2017 EXCUSE OF THE YEAR

12/12/2017   |   No Comments »

I was a kid myself when someone first tried to sell me on “It was a different time then.” And whether or not it was a different time then, the phrase doesn’t fly. It’s an idiotic excuse. Even worse, it’s a negligent standard.

It says the past isn’t worthy of interpretation, only rationalization, and that makes it this year’s winner.  

Whether they’re questioning adult talk at the dinner table, inquiring about stories in the news, or simply seeking insight, “It was a different time then” shuts down the conversation. It chases young people away at exactly that point known as a “teachable moment.” Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to the Focus Group

15/11/2017   |   No Comments »

The first rule of Focus Club is – you do not talk about Focus Club.

Sitting around a table with strangers and snacks provided me with a glimpse of the higher levels of emotional pollution we live with today.

Before focus group attendance required a reference and the best paying research firms became fodder for Yelp, back when the topic of extra cash was still “light” conversation, my school-teacher mom enjoyed bragging about the extra $40, $60 or $90 she’d nabbed just for sitting around talking cars or cooking utensils. Her exaggerated enthusiasm made my brother and I feel like idiots if we failed to grab our own piece of this windfall. So I signed up.

Phone interviews asking after household budgets, TV time, annual electronics expenditures and so forth were the first step. Screeners frequently came off like car salesmen –as if the only thing between them and a three-day weekend was filling a late afternoon quota– but it was difficult not to play along. Answers that were a degree or three off elicited a disappointed sigh and a more “accurate” response.
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