Of Enron and rock bands
Enron's memorabilia and Spin's list lack the persistence of memory.
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - You want irony? Go to eBay or this month's Spin magazine. You'll find it there.
Of course eBay, as the Internet's main flea market, is Irony Central. Cast-off items and throwaways say an awful lot about both the thrower and the throwee.
Take the site's budding Enron memorabilia section. It's full of things that were, no doubt, once treasured bric-a-brac adorning modern offices housing up-and-coming careerists. Now, after The Fall, they are just bitter reminders to the owners and potential conversation pieces to the bidders.
The Enron "Visions and Values" paperweight, for instance, featuring the corporation's Core Values: Communication, Excellence, Respect and Integrity. Now those are concepts inconsistent with what the company was up to. "Ruthlessness, Callousness and Arrogance don't belong here." There's food for thought. And last I checked, it'll only cost you about $76 for the meal.
How about the lead crystal Enron Corp. Executive Award, given to managers at the company who completed an "Executive Impact and Influence" program? You wonder what kind of "impact" they had in mind.
Of course there's all sorts of golf balls, pens, key chains, and Christmas ornaments emblazoned with Enron's now infamous "E." Companies, as a matter of course, buy such tchotchkes, so don't go shaking your head at wasted money by a now-bankrupt company. It's stuff any company has to have to give clients and employees to keep spirits up.(Heck, I got an umbrella from AOL Time Warner. Of course, it shattered when I tried to use it to pry open my office window).
Yet the stress ball shaped like a light bulb and emblazoned with the company motto "Ask Why?" does seem a little foolish in retrospect.
The toppers on the auction list are the company's Code of Ethics handbook and its Risk Management manual. The latter is getting a bid of over $300 so far (auction ends Jan. 18). Hmmm ... a bidding war between Justice and the SEC?
Of course, irony and tragedy often walk side by side. In the case of Enron, where many people lost their life savings and saw years of hard, honest work go down the drain, circumstances are very tragic. They will be more so if no lessons are learned.
Which brings me to Spin magazine and its God-awful list of the 50 greatest bands of all time.
Okay, it chose the Beatles as Number One. Everybody has to do that, or they won't take your list seriously.
But the Ramones at Number Two???!!! Sure, a fun band but one with a "roof-raising, history-changing sound, presence or hairstyle" - the magazine's professed criteria? Pink Floyd at 49? The Who at 39? And who the hell are Bad Brains and The Stooges? And why is Korn on the list and the Allman Brothers not?
Well, the magazine on its cover admits the list is designed to start fights. And Alan Light, Spin's editor-in-chief, said during an interview on The Biz that the list is for 20-25 year-olds. "College-age kids who are into music."
Ironic, isn't it, that the audience Spin claims to shoot for isn't likely to know how outrageous the list is. I may be saying "who the hell is Fela Kuti & Aftika 70/Egypt 80," but I doubt some slacker in a quad somewhere is saying "who the hell is the Velvet Underground?"
More likely, the magazine is hoping its "picks guaranteed to start fights" will get some of the Baby Boomer crowd to buy the magazine. Like I did.
And what will get the Baby Boomer crowd angry is that some of these bands have not passed the Test of Time. In ten years I doubt if Korn and Radiohead will still make the list. But the Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin certainly will.
Just as a list of the greatest companies will certainly include IBM and General Motors - companies that have been around a while and stood a test of time measured in decades.
It will not include a teenaged company that flamed out and only left key chains behind.
Allen Wastler is managing editor of CNN/Money
Click here to send mail to Allen Wastler