No value added: Corporate tongues run amok


“…With rational syllables
I’m trying to clear the occult mind
and promiscuous violence.
My linguistic protest
has no power.
The enemy is illiterate.”
from “Vowel” – Nina Cassian (Romania)

Earlier today it felt as though the word “value” had jumped up and slapped me in the face. Thinking of all the overused applications of “value” (particularly “value chain” and “value proposition”), it has lost all meaning. And, once I posted something on Twitter about banishing this word from my vocabulary, someone else pointed out that there is no value added by value-added tax. Not for the one paying it, anyway. “How can we add value?” This question, triggering such irritation, is packed with no meaning. What do these things even mean anymore?

“Managers” (so appointed but not necessarily qualified) seem to be among the worst communicators I know. On a very surface level, I deal frequently with managers and directors who are non-native English speakers; there is some awkwardness to be expected then. Fine. What gets dicey though is how all managers of all nationalities turn into corporate cheerleader automatons – newspeak anyone? – in all the same ways. Incessant talk about value chains, low-hanging fruit and a lot of the lingo that has trickled down in large part from the management consulting industry triggers something in me. Hearing it, it immediately makes me think the person doing the talking has no idea what he is talking about. He needs these mutually understood (in this business community) BS words and expressions to obscure the fact that he really has nothing at all to say. Everyone must know it but everyone accepts it. To go outside of the confines of newspeak, to say in plain language exactly what is going on, would be a thought crime.

This wholesale adoption of meaningless language lacks precision.  All this “marketingspeak” could be reduced to just a few simple words that everyone could understand… simplify. Yet, these manager types (in fairness, not all of them are on this sinking ship) would lose some kind of self-importance and peer credibility if they suddenly started speaking straight English. In one previous job, a manager reviewed a paper I had written and had no problems with it but tried to get me to add in a list of his most beloved expressions because he felt sure it would help get other people to take it more seriously. Yes, adding “tipping point” and “crossing the chasm” and other such absurdity (he literally included a list of six or seven “additions”, which I ignored) will bolster the integrity of a data-driven case study?

I don’t know what it says about me, but it seems that I can only find real meaning in words like “value” and “strategy” in direct applications, such as “strategy” as it pertains to the a military operation and “value” as it pertains to something tangible like a “high-value asset” in the intelligence community. It is clear exactly what a strategy is in the military. It is not this vague, unclear, half-baked idea (well, it might be, actually, considering how modern militaries and warfare are going) – but in theory, it makes total sense. And value in a recruited intelligence asset is equally clear – you want information that the asset is in a unique position to obtain. End of story. In a business setting, especially when you unleash a whole unruly homeless dog shelter on it and let the mutts tinker with “strategy” and determine “value”, you are asking for it.

Layers of fluff and meaninglessness are my biggest conflicts with corporate life. I will not obfuscate the facts to comfort people who cannot let go of the pretense and poppycock of devaluing real language.

Futility – you can’t write on your soul with a pen


“Words are not life, and therefore they are eternal.
Surely there must have been a serious reason
Why among all the languages of the world
Only the Gypsy language
Has no word for “to have”.
I make a note of that. But this is futile.
You can’t write on your soul using a pen.
-Ante Popovski (Macedonia)

“They heard me singing and they told me to stop/Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock…” – Arcade Fire

I was driving along through the chilly November evening pondering the transitory, ephemeral nature of the written word. Now more than ever … perhaps something it is written somewhere, on paper, in the digital ether, but the writer eventually dies. So few will be remembered and so few will really be read. Especially now, there is such a glut of writing – good, bad – overwhelming either way.

However, I am struck by how bits and pieces do stick in the brain, creating an indelible impression. A line of poetry or a lyric from a song weaves its way into almost every moment, circumstance, event – meaning that a poem or a song represent something more than just what they are, carrying my interpreted meaning as well as the original meaning of the writer.

More than ever I am thinking about health, well-being and how my current situation is pushing me further and further from this. I admire people who cannot shut out the creative and artistic passions that force them to pursue such activities. I might be a bit too realistic for that.

Good goo of random gum: Soundtrack for life

What started off as a Halloween thing – making CDs of music — good or bad — that comprised the soundtrack of my previous year has become a much bigger effort, happening two or three times a year now. I make these seasonal soundtracks that I send out to friends with seasonal cards, etc. but also put the playlists up on Spotify – at least those songs that exist on Spotify.
There are always reasons behind the choices, so the track listing always provides some narrative (to be found in the blog posts). The Spotify lists are just lists of music – and if you were to only go to those, you would find yourself perplexed (without context) as to why I would choose some of the music there. Some of it, unequivocally, sucks. Cases in point – any French 80s crap, such as Laurent Voulzy or Daniel Balavoine. But these things made up memorable moments in my life that I had to capture.
Random Gum – Spring into Action – Mar 2019 – Feb 2020

Random Gum – Amusing Tongue of Procrastination – Jan-Feb 2019
Amusing Tongue complete listing
Listen to Amusing Tongue on Spotify

Random Gum – Missing Lionesses – December 2018
Missing Lionesses complete listing.
Listen to Missing Lionesses on Spotify.
Random Gum – Tex and Hen on the Ranch – November 2018
Tex and Hen complete listing.
Listen to Tex and Hen on Spotify.

Random Gum – This is Glasgow – October 2018
This is Glasgow complete listing.
Listen to This is Glasgow on Spotify.

Random Gum – Runaway Glaswegian rocking horse – September 2018
Runaway Glaswegian rocking horse complete listing.
Listen to Runaway Glaswegian rocking horse on Spotify.

Random Gum – Everything’s gone orange – August 2018
Random Gum – Cover up – I’ve got just enough to cover you – July 2018
Random Gum – Cherry Blossom Girl – June 2018
Random Gum – May I Come In? – May 2018

Random Gum – April’s Fool – April 2018

April’s Fool complete listing.
Listen to April’s Fool on Spotify.

Random Gum – Marching On – March 2018
Marching On complete listing.
Listen to Marching On on Spotify.

Random Gum – A Love Supreme – Anti-Valentine – February 2018
A Love Supreme complete listing.
Listen to A Love Supreme on Spotify.

Random Gum – Meow Mix – January 2018
Meow mix complete listing.
Listen to Meow mix on Spotify.

Random Gum –  Giving Thanks – November 2017
Random Gum – The Last Toast 2017
Random Gum – Sour Times of Summer 2017
Random Gum – Darling Buds of May 2017
Random Gum – April Skies/April Fools 2017
Random Gum – Spring into Action 2017
Random Gum – Winter 2017/Raising the Bar
Random Gum – Halloween 2016
Random Gum – Latent Love and Pre-Internet Days – Summer 2016
Random Gum – Nearly Lost You – Halloween 2015

Decayed Decade – Ten Years of Random Gum – 2004 – 2014

Decayed Decade of Random Gum (2004-2014) + Part Past Part Fiction 2015

Good Goo of Random Gum – Halloween 2014
Scottish spring – Troubled summer – Falling down – Getting up

Halloween Random Gum soundtrack – Better late than never

Anti-Valentine Signs/Spring Dump 2014
Listen to Anti-Valentine Signs/Spring Dump 2014 on Spotify.

Good Goo of Random Gum – Year-End 2013

Good Goo of Random Gum – Halloween 2013

Good Goo of Random Gum – Spring Forward/Summer Moving 2013

City Winter Good Goo of Random Love Gum Anti-Valentine 2013

The Drive-in Flea Market of Random Gum Halloween 2012

Muck of Spring – 2012

Good Goo of Random Gum – Fuck My Valentine 2012

More Good Goo of Random Gum – Halloween and year-end 2011

Good Goo of Random Gum – Wooded Summer 2011

Spring Fling 2011

Good Goo of Random Gum Halloween 2010

Moving Mix Winter 2010

Random Gum 2009 Director’s cut

Random Gum Halloween 2009 Official version

Random Gum Halloween 2008

Random Gum Halloween 2007

Random Gum Halloween 2006

Random Gum Halloween 2005

Random Gum Halloween 2004