Sunday, January 22, 2006

De Bello Birkenstocko

War is raging in the Birkenstock family. So what? you might say.
Well, it’s not just a family tiff – big bucks are involved.
You see, the Birkenstock family has been producing footwear since 1774.
Over the last decades, the current generation of Birkenstocks were able to turn padded, hippie footwear into a multi-million dollar business.

As always, it’s a case of cherchez la femme – in this case Susanne Birkenstock, who married Christian Birkenstock at the age of 18 in the late 1990s, produced two children and then started divorce procedures.
Our Susanne is a hard-nosed businesswoman who spent seven years in the family's garage developing her own line of orthopedic shoes. (Since the family home is a castle, we can safely assume that the garage was big enough to do some serious shoe tinkering.)
Since a girl has to make a living, separated (and heading for divorce) Suzy started producing her own sandals, promoting them on talk shows. Since she has blond good looks, more money than the average high-tech startup and a well-known family name, the talk show circuit just loves her.
Her own Beautystep sandals boast a specially designed sole “mimicking the effect of a foot stretching out as it sinks into fine sand.”
The sandals are positioned to help the wearer to burn fat and reduce cellulite.

Needless to say, the original Birkenstocks (Christian and his two brothers, not the hippie wear) were breathing fire when they found out.
They screamed that Susanne is using the Birkenstock name to market her scientifically questionable product.
They demanded that she stops using the family name for any product endorsement.
Humbug” retorted the enterprising near-divorcee.
Birkenstock is my legal name and that of my children. I have been a Birkenstock for half of my life.”
For sure, the name Birkenstock helped to sell the more than 35,000 pairs of sandals in Germany, Austria and Switzerland since Beautystep was launched in 2004.

The B. brothers took aggressive action – they had their marketing executive sent a letter to all Birkenstock retailers and distributors, accusing Susanne Birkenstock of profiting from her married name.
They also petitioned a German court to stop her from using it in marketing.

In February 2005, a court in Cologne ruled that Susanne Birkenstock could use her name as the designer of her shoes but imposed restrictions on how prominently it could be featured in sales materials.
Toeing this fine line meant making some changes in Beautystep’s marketing, such as abandoning a website for SB International that used her married name and relying only on the Beautystep site.
The Birk brothers were still not amused.
They kept being plagued with inquiries from retailers and wholesalers about the Beautystep brand.
Instead of doing the sensible thing, buying up Beautystep, milking it for maximum publicity and increasing sales (as well as the inheritance of Susanne’s and Christian’s offspring), the brothers decided to make lawyers happy (brandname infringement) and petiotoned a higher court to toughen the rules established by the lower court.
The Birkenstockies are mainly ticked off by the fact that Beautystep keeps being referred to as Birkenstock by distributors, television stations or journalists.

In my opinion, the Birkenstocks should have a close look at the business potential of this smart cookie – with an initial investment in 2003 of Euro 200,000; she was able to break even in 2005.
Being one smart marketer, the Birkenstock group would be wise to appoint her as its Global Chief Marketing Executive. It would also save them a bundle in legal fees.

Who would have thought that the main footwear suppliers of Woodstock, environmenatalists and micro-biotic lifestyle seekers would be so 1980s business aggressive?
O tempores, o mores......

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Job evaluation and all that

All you laborforce participants had to go through the annual ritual of your annual job evaluation talks.
Yep, the Boss calls you into his office, closes the door, and looks at you like a physician who has to tell you that you have a terminal illness.
It’s a ploy, of course. You see, by looking grim and glum, Bossy can prevent you from expecting a bonus or (gasp!) asking for a raise.

It’s a two-way street. You can also comment on my job performance,” boss-dear happily tells you. Don’t fall for it – being critical (especially when justified!) is a surefire way to be kicked out.
Just agree with how great s/he is, how much you like work, and when put on the spot, criticize something general.
(Suggestions: “there are different opinions in the company about the corporate goals and mission” or “various departments seem to have different priorities”)
No matter how good you are – don’t expect too much praise or recognition.

To pull you through this slightly painful process, I composed the following questionnaire.
You can rate your boss by answering the following 5 questions.
(I strongly suggest you do this at home and NOT on your workstation).

Your boss is:
a) intelligent b) clever, but you can outsmart him/her c) dumb as my cat

Your boss is:
a) a warm and lovely person b) OK and almost human c) a sexist pig/uptight bitch

Your boss is:
a) thinks the world of you b) give you credit for your work c) steels all you bright ideas and
pass them off as his/hers

Your boss sees him/herself as:
a) a decent human being b) superior to others c) master of the universe

Your boss sees you as:
a) a wonderful employee and person b) a good resource to be used c) a slave to be abused

If most of your answers are A:
Congratulations! You have a great job and boss, who is quite likely your spouse, lover or a family member that catapulted you into your current cushy position.
Alternatively: you lied through your teeth when answering the questions (in which case you are beyond hope and should consider a career in politics).

If most of your answers are B:
Welcome to the average work hell! You are quite likely working for the government, a financial institution or another workplace managed by zombies. Enjoy your time in your current job until you can enjoy your well(?)deserved pension.

If most of your answers are C: poor you! Your work in high-tech or (yikes)Bush/Schwarzenegger is your boss.
No matter – dig up all the dirt you can and write your memoirs once you leave your job.

And to finish this blog with a real Boss Quote:
"Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say." (Marketing executive, Citrix Corporation)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Roaming "Rome"

The TV drama series “Rome” has been hailed as amazing.
Well, it certainly did the trick of amazing me!
You see, I had the pleasure of 6 years of Latin (2 hours a day) in school and was always curious how ancient Rome and its inhabitants would have looked like.
The HBO series enticed me with a great “behind the scenes” preview explaining about the sets and costumes.
In good BBC tradition, they showed how they made copies of artifacts and outfits, only applying materials and dyes that were in use two millennia ago.
hey also meticulously build copies of Roman streets, buildings, temples and the like.

I was impressed, and looking forwards to the first episode.
I mean, any channel that produced the critically acclaimed and massively enjoyed “Claudius” series would do a great job – so I thought.

The first episode started with a very graphic and unrealistic sex scene.
It seems that if you show an actress in full frontal nudity in a historical drama, the scene will not be censored.
Probably to emphasize the historical context, slaves were waving big feather fans to cool the coupling couple.
The actress might have been completely nude, but her partner was wearing some leather straps across his torso. Not sure if this had a Symbolic Meaning, or the not-so-bright character wore them for protection.
After the lady had her merry way with him, she hopped into a bath the size of a small swimming pool under the eyes of her young son, who she happily invited to watch her while she rose from the foams. Not sure what the meaning of that was – may be showing her son that the plastic surgeon (or whatever they had in those times – no idea, my Latin textbooks mainly dealt with wars) did a great boob job?

The scene suddenly switched to the battlefields in Gaul.
Oy, that brought back hours of “De Bello Gallico”!
A Roman soldier was heavily whipped and seemed to enjoy it.
Ah well, to each his own, I assume…

Scene in the Roman Senate – Cato shouted at Cicero who shouted at Pompey who shouted at everyone else.
Didn’t make a lot of sense – maybe Caligula was not that crazy when he made his favorite horse a senator.

Back to the Lustful Lady who sent her young son on a horse to Gaul.
The horse was a gift for Caesar.
Obviously the wench wanted to butter him up for something or other.
She looked definitely Alexis Carrington-like when she sent the boy off.

More scenes with blood, torture and all that.
I lost the jest of the story at that point, so I cannot relate much of the storyline from here on - also because I was too distracted by the actors.
You see, the costumes and the set are gorgeous, no doubt about it.
As far as I remember, especially the outfits of the soldiers are accurate to the smallest details.
But the cast…. brrrrr.

I understand that it’s hard to find native Latin-speaking actors and let’s face it, Americans also refuse to read subtitles.
But what makes them think that an upperclass/public school English accent will do the trick?
But even more pathetic are the looks of the actors.
Not only do they look Anglo-Saxon, most of them have distinctive Celtic looks.
Don’t get me wrong; Kevin McKidd is goodlooking and a fine actor, but no Lucius Voranus.
The actor that plays Cato not only has a typical British army officer face, but the slightly crooked underbite teeth that go with it.

Young Octavian, with his angelic blond curls, blue eyes and lily-white complexion, should shine in a Harry Potter movie.
None of the ladies have the strong classical features, dark hair and eyes, and the olive complexion that sat so well on the Roman matrons of old.
Both Atia and Servilia are Irish-looking with ivory skin, red hair and blue eyes – they would do better in a Jane Austin movie than roaming the mean streets of ancient Rome.
The horses looked OK though…

I have to admit that I only saw 30 minutes of the first episode – I fell asleep when the Romans started crucifying Gauls. (Something to do with the Eagle Standard and money changing hands – made me think of the Presidential elections).

If Rome is your cup of wine (they hadn’t tea or coffee yet, which might explain the excessive violence), fine by me.
Personally, I prefer Roman Holiday to Rome….

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The three most stupid quotes in 2006

It's 2006 and we can look back at an inventful 2005, filled with lots of stupid quotes by clever, dumb and dangerous people.
Needless to say, the two chief clowns of US media circus win top places.
Just to make sure to point out that stupidity is not limited to nationality, age or gender, I also put it a great quote from an anchorperson (F).

I am sure that we can look forwards to a new year full of even more bizarre quotes.
But for now, enjoy these ones.....

"They are like leaches, I am so sick of them"

Following Michael Jackson's much-publicized trial and subsequent departure for Bahrain, it seemed the world would get some peace and quiet from the former king of pop.
But this remark proved he just cannot stay away from the limelight, and that he just doesn’t like Jews. After he realized that his former advisor filed a USD 64 million lawsuit against him, Jackson decided to leave him a voicemail message:
"I am so sick of them… they make so much money, they made me broke.. It’s a plot.
The Jews are doing this intentionally
This message was eventually heard around the world. Jackson did not bother to reply to the criticisms and accusations of anti-Semitism.
His advisors were satisfied with a laconic response that the conversation was recorded illegally, and without Jackson’s consent.
Please remember that Adolf H. started out as a democratically elected leader….

God told me: George, go on and fight the terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq"

President Bush was furious over the leak and strongly denied ever making those remarks, but that’s what Palestinian minister Nabil Shaath said Bush told him.
Shaath said that in a conversation with the American president, Bush revealed the real reason he led Americans into war in Iraq and Afghanistan:
"God told me: George, go on and put an end to tyranny in Iraq, and so I did.
And now, once again, I feel the words of God come to me: go on and get the Palestinians their own country, give the Israelis their security and bring peace to the Middle East.
And in God’s name that’s what I’ll do."
Move over, Joan of Arc

"It’s been 11 days since two African-American teenagers were killed, electrocuted during a police chase, which prompted all of this."

American anchorperson Carol Lin covered the riots that broke out in Paris and quickly spread to other French cities (as well as other countries).
The two teenagers mentioned were French citizens of Tunisian descent (and would be classified in the US as Caucasian).
They definitely never were Americans.
Flunked your geography and history tests in high school, dear one?