ll be getting Jim’s space capsule ashes back, and these are the remains that will remain with me, ‘til my death do us part.

Meanwhile, in my experience, something funny almost always happen around the death of a loved one.* Especially if you have a sense of humor and/or are Irish.

For my Aunt Margaret, it was the day-glo souvenir whistles sitting in baskets in the ladies’ room of the funeral parlor. (It almost goes without saying that it was an Irish funeral parlor…)

For my mother, it was my 4 year old niece asking what was in the box. (A question that my 5 year old niece could easily answer: “Grandma!”)

There were a number of things that happened around Jim’s death that would fall under the comic relief category, but I’ll stick with the one having to do with prepping Jim’s ashes for flight.

When you sign up for Celestis, they send you a kit that includes a small cylinder and a funnel.

Now, if you just looked at the funnel dead-on, it didn’t seem as if the opening at the narrow end of the funnel was that narrow. But talk about the eye of the needle.

As I began to sift bits of Jim’s remains, little pebbles (I refuse to think bone chip) kept getting caught in the narrow end of the funnel.

After a few minutes of pushing little pebbles through the opening with a lobster pick and/or tweezing them out so they wouldn’t block the progress of the fine ashes, I realized that I was going to have to make those remains a bit more granular.

I fleetingly thought ‘blender’, but that was way too ick a thought. So I fetched the little brass hammer I use to put pictures up – a hammer that we always refer to as our ‘lady hammer’ – spread out a towel, covered it with Glad Wrap, measured out the right portion of ashes needed to fill the cylinder, and started whacking away.

If ever I felt like a crazy lady, it was standing in my living room, pulverizing my husband’s remains, while “Bang, Bang, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” rolled around in my head.

Anyway, Diggy would have enjoyed the scene. As he would have enjoyed his skyrocket in flight.

Of you go, Diggy.

I’ll be thinking of you. (Not that this makes today any different than any other day.)

It may not be where no man has gone before, but it’s a place where this man hadn’t been.

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*Unless it’s a child…

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Friday, October 17, 2014

One more reason to avoid taking selfies

Personally, I don’t actually need another reason to avoid taking selfies. I have plenty enough already.

My principal reason is just plain having zero interest in taking one.

Still, always wanting to expand my skillset, and fearful that there might be some sort of emergency that would require me to take one – or that I might get caught up in an outbreak of narcissism or something – I thought I should at least know how.

Now, there are plenty of things that I don’t know how to do. There are plenty of things that I do poorly. But, as it happens, mastering the art of the selfie is well beyond my feeble grasp. Oh, I suppose my selfie-competence exceeds my ability to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel while blindfold. But it’s pretty darned poor. The few times I tried, I mostly took a picture of the top of my head. The one time I managed a head shot, I looked like Mama June on Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo. (If you don’t know what she looks like, the short version is morbidly obese and squint-eyed mean. And, no I won’t be posting that selfie. It’s already been deleted from my Blackberry.)

So, no, I don’t need yet another reason why not to take a selfie.

Nonetheless, as a public service announcement, I will offer this one to my dear readers who are no doubt madly, wildly, faithfully taking self portraits and posting them in and on places I don’t go. So here goes:

…a new crop of digital marketing companies are searching, scanning, storing and repurposing these images to draw insights for big-brand advertisers.

Some companies, such as Ditto Labs Inc., use software to scan photos—the image of someone holding a Coca-Cola can, for example—to identify logos, whether the person in the image is smiling, and the scene’s context. The data allow marketers to send targeted ads or conduct market research.

Others, such as Piqora Inc., store images for months on their own servers to show marketers what is trending in popularity. Some have run afoul of the loose rules on image-storing that the services have in place. (Source: WSJOnline)

And just so we could figure out how this particular bill becomes a law, the article even has a handy-dandy infographic:

Selfie

Needless to say, I had to traipse on over to at least one of these sites, and I went and picked Ditto, where, we are told that “1.8 billion photos are shared on social media every day. Have you seen what they say about your brand?” The home page then cycles through a couple of sub pages, one of which shows a map of the U.S., which shows a handful of images avec logo linked to a specific location.

Now, maybe everyone gets to see the same map, or maybe the map will always have something specific to your area, but mine came up showing that someone in Virginia has “shared” a picture of a cup of Dunkin Donut (a made-in-Boston brand), and that someone had uploaded a picture of their kid in Fenway Park wearing a Red Sox jersey and cap.

The header on the map page is:

Reveal when, where and how people experience y our product. 

Well, I don’t really think that the Red Sox need to pay Ditto anything in order to discover what I could tell them for free: that on any given summer home game evening, 90% of the people at Fenway Park will be wearing Red Sox gear. And, depending on how the game/season is going, they may or not be smiling.

And, well, I don’t really think that the Red Sox need to pay Ditto anything in order to discover what I could tell them for free: if the Sox are up, the fans will be smiling. If not, the average fan will be grimacing and swearing under their breath about having Clay Bucholz as your ace. (Actually, this only goes for the adults. The kids will be smiling regardless of what’s happening on the field.)

You know, I actually want to like Ditto. It’s a local company, with a lot of MIT-ers associated with it. Not that I’ve spent my career promoting the greater good of mankind, but I’m not the big-brain-inventive-genius type, eitther. So I sincerely ask: aren’t there better things to use those big MIT brains on, other than helping consumer goods companies more effectively market crap by exploiting the privacy of the their customers? (Clever marketing bit on their management team page, by the way: everyone’s wearing, holding, or using something with a big, fat logo on it.)

Why would Instagram and Pinterest enable Ditto et al. to grab all these pictures of, say, cute kids in Red Sox jerseys at Fenway Park?

The photo-sharing services…hope the brands will eventually spend money to advertise on their sites.

And:

Instagram, Flickr and Pinterest Inc.—among the largest photo-sharing sites—say they adequately inform users that publicly posted content might be shared with partners and take action when their rules are violated by outside developers. Photos that are marked as private by users or not shared wouldn’t be available to marketers.

Wonder what percentage of Instagrammarians and my friend Flickrs read the fine print.

Not something that someone who is both anti-selfie and selfie-challenged has to worry about.

David Rose, who founded Ditto Labs in 2012, said one day his image-recognition software will enable consumers to “shop” their friends’ selfies, he said.

I have no idea whatsoever what this means. But I’m sure as hell happy that none of my friends will be able to “shop” that picture of me looking like Honey Boo-boo’s mother…

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Adulthood 101. (Oh, grow up.)

Last week, while heading out to dinner with my sisters, we passed a place that my sister Kath – whose town we were in – was hoping was a new restaurant.  But Society of Grownups? As my sister Kath wrote on her blog:

What the hell kind of tragically hip name for a restaurant is "Society of Grownups?" And who would want to eat there anyway? (Source: My Rolled Trousers)

When we got back to Kath’s after dinner, we – natch – took to The Google to suss out SOG, and found that it’s an insurance company (Mass Mutual) operation aimed at wooing twenty-somethings interested in planning their financial futures.

It will surprise no one who knows my sister Kath that she has a funny and trenchant take on this:

Good idea, to provide financial education to recent college graduates and young adults, and probably a smart marketing initiative from a stodgy old insurance company who probably took a look at the demographic of their current clients and found they were all Trouserville cohorts, circling the drain with paid up life insurance policies grasped in their ancient claws. And who is going to start a storefront center for finding your inner geezer?  No future in that.

While it’s difficult to improve on Kath, I will point out that there actually is a storefront center for finding your inner geezer: Fidelity’s spot on 155 Congress Street in downtown Boston, which seems to be something of a hangout for the gray brigade.  Nothing hipster about it, unless you consider a printed-on-paper copy of the day’s Wall Street Journal hipster. The  only personal touch is a fishbowl full of miniature Hershey bars on the counter, in case one of us geezers waiting to talk about our IRAs starts feeling a bit peckish or faint.

While the SOG website has many links to sensible financial tools and advice, the overall gestalt of the enterprise seems to be cloying cutesy-ness, which may go down well with the Instagram generation but seems downright patronizing to an old codger.

If you think that “cloying cutesy-ness” is anything approaching an exaggeration, take a look at the Society of Grownups for yourself. And compare and contrast the SOG approach to the look and feel of Mass Mutual when they’re talking to the rest of us. While Mass Mutual has the standard boring fin-serv picks (products and solutions, planning tools and resources, business needs):

Society of Grownups believes you can pursue adult goals like starting a family, opening a business, or saving for retirement without losing your sense of adventure. Come to a few of our classes and events and you’ll see what we mean.Welcome to the Society of Grownups. Helping you find your inner adult.

Can’t disagree with trying to make young adults more knowledgeable about things financial. With so many of them coming out of school with a ton o’ debt, I’m sure that plenty of them could use a bit of advice. And given how many Boomer knuckleheads are nearing retirement age with near-zippo in terms of savings, getting focused on saving up for the years leading up to The Great Beyond is a good thing.

But “helping you find your inner adult”? Isn’t this what life does to you? Do you really need to sign up for a course named “When Money Buys Happiness: Spending on The Things You Care About” or “Beyond the Hostel: Planning Grownup Trips”? Aren’t these things you can figure out for yourself?

I’m such a crank…

You’d think I’d be happy that there’s a place that encourages “the kids” to crawl out of their online caves and actually meet people face to face, a place that provides an alternative “scene” to a drunken groping bar.

But it does, as Kath says, seem patronizing, as if any appeal to the common sense (and self-interest) of a generation has to be couched in “fun”, tongue and cheek terms.

And isn’t “finding your inner adult” something that actually is part of the “adventure”, not something that’s antithetical to it? Isn’t “finding  your inner adult” something that sort of comes naturally along the way?

You get a job and realize that, now that it’s your money, not theirs,  so you can spend it on whatever you damn well please, including a Bob Dylan album or mini-skirt that they might disapprove of.

You get your license and drive a little too fast on that curve and find yourself up over the curve, two inches from the telephone poll (fortunately) and no cop in sight (double fortunately). So the next time you’ve got the car, you slow the hell down on that curve.

You help your friends through their crises - loss of boyfriend, loss of faith, loss of parent, bad trips, hangovers – and, along the way, figure out how you’re going to cope when those crises come your way.

You get an apartment. You wear down your landlord into replacing the crappy fridge. You take yourself to small claims course – and win – if the landlord wearing-down doesn’t happen fast enough.

You go away, far away, and figure out how to cope when it’s pouring rain, you’re in the middle of nowhere, it’s late, and the hostel is full. (Note to Society of Grownups: if you’ve actually done the hosteling routine, you really don’t need a travel course to figure out hotels.)

And then you get a real job. You negotiate a raise. You hire someone. You coach someone. You fire someone.

You find “the one”, and end up getting married. Or not, and end up staying single. Living with someone, living on your own: both very good ways to find your inner adult.

You have kids – the ultimate ‘oh, grow up’ experience. Or not, but end up being part of someone else’s village. No, it’s not the same, but whether it’s their kid or yours, you figure out how to clean up a baby covered in crap up to his neck. Try to comfort a child who seems inconsolable. Show someone the joys of kite-flying. Stop them from doing something dumb (or maybe just something annoying). Answer a scary big question. Realize that, as much as you want to do it, sometimes there’s no way you can take the heartbreak and pain away. Help kids understand that things mostly do get better. Explain to them that, yes indeed, life is sometimes sucky and unfair. And, let’s hope, convey to the children you know and love that life is always an adventure, and that there are a lot of good and fun things about being a grownup.

And that there are a lot of not so good and fun things about being an adult, but that this is okay, too. Things like coping with the illness, the death of those you love. All part of life, all part of what we’re here for.

According to the Society of Grownups:

Every generation has its own dreams. And its own ideas about success. But the only path to happiness is the one built on your individual goals and values.

True, all. (Although I might argue that every generation’s dreams and ideas about success pretty much end up the same. We all want to find love, companionship, meaningful work…)

And, yes, that “path to happiness” is yours and yours alone.

But do you really need the Society of Grownups to realize this?

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Restoration Hardware: the gift that keeps on giving

Over the years, blog topic-wise, I’ve considered Walmart a gift that keeps on giving. And while I haven’t done anything Walmart-ish in a while, they remain of interest, and may well appear in Pink Slip in the not so distant future.

But I don’t want readers to think that all I do is use my metaphorical Payless Shoe shod foot to kick the folks from Bentonville.

Nope. More than occasionally, I pull on a metaphorical Ferragmo boot to kick the higher end-crowd. And a repeat offender here has certainly been Restoration Hardware. Whether it’s their pretentious “store as museum” attitude, or the unsolicited (and, frankly, pretty monochromatic and boring) 14 pound catalogs that continue to litter the doorsteps in my neighborhood, RH is an entity that continues to cry out for a good blogging.

Their latest is the introduction of RH Financing.

In keeping with their serene and subtle approach to marketing – no Bob’s Discount Furniture Bob-inator for them; no Bernie and Phyl and their quality, comfort and price; not Elliot Jordan letting his grandkids eat chocolate ice cream on his Sunbrella-covered couch – RH invites us to buy their wares on credit using their very own serene and subtle color palette. No screaming “no money down”. Just tastefully laid out. And – I’ll admit – mincing no numbers when it comes to calculating just what it’s going to cost you monthly, and in total, if you decide, say, to slap $100K worth of furniture on your RH card, and spread the payments over the next seven years.

100214_RH_Finance_chart

Am I the only one who thinks that if you can’t afford to RH your digs without paying for it with a seven-year loan, you should probably be thinking of an alternative.

I mean, I’d sleep on a mattress stuffed with dried corn cobs, and eat off a 1950’s metal tray table, before I’d step toe in a Bob’s. And I do find Bernie and Phyl, not to mention their offspring, pretty annoying. But I think Elliot Jordan’s kind of cute. (He actually may live around here. I know I’ve seen him on the street.)

I’m also looking at that $100K figure and laughing.

For the tax filing for my husband’s estate, I have to provide a calculation of Jim’s personal property.

The value of his clothing can be pretty much calculated by throwing it in a ragbag, putting it on a scale, and computing the going rate (cents per pound) for rags.

Our furniture isn’t all that much of different story.

As I sit in our combo living-dining room computing the cost of everything in here, including what’s on the walls and the tchotchkes on the mantel, it barely makes it above $10K, even if I fake up some value for my grandmother’s claw foot table and rickety little desk. Or the side tables from my sister Kath.

Of course, as with our other furniture, it was all acquired over time. The dining room table, chairs, and credenza predate the leather sofa, which postdates the “antique” (i.e., acquired at a junk store) glass-fronted cabinet we store our CD’s in.

I have some very interesting things hanging on the walls, but the most expensive art object is actually the frame for the Achille Philion  poster – An Attraction without a Parallel. We paid $100 for it at an antique/junk store in Vermont a million years ago for . It cost $700 to frame. (Just found one online at an antique poster gallery, and Achille Philionapparently it’s worth a bit more than $100. Weren’t we the clever art investors!)

Anyway, our other rooms are furnished with a similar combination of decent quality, not so hot, hand-me-down, and antique/junk store. With stuff on the walls nicely (i.e., expensively) framed, but not of really high value. (Other than Achille Philion. He rules!)

So, if I can furnish 1200 square feet with interesting, personal, rugged (whatever we paid for it, our stuff tends to stand the test of time, that’s for sure), shabby chic for a grand total of maybe $20K, so could someone else.

Now that’s an awful lot of money, money that most folks don’t have sitting in their checking account.

But it’s really not that hard to start out modestly, buying the essentials and scrounging where you can, and building up over time.

And you wouldn’t have to borrow $100K from RH in order to do live comfortably.

Of course, no one will mistake my home for an RH catalog, or any body’s showroom.

But it really is an “us” kind of place.

That said, when I do some renovating, I will be replacing some of the pieces. Of our three Jennifer Convertible couches, only one is likely to make the cut. And that oversized chair where I’ve read so many books and taken so many naps, well, I think its days our numbered.

I have a budget vaguely in mind, not to mention a style.

Neither the budget nor my personal taste will put me any where near RH.

Not that I’d be tempted to sign up for their credit line.

Who’d want to be paying off furniture for seven years?

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A tip of the old chapeau from my sister Trish, who passed this one along to me.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hey, Mr. Nadella, I know you really didn’t mean it, but the karma route just plain doesn’t work.

I read with interest about the brouhaha the new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella set off last week:

…when he told an audience of tech industry women they should trust they will get raises when they deserve them -- despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

"It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along," Nadella told a crowd at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, ReadWrite reported.

"That's good karma. It will come back," Nadella continued. "That's the kind of person that I want to trust, that I want to give more responsibility to."(Source: Huffington Post)

Well who wouldn’t want to give more responsibility to someone who’d take it on for nothing? That doesn’t make it right on either side: the non-giver, or the non-receiver.

I like to think that Grace Hopper – who I suspect was a plenty tough Commodore_Grace_M._Hopper,_USN_(covered)old gal – is snorting in her grave somewhere. (For those who don’t know who Hopper is, she was a mathematician and pioneering computer scientist who has both a Cray Supercomputer and a U.S. Navy Destroyer named after her.)

To his credit, Nadella apologized and admitted that he was wrong, and with a level of sincerity that went beyond the mealy-mouthed “I misspoke” and “I’m sorry if someone was offended by what I said” faux-apologies that are such the mode these days:

"Without a doubt I wholeheartedly support programs at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap," Nadella wrote. "I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work ... If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask."

Here, Nadella gets is right.

For years, women have hung back in the workplace just waiting for their contributions to be recognized and rewarded. And then sitting there stewing when some guy who was likely less competent and definitely didn’t work as hard got tapped for the promotion, and scored the big raise. Having had a career in the technology business, I understand first hand how difficult it can be for women in such a male-dominated culture. And I also understand how women play right into it, letting ourselves take the wait for karma to kick in approach. Unfortunately, this  just plain won’t get you ahead in a world where the boys are all yelling “Pick me. Pick me. Pick me. I’m a good hitter. I can catch.” While the girls stand quietly on the sidelines, left for last pick, while wondering why, given that they know for a fact that they’re a better hitter, and better with the glove, than Mr. Pick Me will ever be.

I knew from the get-go that, in terms of getting a promotion, waiting for someone to recognize my worthiness was not going to cut it.

Pretty much every time I got a promotion, it was because I raised my hand and said I’d do something. Not that I had much competition in vying for what were mostly thankless tasks in companies that went nowhere. Still, as I clawed my way up to senior this and director that, it was mostly because I put myself in the position to say “I do.”

I worked for years at a small software company, apparently long enough to outlast everyone in my way and find myself on the management team as director of marketing. The others on the team – it almost goes without saying, all guys – were all VPs. I wanted to be a VP, too.

After waiting for “it” to happen, I decided to advocate for myself, making the case to the company president. And, as I made my case, making sure that I had the backing of all the guys on the management team.

Although I hated the way my promotion was announced – a story for another day – I did get the title. And no raise.

Now, I knew that I wasn’t going to make what the guys made. They actually had broader job scope and greater responsibility. But there was no way I was going to let a zero-based promotion to VP happen.

So I went back to the act-on-my-own-behalf well that I’d drawn from to get that vaunted VP title, and drew up another bucket of ego, resolve and ammunition.

I made my case – including data I got from headhunters – and got a 20% raise that put me at the sweet spot salary level I was looking for. Given that bonuses are tied to salaries, this turned out to be a very good thing.

I probably worked full time for another eight or nine years after I scored this raise, and, while I’ve never run the numbers, between salary and bonus this 20% raise probably earned me well over an additional quarter of a million bucks.

If I’d waited for karma to find its way to my desk, I would have been sitting there further down the food chain, making a lot less money, and making myself crazy wondering why all those jerks were deliberating on the future of our products, group, company while I was doing “real” work.

They say that karma’s a bitch, but that can’t be right.

If you’re expecting karma to eventually come to your rescue, you’ve really got to keep in mind that sometimes karma’s just a plain old garden variety a-hole.

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While I was working on this post on Friday, I took an e-mail break, and there was a note from my friend Valerie, sending me a link to the Nadella story. Karma? You decide.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

I Dream of Columbus. (A little Columbus Day gifteen for you)

Columbus Day has always been one of my favorites, and I’ve written about the “whys” a few times in the past. (Nifty Little Holiday, My Head Still Hurts, My Head Hurts.) (And, yes, I do realize that C. Columbus was really no hero, and that we really should have a holiday that recognizes native Americans, etc. - but we are mostly a nation of immigrants, and someone was bound to discover "us" at some point.)

Anyway, last year, I took the day off to bring my husband home from MGH, where he’d had a malignant tumor removed from his brain earlier the week before. At that point, we were guardedly (extremely guardedly) optimistic about “things”.

As it turned out, there was not much reason for optimism, guarded or not. But that was then, and this year, despite all the sadness associated with “a year ago” memories that everyone who’s lost a loved one if likely familiar, I am going to enjoy this nifty little holiday. And since I’ve already said most of what I have to say about this nifty little holiday (see above), I thought I’d leave you with a couple of at least tangentially relevant songs from Mary Black, the great Irish singer. The first is Columbus:

 

 And the second is Ellis Island, which is, after all, what old Christopher Columbus kick-started, no?

 

Happy Columbus Day!

Enjoy Mary Black...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hey, NFL, thanks for remembering the ladies. Now let’s all go out and buy Barbie-pink Ray Rice jerseys.

A few years ago, the NFL decide to do a bit of good by raising a bit of awareness and a bit of money by jumping onto the October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month hot-pink bandwagon. So the league fiated that, at some point during the month, players had to wear something pink, refs had to throw pink penalty flags, and cheerleaders needed to shake pink pompoms, so that fan awareness would be raised that there’s something out there called breast cancer.

As Erin Ryan of Jezebel pointed out in a post last week:

Breast cancer awareness is so ubiquitous that if deadly diseases attended the same high school, breast cancer would probably be voted prom queen. (Source: Jezebel)

But, hey, if you have to pick a disease to, why not pick one that everyone’s aware of – and one that probably everyone knows someone who’s had it?

One of the most horrific things about cancer is that there’s no such thing as one big, bad monolithic “cancer”. Each cancer is something different in where and how it manifests itself, what and who it attacks, and whether and if you’re likely to survive. Not to mention that how your body responds to most cancers (and how it responds to their treatment) is unique to you, and impacted by everything you’ve eaten, breathed in, and done, and every place you’ve been. Which is why, for so many cancers, survival remains a complete and utter crapshoot.

Anyway, there’s no denying that breast cancer is a worthy cause.

But this is the NFL, so it’s not just about do-gooding. Because one of the upsides of do-gooding, if you’re the NFL, is that is kind of shines up your image a bit. Just look at all those big, strong he-men wearing girly-girl pink stripes on their pants, pink chin straps, pink cleats. Real men wear pink! Real men are really concerned about breast cancer!

It’s really hard not to go just a tad bit cynical here.

Okay, I’d be more cynical if they’d come up with this just this season.

Given all the terrible publicity they’ve had of late around player assaults on women, it would be completely outrageous for them to feign concern about a disease the mostly occurs among the female of the species.

Still, so it’s hard not to suspect that, when they decided to get pinkified a few years ago, it wasn’t also about the leagues desire to increase the proportion of females in its fan base. And, since it’s the NFL, it’s hard not to believe that it’s also about the merchandising. Somebody in the NFL marketing department, someone who probably specialized in powder-puff outreach, no doubt figured that there’s gold in them thar’ pink hills. And that us gals so like to don we now our pink apparel, we’ll rush on out and buy all sorts of cool pink items – and help “the cause.”

Although I do love the color pink, I must say that I find most of the merchandise just ghastly.

Like these boots, for $109.95 which, even as ugly bootPink bootss go are pretty darned ugly. What would UGGs super-model Tom Brady say about them? Bet Gisele Bündchen wouldn’t be caught dead, or alive, in them.

Or tPink scarfhis relative bargain, a scarf for a mere $17.95. Officially licensed! Woven graphics! 100% Acrylic!

Or this swell laptop case, fPink laptop bagor just $269.00.

But, oh, you may be thinking.

The proceeds of sales of these items are going to a good cause.

And it even says right there on most of these items that the NFL donates 100% of its proceeds to something to do with breast cancer.

The NFL claims that its pink philanthropy efforts "support the fight against breast cancer" by "promoting awareness" and providing funds to the American Cancer Society. But what they're mostly promoting is, uh, buying NFL gear, the profits from which are overwhelmingly pocketed by the NFL.

That’s because a schnook who actually wasn’t thinking might think they were actually donating the full “value” (i.e., the cost) of the merchandise, rather than just the NFL’s skim. But that 100% of proceeds actually translates into something closer to 11.25% (according to Business Insider). Most of the money goes to the companies who make the stuff and to the companies (often the NFL itself or the teams) that sell the stuff.

That 11.25% is not nothing, of course.

But in NFL terms, it’s next to nothing.

While the NFL brings in billions in revenue annually – last year’s take was $9.5B – their donations to breast cancer causes have supposedly averaged about $1M a year.

Not that they are any obligation whatsoever to support any particular “good cause,” and breast cancer’s as good as any. And I surely wouldn’t expect them to do fund-raising for a closer-to-home disease – say, something associated with the brain damage that so many players incur on the vaunted playing fields of the NFL.

Still, I find the whole pink thing a bit patronizing, especially when coming from the National Football League.

If the NFL really gave a hoot about women, it would provide counseling services to those players – and there are plenty of them - who can’t turn the violence off once they’re off the field, and who consider women sexual playthings and/or punching bags.

Charity begins at home.

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This topic was suggested to me (and the Jezebel link sent) by my cousin (and fellow blogger)Ellen, who posted so eloquently on what it actually means to have – and survive – breast cancer, and her reaction to Omnipresent Pink Month.

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