Devil’s trill. Chapter 1

It all started with a CD and an unfortunate piss-up. That was the first link in the chain of events that had brought Nick, eight years later, to Chugunkov.

Nick grew up in a wacky family. As the common wisdom has it, every family is wacky in its own way. Nick had a painter for a brother and a linguist / screenwriter for a sister. As a result, the siblings were in a permanent state of financial distress. During the nineties, all of them were supported, in one way or another, by their dad. The dad was an alcoholic, an engineer, an MG cars aficionado, and a small business owner. To each of those roles he devoted himself wholeheartedly, with the result that he passed away in 2000 – taken by a stroke that got him while he was changing the cambelt in his MGTF.

His young age, awkward appearance and cheap clothing meant that nobody was taking him seriously. In reality, our author did have a considerable listening skill. “The ears are the principal instrument of a spy” — he thought to himself.

It was then that the family myth had emerged about Nick’s predestination to be either a programmer, or an engineer, or a small business owner. That is to say, not a creative type – for the masters of penniless trades were in ample supply, but bread had to be won somehow. Nick had a kind of business talent. He was in high school when his dad passed away, and living with his mom whose financial sense was better described as a nonsense. Being dependent on that nonsense did not appeal to Nick; something had to be done.

His very first steps in that direction bore fruit. Nick was writing essays for his classmates. Some days, five of Nick’s essays got submitted to the same teacher. The price was determined by the mark. It was then that Nick discovered that it was not the work that was getting marked, but the personality of whoever produced it. Still, he was taking in around 50 pounds per essay that got submitted.

His second income source were girls. Or rather girls’ love of shiny pens and notebooks. Uddingston had a traditional books and crafts fair every fortnight on a Saturday – it was there that our hero was stocking up on Hello Kitty pens and rulers, and then peddling those to the girls at his school.

The third income source was miscellaneous printouts. Nick had a laser printer at home, not a common thing at the time. He used that printer to produce copies of past GCSE exams. His classmates told their parents a printout was twenty quid, Nick was printing them for ten. Everyone was getting a cut.

As a result of all those manoeuvres, Nick came into a small fortune of 500 pounds, a part of which he was lending out to his sister, and investing the other part further. One of his investments were CDs. He fell in love with music. Nick could spend hours listening to Paganini and Sting. The new wave of British rock, in the form of The Stone Roses and the rest of Madchester, washed over him too. But the real kick was coming from his namesake Paganini. It was good old Niccolo that inspired the next set of his business heroics.

The local CD salesman – a kindly alcoholic by the name of Craig – became friends with Nick. By an irony of fate, Craig was a crafts course teacher by education, and crafts was the only subject that Nick was having trouble with at school. As a result, he hated craftoes as a species, but he did get along with Craig – he was the only person that Nick had confided his love of music to. To the rest of his friends, our hero professed an undying love for Elton John and Madonna, to which in reality he was absolutely indifferent. And then, of course, he did know Billy Connolly off by heart – for such were the times, he had to know.

It was Craig that he could discuss all of that with while he was choosing his next CD and parting with ten or even twenty pounds. And so Craig asked him one day to replace him during his vacation. And so, at the age of fifteen, Nick made an acquaintance with the owner of a CD rental chain and started on his path to big money. He could earn between 30 and 40 pounds a day!

How old are you? — Pritpaul Singh, the owner of the chain, asked sternly.

Sixteen, — Nick promptly lied. He was actually fifteen, but he had been ghost-writing a few sociology essays recently and remembered some messy articles about child labour and the hassle of employing someone under the statutory age.

I can show you my passport, — our hero flashed the cover of his child passport and even put it on the table. But then stuffed it safely back into a pocket.

After that brief, and his first ever, job interview, Nick was hired. His job was to man a CD booth in a 24-hour supermarket, which meant that the booth could have been open 24 hours. The hours were determined by the person manning the till – Pritpaul Singh was paying his workers 10% of the turnaround and giving them complete liberty in matters relating to their work: what was to be stocked, how it was to be arranged in the shop windows, etc. Every other day or so, Pritpaul was passing by – to check the intake, hand the tithe over to the staffer and to leave some brown envelope money. Peddling pirated music, films and porn was not entirely legal, and so payments had to be made, and so Pritpaul was duly making the payments; Nick was passing those on.

After Nick’s first day at the job, Pritpaul couldn’t balance the books. Nick was very upset about the matter and spent two hours figuring out where a whole £150 had gone. He then realised it was a calculation error and explained the shortfall, demonstrating a certain mathematical talent in the process. He was very careful with financial reporting after that, particularly so with a simple notebook that he was recording his sales in.

It was in that same job that Nick decided to try some techniques from the NLP books that were littering his flat. He was practicing mirroring and matching on his customers: you must first match a person’s appearance and behaviour, and then you can lead them by giving desirable suggestions that lead to better sales and larger turnaround. Our hero really got into the process. He had to start throwing his trainers away every week — that was the only thing one could do with the footwear soaked in sweat to that kind of extent. That was the sweat of a true salesman. Nick had no knowledge of the product he was selling. He had no time to listen to the latest pop or watch blockbusters. But Nick knew his clients. He knew them inside and out. From teenagers hiding their money in shoes — so they don’t get mugged — and buying video games and house disco that was fashionable at the time, all the way to old grannies shopping for presents for their grandchildren. But none of those made his profits. The profits came from families.

Every evening, at about 5 pm, a small queue was forming in the supermarket. Fathers were coming back from work and taking their wives and children shopping. They were buying food and getting something to watch. Grotesque pudgy men, shrieking women and hyperactive children were making Nick a small fortune. The principal task consisted in serving five families at the same time. The trick was to initiate conversations within the queue.

Got a comedy or something?

Actually, the gentleman right behind you took “Father Ted” last time, did you like it, sir? — Nick was becoming the discussion moderator for the queue.

Having taken in 1500 pounds in one day, Nick became the best salesman that Pritpaul ever had. Singh did not hesitate in his praise for Nick – he was allowed to play classical music in his booth, notwithstanding the grumbles from the security, the cashiers and the rest of the supermarket plankton. Our hero refreshed his wardrobe, was buying rounds for his friends, got an entertainment centre and updated his PC.

That idyllic career was destined for a tragic end right there and then. Nick was about to finish school when he got invited to a piss-up by his friend Millie. Millie was a first year sociology student at Glasgow Polytechnic, and the piss-up was for her friend Vicky who was doing media studies. Vicky was hot and Nick was very keen on fucking her, and so he proceeded to get her drunk. They were drinking till dawn. He did not fuck her, but she did fuck up his brain.

Nick, what are you applying for? Electronic engineering? Why? You are not made for that stuff. You must apply for media studies, where I am, there you can drink to your heart’s content. — Vicky opined as the sun was rising. Nick considered the proposition dubious – the future electronic engineers were drinking way harder than the media folks, but Vicky did have a kind of alien logic there. At around the same time, Nick had watched “The Parallax View”, which portrayed journalism as a fast and dangerous life with expensive cars, hot girls, and the looks of a world-weary alcoholic. Nick was taken in by the image. Who wouldn’t have been? Anyway, Vicky’s suggestion fell on a soil fertilised by the shitty film, and proceeded to bloom into the desire to look like the film’s protagonist – and be a journalist.

The relatives fought the hardest. Nick mother barely survived the impact. The teachers at Nick’s school insisted that our hero would simply not make the A-levels required for a degree in journalism at the University of Strathclyde which had a notable position not only in Scotland, but the rest of the UK to some extent. A dozen applicants for each place!

The CD booth owner took the news stoically. He and Nick were on a trip to the pirates to stock up on tapes and CDs. Nick decided to stock up his own shelf too. When a sports bag was full and our hero was reaching for his wallet, Pritpaul stopped him:

That’s a present for you. I am sorry to see you leaving. We could have made such a business together. If you hit a patch, do come back, we’ll be waiting — that was a lot of words for Pritpaul to utter in one go, but that did not stop Nick. He wanted action, just like that journalist from the film. He wanted to fly out of the cage and feel the freedom. The freedom he did end up feeling was from money.

What is this? — Nick got his first writer’s honorarium for the articles he had written for a student newspaper. He spent an entire month writing them and they made a splash. The Tongs were promising to beat him up for what he had written about them, and another piece about hiking in the Highlands attracted a lot of positive feedback. Overall, that was a success, albeit not of a financial nature.

This is your honorarium, — said Tim, the editor, about the 299 pounds that the envelope contained. “That is not an honorarium” — Nick wanted to say. That was a mockery of the noble ideal created by Hollywood. He took the money quietly and drove off to a date with his sociology girlfriend.

The dream of financial security did not leave him, however. He tried to write more to earn more. He was freelancing for five different magazines and literally filled them with his work. But that did not translate into any appreciable increase in the earnings. After a year of working his knuckles to the bone he was barely making the amount that was a lemon squeezy back at the CD booth.

Nick wasn’t looking too good either. It turned out that living with a girlfriend meant supplying her with gifts, accommodation, clothing and food. At the start of their relationship she was quite happy with an occasional rose (2 pounds each), a bottle of Tesco vodka (7 pounds), a pack of condoms (4 pounds a dozen) and a rented room (200 pounds a month). In the middle of it, he had to rent a flat (650 pounds), take her out on dinner dates with good wines (60 pounds), et cetera. The endless work, the study and the daily sex were wearing him out. He just about kept going.

It was at that point that he came across Conor McIntosh, who was an associate dean at Strathclyde. The story of their friendship was peculiar. Among the magazines Nick had been working for was a newspaper, owned by a local media mogul by the name of Borthwick with a hostile policy to the current vice-Chancellor. Borthwick was a funny character: in Glasgow, he tried living the high life of Taki Theodoracopulos from The Spectator. He did actually look a bit like Taki. In his efforts to maintain the pretence, he was keen on the various fashions of the time – he was a vegan, did not smoke and was driving a Bentley. He was also running an opposition university newspaper.

The newspaper was a broadsheet by the name of “Learn and Teach” abbreviated by the locals into “Leech”. It had 12 columns, of which two were blocked off by some boring literary critic who nobody ever saw in the office and who was restewing books and films. The rest of the space was Nick’s for the taking. First he took over the news columns. That’s how his frenemy relationship with the associate dean had begun.

Word got round in October that McIntosh was evicting Paul Longbottom from the student accommodation. With wife and kids! Without due process or procedure. And accommodating some toffy girls in his place. Our author was promptly supplied with Paul’s telephone number. Paul did live up to his surname — he was an accomplished pisshead. At one point he had received a first class degree in history. He then went to do a masters in philosophy and ended up an alcoholic. Paul offered his hip flask to our author.

— Erm, no, thanks, — the author hesitated for a moment. He didn’t mind the time of the day (it was noon), he had had an early drink on occasion. Nor did he have anything against the drink — a mixture of vodka and port, he was no stranger to that either. He had a problem with the company. He did not want to fall as low as this Paul he saw in front of him. He feared that the act of drinking from that flask would turn him instantly into another Paul.

Longbottom’s drunken and muddled narrative did not appeal to Nick. Longbottom had been living with his pregnant wife in a tiny room in a student accommodation block. He got kicked out by McIntosh and that was it. Nick would have kicked him out too, from wherever. But Nick was out for some cash. He put together a slick half-column about student accommodation being offered to whoever pays the most and was sitting and waiting for his honorarium. On the day the article came out Nick was a bit anxious. He was always getting anxious when his articles were coming out – it was usually the day when the heroes of his publications were starting to search for him. The libel in the “Leech” was from a pseudonym, but that did not help. The hysterical copyeditor by the name of Chantelle snitched to McIntosh on the author and his whereabouts with an astonishing expediency.

Nick was sitting in McIntosh’s anteroom in the company of his long-legged secretary. That is how his friendship with McIntosh started – he offered Nick some tea and biscuits, told him off and asked if they could have more frequent meetings. A year later McIntosh was kicked out of the university for physical assault on a Health and Safety officer. Nick was the only one who wrote a profoundly sympathetic commentary on the subject, having previously been mud-slinging in the same general direction for about a year. That was when their friendship and collaboration got going.

McIntosh found a job at an outfit controlled by the Tongs that was doing anything it could get its grubby mitts on: from building a new wing for the university, to buying up local land, to agriculture. Nick’s task was to pose as a young journalist and collect dirty laundry on anyone who was standing in the way of those activities. That was the first time that the factors previously working against Nick’s financial success started working for him. His young age, awkward appearance and cheap clothing meant that nobody was taking him seriously. In reality, our author did have a considerable listening skill. “The ears are the principal instrument of a spy” — he thought to himself. People were telling him things, and he was memorising them and writing them down. After a year of that intelligence work, Nick was easily picking up the tab at the local Weatherspoon’s where he was having time off with the gang he had got together to work on McIntosh’s assignments, and the friends who joined in. 

The atmosphere of success stayed on for another year. His earnings were going up. The sociology girlfriend was dumped. Nick got a taste for wild parties and sex with girls he barely knew, suffering all the while form an unrequited love. The Unrequited got tired one day of Nick’s fruitless venerations and said “fine, let’s go get a room”. The party was at Nick’s friend’s country house. Nick was so shaken by the requital that he went downstairs to have a shot of whisky. A shot quickly turned into a pint, and Nick, in his shaken state, ended up shagging some random lass he was having that drink with. That lass he kept fucking on and off for another year, thereby becoming her unrequited love.

The circle closed. Nick lost his Unrequited and dropped out of their university due to the sheer magnitude of his suffering and distress. He dumped McIntosh too, who either got murdered six months later, or committed suicide, but that had nothing to do with Nick. Some strange story, dark an uninteresting to our hero. He entered a new stage of his life. His old friend Millie was again responsible.

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Targeting

Whatever a modern man does, he has an Objective. And a schedule. He was taught that way. He thinks about Efficiency. He runs towards the Objective like Achilles ran after the tortoise, and stretches out for it like the proverbial donkey stretched out for his carrot. He would make seventy five million dollars in seventeen months (I’ve seen it with my own eyes). He would do that, and then raise the bar further, in the name of Efficiency. If he’s out on a vacation — he’d be resting like there’s no tomorrow, all according to the performance target. If he’s at a restaurant, he aims for the maximum amount of service for his money. If he’s at a restaurant with a woman — his objective is commitment-free sex, her objective is soap opera followed by marriage. They will both be late for that date.

Naturally, acting like that typically ensures that neither the carrot gets eaten, nor the tortoise caught. Even if that succeeds, the price of achieving the Objective is such that screw it all, I need some rest. But that’s a no-no (sleeping is considered terribly inappropriate for the Efficient man, hasn’t he got that 24-hour fitness club and yoga at 5 am at his disposal). I would nonetheless thoroughly recommend Efficient men to visit graveyards often. Not just because we’ll all be there, for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. But because that’s pretty much the only place where one can stay, even for a little while, without any purpose. Just to appreciate that surreal, unaffordable and unreachable modern luxury.

The very nature of the graveyard is such that it slows down, and occasionally halts, the sprint of any donkey and any Achilles. The latter will, of course, try to escape and have a good think, at least about the choice of those bloody objectives. But the graveyard is stronger. And so, the Efficient man starts to simply wander, without any purpose, along the alleys, not looking for anything specific and not studying the faces on the stones, even though they do attract his attention, all at once. He has no idea that it is only during these moments that he truly lives and is present within reality. Until his mobile phone, that agent of rampant chaos in the field of paper flowers, jerks him out of it. And what’s interesting is that he would be told over that phone that the Objective for which he had been working his ass off for the last half a year — that it it’s just gone and achieved itself. Or things just settled down without any consequences that he had been fearing so much. Without him. That it turned out he wasn’t necessary for that to happen. And the general look of the surroundings kinda indicates that that the world would be just fine without him and his Objectives, and vice versa: the time will pretty soon come when he would be just fine without this world. That’s been demonstrated in the previous experiments — and here they are, decorated with little plastic flowers.

Don’t get us wrong — we haven’t gone bonkers here on the Dark Side and aren’t proposing to fuck it all to hell and become a night porter at a cemetery. We mean something different — same old, just between us, girls. We mean working in a way that is conscious and fully aware. Did you ever wonder why Achilles can’t overtake the fucking tortoise, which would move that little bit further every time? That’s because the focus of his attention is at the specific point in space where that specific tortoise currently is. If he were just moving independently in the same direction, he’d have bypassed the whole creep and had them for dinner.

That is all that is necessary and sufficient to know about targeting. When you set a specific objective and a specific deadline, as mortal managers are advised to do, you become an Achilles and your objective slips away at the last moment. But when you are simply moving through space in a direction that is appropriate for you personally and for that space, all tortoises and carrots are yours for the taking without any special effort from your side. You have likely noticed that yourself: if you just go and rush straight up without taking your eyes off the summit, you quickly get tired. But if you calmly move up, listening to the birds singing and breathing in the mountain air — the summit gets closer by itself. Needy teenage boys aren’t getting pulled and wedlock-crazed women aren’t getting married. No matter how hard they try. Workaholics are earning disproportionately little, et cetera.

All of that is absolutely not because the world just works in the kind of crappy way that makes sure we don’t get what we want. Only because, when we focus our attention on the target, we are dropping out of the space that contains that target. Achilles’s space simply does not contain the tortoise, you get it? And all of your carefully laid out and scripted objectives are external to your space. If you are achieving anything, that’s not because, or even despite, your own effort, but independently of it, by a kind of miracle. But miracles are expensive and require the sort of energy that’s not readily available. And so it is a lot more (pardon the word) efficient to spend that energy on getting into the required space. For a modern man, taught from school to do the exact opposite, that is not an easy task, and so one is led to use extreme measures. Like that graveyard. Who knows — the man might end up being able to afford a restaurant date with a pretty girl and no purpose.

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When you ain’t got no man. The secrets from the Dark Side

When damsels start moaning about not having a bloke, I always want to ask two things. Firstly, where did the previous one go?Something makes me doubt you are all virgins around here. And secondly: that bloke you are lacking, what’s he like? It’s just that usually it’s this old feminine song and dance about having nothing to wear even though the wardrobe is full. Moan, moan. You know what, the search and capture operation is actually a piece of cake. It’s the bats in your belfry that complicate matters.

I have a friend who keeps on going about the lack of men in her life. There’s a rifle range and a billiards club in the ground floor of her apartment block. And she’s a PR staffer at a high-end private members’ club, where well-heeled sugar daddies are smoking Cuban cigars and drinking shots of single malts. I’ve got no slightest idea on how else I could help her.

Never mind. We’ll evict the bats later. Let’s deal with the fun part first. Here goes, the secret to the ensnaring any man out there, whatever his income, hubris, intellect, year of birth or marital status. Works for women of any age, any looks and any smarts. Seduction 101, straight from the Grand Succubus of the Dark Side. It is necessary and sufficient to find out what he is spending his energy on. What he really cares about. And to start sincerely admiring that stuff, however daft the thing may appear, and irrespectively of anything he has or hasn’t achieved doing it. That’s it. Your power over the guy would be absolute. He would leave any family — for you. To him, you would be the one, even if he’s tomcatting around like a jackhammer. Your boobs, your makeup, your steaks — that would all be secondary and optional.

Just to give you a good example — say, here’s a bloke, running around with his eyes popping out, talking on three mobiles at the same time and dressed in a way that kinda sends a mixed message. Say, super-expensive shoes and a sweater knitted by his mom. That’s a businessman. He lives by his business, he puts his soul into it. Whether it works out or not is secondary. So there we go — we find out everything about his business that we can even in principle understand. That won’t take long. Say, he sells bottled water. We buy a bottle from his competitor, sit and wait till his mobiles shut up, take a sip, lick our lips and inquire: “Oh, I heard you know absolutely everything about bottled water… Someone recommended this here…” and then you just sit and blink, take deep breaths and occasionally wonder “Oh, my, how do you know all that?..”

Be inventive: if he’s selling petrol instead of water, then someone’s just recommended a competing gas station to you. If he’s building houses — well, you just happened to be on the lookout for one. If he’s a financier – damn, haven’t you always been wondering about cock… oops, sorry… stock option pricing strategies in volatile markets. Et cetera.

Then wonder timidly if you could possibly be allowed ask him a few questions every now and then, just so you are on the safe side. Don’t overdo it, either in person or over the phone. If you feel his interest is rising, disappear for a few days without explanation. Alternate strange disapproving looks with those of sheer admiration. Three or four cycles of that, and he’s yours.

Ok, let’s make it harder. Here’s another bloke. All fit and groomed and packed into a Saville Row suit. That’s a top manager. He does his job because he’d be screwed if he didn’t, and Hell forbid you should start talking to him about that job. Unless, that is, you wish to be hated just as much or wish to be sold whatever it is that he’s peddling. Deeper reconnaissance is in order here – we need to understand what he really is passionate about. Maybe he’s refurbishing his gran’s old MG in his garage. That garage is where your romance begins. Or he’s into artistic photography, and then you know exactly the place where all the best views are, only you are afraid to climb there alone. Or he’s a train spotter for goodness’ sake — ask him to show you around. And then we follow the plan — our eyes radiate admiration and occasionally contempt, switching at random. The contempt must never be verbal, keep him wondering.

The main thing is to not scare them off. Men are simple creatures, or rather they are not as foxy as women. But what we men do always detect is that soap opera with the wedding at the end that lights up in the eyes of any woman that’s out for a catch. That irritates us. We don’t like soap, we like porn. And porn with you starring is what we are watching when you are asking us about water, petrol or train spotting. But I am digressing.

Summary so far: the key to any bloke’s heart and other parts of his anatomy is where his real passion is focused and where he invests energy without (!) being compelled. The bane of most women is that they are putting themselves in opposition to that energy instead of going with the flow. They keep presenting their man with a binary choice: either it’s me, or it’s your work (or your bloody friends, or your car, or your hunting trips, etc.). Heard of Elon Musk? He told his obstructive first wife she has been fired, then went and married a floozy he met at a London club and picked her up by telling her he “wanted to show her his rocket”. And no, he did not mean his dick. Make no mistake, your Elon Musk is just around the corner.

Naturally, that does not mean joining the man and playing with his strange toys. It would suffice to just accept them and express sincere admiration. To worship those weird and incomprehensible masculine gods. They do reward worship.

A historical example. A university dropout with a writing problem, serving as a second lieutenant in the middle of nowhere in Alabama meets a plain looking girl at a train station, and falls in love with her. The girl’s name is Zelda, she reveres him and his writings. She goes on to become a prototype for his characters; fragments of her diary are incorporated into his books. Of course he marries her — and you know what, I have read her diaries; they are nothing special. The man, whose name was F. Scott Fitzgerald, had imagined most of her virtues in much the same way as he had imagined the events of his extraordinary books. The books she had inspired. The two of them are buried under the same stone. She was just another girl in Alabama — if you are reading this, you are definitely smarter.

So there. And now – about why none of that is going to help you. Because, as we know very well, there ain’t no men left. I mean, no decent ones. No, really — you’d have an easier job finding an unicorn or a griffin than a decent bloke as one would be defined by your average woman. That “decent man” is some serious fantasy beast — your mom’s delirium brewed with some crazy nonsense from ladies’ self-help courses and women’s fiction, plus your individual hallucinations for an added spice.

So, first of all, he should be loving you, right? To most women that means giving you as much attention as possible. It is very interesting and telling that, as soon as some idiot starts actually doing that, the woman instantly loses any interest in him. For that is the difference between a boy and a man — the man has things much more important than women. His work. His fun. His war. If men were spending their days listening, dove-eyed, to female nonsense, the women would have died out long time ago, or been captured as concubines by the nearby tribes.

Secondly, he ought to treat you as an equal — surely that’s not too much to ask? To see a person in you, to have an equal partnership. Since I am writing this for women, I am trying painfully, at this very moment, to translate some seriously salty expletives into something approximating family-friendly English. Erm, sorry to break it to you so abruptly, but… the idea of gender equality contradicts elementary biology. The asymmetry of the sexual act is intrinsic, so to speak. OK, sure, in modern society the woman might well end up on top, figuratively speaking, and that’s often the case – a majority of modern men do delegate the running of the family to the woman because their mum had brought them up that way. If that’s the case, go ahead and enjoy your power. In a wise and lady-like manner, as exemplified by Catherine the Great (do read her letters to her lovers instead of your silly magazines, by the way). But remember: a man like that, even if he’s a billionaire or an MI6 agent, would not make you tremble. You’d never truly respect him. But well, you’d have your freedom and equality, and you’d be the one more equal.

The opposite — a man in the classical sense of the word — is exceedingly rare. That one ain’t no knight in shining armour, and won’t quixote around. He’d actually be more of what’s called a bastard, because you are a non-human to him. Something like a cat, which he can like and care about and let it sleep in his bed, and give an occasional smack. What he won’t do — for that would be stupid — is to care for the cat’s opinion. The true man makes his own decisions. He has many things in the world that are more important than you. That’s the authentic flame-grilled bloke. But if you’ve been brought up on soya, you might not like the taste of a rare steak. And more importantly, what’s he got to gain by adopting your bats?

To summarise that second question: a woman in a family can either dominate or submit. There can be no equality. That would be contrary to nature. Correspondingly, there are two types of men: some are willing to obey you; others will make you obey. Decide which one you want and stop being a British summer.

And thirdly, he must be in love with you and you alone, and that must be mutual, and the rest of the pink unicorns. Indeed, monogamous pairs do exist out there, who need nobody else in their lives. There are very few of those, what makes you think that that’s about you? Go check for starters if you might by any chance still be a virgin. If not, what kind of monogamy are we talking about? Ah, those were “the errors of your youth”? I was always wondering about the number of… erm, errors… beyond which a decent girl would finally no longer qualify as decent. Some ladies told me that the main thing is to not have two at a time. What about the transition period then? When one of these, as you are calling them, relationships, is coming to an end, and the other one is starting?

Don’t get me wrong, we are not judging anyone here on the Dark Side. That would not befit us. We are talking about something else: perhaps those weren’t errors after all, but a logical trend? And you basically need a good, healthy variety of men? Not just for sex, but in general — for interaction. So that they swirl around you and feed you with their attention (i.e. energy). Or you could get that one proper bloke who’d send all of these “just friends” packing where the sun don’t shine? Are you sure you actually need that?

Could it be all that decent girl stuff isn’t actually about you? Enough, is enough, you know. There are these beasts out there, called hippos; they are monogamous. Once the male makes his choice, he sticks by the same female for the rest of his life. But then there are bears, who have a female polygamy, where the objective of the female is to mate as many males as she can find. So then – is the hippo girl a decent girl and the bear girl a bad one? Well, humans are a bit more sophisticated than either hippos or bears. We have multiple mating scenarios within a single biological species. Your own scenario is hard-wired into you and you do know perfectly that it is. It might look “wrong” from the point of view of a mother or be frowned upon by some progressive version of female psyche, but it is yours. Doing what you are “supposed to be doing” is a recipe for disaster. You have no idea how funny a thrice-divorced thirty-year-old with a kid can look when she tries to play a decent girl.

So, to top it off – if you actually managed to catch a bloke — how to keep the prize. Exclusive, from the Dark Side: the secret to retaining a man you had captured, coming straight from the forest demon of Swiss and Slavic folklore, the fearsome Baba Yaga. According to the legend, when a lost traveller had chanced upon her hut, she fed him, watered him, bathed him, and only then proceeded to her questions. Take heed — when a man turns up after a long day, do not jump on him with your cuddles or problems. Let him gobble something up. Let him rest in his man cave (if you don’t have one, build it asap!). Do not go there yourself and don’t let children go there. Don’t worry, he’ll come out like bees to honey. Then you can talk, and ask, and it shall be given you. For nothing infuriates a man like the “you don’t give me enough attention”

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In praise of peeping Toms

I have a friend who earns his living by penetration testing – hacking clients’ systems on clients’ own request and discovering IT security vulnerabilities in the process. He rarely needs a lot of searching, but the extraordinary part is the process itself. That reality show is something to behold. The most entertaining part is that, if the client also asks for a report on the mayhem seen by the pen tester, they simply don’t know what to do with it afterwards – they are overwhelmed. A lot can be done of course, but the client no longer has the energy. Welcome to the Dark Side – it’s a sobering experience.

the CEO of a large company was spending 80% of his time wanking behind the locked door of his office. No kidding. He was very worried about being fired for stealing, and was spending his whole days relieving the stress.

That year, my friend had for some reason become interested in finding out what the accountants had been up to. Just got curious really. He says he’s always liked poking around things he had no slightest clue about. Sure enough – I have observed many times that the accountants in any outfit have the tendency to proliferate way faster than the business itself would grow. The likely reason is that the owner is usually not an accountant, and so the  bean-counter-in-chief has no difficulty justifying an urgent need for 20 more personnel, or everything grinds to a halt.

Long story short, after the IT was breached, special software was installed on all boxes at the Accounts that could watch everything that everyone was doing. Absolutely everything, in real time. They could have turned on the camera and the mic, but the guys knew where to stop – it’s a slippery slope, you know. And here goes, we have before us the working day of a madly overworked accountant:

10:00 – 12:00  reading the news on the Internet and looking up Sir Elton John

12:00 – 15:00  lunch break, phone chatter with friends

15:00 – 16:30  more news reading and googling around, but for some other
luvvie, can’t remember who that was – say, Celine Dion

16:31  an email received from the boss, requesting an urgent report
and asking that payments be done tomorrow

16:45 – 17:18 frantic work and report compilation

17:19 back to reading articles on the Internet…

That’s it. Put that on repeat. Day after day, with insignificant breaks for work and urgent payments (at which points the damsels were getting very upset about being interrupted). And they had half a dozen of those clucks, even though one would have suifficed. OK, they could have recruited another one just in case. The client didn’t have enough resolve to proceed to snooping on the middle management.

Another example, and a remarkable one too: a multinational company, IT security service check. That’s not some slackers from the block, they had it tight – a King James Bible sized volume of corporate standards on the subject. It ended up being the easiest hack of those theoretically possible, the whole operation took 24 hours. It turned out that an admin at one of the departments was spending whole days gaming and didn’t want to get distracted by a file he didn’t recognise. He just ckicked it a few times and went back to his games. That hole was all it took for the guys to get through to the data stored in every office. They got lucky all right, but that kind of luck is not at all uncommon – nobody was looking specifically for that slacker admin, he was there simply because of the law of large numbers.

Well, that’s ground level personnel, you would say. The board is a different matter – mature and responsible people. Sorry to disappoint, here’s a fabulous character, the crown jewel of the exposition: the CEO of a large company was spending 80% of his time wanking behind the locked door of his office. No kidding. He was very worried about being fired for stealing, and was spending his whole days relieving the stress.

Alright, that’s office plankton, a clear case. What about the manual labour, guys on the factory floor? What can I say – at least the office guys are harmless. They procrastinate without causing damage to themselves and others.

While, at factories, the increasing automation of the manufacturing process is displacing the human factor, construction sites feature some primordial beauty – everywhere, without exceptions. Google up some building site video, of a kind where you can see what the workers are doing. That they are procrastinating is clear – the de facto average working day is 3-4 hours. And that’s a good outcome! As for the rest of the time… they might be drinking or they might be fighting, or they might be sinking a Terex truck in an improvised lake, but all of that is rare. What is worse these days is that even the most uncultivated immigrant has a smartphone with a video camera. The natural thirst for creativity has flourished where a lot of evolutionary distance is yet to be covered, and they have started – all over the place – to film. Extreme video, to keep things interesting, with an occasional fatal outcome. A fine case in point is some daredevils who wanted to videotape a demolition. The cameraman got a piece of shrapnel through the head. May he rest in peace.

It is ironic that portable cameras and YouTube should have such an impact on Health & Safety, and at the same time produce a wonderfully well documented case library that, within the present-day progressive humanist legislation in most civilised countries, would put the employer and the proprietor in for a serious bill for the behaviour of their dumbass handymen – for the creativity of an equal opportunities hominid is just beyond the dynamic range of anything that an actual homo sapiens could possibly foresee. In, erm… partially civilised countries, the workplace protection is a good excuse for a hostile takeover. Finger-licking good.

The important thing is that all of this takes place in full view of a camera. CCTV is a given at a factory or a building site, but it is increasingly widespread in offices too. The Chief Executive Wanker had no cameras in his office (except for his laptop), but he did know full well that he was being watched, that’s why he was nervous. Generally, all employees have long gotten used to being snooped at, and aren’t embarrassed any more than the folks on a glass wall reality show would be. It doesn’t disturb them because in 90% of the cases that information is neither processed nor analysed in any way, and there are usually no consequences. Something can happen of course, but bumping into your boss on a bad day is just as likely. It’s a paradox: the principle of selective punishment has completely displaced the principle of inescapable punishment precisely because of IT technologies. Controlling everything and controlling nothing is the same thing.

The conclusion is that all those cameras and checks aren’t useful for anything other than spending the budget. The final proof was given by my university friend who got employed by a bank in which CCTV and total control were omnipresent. She studied the surveillance system and made a pact with her colleagues, which allowed her to have a day off from time to time – she was spending those at the town beach (there was a warm sea close by). To my taste, that’s as good as it gets.

Being exposed to the dark side of the functioning of your own company can be compared to reading the patient history form of your girlfriend. A bit of a shock. Client’s first reaction is to shoot all women and rape all men. The rage quickly turns into sullen helplessness because everybody else is exactly the same. In very rare cases it gets as far as processing the data and reacting to it in a timely manner, even though it’s not actually all that hard to do.

Recent progress in computer technology makes it possible to not only count bricks, immigrants or activity hours at a workstation – automatically – but also to reprimand the offenders in a well-documented way. Theoretically, it’s possible to issue spot fines (although I doubt that any present-day employer would ever consider proposing a contract like that). I am not even talking about analytics – it’s technically feasible to process virtually unlimited volumes of information. But fixing the identified problems in an automatic way is not possible. As one of my friends put it: “no way to run a house with a soft dick”. And increasing management potency is a different therapeutic story.

Another friend of mine, having introduced the most primitive control automation solutions at a building site, has achieved a four-fold increase in productivity in the first month with a team of three people. But that lasted exactly as long as the enthusiasm and energy of the proprietor, who was the only person capable of influencing anything. He was simply getting text messages about the most outrageous violations. The site foreman was crying crocodile tears about having a dick up his ass in the morning instead of a cup of coffee. All of that went on for two months, and then the client got tired. He wasn’t no king Solomon to satisfy 700 wives and 300 concubines on his own, and he was not prepared to relinquish his personal control of the company. That may have been the right decision, for one cannot trust technology any more than one can trust a human…

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Oriental Vengeance

To kill, to squash, to maim, to multiply by zero… the Europeans aren’t too inventive about their vengeance plans. They don’t have the creativity, it all keeps revolving around some scary horrors. The Oriental world is a different matter – the cultured people with quite some sophistication and many centuries of experience with torture. They are above simple sadistic pursuits, and have learned a long time ago how to avoid bloodshed. Here’s an illustrative story.

A detective always has a special price list for obviously paranoid clients, with the kind of figures he’d be reluctant, but rather tempted, to show to a regular one – with outrageous prices.

An international private detective and good friend of mine gets a message from his UK colleague:

– Hey, I’ve got a customer here. A total nutter, possibly even clinical. You game?
– Like we’d ever been about normal people. Of course I’m game. Has he got cash?
– He’s got cash all right, but he’s a proper loony.

My friend makes an appointment, at which the client appears to be telling some very tall tales:

– You see, I am being watched. Any country I’m arriving into – I’m being followed. My phones are being tapped and nobody’s believing me…

“Garden variety paranoia.” – my friend thought – “About half of our clients are in that category, I don’t even remember how many I’ve had so far, could be triple digits by now. Hmmm, that’s a hot chick in the picture. So… being followed and being tapped. OK, time to cut it.” A detective always has a special price list for obviously paranoid clients, with the kind of figures he’d be reluctant, but rather tempted, to show to a regular one – with outrageous prices. But the Brit unexpectedly agrees.

Ah well, damn it all, let’s sit around in London for a while. Outdoor surveillance guys were summoned up to Blighty’s capital and told to follow the guy and check if he’s got company, unlikely as that had seemed. And so my friend stocked up on light reading and checked himself into a hotel – there wasn’t much else to do on the rainy island, apart from saving up GBPs; that was a free money contract. His counter-surveillance guys turned up in the evening:

– Dafuq you just signed us up for, man?
– What’s the matter?
– The guy is being watched, by bloody serious specialists.

Oh dear. And there he was, hoping for a slow evening and a morning flight home… the following morning was spent interrogating the Englishman. After a few hours, the paranoid guy fesses up. He’s a musician, playing in bands and touring the world. He ended up in Hong Kong one day, and met a girl. They fell in love and got married. But he was a musician, and so experimented with various drugs. His young wife got addicted, overdosed and jumped out of a window after hallucinating about being a bird. That was unfortunate about the bird; the person particularly aggrieved was the bird’s father, who was blunt:

– I had asked you to take care of my daughter. You did not. Now you are fucked.

The dad was a businessman from Hong Kong; and our loony was a musician, who was travelling a lot. And in the last year or so, in any country he’d turn up at, he’d be turned back at the airport by the pointedly polite spooks: “How about you go back to your Britannic home, good Sir?” Hours of conversations about the beauty of London and the shortcomings of the local cuisine.

But our paranoid Brit was a musician and had to earn his keep by travelling and performing. So he had to be firm, stay and perform. But as of late he wasn’t even able to get a visa anywhere – everywhere was suddenly off limits to him…

Our detective thought hard.

– Your deceased wife’s dad, he’s not a billionaire by any chance?
– Nope. He’s rich, of course, but no yacht or even a private jet.

Damn, that must have been expensive, our detective thinks. A pressure like that, in every country… how did he even do that? What about we get him into our country and try asking our guys at the local law enforcement about what’s going on. No way the long hand of the Hong Kong businessman could have reached as far as here. A week later we knew what the dead girl’s father had done.

The Oriental man did everything in a clever and inexpensive way. He bought a counterfeit passport in the name of the Brit – just 20 thousand bucks. He got some bank accounts opened in that name, and from those accounts he had made transfers to organisations involved in funding terrorists, even including some cute comments like “to my bothers in jihad”, “allahu akbar”, etc. And then the bureaucratic wheels of the Interpol start turning. Interpol has something called the “Green Notice” – a warning that a person is considered to be a possible threat to public safety. In the near future – hence the special attention.

And so the unsuspecting British musician had become a terrorists’ accomplice and ended up on a Green Notice. The dad from Hong Kong had spent a hundred thousand bucks for the privilege, tops. But there’s no way the Brit would get un-noticed now. He can explain his circumstances all he’d like, and wax lyrical about the terrible revenge, but special services are a bureaucracy. And a bureaucracy is a bureaucracy – some things cannot be reversed. Funny thing is that it’s hard to pity the musician; he really didn’t look after the girl he had been entrusted with. And the vengeance was beautiful. Just like the Orient.

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A tapeworm’s guide to business ethics

When I arrived into the capital, I was dumbstruck. It was 2012; people were sitting around in shiny offices, holding committee meetings and wasting millions, choking all the while on their sense of self-importance. After measuring personnel efficiency, even at the most successful companies, I had established that most of the time was being wasted on various types of empty talk. But the free money had gradually been coming to an end because of the crisis. Nothing changed! There were fewer companies now, but the fraction of parasites at the remaining ones was the same. And so the Dark Side was compelled to investigate: how do businesses get infected with tapeworms?

…factor that reduces business immunity and allows parasites to flourish is Judaeo-Christian morality, which sits at the core of modern culture – that the strong must have mercy on the weak.

In private, the managers at the very top would admit: their objective was to feed on some large company. To get their steady salary and to steal to the maximum possible extent. That was it, full stop. There are two levels of communication: the business one and the personal one. At the business level, all those top managers would tell you all about increasing quality and efficiency. At the personal level, they would concede they only have one mission: to go with the flow and to loot without a second thought. At best, to do nothing and draw a salary, for which they would be prepared to go to some lengths: bend their knee, spread their ass, pontificate about evidence-based decision-making, flash their MBA certificates and converse in ten foreign languages.

However, for all their cynicism, the people do still feel they are pushing baloney, big salaries or not. The frustrated need for self-actualization breeds surprising peevishness. I can positively hear the chorus of universal indignation: “but the properly efficient companies do exist! Those where a minimum of personnel produces maximum performance. Take our company…” OK, I won’t argue; they do exist, maybe yours is one of them – the score is not in your favour though. Let me explain.

Quite recently, I had the pleasure of studying, deeply but informally, the functioning of two European companies. Both are working in the construction business and have approximately equal market weight. But one company had two people running a project – one in the office and one at the site – and in the other it was quite impossible to count the management personnel because they were breeding like rabbits, rats and cockroaches. Not too long ago, it was impossible to imagine the continued coexistence of such management structures in the same market: the more efficient companies were quickly eating up the bloated and inefficient ones. But today, the parasite-infested business structures are setting industry standards. True efficiency looks like anachronism: what’s the point keeping your nose to the grindstone if the dimwits are going to gobble it up anyway. And should the dear old company go belly up, that’s not an issue either – just move to another one, no problem at all with that kind of CV and that golden parachute!

So I got curious about how such parasite infestations emerge in business, and about why they are feeling so much at ease in what is supposed to be a highly competitive environment. Finding the answer requires us to take a deep dive, because the factor that reduces business immunity and allows parasites to flourish is Judaeo-Christian morality, which sits at the core of modern culture – that the strong must have mercy on the weak. That the strong must help the weak. That the strong must embrace self-sacrifice, and guide the weak through the darkness with the light of their Christian virtue. And feed them on the way, and look after their emotional comfort – which any person is apparently entitled to. And if the strong are flouting their duties, they are to be condemned by the weak, who shall say: what absolute bastards, they are refusing to share their strength.

And that is the essence of “leadership” as it is understood in a modern company. But an “authoritarian” leader is the one that makes people work. The one that occasionally listens to the subordinates, but ultimately makes decisions without regard for anybody else. So there, that kind of leader is declared despicable, and never mind the fact that the entire list of the present day civilisation comforts had been created by exactly such despots. From Henry Ford to Steve Jobs to Elon Musk – those are all nutters who did what they saw fit and never asked the crowd for its views. They didn’t give a damn about those views, and they were, and are, systematically and deliberately (and blasphemously, from the parasites’ perspective) exterminating the tapeworms. They were, through tears and tantrums of their personnel, deworming their companies.

A parasite’s consciousness can easily combine admiration for authoritative businessmen (who are out there somewhere) and indignation at the “unethical” deworming measures. That is to be expected – the parasites have made themselves quite comfortable inside their victims’ bodies. Not only that, they are becoming predators themselves. They got their inalienable rights and teeth to defend them. And now the predators have to play victims – where do you think all those stories are coming from, about the inhuman hours that the guys from the Forbes list are putting in, about four hours of sleep per day and about the non-stop work during the remaining twenty? About how wonderfully democratic they are and how they are flying economy class and eating at MacDonald’s?

That’s because our world – here and now – is governed by the parasites’ ethics. Within that ethics, any strong man ought to feel ashamed for the manifestations of his strength. And that sin may be atoned, in particular, by poor nutrition and daily hard work. Or at least some appearances should be put up in that general direction.

All of that leads to a very scary outcome – the parasites enter the brains of the predators, i.e. businessmen. And since nobody is there to tell the businessman that nothing can ever be built within that inverted ethical framework, they are stuck in a schizophrenic state of trying to solve an insoluble problem of doing something without upsetting or mistreating anyone. Which would have needed a consensus, of course – some kind of “ecological” decision can only be reached if everyone is in a highly unlikely unanimous agreement.

As soon as that kind of decision making algorithm takes root at a company, its demise is only a matter of time. The exact schedule depends on the load carrying capacity and the parasites’ appetite. As such, the emergence of that algorithm signifies the breach, by the parasite, of the central nervous system and other vital organs of the company. That’s it – your business is no longer yours. Without any hostile takeovers, it belongs to the parasites now. Rest assured, they’ll find a use for it, and will “improve the process efficiency”.

And if the businessman doesn’t give a damn – willingly or unwillingly – about the parasite ethics and acts in his own rational interest by personally steering the ship, he ends up under pressure, either from his own shame and guilt, or from the public opinion: “just look at the bloody bastard”. And so the last refuge left for the man who wants to get something done is hypocrisy. That is, donning the mask of people’s champion and doing exactly the opposite. If anyone finds that difficult, just look at some bureaucrats. Or your own parasites – lying through their teeth is something they excel at.

The remarkable thing is that, of all the parasites I had met, not a single one had felt any shame or doubt. Quite the contrary – they are confident of their place in history. And if the host stops feeding them with his body and energy, they – the tapeworms – would be sorely aggrieved by that insolent behaviour. And that indignation is righteous – within parasites’ ethics, that is.

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Raising corporate hell

The telephone went off at midnight.
“Not sleeping, are ye? Can you talk? Our guys in N need heavy equipment. Write down the spec…” – the client didn’t even say hello. The problem was clearly serious.
“What have we got to do with that?” – I was a broad spectrum contractor, but did not venture into civil engineering. N was a thousand miles away.
“Aren’t you running some? Just help us buy it. We need it tomorrow, Sunday, at the site: three Terex trucks, two bulldozers, two diggers…”

People who work with heavy equipment know that moving it to a building site is not an easy task: wide loads normally need a motorway escort. They also know that a purchase deal would run into millions of pounds, and the dotted line would certainly not get signed in the space of one weekend. The equipment might simply not be available in a provincial town in the middle of the building season (the events took place before the crisis). It was plainly an impossible proposition. But the client was ridiculously rich, and rich people have their quirks. Ah, what the hell – let’s try.

At 8 AM on Sunday we got every dealer in town out of bed. Every one of those who could offer brand new gear – the client had a policy of never buying used equipment. On Monday, everything was working on the site, even though the contract wasn’t yet signed and no payments were made.

The client kinda screwed us over with the payment in the end. The local dealers were cheated out of their commission – the contract ended up being signed directly with the HQ to save costs. We didn’t make all that much either. When we raised the matter of the bonus for a spot of mission-impossible firefighting, all we got was a long lecture on the peculiarities of procurement in provinces compared to the capital. We were also told off for trying to profiteer on a small favour… how cheeky – getting paid all that money, and still trying to kick a decent bloke when he’s down!

It should be noted that I was a privileged contractor at the company. I got publicly commended a few times for doing a damn fine job on a couple of quests. We were probably the only ones granted the honour that year, the reason being that the other contractors and managers were being raced through whack-a-mole problems, and then branded dunderheads for no fault of their own. A proud-looking gaffer would turn up at chief’s and report:

“We’ve built this shit in eight months, three times faster than the competition…”
“Are you actually proud of that? The fucking Germans are building that in three.”

“We got an industry award in the US…”
“The Yanks are stupid” (in a meeting just a fortnight prior, said Yanks were declared gods that must be learned from).

A friend of mine was a top manager at a multinational lemonade stand. Not in construction, but in what appeared to be a more civilised line of business. He ended up leaving and starting his own company. I phoned him up.

“You know what” – I said – “during my first year in business I was afraid of just one thing – of becoming an employee again. That was my worst nightmare – well, second worst after mathematics A-levels. I was dreaming about being interviewed, and waking up in cold sweat.”

“Ah, you are just a noob – no experience doing time in corporations. I could fit a bollard through my ass in the end, so it wouldn’t hurt that much returning there.”

It’s funny that some gaffers, fresh out of the corporate hell, are dreaming about doing it right. About not being an asshole like their former boss. They are young and naive. The older and the more experienced ones are doing the opposite – they are embracing the best techniques for plundering and subjugating their employees and contractors. For the point of any business enterprise is maximally efficient extraction of energy from its personnel and environment. That energy is what drives the business forward, even if that seems to contradict the basic axioms of management. That, and not what you had thought, is the true meaning of efficiency. Otherwise we get the classical tragedy of “we were doing what was best, but it didn’t work out for reasons that were beyond our control”. Well, the evil blood-sucking sharks are doing fine for some reason – getting richer and not giving a shit.

Trouble is, not everyone can be a shark. That’s because the tricks of a good shark are not immediately apparent. Want some hints? The secrets of directing the energy will be covered separately in due course. Today we shall talk about ways of extracting it.

1. Baiting with praise
That’s one of the most important stages. During their first day at the job, or on the first day you meet them, you should admire something about them, and it should be something they see as important. For instance, it was important for me to feel smart. Very important. But it’s not very often stated explicitly in professional circles. Would any client really think of just saying it like that, even if they really do think it?

Inexperienced sharks skip straight to the buggery, and so lose their subordinates, who start avoiding them because they see no reason to be near.

So be smart – if you want to catch the fish, you would need to throw some bread crumbs in the water first. Energize them, admire sincerely something that is important to them, something that they are invested into. Since you are recruiting people at a level below yourself, you can give out the kind of energy charge they had never experienced.

Then, of course, you should listen to their professional opinion on some problem of yours that nobody else, naturally, could handle. Pick some reasonably doable tasks and play a wise man who knows his limitations and needs somebody to talk to. Your new victim is perfect, of course. You would need to spend a significant amount of time – a couple of hours per person, just to make sure they are properly in awe of your deep and sincere interest.

Put in some fatherly care towards the end: give them a company car or assist with some personal difficulty of theirs. The result is a geezer who walks out of your door with the incredulous grin of a boy who just got his first blowjob behind the bike shed.

2. Rollercoasting
I had come across some pretty dodgy characters. Professional con men, prostitutes, pimps and people who did very bad things for money. You know what – even the scum of the earth have something they are proud of. Even the most egregious racketeer longs for a pat on the shoulder. And if he’d got some from you, he would come back for more. That’s why the first stage is so important. Once you played it well, you can proceed to the next stage – to being unpredictable.

Now your subordinate (or a contractor, it doesn’t really matter) is to be kept wondering about what they should be doing to get their next crack high. Your part in that game is to make them think, make them try, but never let them understand what gets the carrot and what gets the stick around here. That’s why it’s so important to apply the stick at exactly the moment when the man thinks he’s done something heroic and he’s in for a castle, a princess and a chest of gold.

An important disclaimer – we are not advocating petty bullying or tyranny. Not for ethical reasons, simply because it doesn’t work. If you only have sticks in store, people get used to that. Our task is to make people wonder what to expect from you. In a deniable way, of course. Then they are going to work their fingers to the bone. That’s good for business and that’s good for morale. Employees and contractors would show miracles of creative thinking without any training courses. They would be queuing to give you their energy.

You would master that in time, but hold on to the principle now. When the victim expects a carrot, stick is what they get. If they start sucking up to you, that’s a stick too. When they stumble around in bewilderment because nothing appears to satisfy you – hand out a carrot. Let the hope develop, then apply the stick again.

3. Gaslighting
You should be creative about where to strike. Let me give you a few unobvious examples of pressure points:

– Your victim’s subordinates. That’s a particularly efficient strategy because the victim ends up between a rock and a hard place. Say, you claim first that the victim is excessively authoritarian because they don’t listen to their staff. And then you claim that the victim lacks leadership because they do listen to their staff too much. If the victim has the authority to pick and reward their crew, cast doubt on those decisions. The best phrase I’ve ever heard: “Those are your decisions to make of course, but I’ve never recruited such dunderheads even as a teen”. Don’t ever let them dismiss “the dunderheads” though. The chief dunderhead tag is to be reserved for the staff member the victim considers their best.

– Keeping them idle and reproaching them for doing nothing, or overloading them with work and complaining about them not living up to your expectations. Alternately, in a loop. As an act of special trust, bestow upon them the tasks they are clearly ill equipped to do, or lack proper authority to perform. In the unlikely event of a success, dismiss it as a “piece of cake for you, of course”.

– Appoint an “assistant” that your victim can’t stand for some reason, or just someone incompetent and overly active. Dismiss their complaints as latent sexism, racism, snobbery, and even recommend counselling as a way of removing those “psychological problems”.

– Every now and then, as a special favour to a trusted friend, lecture your victim on the theoretical foundations of business practice. Keep switching your theories between opposites. Say, client-centeredness is all the rage today, but tomorrow it’s badly out of date. Any attempts by the victim to point out that “you’ve been saying…” should be met with a sincere go at convincing the victim that they had imagined, or at the very least misunderstood, the previous conversation.

– Promotion and demotion: unexpected promotion followed by unexpected reduction in rank. The surprise factor is to be achieved by timing the decisions – say, a raise followed by a demotion a fortnight later. If the contract does not permit that, you can always make the chief dunderhead their boss to devalue the promotion they’ve just received.

– Awarding extra pay, or giving other accolades, to obviously undeserving people – in your victim’s plain sight. A real-life example: at the Christmas round of bonuses, nobody from the top management was getting any. However, the secretary was awarded half her annual salary (even though everybody knew the could not possibly have been having sex with the boss or anything but stuffing in her head to begin with), and a single junior manager got the same. Both were, characteristically, fired after the vacations were over. People who had been around for years were left guessing.

4. Pink slips
Everyone burns out in the end, having given all their energy to your business. The typical lifetime of any gaffer or specialist under heavy use is three to six months. Exceptions are rare. How do we know when it’s time to give the victim the sack? When they stop reacting to positive stimuli – to unexpected promotions, rewards or praise. When you throw the crumbs in the water and the fish are not reacting, chances are they’d be going belly up soon. That’s the sacking time. But if they are still showing signs of enthusiasm – then they still have hope, and hope may be exploited… The Dark Side withes you a pleasant meal.

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Client-centeredness as an eccentricity

When I hear business gurus preach about client-centeredness, I reach for my gun – for it is known to everyone and their dog, that the more successful the company is, the fewer fucks it gives about the client. Client-centeredness is only dusted off when the going gets tough, as just another obvious, and therefore ineffective, way of regaining client’s affection. But the clients do love not because of this and that, but despite it.

If you are a corporate client of Google, Microsoft, Facebook or PayPal – or any large company for that matter – you should know very well that there’s no trace of client-centeredness there.

“And there she goes and tells me: I don’ give a flying fuck about you running out of time” – whoops an excited billionaire standing in front of me, who was just told to shove it, and immediately proceeded to extend his contract with the straight-talking girl in question.

The back story goes, the billionaire’s personal finance assistant had been forgetting to prepare the tax returns for his offshore companies. Plainly speaking, he had been doing fuck all about that for several years. When that came up, the billionaire swore like the Royal Navy and turned off the autopilot. He personally contacted the head of the outfit that was supposed to look after his stuff – but was basically getting their money for nothing because that personal assistant… but I am repeating myself. Anyway, he contacted them and started crying his heart out. The girl on the other end was listening for a while and then produced something along the lines of “how sad, too bad, your dad”. A torrent of verbal abuse was met with the reaction that would have made Dalai Lama stand up and take notice – there was none. And then she replied with, erm… a strong Yorkshire accent, that the question could be solved, on time, for extra pay. As for her doing nothing… well, blame yourself, guvnor.

“Well that’s some efficiency”; – the billionaire radiated admiration – “She was the only person who was straight about it. And that MacMillan guy (let’s use that name for the story), he’s just afraid of me, and so he was telling me porkies.”;

The zero shits approach isn’t endemic to Britain; it also works in the States. The following story has drifted over from across the pond.

One bloke bought a Tesla car. That’s an expensive toy, a hundred kilobucks or so. Our solemn hero was waiting for the car to be delivered. The date had come and gone – just porkies on offer. He was a proper fanboy, he kept on waiting. Got friendzoned again. Well, what the fuck – he writes an angry post on a social network; the post goes viral. The reaction of Elon Musk, the owner of Tesla Inc.: refund and ban, forever. So that the guy could never ever buy a Tesla. Musk has a policy of zero tolerance for those complaining about his products.

How did that affect the company’s growth? Well… a few months later they had four hundred thousand reservations on Model 3. A new record. Even though the clients do know that they are not getting their cars on time. They might even be in for taking some shit in the process. And still they are coming to Elon Musk and bringing their money.

The client-centeredness myth contends that a pissed-off client means that the business is doomed. Yeah, right. If you are a corporate client of Google, Microsoft, Facebook or PayPal – or any large company for that matter – you should know very well that there’s no trace of client-centeredness there. Just a zero shits policy papered over with some tact, and that’s about it.

From my own experience running a business, I can categorically state that an attempt to play client-centeredness means certain failure. An attempt to please a client is folly that ought to be punishable by exile from the business professionals’; guild. An attempt to listen

to clients’ delirium is a fundamental mistake. The race for the client is won by those who need them the least. When a man feels that he is surplus to requirements, he starts trying to attract your attention. “The less we show our love to woman…”;

In general outlines, the mechanism looks as follows. A sucker client comes (writes, phones) to the office. The office is done by the book – all glass and plastic. Everyone’s slicked back, boys in trousers, girls in white blouses with just enough cleavage. Corporate templates and letterheads. All phone calls answered with a corporate tongue twister. And all of these glassy-eyed monkeys with memorised mantras are doing two and only two things: they are going to transfer you to the manager in charge of your query, and when you are done waiting for an identical glassy-eyed monkey to pick up the phone, it is sorry to tell you it cannot help. “Motherfuckers” – you think – “and that’s a multinational corporation. What’s happening at the rest of them?! I’d be fucked five ways from Fuddrucker’s before being told to shove it!” And again and again you are coming back to that multinational lemonade stand monkey cage. Because everywhere else is, actually, even worse.

And then a miracle happens. You wind up at an outfit where normal sane people understand what is wanted from them. And they are speaking a human language rather than corporese. And they are actually trying to solve your problem because they are interested in having you as a client. And then you are spreading your wings. You remember your rights and your grievances. You pay them back a hundredfold, a thousandfold – you play the client-centred idealists to the fullest extent of the vengeance craved by your sado-corporised soul. Or you just dump them, you know – just to show them. You take a timeout, then have new queries and make new demands. In the end, even the most client-centred company realises that it would be cheaper to just tell you to fuck off.

As for big companies – they are big precisely because they had understood that a long time ago. And, instead of client-centeredness, they are investing their energy into finding a niche where the stream of clients does not dry up for reasons unrelated to the company, and where the clients have nowhere else to go. Apart from the sado-corporates same as you. Business is pure pragmatism, what did you expect? There is absolutely no point wasting yourself on real client-centeredness, particularly because it's a nightmarish amount of work. What is profitable is to merely declare client-centeredness, but teach the monkeys only a few polite phrases, all of which translate into “fuck off”. The victory in a competitive environment is determined by very different factors.

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