Dyalekt

Alternative (head)Spaces 2: The Teachening

Hi, I’m Dyalekt, and today I’m going to prove why you, artist, should endeavor to become a Teaching Artist.

A Teaching Artist is someone who teaches utilizing a specialized art or skill to help students learn better. There are many types of teaching artists, from painting to performance, and they all have a part in making education more beneficial for everyone.

Recognize the beginning of the three paragraph essay? Notice the awkward use of word padding?

Shuddering?

Too bad. Everything you ever read from now until forever is going to look like that. Schools are becoming more automated, and life is more boring for it. You, artist, undoer of boredom, should be teaching. For selfish reasons. Well, and because you’re needed.

Let’s stick with the selfishness for now. Firstly, a classroom is the best venue for your art. It provides you with natural light, all the construction paper you could ever want, and a captive  (if crowded) audience for you to win over.

For really real, students make the best audiences. My first teachery experience was a poetry workshop for Jr. High kids. I had no idea what to do, so I just rocked like how I rock in bars, and then we talked about it. After years of experience, I still rock how I rock in bars, and then we talk about it. Performance plus talkback! Students also tend to be more open and insightful than drunk people who are busy flirting. If you listen as much as you encourage them to, your art will be better for it. If they become the listeners you encourage them to, they’ll be more discerning consumers and more critical audiences. That insipid movie directed by Blockbuster Jones doesn’t have to be how everybody spends Friday night. You have access to people who are in the midst of deciding what is true and what is awesome, and those things will be true and awesome for the rest of their lives. Businesses are already in their scholastic lives, monitoring and controlling students’ options. Might as well get in the game.

It’s not like you’d be doing anything differently anyway. I assume you, artist, make art because you have an idea/emotion that is underrepresented in the world, and you want to share your perspective in a manner that is challenging and understandable, giving the audience room to interpret your perspective in any way they see fit with the hope that a greater understanding will be found. That’s what schools need. The real secret is, “Those who can’t do, teach” is an ugly lie. You’ve been doing this, and that’s why you’re the only one who can teach it.

Plus, you can finally tell your parents you got a real job doing what you love.

___________________
Brian ‘Dyalekt’ Kushner plays with Deathrow Tull at Mercury Lounge March 2nd, and then will be ramblin’ ’bout the country in a van fulla bands.

Alternative (head)Spaces

Hi, my name is Dyalekt, and I’m a theater head. A junkie, an addict, a Stan. I find no joy greater than the moment where people do stuff in front of me. Scripted, improv, whatever. I’ve seen Shakespeare in the Park, and the parking lot. One time I saw a 15 minute musical in a van (it was awefulsome). I’ve seen rock bands in fantastical costumes, and rappers turn concerts into funky monologues. I’ve been to readings on rooftops, in kitchens, and cafeterias. B-Boy cyphers made theaters in the round, as Soul Train lines made thrusts. I’ve always craved the moment where a group of people get into a groove, fall into a world, share energy. That’s my church. That’s where I find my universal truths, and my connection to my fellow man & woman. That’s why I go to the theater.

Why do you go to the theater?

I ask because I see potential theater fanatics all the time. Most of them have never seen an actual play. They go to indie rap shows where MCs frequently cut the beat to perform soliloquies (they call them a capellas, or acapulcos if you’re nasty). They go to underground parties in illegal locations where daredevils dance with fire, and you can use the stationary bike to power a vodka-milkshake-making blender. They stop for every street performer, and allow cute young folks to kick that Children’s International, sign my petition, I’m-not-selling-candy-for-no-basketball-team game all day. They crave stories. Movies are fine, but there’s a connection missing. Those guys on the screen filmed this flick months ago. None of the actors are going to pause to let laughter subside. The rhythm of films belong to the films, and the audience can only ride that rhythm, not affect it. That’s not what these people need. They need to be a part of the story. They need people doing stuff in front of them. They need to share some energy.

Why don’t they go to plays? My best guess is that they don’t feel they have permission to participate. Permission is as easy to grant (When I say “hey”, you say “ho”) as it is to deny (our tickets are $175, and our theater is located conveniently close to Times Square, the amorphous mass of sightseeing and commerce). The barriers are more than physical, they deal with a sense of belonging. It’s why my students from Quisqueya Heights never go downtown, despite being from the same borough. The theater is not a safe space for them. They don’t know what they should wear, or how much they should react to what’s happening. The theater feels as formal as a classroom. The theater, where drunks and brigands had much to do about nothing, is apparently mired in etiquette.

Etiquette has a connotation of “manners,” but roots in out of touch elitism. According to Dorothea Johnson, of the Protocol School of Washington, the word ‘etiquette’ used to mean “keep off the grass.” Louis XIV’s gardener noticed that the aristocrats were walking through his gardens and put up signs, or étiquets, to ward them off. The dukes and duchesses walked right past these signs. Due to this blatant disregard, the King of Versailles decreed that no individual was to go beyond the bounds of the étiquets.

Etiquette literally means “stay off my lawn.”

I had the opportunity to see Into the Woods in its closing performance at Shakespeare (err, Sondheim) in the Park. Waiting in line for tickets is its own sort of theater, where college students, hippies, businessfolk, tourists and artisans sit calmlyish in line for a million hours for a chance to see a play with some movie stars in it for free. (I heard if you came after 2:00 AM the night before, you weren’t seeing Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice). Those same movie stars who are usually separated from us by time and distance now share their rhythm with however this audience is going to react, not to mention the rest of the city. This is the place to bring my aforementioned story cravers, right?

The cat next to me seemed to fit the description. Slightly miffed that he and his wife weren’t sitting together, and uncomfortable in his seat, he was literally* not fitting in. The lady next to my date was far more comfortable. She regaled us with her harrowing tales of fellow patrons daring to ask her to stand as they brushed past. Didn’t they know this was her space? She also had a friend who won a Tony. During the performance, homie to my right starts eating the potato chips that he picked up at the concession stand. I think I heard him, but only barely above the laughter and sirens and New York City. I think I heard him but I really became aware of his eating when a man in front of me turned around and screamed at him to STOP EATING!

Things settled ’til intermission, where the eater and the screamer argued about who was ruder. The Screamer was backed by the Tony Winner Friend Haver (TWFH), who was offended too, but afraid to yell at a large man (in a theater full of laughter). The Eater appealed to a sense of appropriateness by reminding the pair that berating other audience members is usually reserved for Yankees games (take that however you want, Yankee fans). He was trumped by the TWFH dropping “If this isn’t a Yankee game, you shouldn’t be eating” on him. I attempted to intervene, as these people were all arguing (yes, literally) over me. I offered that theater is a circular experience, and we must be tolerant and respectful of each other for the magic to work. Theater, right? The Eater facilitated by conceding that eating may be distracting, but his preferred method of being informed about such matters is ANYTHING OTHER THAN SCREAMING. The Screamer, armed with the privilege of seeing (and paying for) hundreds of plays, defended his rights to drag everyone in his section out of the experience by proclaiming, “This isn’t about theater, it’s about etiquette.”

Ah.

Get off my lawn.

Sure, prices are too high, and intermissions are antiquated, and theaters don’t exist in many communities, but that’s not the only thing that keeps the heads out. Those of us already in the circle have the opportunity to reach out to them, and push them away. Turns out the Eater was a Shakespeare fan, but only knew Into the Woods from his mother’s double vinyl soundtrack. He’s at many live events and works with performers of all disciplines. I hope to see him in line next year. I’ll bring yogurt, or marshmallows. Something soft.

*Don’t judge me. I like that “literally” is a new slang word for “kinda almost literally, but it’s really kinda hyperbole.” It’s the new “totally.”

Brian “Dyalekt” Kushner is the Education Director of the proposed New Brooklyn Theater (newbrooklyntheater.com), and his band Deathrow Tull (DeathrowTull.com) has a new music videohttp://tinyurl.com/8p8hed4

This post is part of a weekly series from the Emerging Writers Group community of playwrights. The EWG is two-year playwriting fellowship at The Public Theater seeking to target playwrights at the earliest stages of their careers. In so doing, The Public hopes to create an artistic home for a diverse and exceptionally talented group of up-and-coming playwrights.

Comm-Unity Centered

I never really felt like a gentrifier.

Transplant artists in BK and Quisqueya Heights should feel some of these sentences. I buy local. I been here since before things started changing. The police took 3 hours to show up when I called them, too. I never got anybody evicted. I grew up in more dangerous neighborhoods. I started a jam session/community garden/youth mural project. I hate the yuppies and the trendy bars and the cafes. I know my neighbors. I didn’t come from the states. I ain’t even white. New York was built on the backs of immigrants, and my artistic behind is built to build community. I’m not them.

Why then, am I not one of us?

This was what I thought as I stared at members and guests of Bed-Stuy’s Community Board 3. My similarly nonbrooklynite friends and I were sharing our ideas and plans to restore and reopen the Slave #1 Theater, a local landmark that has been boarded up for over a decade for fairly messy reasons. (tl;dr version: Former owner died, left the place to his nephew. Nephew owes million in taxes, and his ownership is disputed by the former caretaker who sits in front of the building despite being told he will be arrested for trespassing.) I was figuring they’d be down. I know public schools have cut down on arts education, and neighborhoods populated by people of color have a dearth of art venues, especially f’real f’real theaters. They walk by that shell of a building every day, they must want to see it filled with creativity again. The Slave Theater was named so to remind us of where we came from, so surely nobody wanted the place locked down by years of red tape. At least our idea was better than turning it into a bunch of overpriced condos or a Chipotle.

Most of the crowd kinda hated us. Things started out smoothly enough, with plenty of smiling and nodding, until they realized that we didn’t actually own the building. That’s when folks at the community board meeting decided they could stop us. Stop us from what? From sharing something we didn’t own. Loudness occurred. People who hadn’t been involved in several years were talking about putting a group together to buy the property and run it how they see fit. Short of owning the building, some wanted to make sure we weren’t in control. They were sure we’d give it away, one way or another.

That’s the thing about artists. If you’re not using that pile of wood over there, give it to me and I’ll make it into a chair, then I’ll give that chair to somebody that needs to sit down. Developers love artists. They pick up and share the stuff that nobody wants to touch until Gothamist decides the stuff is worth touching. That’s when touching turns to taking. Developers buy up previously unprofitable properties and they don’t give anything to anybody. Everybody out, artists included.

Artists don’t really create much. We show off what we see in things that already exist. Bed-Stuy isn’t some blank canvas for an artist to do some will imposing on; it’s full of culture and opportunities that most don’t recognize. Locals and tourists alike. Just like every other neighborhood.

Fast forward to the other side of the board meeting, this time in Queens. CB2 was voting on whether or not to give a special permit to David Wolkoff to develop some high rises on his property, known to the world as the graffiti mecca 5ptz (five points). I ended up speaking to the board and the community again. This time (it’s youtubeable if you care) I was defending the community of artists who turned a run down building into arguably the most important legal graffiti site on the planet. We rolled deep. More 5ptz supporters than any other type of human. We treated the meeting like that 10 man rap group that monopolizes open mics, pleading our case one by one. Our case was solid. 5ptz is well liked by the surrounding businesses and police. The artists take care to keep the area safe and drug free. Teachers take their students to 5ptz on field trips. The owner has a shady history with the property. Mr. Wolkoff’s application was unanimously rejected. Everybody cheers. 5ptz remains, for now.

One of the board members approached me afterwards and asked me when the artists would get together and buy the property. We may have saved the community center this episode, but Mr. Wolkoff still owns the building. What really remains is the fact that a site that brings safety, money, and notoriety to the neighborhood can be shut down tomorrow ’cause we’ve been sharing stuff we don’t own.

I’d be remiss if this didn’t make me think of some old artists who performed Shakespeare’s works in the park for free, just for the sake of awesomeness. If they never figured out how to take ownership (or leasership) of where they showed their work, they wouldn’t have been sharing it for long.

I, along with my mini community of girlfriend and dog, have taken a step in that direction. I now am a property owner in Brooklyn. It’s not much, but I intend to share what I can, which I can, because it’s mine. Around the corner is Lowbrow Art Studio, frequented by many of the same (graffiti) writers that get up at 5ptz. If I’ve learned anything from NYC it’s that writers must often be publishers, performers must learn to be promoters, and “whose house is this?” hangs over every party. Like Mommalekt once said, you can’t make more ’til you make yours.

Brian “Dyalekt” Kushner is here to kick butt & drink milk and he’s lactose intolerant.

Here’s a brief update on the landmarks in question: Slave #1 is still being wrestled over, and 5ptz is working on having its landmarkness become official. Shout out to Local Project for keeping the conversation going.

Relevant links:
5ptz.com
LocalProject.org (Ask about their podcast with me!)
NewBrooklynTheater.com
Relive the CB2 meeting: http://www.birthplacemag.com/2013/06/the-fight-for-5-pointz-hip-hop-artists-educators-arts-lovers-urge-community-board-to-help-protect-famed-graffiti-site/
The house: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/realestate/a-property-with-income-potential.html?_r=0

This post is part of a weekly series from the Emerging Writers Group community of playwrights. The EWG is a two-year playwriting fellowship at The Public Theater seeking to target playwrights at the earliest stages of their careers. In so doing, The Public hopes to create an artistic home for a diverse and exceptionally talented group of up-and-coming playwrights.

That's so meta!

I hate arguing with painters.

I don’t really like talking to them all that much, especially about their work. Ever ask a painter what their painting means? Most of the walls of text that accompany museum pieces are either history lessons or abstract poems, and none of that has  anything to do with how a painting is gonna make you feel. That’s the point, right? Visual art is meant to be understood emotionally rather than logically. The thing is, our brains crave logic, any kind of logic, so we shoehorn (Does anybody actually shoehorn anymore?) our own context to make things make sense. A sad painting doesn’t just make you sad, it makes you feel like you did when you got dumped on Valentines Day via your Myspace wall. Artists ask the audience to create their own metaphors. Contrast that with wordsmiths, who use metaphor to give deeper meaning and in turn inspire feeling. Seems less efficient.

Back to arguing. Arguing is stupid because language is more complex and personal than we think. We never fully understand what the other person means, get caught up in tone and posture, and eventually devolve into semantics or some other kind of arguing about arguing. Nobody’s mind ever changes, even when one party is clearly super wrong. We agree-to-disagree, or somebody uses charisma and wit to talk the other into submission. MC battles make more sense now. Some scholars think that arguing is primarily and kinda sorta only a dominance thing. Every debate and disagreement is as useful and informative as that MC battle.

For real. Check out what Dr. Hugo Mercier had to say about arguing in a recentish essay in The Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science:

“Reasoning doesn’t have this function of helping us to get better beliefs and make better decisions. It was a purely social phenomenon. It evolved to help us convince others and to be careful when others try to convince us.”

I don’t want to think we’re that bad at communicating. That being typed, I can’t recall a time I’ve had my worldview upended by an argument. I’ve always had to come to the conclusion by myself. A lot of this is due to Confirmation Bias, but is it possible my reliance on words is to blame? We put a lot of stock into the ideas of intrinsic or universal truth, yet we have such trouble agreeing on truth between two people about what the word ‘truth’ means. Dictionaries only help so much. Words are so fluid that Wikipedia has trouble keeping up with them. I’d argue (heh) that words change every time they are used, and their full meaning is known only to the speaker. The written word is even more difficult. Speaking conveys tone, and looks affect how we regard the speaker, but the writer is only a made up voice in the reader’s head. While a painter can reliably relate a feeling with color, a writer is left to hope that you already think like them. This is why I don’t like most riddles or crossword puzzles. It’s not a logic game, it’s a psychoanalysis of the writer. A five-letter word for “Took Advantage of Bargains?” (Thanks USA Today crossword people) Enron?

Even rhythm is hard to dictate. Check out this rhyme I wrote:

My taste buds percolate once you give me that brain trust. Momma said that the same stuff that we share, like fair, is all made up and folks that pay us are here to play us. Mind over master. Choose your adventure blindly. Faster. No sweet tooth, more inlined to crash than a happily-ever-after.

Got it? Now try rapping it to a beat. I bet not a pair of you does it the same. For referencical sake, here’show I did it.

Back to metaphor. Writers use metaphor because it’s one of the few ways to reliably influence emotions without the aid of music or actors. There’s a wonderful study about the effects of metaphor in reasoning. The gist is that 2 groups were shown identical crime statistics and asked about solutions to rising crime in their neighborhood. For the first group the crimewave was presented as wild beast preying on a city, and for the second it was described as a virus infecting the city. The first group advocated catching more criminals and harsher law enforcement, while the second group proposed investigating root causes and working on social reform. Both groups cited the statistics as the reason for their choices.

Why did the metaphorical nudging work? My thinking is that pictures trump words. You can talk about crime all day, but the moment you can put an image of a rampaging beast in someone’s head, they’re loading up rifles. Crime is a complex issue that can’t possibly be solved with words, but a beast can get shot. In an argument, or MC battle, words are less important than pitch and rhythm. They’re bound to be misinterpreted unless this bundle of very personal and ever changing words can create an image in the head of the audience. Even then, it’s subject to so many types of bias that the writer rarely knows what image they’re invoking. This is why I can’t argue with painters. They think in pictures and somewhere inside them they know words can’t ever truly explain what they’re thinking, so why bother?

Maybe it’s not the most useful of conclusions, but maybe you only liked this if it didn’t disagree with what you already thought, or maybe now you hate me because you think this sentence is judging you. Maybe I should just draw you a picture.

Brian ‘Dyalekt’ Kushner is probably not Banksy.

Agreed Upon Dissension

Ok, we’re gonna talk (type) race stuff now.

Deep breath. 

You know why discussions on any aspect of race rarely go anywhere? There’s really just one reason, and it’s that we can’t seem to agree on what the relevant vocab words mean. Ask your father and your paperboy what racism is, who perpetuates it, and what it looks like in action. On the really real, how easy is it to establish any ground rules for what anything means?

Not Anything anything. You can define anything using logic. The problem is that even the concept of race treats logic like Wile E. Coyote. Check it out: Black people are Black because of how they look, regardless of being from Cameroon, the BX, or Santo Domingo. So… race is looks, right? Jewish folks beg to differ. They resemble White people, but claim their own. Black Americans who 'pass’ (at least one parent is Black but the child looks White) poke holes in that argument, as do Latinos who’ve earned the nickname 'Chino.’ Jewish people keep it matrilineal, but most groups are perfectly happy to count either parent. So… your race is whatever your parents are? That one falls apart in the mix. Quickly. Black + Asian = Blasian. That works. Black + White = still Black? There’s the 'mixed’ thing now, but until recently it was mulatto, which still means Black. Also, aren’t Latinos a nebulous mix of Europeans, indigenous Americans, and African Slaves? People from the Philippines are a similar mix, if you replace the indigenous Americans with Chinese, and indigenous Americans can be traced back to China anyway. Also, none of this matters to an individual because most strangers will judge their race by looks. So… yeah. It’s a collection of stuff made up to gain leverage or keep a community together. Race is about as inherently consequential as astrological signs, but super important in our daily lives. Race is in the eye of the beholder, and also deeply personal. Race is stupid. Still, we tend to like our own, and xenophobia is so convenient (and biological?), that we’re gonna need to get better at talking about it.

Seeing as race has no logic of its own, we all get to put our personal spin on it, and most conversations turn into simultaneous monologues about Very Different Things. In the interest of dialogue, I’ve put together a little primer on the important words when engaging me in a racial dialogue (racialogue). Yours will differ, but I figure if I’m clear on what I mean, and you’re clear on yours, we can make the whole thing a bit more clearer.

1) Race - You can be an expert in the one you claim, and I’ll do the same. I’ll assume my assumptions about the other groups are at least partially wrong, despite my pocket full of anecdotal evidence. Our personal definitions are important, but you can’t sleep on the reactions of jerks, the authorities, and moneypeople (you know who moneypeople are). In other words I can be a caublicanasianraptor all day long in my own house, but the people with a need for hierarchy (all mammals) are gonna put me in whatever group their senses tell them to. I will only believe that you 'don’t see race’ if you’re from the future and here to teach me how to fight the aliens.

2) Racism - Maybe this is a two-word list. All of the other words are permutations and conflations of racism. The conflations are where the real problems start. Isn’t it stupid that the only thing you can do with race is racism? A popular definition for racism is 'hating the other guy because he’s an other’ which sounds more like prejudice. I’ve seen this definition from younger White people more than any other group, and have been told that White families often define racism as something that happens in the mind. I always felt like racism is something you do, not something you think. I get the connection as it does seem plausible that someone who thinks OtherRaceGuy sucks would be into persecuting him too, but that’s a rectangle/square situation at best. Plus, plenty of heinous acts have come from a place of practicality rather than deep-seeded hatred. Other than the thoughtcrime of prejudice, racism can be broken down along a simple spectrum.

a) Institutional Racism. This is the big daddy, and the only one I’m usually interested in discussing. It’s old, benefits a shifting minority (irony) and is nobody’s fault but everybody’s problem. It’s behind the disproportionate jail time for similar offenses. Profiling isn’t racist because the individuals enforcing it are prejudiced, it’s because the institution is racist. People would have a harder time acting on their prejudice if there wasn’t a system in place that rewards such acts. This is what cats mean when they say 'The System.’ This is why it never mattered what race George Zimmerman was. All that matters is there is a system that consistently demonstrates that Black men are under limited protection. Institutional racism is why some Black women feel ugly without straight hair and is behind Asian eyelid surgery. It’s why every bankable movie star is White (or Will/Denzel) and so is Jesus and everyone else from Mesopotamia (at least on screen).  

-digression- 

Seriously though, the entire Bible gets whitewashed forever and the only mythical character to be turned Black is Heimdall? What kind of trade is that? At least give us the rest of Asgard. Black Thor would make it all worth it. Can you think of a Black actor playing a Biblical character other than Chris Rock in Dogma?

-end digression-

The most important thing we can do about Institutional Racism is acknowledge that it exists. After that, we tear down the institution by acknowledging that it’s stupid.

b) Personal Racism - All the above stuff but at the whims of and personalized for me because I have some sort of leverage over you. Mostly works in concert with a). This is the harassment/won’t give you a loan/don’t date my daughter stuff. This is the kind of racism spoken about most in abstract, and is defeated constantly by youth sports movies,  so I think we’re in good shape here. The trick is that our level of trust is tied to our health, mood, and familiarity. 

c) Being a d*ck - AKA being insensitive, offensive, or not PC. It’s the stupidest part, and is the most frequent culprit of the racism conflation problem. This isn’t even actually racism. It helps to use a swear instead of calling it one of the aforementioned AKAs because those words make people leap to RACISM and things would be more clear if we could separate the two. It’s 'edgy, taboo’ comedy abusing the stereotypes of oppressed people. It’s punching down . It’s basically being mean without knowing the depths to which this meanness cuts. Here’s a personal example: As a youth when I heard a White person the throw out the word 'nigger’ it was usually followed by a rock or fist. As an adult, I don’t react well. I also consider 'wigger’ a contraction, and react similarly. The infuriating thing is, it’s pretty easy to not be a d*ck. D*cks usually hide behind freedom of speech (ironic when their subjects are the one who often have limitations on civil liberties) and the idea that they are repurposing, or taking power away from words or stereotypes. That’s nice and all, but it only works when you listen to the people you’re talking about. It takes some kind of agreement before repurposement can get repurposey.

The real annoyance with all this d*ckishness is how it muddles the real discourse about racism. To our credit, this generation has a raging intolerance for intolerance. The problem is, we don’t know what racism is, so we call everything racism. The old lady who grabbed her purse is a racist. The dad who won’t let you date his daughter is racist. The guy at the comedy show who said offensive stuff is a racist. That’s when a potentially healthy conversation about race turns into Strawman Hitlerpalooza. The meanings get mixed and matched, and things mostly boil down to prejudice, or being a d*ck. At that point, we’re back to simultaneous monologues. Race is known as the agreed-upon convention, and it’s hilariously made more conventional by our inability to agree.

Binary Startup

I wanna talk (type?) about a binary I've noticed. Everybody loves a good binary. You know, that thing where one thing is absolutely one thing, and the other thing is totally the opposite? Binaries. No confusing grey in the middle. Some folks that use binaries, like pro wrestlers and racists, have an overarching need to prove themselves right. Binaries themselves exist more as boundaries than standards. Breaking down entire methodologies to a binary is often inaccurate and largely unfair.

That typed (said?), there are two ways to tell a story, and the same philosophies can be applied to running a business.

Optimism or Cynicism.

This is in regard to neither critic nor accountant, but to the audience (customers). An optimistic storyteller has a thought or a feeling, and wants to share that feeling by telling the best story possible to describe or recreate that feeling.

A cynical storyteller knows that a statistically safe number of people have responded positively to a certain type of story, and sets about telling the easiest, most cost (time?) efficient version of that story.

An optimist assumes their audience cares about every aspect of their story, and rewards audiences with details, minor resolutions, and easter eggs. A cynic hits the bullet points and makes sure the runtime is industry standard.

As previously mentioned, businesses play with the same see-saw. Burrito slingers Chipotle made a pretty optimistic video recently

 For those who can't bear to watch, here's the official synopsis: 

In a dystopian fantasy world, all food production is controlled by fictional industrial giant Crow Foods. Scarecrows have been displaced from their traditional role of protecting food, and are now servants to the crows and their evil plans to dominate the food system. Dreaming of something better, a lone scarecrow sets out to provide an alternative to the unsustainable processed food from the factory. 

Now I know this video is an advertisement for an app that is itself an advertisement for burrito bowls, but did it have to be so artful? It certainly didn't have to tackle such relevant subject matter.

I played the 7up Spot (Dot?) game on my cousin's Genesis, and it was just about a dude who was a walking red dot and hated hermit crabs. He wasn't doing battle with high fructose corn syrup monsters or anything.

Chipotle made a solid statement about the type of company they are and what they think their customers care about. Most restaurants would rather their customers stay uniformed about what goes on in their kitchen. Look at the creative ways NYC eateries have been getting around posting health code ratings

The easiest way to gauge the quality of a takeout spots is by their napkins. Really, check the napkins at your local greasy spoon. Are they paper, or that weird thin plastic that never gets anything off your hands? Everything on the menu has gone through the deep fryer, and you're expected to wipe that off with the least absorbent material around? 

Worse, if these grub huts are buying the cheapest napkins ever invented, regardless if they work or not, what kind of compromises are they making with the food? Napkins tell the story. Cynical spots never get my money, but they count on there being enough people who don't notice (or care) to get by.

Chipotle doesn't just use paper napkins, they have a whole page on their website dedicated to the grease engulfing power of their 100% recycled 1800 thread count Egyptian cotton napkins. Okay, they're paper, but it's nice to know they gave it some thought. Details for the people who are looking for them, like in a good story.

Chipotle could still be an Evil Corporation (as the folks of chipotlesucks.com will tell you), but they sold me on their story, partially by assuming I would care that they had a story at all. It's more profitable these days for a company's story to be a series of platitudes, rather than anything resembling an identity.  

Cynicism in business means stories are replaced by buzzwords. What's Taco Bell's story? "All our marketing is kinda offensive, but our food isn't even really Mexican so who's the racist now?" As to be expected, it comes down to money. Chipotle wants to sell you burritos, and make enough money to make more places to sell you burritos.

Taco Bell wants to make all the money ever, and they don't care if they sell you tacos or Doritos or hand held rifles. They just want to do whatever it is that will make them as much money as humanly possible. Being indistinguishable used to be a death sentence to a fast food chain. Burger King and McDonald's once went to great lengths to be different, now everything's a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

Colleges are full of their successors. I asked a cynical business student what he wanted to do when he graduated, and his reply was "Be CEO." Of what? "Whatever pays the most." 

This type cynicism can be found in the business of telling stories. Corporate types hate that stories are judged subjectively, and make for unpredictable yearly projections, so they bring in math guys to mitigate risk. They bring in the same types of statisticians that work for non-creative businesses. There's even a company with software that reads screenplays and determines the statistical likelihood of it being successful. Their reports provide valuable insights like "Don't have a bowling scene." This is the wrong type of math.

A friend told me that Market Research can tell you that a song made a lot of people cry, but it can't tell you why. Stories are math, but they're symmetry and rhythm, a pattern of numbers that may not make sense by themselves but in the context of the whole resemble a feeling. All of the explosions and one liners in the world mean nothing if they don't help the audience remember a feeling. 

Does any of this matter when there's profit to be made? Depends on how creepy you care to be. Corporations and market researcherers aren't the only folks who rely on cold statistics.

You know the creepy guy at the bar? He's hitting on every lady in sight. He's obtuse, and crass, and he stinks, but guess what? He's getting laid tonight. He's going to play the numbers. Eventually he's going to run into someone who wont care (notice). Some of the stuff he's saying aren't even words, just grunts and gestures. He probably gets laid more than you. He might have hooked up with someone you wanted to hook up with. In reproductive terms, he's a success.

On the real though, would you ever in your dryspell-havin' life want to be That Guy?