I see myself as a snowflake,
unique, with my own design,
my own landing pattern,
as I gently fall to the ground.
I see myself as a chinese box
with faces within faces within
my own changing face.
My brother, my mother, my father
all in the puzzle, all known souls
all exist in a blink of my eye,
or the purse of my mouth.
I see myself as a mimosa seed
the twisting kaleidoscope shield;
I, alone, descended somehow collectively,
born of angles who come angels who come to see,
who fell and emerged,
who filled my first breath.

My Head Hurts!


“I’ve always been more interested in the connotation than the denotation…My sphincter squirmed. My pharynx quivered. I wanted to fart and burp at the same time” … sensuality tenderness love are not the borrowed salient features of sexual exuberance – pace, bleeding letters, frozen object … “I stepped out into the light and realized I was nude … hot, sweaty, scared, terrified, wet, defiant, angry, desolate, hopeful … I do have control over my life at this point.”


“The old man wasn’t really old … They were at a bar … Humiliation was his triumph … Clarity was usurped by absolute stupor … But the boy didn’t say anything … The street was empty … he felt a great sense of relief” … I know the dust of myself (abject center – penetrate – history – totem) … “It was off to the side a touch … like a child … All he knew was that the recognizable had finally and permanently disappeared.”

Another Round

“This situation doen’t require a good, hard look to recognize or name for every moment far from being blurred is clear because it’s a redundancy” … gold routs body corps tomb vein solidarity red lice fetus insane old warrior necessary cruelty … “Draft … Good morning … Thanks …. I really enjoyed myself … I’m not interested … These eggs taste great … Do you often go to … I can’t remember your name … You’re so cute … You’re not interested in cruelty, that’s not your intention, but the planting of suspicion has become a reflexive act reminding you that these answers are in fact meaningless.”

Slap Happy

“There was nothing exceptional about the toy outside of its complete lack of defining features … Two boys crouched attentively over the toy … All in the name of science … Does it hurt? No it feels weird … Hello? … Don’t come in here … Is everything alright in there … Son, what happened … David, what happened … Joe played football and fucked girls … David had less luck sexually” … Continuity replaces bone torn jagged rested we move again into the flame afraid of showing the bone … “Harder and harder he slapped … he bit his lip … He wasn’t thinking of a man. He was thinking of his mother.”

Stops and Starts

“The moon is a secondary source of light … Dreams surface … Ideas and desires corporealize … He was looking for love” … cut out the tongue canal shit death absent void syringe affirmation … “He was getting older … the two became interconnected … Surprise one … Surprise two … Surprise three … Bears where ideal … This skin was ephraim … A voice said, harder … Without further ado … The other sits up with a start.”

Gender Studies

“In the playground there’s a specific section where the older girls play … Feminine opportunity … How he loved to swing … His face was ambiguous” … joy death we know well enough multiplication upsets requests untie madness indeed transposition all … “Territories were staked … At least the stench was honest … Outside … Doors closed … the situation was out of hand … The outside came as a present.”


“I was at a bathhouse … We were jazz … I put a towel at the crack of the door … Even the blue of it, licked at me” … ontology justified death by language death in a box idea of body negation … “I went to the West … The height gave new perspective … It was silence itself … Up, up, up … Inside a gigantic globe … I saw blackness … Fat ephraim of earth … My perspective went awry … But it never came.”

Drunk Culture

“The conversation was ebullient, intoxicating, three men were laughing in the best of spirits … He was trying to get away … he chose to attack the crowd” … Degradation condemnation erotism corporal rites black life absent plane constructed suffocation … “Eventually the cock did slide … He disengaged … He struggled toward unconsciousness … But those two were already asleep, and having the most unpleasant dreams.”

Gertrude Stein is Dead

“There is only one end in life and an end is by its very nature abrupt, short, curt, final … Or life perhaps … Am I a participant … You’re there. I’m here. It’s over. You’re done” … blue face long blue dress decorated with monkeys and fruit She enters when the curtain has risen but from the moment that the curtain begins to rise she attempts to dominate the sound of the orchestra … “We don’t need more … Everyone will sense it … I’m there. I’m here. It’s over. I’m done … Same, the same. Same. Same. Same.”

Miss Piggy Boldly Goes Where No Man Has Gone Before

Student Prints
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS
Published Summer 1996
The reader may not be surprised when I declare that I have never been attracted to a large blonde pig with lavender gloves. What may shock is that I regret this fact, for Miss Piggy is my shining ideal of a lady. Feminism means many different things for different women, but for me that foam, porcine Muppet has embodied its essence. As a way of introduction, let us compare Star Trek: The Next Generation’s beautiful Counselor Troi to Swine Trek’s equally stunning First Mate Piggy. Both shows are now in reruns, had male captains with problem hair, and featured “space age” uniforms.

Miss Piggy was first mate in 1981. Yet on the 1990s Starship Enterprise, the highest ranking women are only caretakers. Troi is subordinate to two men, one of them a former lover. One the other hand, Piggy is only technically a first mate; it’s clear from her behavior that she is the one who runs the show; Captain Link is simply a buffoon. Which of these two seemingly similar women is the true feminist? Besides, Piggy would never be forced into a v-neck ployester body stocking; too utterly tacky for her!

A friend argues that Miss Piggy is “too frilly,” but isn’t that perchance the choice feminism makes available? Although I must question if a ruffled Scarlet O’Hara type skirts my beautiful, porcine idol has been known to don are in the best taste, no hero is perfect. Wearing large plastic jewelry is hardly an anti-feminist statement; a poor fashion choice perhaps, but hardly akin to voting for Bob Dole.

In fact, Piggy’s beauty is a peculiarly empowering example. I never read most of Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. I didn’t feel i particularly needed to. Piggy was enough to show me that iconographic, anorexic models with augmented breasts are hardly the only claimants to beauty. Piggy knew she was beauuuuutiful. That was enough to convince the world, and to set an admirable model for many a young people. Besides, Ms. Wolf probably wouldn’t understand why a lady sometimes just needs to carry a pink frilled parasol.

Piggy also set a wonderful example as an aggressive, successful woman who got what she wanted not by visual or political prostitution, but through hard work and determination. Piggy was not afraid to halt a skit, calling the script worthless on no uncertain terms: “This is a cheap-shot comedy sketch.” Nothing stood in her way, not even the puny chicken-loving, blue “it” with the big nose (why Gonzo never learned to stay out of her way I’ll never know; he went flying head over heels across the stage enough times). Perfection was her unequivocal goal – well, perfection and The Frog.

This example of not just an interracial but inter-species relationship also made me open to ideas outside of the close-minded world in which I was raised. Despite some very public questions like, “what will the children look like, ” Kermit and Piggy held on to their love, answering, “they will be small.” Pig Power fought not just sexism, but racism, too.

I wish I had one one-thousandth of the courage she had. Miss Piggy embodies an ideal to which i still aspire. how many women today can even call a man up? What small number can demand he take the relationship on her terms, no ifs, ands, or buts?

I contemplate that perhaps Miss Piggy was too forward, too aggressive. Then I realized that a man exhibiting such behavior would only be one-tenth as obnoxious as, say, Sam Malone.

Moreover, I cannot but feel that dear Kermie was playing hard to get. When the chips were down, it was always to Piggy’s side he rushed.

Some hecklers from the balcony might argue that Miss Piggy cannot be a feminist because she is (admittedly) a bit vain, loves an amphibian, or simply looks like a surreal Marilyn Monroe. However, as we try to create a better world for women and achieve equality between the sexes, consider what from this equality we should take. As its means feminism depends on equal freedom of choice; it is when women exercise these choices that the personal becomes political. Miss Piggy never let others dictate her choices, she never let society or a man dictate her role in life.

As I wandered the streets of Malian worried over my all toupee worthy pockets, I remembered this and held my chin high. The force, the Pig was with me, carrying it on as it had since my years as a kindergartner wearing socks. It was purely attitude, but effective in keeping away the pinchers.

Anyone messing with a awesome, self-empowered, feminist self would find themselves meaninglessly hiyahhhed, much as Piggy kicked the ass of her would-be manger in The Muppets Take Manhattan.

“That’ll teach you to mess with a lady!”


I don’t want to hear you beg
I’m sick of beggars
If you are a man
take what you want from me
or what you can.
Even if you have me
like some woman across town
you think you love.

Look at me
Standing here with my penis
as straight as yours.
What do you think this is?
The weather cock on a rooftop?

We sneak all over town
like two damn thieves,
whiskey on our breath,
no street lights on the back roads,
just the stars above us
as ordinary as they should be.

We always have to work it out,
walk it through, talk it over,
drink and smoke our way into sodomy.
I could take you to my house
But you’re afraid the neighbors
will recognize you.
I feel thankful I don’t love you.
I won’t have to suffer you later on.

But for now I say
Jack Daniel’s,
Have you had enough, Jack Daniel’s?
Do I look like your lover yet?
Against the fogged car glass
do I look like your cross-town lover?


Because you will never know the answer until after we are done. Is your faith really that strong? I understand the need to move on. It is something that happens too us all. And if your time has truly come. I also understand that with the beauty of this love there comes pain and despair. no one is immune! But consider what you have in your hands. Before you give it up. Don’t trade a treasure for an empty box.

“When you stop contributing to life. You become a burden, it’s time to move on.”

Love, it warps our senses, twists our souls. It can take us past hope, past care, past help. I know about love, its suffering, its anguish, its pain. Heaven means to kill our joy with love. And yet we must have it at any cost. But are you so enamored that you will over look your love for me. You do love me, I’ve seen you smile into my eyes like stars in the night. Are you willing to sacrifice our love for another? Look into your heart, and tell me you are willing to make that choice?

Haven’t you tired of the incessant quilt. Hasn’t it swayed your back, and stooped your shoulders to the point of throwing them off. You insist on taking responsibility for the actions and emotions of those around you. When they alone are truly responsible. It is so foolish so unnecessary, it’s so weak. And it must stop. This and all else that has happened, should make that clear to you.

For all the things that we are; there is a price to be paid. Love may be tasted never savored. In our darkest moments we may end our relationship, we should never aspire to it. Quit is a poison and staying past our time is death. But it need not be! If we truly care for another, truly love another, then we must go. That’s something another taught me. Leaving is the purest form of love.

“How can such a cold still heart feel such pain?”

Have you thought this through? Our love lies at the brink, its fate is in your hands. Bring it closer or let it die. You must decide?

“Is it possible for a soul to love faithfully?”

Be done with him. Time heals all. We must move on! You can not deny what you are. And I can not condemn you for that.



Rain, snow, ice storms, peaceful sunny days. I was riveted to life, a beggar cruising the endless alley. Oblivious, stupid, proud, supernatural, calm, who needed friends or lovers? O my rapturous childhood, I was right to hate what I hated. Listen: in Hell we don’t give the dying a penny, but we’re civil. We see the world correctly. We’re not salesmen. Nothing hurts us, not even the surly, confident ones, the false elect,who humiliate us, refuse to bless us. Southern swamps, you’ve sponged up all the light. My soul won’t stop grieving. I’d have to strangle myself to end these bleak hymns honestly. When I confronted the King of Hell, I said; Fuck martyrdom, fuck the sublime glow of art, the seriousness of inventors, the passion of business men and thieves. The East is a dream of never waking up. I wasn’t pondering my escape from contemporary anguish. I wasn’t exploring the spooky bible. Ever since Science took over, Man hides from himself. We cultivate fog, eat fever with our watery carrots and broccoli, get drunk,smile, sacrifice ourselves. Infinitely distant from the root, we exterminate ourselves with our own poisons. Rabbis and priests, this is not Eden. Time doesn’t exist. the world has no age. Formulate your own East, older than the stars. Don’t give in. You’re free to live beyond suicidal schemes of salvation. Science is much too slow for men like us. Cherished citizens, wake up. Your souls are asleep. You’re still addicted to the human. Truth’s everywhere, as close as our own hands. Weeping angels hover close to us. Soul, soul, this pure, radiant instant-sinister turning of ten windmills by the edge of some bare field in a black and hungry year-crucifies us.


Each of us is doomed to live many lives. Each of us will be crushed on the anvil of terror, reborn by awe. Action isn’t life, it spoils God’s power, it drains the last prayers from our throats. the soul’s theatre is invisible-sight, hearing, taste, smell, sense without organs. Listen: each of us lives many lives-plumber, angels, athletes, electricians, gods. Once I was a pig. I champion all laws of madness. I lived them all, I know the system. Terror gnaws my mind. the same dream drags me back into it, destroys the real world, calls me to inhabit it permanently. I’m ready to die, ready to be wind, darkness, ghosts. It’s as if God’s final curse is a live coal broiling my mouth. Islands and crystal blue sea. I dream you’ll wash away this disease of unspecified truths. I see the cross loom like redemption. The rainbow led me here, where remorse gnaws like a tapeworm, dragging itself out past my lips. My life is immense. I won’t dedicate myself to muscle and rhyme. Deadly sweet tooth of bliss, aria-in the gloomiest dungeons, at dawn, you warn me. I hear your first in the gossip of the men who raped my mouth and body. Then in the windswept leaves. Two truths, One truth. That’s the final terror we all have to accept-not one or the other, like a friend’s face whose torn-out eyes still recognize you.


The tiny bud scared me. Vicious landscape. I did everything to escape it. I told people I could visit them inside me, mocked the current darling of poetry. Their courteous bows to the smug audience of approval made me puke. Porno magazines, rotting Victorian travel books, medieval passion plays, junked movie sets, refrains from old songs, languages long forgotten, musty albums packed away with snapshots of the family desperately trying to smile-through all of it I saw that hard young body begging to be loved. I even invented a religion without icons or rites. I wrote a brief manual of prayers and regulations, I established walking and sleeping as two basic forms of sacrifice. I described God; obese, lazy, dressed like a stockbroker in His pink shirt and his chalked-striped flannel suit, smoking a cigar. I invented vowel colors, reshaped the cadence of consonants, consigned each syllable to a branch on the oak outside my house. I deleted the sense from poetry until all could hear was a faint abstract whisper like the breathing of a horse thirty feet away. English. English, my precise identity babbled its proofs in dreams. Nothing worked. I wrote silence. I wrote night. On scraps of paper. I scratched down hopeless love. I paced my crummy room like a squirrel-significant, hyper-acute, pathologically quick-but he would not be erased, a thousand years younger by then spread-eagle across my mind, inches from my face, the bulge between his legs, its gossamer brown hair and wild node, a crown I licked all over until he came.


The rich can’t sleep. Wealth should be everyone’s. All the rich know is lineage’s, but I’ve had to transcend my own suicidal habits, my own mute gift for oblivion. Now I’m good. Nothing to repent. But the clock still strikes the hour of absolute pain. Will I end up like a child, in Paradise, without sorrow? Divine love’s the only key to knowledge. Nature’s a display of pure goodness. I’m through with demons. the rational song of angels teaches salvation: Divine Love. I’ll die of worship, of loving the bare earth-both. I condemn anyone my departure would destroy. Save my friends, save the shipwrecked passengers. The ground under my feet is good. Sane at last. I’ll bless life, love my brothers. No more childish promises. No hope of escaping old age and death. My strength is God. Praise God. His omnipotent, abstract, transparent hands soothe my head. No early death for me-sons of good families, coffins glistening with crystal tears. I’ve been rescued by a man, converted, baptized, dressed in work clothes, chained to a job. What a relief? Christianity’s blade, stuck straight through my heart.


Beggars are too honest, they disgust me. Blue-white eyes, skull narrow as a broom closet. I’m like the Gaul’s, I don’t butter my hair. With the splendid disdain of kings. I love all the vices. Bosses and workers, slaves, the hand that writes with the pen guides the plow. History is hands. Will I never possess my hands, be cared for by invisible gods, fed by the sky., entertained by water? Devious tongue, I am lazier than a toad, Feeble, Christian notes, love song, what was I in the last century? You geniuses at profit and loss, what is the body? do you recognize your body? Progress is a great god with a mouth and no anus. The cosmos is a mechanical toy. Chemistry in a teaspoon. The world moves forward, an army without shoes. The revelation of fate in numbers is clear. I can’t explain what I mean, I’m not a ditch digger. I don’t fix wagons or doors. Driven toward the Soul, like a hungry steer. I heard sounds without reference to things outside themselves-the poor a clashing Hell of symbols. Your demolished silence, a king with no mouth.


Fire in my guts, dose of holy poison, crippling me. I’m a living corpse almost reborn, but I slipped away, Happy, Good. I’m ready for salvation, and yet Hell won’t tolerate my song of insolent hope. Life grinds us into ash. My parents baptized me, that water bliss enslaved me, slaughtered me with ardor, Hell, bless me. Only fresh crime could plunge me into nothingness. Give me justice. Her scales emptied of the past. Childhood comes back; grass, rain, belfry when the bell struck midnight. Fatal ignorance,nursery rhymes, Mary, Virgin Mary, you’re a lie. Don’t touch me. I smell like roasted skin. This is truth-There’s no history. Wealthier than a king, I decode secret wisdom’s, postulate the immortality of tables and chairs. Life’s clock stopped hours ago. Theology is somewhere else. Straddling a green wave, Jesus walks on purple thistles, Jesus walks on stormiest water. The ecstatic sleep of mine unveils the mysteries. Have faith, follow me, pathetic, exhausted laborers, fragile children-astonishing human heart, Hell, I’m sold on your glory, your worms and pitchforks, holocaust of lust-I’ve decided to be reborn and study every maimed piece of myself, kissed by Mother Earth. God, hide me, hold me; these words sniffing the ground are starved dogs, packed with sores. I’m hidden and absolutely clear. Smear dress-shop mirrors with wet dirt, choke lovers in bed with powdered rubies-change me. I live and live and live.

Gay Marriage Should Be Legal

Published Summer 1996
Student Printz
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS USA

The gay marriage debate has produced some of the wackiest doomsday scenarios since nuclear winter. An idea fixation runs through it all: Allowing people of the same sex to marry will open floodgates on every form of human perversion.

Consider William Bennett’s recent screed in The Washington Post. “On what principled grounds could the advocates of same-sex marriage oppose the marriage of two consenting brothers?” he wonders. “How could they explain why we ought to deny a marriage license to a bisexual who wants to marry two people?” In a sane world, it would be considered bigoted to presume that homosexuals don’t share the general attitude toward polygamy – or, for that matter, the incest taboo.

But the New York Post takes the wedding cake. A recent editorial urged that gays be denied the right to marry because their sexual practices differ from those of straights. Never mind Madonna’s popular forays into sadomasochism or the rise of Leather-and-Chain Versace wear. To the Post, S&M; is something only queers do. And even those who aren’t oriented toward sadomasochistic encounters with strangers are plotting to engage in another apparently prominent – and distressing – feature of homosexual life: child molestation.

It’s said that opposition to gay marriage reflects anxiety about the changing state of the American family. But there’s another possibility. the issue has given straights an occasion to project their fears and fantasies onto gays. For liberals, that’s entertainment, bur for the right, it’s politics. Now on a more serious note. Activists anticipate that it will take more than a year for the Hawaii Supreme Court to decide whether marriage licenses should be granted to same-sex couples. In that time, the concept of a Hawaiian wedding may enter the American language, much as the term “Boston marriage” did in the 19th century as a winking way to describe lesbian couples. Thousands of gays are gearing up to honeymoon in Hawaii, and when they return to their respective states, the courts will be clogged with litigation as they demand their spousal rights.

The states have always honored each other’s marital contracts, even when they did not agree with them. Once the California courts threw out laws banning miscegenation in 1948; interracial couples who married there were legit even in states where such unions were still forbidden. Indeed, the case that finally inspired the Supreme Court to void all miscegenation laws in 1967 involved an interracial couple who had married in Washington, D.C., only to find themselves regarded as criminals when they returned home to Virginia. Such echoes will be hard for the Supreme Court to ignore when it considers the rights of gay couples, unless, of course, they justices find such discrimination rational.

But even if the courts fail to offer gay couples relief, state legislatures may. Though 16 state houses have already passed laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, such bills have failed in 19 other states so far – including redoubts of the right like Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. One reason why is the attachment of such states to their own eccentric marriage laws. For example, common law marriages are legal in Louisiana but not in new York; however, the courts here recognize such unions. California has one law defining marriage along strictly heterosexual lines and another stipulating that the state must recognize license issued elsewhere. The Hawaii courts are likely to put this contradiction to the test.

Don’t Let Fear Dominate

Student Printz
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS
Summer 1996

Fear is a funny thing. It stops us from doing a lot of stupid things, but it can also ruin our lives. As I start y senior year, I am having to face many of my fears. Will I get a job? One that I like? What kind of job do I want? have I done everything I can to prepare myself for the real world? Do I have enough courses to graduate? What will happen to me once I leave the security of the university? Where will I be this time next year? In five years? Ten?

Seniors face these questions everyday as we go to seminars on job hunting, meet with our advisors and prepare for graduation. And it is very, very scary.

It is easy to sit back and follow the path laid out for you. It is well traveled and secure. For most of our lives, whether we know it or not, we have been following “the plan.”

You know which one I mean. You do a good job in high school, go to a good college, get a good job and live a good life. “The plan” will give you just that – a good life, not a great one, and if that’s what you want, then good for you.

However, many of you out there want much more than that. I, for one, do not relish the thought of waking up every day, going to the same office and looking at the same people for the next 30 years until I retire.

If you get people to be totally honest with you about what they want they would like to do in life, you might be surprised at their responses. Everyone has dreams and aspirations that are not commonplace or easily accomplished.

Few people become millionaires by following “the plan.” If you want to be happy and successful, then you have to take risks. You may spend the next few years struggling to survive. But what is more important, immediate financial security or long-term fulfillment?

There are so many people who choose to simply follow “the plan” and then at some point realize that they regret all the chances they did not take. But no one should have regrets in life. To have to look back and thank, “What if?” is one of the worst things in the world.

Now is the time to take risks, before you have a family, car, mortgage and all the other responsibilities that come with adulthood.

College is the perfect place to pursue your dreams. If you want to write, call up the paper. College is little world where if you mess up, it is not that bad. you can be anything you allow yourself to be.

This is my senior year. It took me two and a half years to get up the courage to do what I want, not what my parents, teachers and society want for or expect of me. I only have one year left here, and I plan to make the most of it.

As the Class of 2000 enters the university, many of you have no majors or any idea about what you want to do. That’s OK.

Take this year to get involved in whatever your heart desires. Do not succumb to the pressure to declare yourself pre-med, pre-law or anything else. If is your life to do with as you want. Upperclassmen, it is not too late. TAke control of your life and do not be scared to take a chance. I read a No Fear T-shirt that said “Are you afraid to die, or just afraid to live?” I am no longer afraid. Are you?

War among USM Factions Looms

Published Summer 1996
Student Printz
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS USA

The conflict between the Administration and the Graduate STudents cannot be completely evaluated without considering how it has affected the undergraduate population.

Many have wondered whether undergraduates should be involved in this conflict, but whether we like it or not, undergraduates cannot avoid playing a role in the struggle. the relevant question is, are we being involved “unfairly?”

Is someone manipulating us like pawns in a sordid political game? Many of us sign the classic sigh of the petty-bourgeoisie, feeling crushed between the pincers of organized proletarians on the one hand and greedy capitalists on the other.

But perhaps that sigh is somewhat misled. Indeed, we can draw a more accurate picture of what is going on by looking at USM’s ongoing political struggle as a battlefield, upon which various armies are constantly maneuvering, trying to further their interests.

The army of cheap housing, is a coalition comprised of graduate students. The Coalition certainly has a strategy – to put as much pressure on the administration as possible in order to obtain fair housing costs.

The administration’s army of lawyers has a finely tuned tactic of its own, which it adopts every time a conflict rolls around ignore the students as long as possible, until you see the whites of their eyes, and then empty your ammo clip. Fortunately, in the past USM has run out of firepower. Unfortunately, the administration’s tacticians haven’t figured out a better way of dealing with their students, which leaves us with a messy conflict every few years.

The third army – yes, USM has a cluttered battlefield – is ours, the undergraduate army, the pearl of the university. We are generally leaderless, running headlong into crossfire, bereft of strategies or even clearly defined interests. Let this be a brief attempt at outlining our plan of battle.

First, we must identify our objectives. The most obvious one, which unites us all, is the wish to avoid a conflict. Many of us have made tremendous sacrifices to get here, and it would be deplorable for our studies to be disrupted by untaught classes, uncooked food, and unclean toilets.

In order to avoid a conflict we must identify who is primarily responsible for precipitating it: the administration or the graduate students?

Many of us rush to say: the grad students! After all, if there weren’t student organizations, there wouldn’t be conflicts. While this may well be true, we must realize that students do not like conflict. As a matter of fact, they probably dislike them as much as the administration does. Students are for collective bargaining, not conflicts. Conflicts are always a last resort. They are unpleasant, lean times, and the students do not always win. Graduate students do not want to battle either, believe it or not.

Who, then, is to blame for a looming conflict? One whom should undergraduate strategies train their telescopes? Who has stonewalled? Who always tries to make cutbacks? Who is manipulating the simpleminded among us to scrawl “Graduate Students screw undergrads” on the walls? Who can afford to settle this conflict now but won’t – simply out of sheer corporate stubbornness?

No one is responsible for involving us in this conflict: regardless of whether or not it is fair, we are naturally involved because we are members of the USM community. What is relevant is what we can do to avoid a conflict, and that is to tell our administrators to negotiate responsibly with all of USM’s students.

Our director of Residence Life, Lorinda Krhut, claimed in meeting with grad students that the administration would deal with the upcoming housing controversies “reasonably.” We, as undergraduates should reply: practice what you preach.

Branding for Modern Dynamic Products and Organizations

The need for a different method of Branding:

The brand has a different meaning in today’s environment. Conventional wisdom held that a brand is an image or a promise and that if you have enough time and money and a good product you can establish and maintain a brand. The main vehicles for establishing a traditional brand where the mass media, print, and broadcasting. But these Medias are all unidirectional, and by that we mean the message went in one direction from the advertiser to the consumer.Today the landscape is changing in several ways. First is the rise of a ubiquitous communications medium that is the antithesis of conventional communication; the Internet. The Internet is multidirectional and highly individualized.

Second, organizations can use the intelligence garnered from this dialogue with their customers to customize products and services. Products are becoming infused with services – lawn mowers, telephones, refrigerators, cars and thousands more. For example, your car might have one-button access to roadside assistance, directions to hotels, and advice on the best restaurants in a neighborhood. In addition, modern production techniques enable mass customization. Everything can be built to your specifications – from a car in your driveway to the monogrammed Nike athletic shoes on your feet.

Because products can be tailored to customers, organizations can finally build relationships in a deeper sense. For example a company like Mercedes-Benz and General Motors (GM) never really had relationships with customers. They only dealt with the dealers, never the actual customers. But with services such a Mercedes-Benz’s Tele Aid and GM’s OnStar, this is changing. Press the Tele Aid or OnStar button and you’re talking to Mercedes-Benz or GM, not the dealer you bought your car from. Now their customers have unprecedented access to information and power. As this new consumer environment becomes more far-reaching, brands are transcending the realm of mere image building to enable organizations to create powerful relationship with consumers.

In the past, the typical strategy was for an organization to bombard its target audience with a logo and simple messages – The simpler the better. Now, brands are no longer established solely through one-to-many communications. The advertiser has more options.

For example, today’s branding strategy should harness the Internet to open a dialogue with the target audience. Of course, traditional media can still be part of the marketing mix, but increasingly the customer decides whether and with whom to engage in a one, two or multi-way communication. In today’s environment, your goal as an organization should be to develop “relationship capital” with your customer, the more the better. The brand becomes largely a measure of your organization’s relationship capital.

Relationships are now assets. We are convinced that relationships are becoming so important that it makes sense to think of them as a form of capital. And the wealth inherent in customer relationships is becoming more important than the capital value of land, buildings, or even big bank accounts.

For the first time, organizations can forge two-way, interactive, personalized relationships with all customers on a mass scale. While the virtue of deep relationships was always self-evident in theory, in realty it wasn’t practical. But now the ubiquitous, cheap, and interactive Internet, coupled with enormous low-cost databases, enables producers to develop meaningful direct relationships with customers.

Relationship assets are different than traditional assets in several ways. For example, the more you use traditional assets the more they depreciate. Relationships seem to be the opposite; the more you use them, the more valuable they become. The more you interact with your customers and understand their needs, the more you and your customers value the relationship.

Creating a valuable relationship and marketplace value for your customers, partners, suppliers, employees and investors is Brand Mass. We like an adaptation of the definition of momentum developed by Ron Ricci and John Volkmann. They draw on physics to argue that momentum is a product mass multiplied by speed and direction. Speed is an organization’s ability to get there faster or to keep up with the pace of change in their industry. Direction refers to the ease with which customers can come to trust and understand where the organization or product is headed.

In this modern environment Brand Mass becomes particularly important because customers can discern the true value of products and services. Customers are better informed, have unprecedented access to information, and can inform others. This gives individuals tremendous power to understand the actual value that organizations create.

The key ingredient in the successful creation of a modern brand is first the values an organization embraces, and second is the value the organization offers. Organizations today operate in a much more transparent environment. This phenomenon did not start with the collapse of Enron. It has been gathering momentum as the Internet gained popularity. As information and communication technologies advance, organizations can expect to hide nothing. All decisions, from boardroom deliberations to daily purchases of supplies, now occur with somebody, somewhere – or more likely, many people in many places – scrutinizing the organization’s activities. For example, the “out of sight, out of mind” approach of low-cost offshore business practices and behavior is over. If an organization uses inputs that can be traced back to children in sweat shops, everyone will know about it.

If organizations today feel like they are being scrutinized, this feeling pales to what is coming tomorrow. In terms of values, organizations will have virtually no choice but to operate as open books. And if customers don’t lie what they see, they won’t come back. To appreciate how quickly a brand can be destroyed in a networked world, consider the recent fate of the accounting firm Author Anderson. Judgment and repercussions come swiftly.

At the same time, the true value of products and services rises to the fore. A manufacturer of a brand-name detergent can claim that their product washes whiter, but if the product doesn’t actually wash whiter, it will be unable to establish and maintain a successful brand. Consumers now have the ability to find out and inform others; especially the new generation of media-savvy youngsters that Don Tapscott dubbed “The Net Generation.” They’ll be able to research a product and its ability to deliver on its promise in 20 seconds. And in five years the microchips in your shirt and washing machine will have the ability to go onto the Internet and find out for themselves who “washes whiter.”

As Internet communication gained popularity any experts feared that brands would disappear when competitors were “just a click away” and when customers could comparison shop more easily. But that’s not what’s happening. In today’s networked environment, brands can be even stronger if organizations use the right approach.

For example, the Internet can be used to increase the costs in switching to a competitor. Consider the services an online book retailer can offer. A customer can request all books on a certain topic or author. The customer can indicate authors he/she likes and find out what other authors are enjoyed by customers who share his/her views. He/She can request a bestseller list in a category or ask for a book’s daily sales status.

The relationship is mutual – the buyer creates value for the seller and for other participants by contributing his/her views. He/She establishes his/her personal profile; this is a relationship investment that includes registering gifts he/she would like to receive. Both customer and bookstore invest by exchanging customized information and knowledge. The more he/she invests time and effort, the more personal the bookstore becomes. He/She builds loyalty to this organization, not just because of the services it provides, but because of the effort required to re-educate another organization about his/her preferences. For both buyer and seller, this networked relationship constitutes capital. Over time the retailer gets to know the customer and the costs of switching to another bookstore-educating another retailer become prohibitive.

And identical process can occur in the business-to-business world. Dell sells great computers at great prices. But that’s not why it’s the number-one computer seller to businesses. Dell uses the Web to help its customers manage their computer investments. Want to know the best computer to buy given your installed base? Your personalized pages on Dell’s website will tell you. Want to buy more computers identical to the ones you bought last year so your technicians don’t need more training? It’s all a mouse click away. Dell helps you make smart decisions based on what it has sold you and the information you volunteer. You feel good about that. And the Dell brand becomes a relationship.

Executives today need a global perspective, and they must be socially and politically astute. They need to be even more sensitive and responsive to customer concerns. For example, Home Depot sells hammers and power drills not exactly a likely candidate to get embroiled in social, ethical, or environmental controversy. Recently, the Rain Forest Action Network launched a campaign against Home Depot because it was the biggest North American retailer of old growth lumber. After a bruising two-year battle, Home Depot changed its approach and is phasing out old growth lumber from its supply lines. The Rain Forest Action Network relied heavily on the Internet to get its message out. The Internet has made its easier for everyone to communicate, and it is now more important than ever for organizations to react quickly to address customer concerns.

The visionary leader contributes by creating true value, enriching products with services. The leader must help everyone connected to the organization to think of the brand as a measure of relationship capital and build trust. The starting point is to send a strong and consistent signal to employees about the values of the organization. And this doesn’t apply only to the customer facing employees, it applies to everyone! Employees essentially ask themselves when they make a decision whether their customers would approve.

The CEO or organizational leader sets these standards. This is not something that should be left to a Vice President or Director of Communications, business ethics or other similar job function. Just like war is too important to be left to generals, defining values is something in which all senior managers and organizational employees need to become involved and to which they all need to be committed.

Momentum Management: Branding for Modern Dynamic Organizations:

The chief purpose of a brand is to differentiate a product, service, or organization from a spectrum of competitive choices. Over the past several decades, brand gurus like David Asker and David Ogilvy developed the underlying science of branding and created tools to empirically link purchase decisions and loyalty to how people perceive the quality of a brand’s differentiation. Recently, the widespread use of cell phones, pages, personal computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and internet-based applications has changed people’s definition of differentiation.Two fundamental factors distinguish modern dynamic products, services and organizations (i.e. Electronic Banking, Palms, Personal Computers, etc) from their more traditional counterparts (i.e. consumer packaged goods): 1) modern dynamic products are never finished; and 2) they never stand alone. For example, Palm is constantly improving and developing features for their products, and Palm needs to be able to beam information to other mobile information products. Consequently, people have developed new expectations for modern dynamic products, services and organizations, and they are asking probing questions that map to a modern dynamic product model. The fact that modern dynamic products are never finished prompts customers to ask what’s next from this organization and can the organization keep up? The fact that there are no standalone products in any modern dynamic solution stimulates people to ask who else is betting on this organization or product.

In our research, the brands that best answered these emerging customer questions did not rely on a conceptual, image-based promise. In the interdependent modern dynamic model, every product, service or organization category inherently plays a role in solving a customer’s problem. The brand must have a clearly defined relevance in a customer’s life. As a result, from the customer’s perspective, every category of modern dynamic products either enables a solution or problem of importance, the more value a customer ascribes to a brand. At the same time, the sustainability of a brand’s differentiation over the long term is an equally fundamental emotional conviction in customers’ minds for modern dynamic products as it is for goods such as soft drinks, film and fast food. Subliminally, the customer wants reassurance about the organization’s future roadmap, in addition to confidence in the product, service, organization or the brand.

In this context, customers choose brands and organizations with the characteristics that create an aura of inevitability for a brand. The difficult task for any marketer is to understand how to translate the abstract concept of inevitability into a market dashboard so that a brand can be positioned and managed for competitive success.

Our research demonstrated that a market position imbued with a sense of inevitability lies in creating and managing a brand’s momentum. Momentum is frequently used to describe stocks, politicians, and sports teams – especially those on the threshold of success. Best of all, momentum already has a formula associated with it:

Momentum = Brand Mass x Velocity:

  • Brand Mass is the ability to create marketplace value-for customers, partners, suppliers, employees, and investors. George Foster, a professor at Stanford University’s School of Business, interprets Brand Mass this way: “A brand with ‘mass’ has to create marketplace value independent of itself.” Scott Cook, the visionary behind the software company Quicken and Intuit, describes a brand with Brand Mass as having a “system of economics around it.”
  • We break Velocity into two discrete components, Direction and Speed. Brand Direction captures whether people believe in a brand’s view of the future and whether the brand’s promise can keep up with the application of technology to solve business and personal problems. Brand Speed refers to people’s confidence that a brand can keep up with the pace of technology and community change, and just as importantly, how customers can leverage this change to solve problems better.

After more than two decades of experience with the evolving, interdependent modern dynamic product model, customers have developed sophisticated expectations for Momentum Brands. These brands must accomplish the following:

  • Create a relevant value proposition – Organization’s must understand which applications and business needs will move customers to acquire modern dynamic products and services and which problems these products hope to solve. Organizations must also identify precisely which critical customer problem you’re trying to solve and be prepared to sacrifice territory in order to own a more relevant problem in your target customers’ minds.
  • Establish category leadership – Organizational leaders must determine what role the organization and brand play in solving a customer’s problem; leaders must understand whether their brand enables the solution or simply participates in the solution. They must also define a product metric to help people judge superior product performance and gauge “state of the art” so that they can manage differentiation over the course of years.
  • Build an ecosystem – Organizational leaders must design into their product strategy a way for third parties to add value to their product or service. They must encourage “brand extensions” by making it easy for committed third parties to demonstrate their support for the organization’s or brand’s category, both from a technical perspective as well as a marketing perspective.
  • Keep your brand in motion – Manage the lens through which customers judge the pace of change in a particular category of modern dynamic products, services and organizations. Create a roadmap to manage customer expectations and implement consistent customer and industry announcements in accordance with that roadmap
  • Articulate a credible vision of the future:
    • Ideas about the impact of technology on business and people’s lives are the currency of innovation for Momentum Brands. Customers expect Momentum Brands (and their CEO’s) to solve old problems in new ways, to communicate what we call “thought leadership.” In a business-to-business context, thought leaders illustrate over-the-horizon business concepts that describe the impact of modern dynamic products on a market’s business model, business processes, or customer behaviors and its inherent opportunity for all constituents in a given market space. Designate an external executive champion that can credibly represent that brand promise to customers. Don’t just say it; do it!
    • Trust has always been the most subjective of all the factors that influence the quality of a brand’s differentiation. Momentum brands capture both the very human quality of trust, but marry it with a practical “trust barometer” to gauge a brand’s likelihood to continuing to solve a problem of business or personal importance. Customers’ place special value on these organizations behind the brands that have leveraged modern dynamic products or services themselves to solve problems or to gain competitive advantage
  • Finally, when and if the time comes, be humble. Organizations make mistakes. New modern dynamic products and new technologies sometimes don’t work. Business leaders are human and fallible. The most respected organizations and CEOs face issues head-on and deal with customers concerns in a straightforward manner.

The 3-Step Plan:

Step 1:

Determine your organization’s source of momentum. The organization’s source of momentum is the best indicator of genuine brand differentiation. Have an honest conversation about the product or service category you compete in. Where does your category fit on the value chain in the customer’s mind? If you are not the enabler or platform to solving a customer problem, you probably don’t have a lot of mass. But you might have a speed and direction advantage.

Step 2:

Identify what’s required to sustain your product or organizational differentiation: Do you have a strategic context for how adjacent categories could invade your space and capture your mass? What could your key competitors do to siphon off your mass; i.e., offer a better customer/channel program or a superior relationship development model? Do you have a phased and multi-year roadmap of what you need to do to maintain your speed advantage? Do you have a direction advantage by knowing what your customers’ future problems will look like and do you have unique ideas on how to fix them? Are you using the latest version of your own product?

Step 3:

Build an executive communication platform for your CEO: Keep your story fresh in the marketplace. Think of your CEO as a product. Position him or her relative to key competitive CEOs and in the context of your product or service strategy. Develop a thought leadership-based “elevator story” for your CEO. Look for sources of validation in the academic or consulting communities and develop a marketing plan for your CEO in the same way you would market a product. Target key influencer relationships with the press and industry analysts to contribute to the dialogue and agenda in your product or service category’s broader industry. The most common and effective channels for thought leadership are public speaking, best practices, case studies, original market research, white papers and books. These proven marketing tools put your CEO’s ideas into decision-making opportunities and conversations, even when he or she isn’t in the room.