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  • White Collar Corporate and Office Culture

    In the real world, corporate offices are often a collection of oppressed cube drones, back stabbing ladder climbers, and high level executives jealously guarding their own fiefdoms while lining their pockets. So, you can imagine how much worse this might be in the World of Darkness, and even more so in a bunch of companies owned and operated by outright sociopaths devoted to controlling, corrupting, or destroying humanity and the world.

    There are a lot of various theories and methods to office management. While the long standing stereotype is the traditionalist model with strict rules, compartmentalization, and major decisions made by the highest ranks, a number of other models have come in to vogue in the business world over the past few decades. This ranges from completely horizontal organizations where everyone, even the CEO, is theoretically equal, and team-oriented set ups where group culture and harmony are prioritized (sometimes even over actual ability), to places where everyone is in competition with each other to make improvements or just advance themselves and places of perpetual uncertainty with often massive employee turnover for one reason or another. Countless articles and books have been written about this over the decades for those who are interested in effective management and leadership. But, in the terms of PENTEX, we are more interested in bad behavior and parody.

    So, one of the most famous examinations/parodies of office cultures in the past few decades is Scott Adams's Dilbert. In addition to the long running daily comic strip and an animated series, it has also spawned a number of non-fiction books about office culture. The first one was The Dilbert Principle, named after Adams's concept that companies systematically promote incompetent employees to management in order to get them out of the workflow and keep them from disrupting real business. A similar concept is "The Peter principle", the idea that people will be promoted until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent. Also very suitable for PENTEX is Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook, a tongue in cheek guide to being an evil boss. And then there's The Joy of Work: Finding Happiness at the Expense of Your Co-Workers and Dilbert & The Way of the Weasel.

    The view from the trenches looks very different from that on high. Your average PENTEX office employees are kept in little cubes and made to do mind-numbing paperwork with low pay and not very much in the way of benefits. If you've never seen the film Office Space (1999), you should. It's an entertaining and sarcastic look at a bunch of disgruntled programers facing being downsized and deciding to embezzle money from the company after being laid off. (The ploy is similar to one used by Richard Pryor in Superman III, which isn't a good film, but does have Robert Vaughn as an evil CEO and a malevolent super computer. It's also from the "computers and satellites are magic" era, which is always amusing.) Another personal favorite of mine is 9 To 5 (1980), about three different office women dealing with their sexist - and it turns out - crooked boss.

    For those looking to climb the corporate ladder, a certain level of ruthlessness is necessary to go along with one's ambition. This is even more true at PENTEX. This is a fairly popular topic in film. Wall Street (1987), with a young up and comer willing to go to any lengths, even illegal ones, to ingratiate himself to a big name financier, is a classic of its decade. While not as ruthless, Working Girl (1988) is a somewhat unfairly forgotten film from that period, with a young working class woman from Staten Island trying to make a place for herself in Manhattan's business world. Also worth watching is Up in the Air (2009), based on the novel by Walter Kim, about a professional "downsizer" who flies around the nation firing employees for other companies. Another good one is Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), involving four real estate salesmen who become increasingly desperate as they face downsizing. And on the more comedic front, The Secret of My Success (1987) is a fun film with Michael J. Fox as a mail room employee masquerading as a midlevel executive. Regarding bad behavior, The Company of Men (1997) is a look at sexism in the corporate world and how amoralism tends to be rewarded. And then there's the poster child for sociopathic corporate behavior, American Psycho (2000), and the Bret Easten Ellis book its based on.

    And at top of the pile are CEOs and boards. These are popular subjects of films. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) is a film worth watching, involving an underhanded board member trying to take over his own company using a male room clerk turned executive. But the most entertaining is Robocop (1987), with its rather cyberpunk-ish take on corporate politics complete with murder. Also worth watching is the sequel, Robocop 2 (1990), which is not as good, but has wonderful examples of backstabbing and throwing people under the bus.

    While most of this deals with American business, I will note three bits about Japanese corporate culture worth looking at. One is Gung Ho (1986), involving a Japanese company trying to reopen a Pennsylvania auto plant, and the culture clashes that result. It's a comedy, and some of the jokes haven't aged well, but it is an interesting look at a period when Japanese industry seemed to dominate and appeared poised to take over America. More serious is Rising Sun (1993), based on the novel by Michael Crichton, involving the conflicts of culture during a murder investigation. Finally, The Bad Sleep Well (1960) is a film from Akira Kirosawa, basically a retelling of Hamlet in which a young man joins a corrupt company in order to gain revenge for the death of his father.

    As far as the supernatural corruption corporate life can cause, Vampire's Kiss (1989) is a look at a yuppie literary agent as he slowly loses his mind and thinks he's turning into a vampire. In the World of Darkness, obviously such a person could really be a vampire, or a ghoul. They could also be a breed of famori that is a literal blood sucking leach. Another worth looking at is the very surreal How To Get Ahead in Business (1989), in which a businessman develops a cyst on his neck that soon starts talking to him and encouraging him to do evil.

    Finally, an anthology of note, Corporate Cthulhu, which is a little hard to find, but is an entertaining collection of Mythos and Mythos-influenced stories set in the corporate world.

    Added: A few additions.

    The Office, both its original British version and the American remake, deals with the day to day activities of employees of a paper company in a mockumentary style.

    While the animated tv series Archer is mainly concerned with espionage and the like (at least in its early seasons), it also involves a lot of dysfunctional workplace drama that would work well at PENTEX companies.

    And I've previously mentioned the film Grandma's Boy (2006), which is kind of a dumb comedy, but for our purposes, the workplace conflict is interesting, and both Joel Moore as a borderline unstable jerk and Kevin Nealon as a boss obsessed with New Age Asian mysticism can both easily serve as inspiration for PENTEX employees.
    Last edited by No One of Consequence; 02-09-2020, 05:41 PM.


    What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
    Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

    Comment


    • So, I spent two hours writing a post about professional basketball. And then by hitting the wrong key at the very end, lost the entire thing. So, no update.

      Currently eating ice cream.
      Last edited by No One of Consequence; 02-19-2020, 12:05 AM.


      What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
      Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

      Comment


      • Professional Basketball (The Readers Digest Version)

        So, basketball was invented in 1891 by James Naismith, a Canadian transplant to Massachusetts. If you would like to know more about him and how he invented the game, see Rob Rains's James Naismith: The Man Who Invented Basketball, as well as Naismith's own Basketball: It's Origin and Development.

        It took a while for pro basketball as we know it to develop. By the 1920s, there were a lot of professional teams all over the East Coast and Midwest and elsewhere, but no real organized league. One of the main standouts of this era were the Harlem Globetrotters, who traveled the Midwest playing local teams. By the 1950s, before the modern League, they were one of the biggest basketball teams in the nation (especially after beating the all-white Minneapolis Lakers in 1948). After the NBA came along, they developed into the entertainment spectacle they are famously known for as a way to stay in business. Ben Greene's Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters is a good history of the team. There's also the 2005 documentary Harlem Globetrotters: The Team that Changed the World.

        The National Basketball Association is actually from the merger of two briefly existing leagues, the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League, in 1949. By the late 50s, they'd firmly established themselves, and were already integrated, with both Asian-American and African-American players. (One of these was Bill Russell, who helped lead the Boston Celtics to a decade long dominance of the league in the 60s; Another was one of his biggest rivals, Wilt Chamberlain, a former Harlem Globetrotter.) A number of teams relocated during this period, including the Lakers moving to LA (where there are no lakes). David Surdam's The Rise of the National Basketball Association is a somewhat scholarly look at this early period, including the League's economic history. Also interesting is John Tyler's The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball.

        In 1967, the NBA got a rival, the American Basketball Association. The ABA's roster of teams was a little fluid, with a number of teams folding (sometimes getting replaced in the same market the next year, sometimes not) or moving around. (The New Orleans Buccaneers managed to play in three different cities under six different names before folding as the Baltimore Claws in 1975.) In 1976, the ABA was finally able to get the NBA to agree to a merger (becoming the template dream for every upstart sports league since). However, only four of the ABA teams actually got to join the NBA. The rest had either already folded, save two. The owners of the Kentucky Colonels took a buyout, but the owners of the Spirits of St. Louis struck what has to be the single greatest deal in the history of sports, would get a cut of the four ABA-turned-NBA teams' TV revenue in perpetuity. This netted them $300 Million over four decades, before the NBA finally convinced them to take a final $500 Million lump sum to end the deal. Terry Pluto's Loose Balls: The Short Wild Life of the ABA is a good history of the league. Also see The Company Man YouTube video discussing the differences between the ABA and NBA, and how the ABA strongly influenced the NBA going forward into the 1980s. And, for amusement, there's the 2008 comedy Semi-Pro, with the fictional Flint (Michigan) Tropics trying to be one of the surviving four teams.

        One bit I will mention from the 70s and 80s is LA Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. At over seven feet tall, Kareem was a stand out even in an era of really great players, not least of which for his ability to play the professional game competitively for two decades. One of the things he had attributed this to is that he studied Jeet Kune Do under Bruce Lee and took up yoga in the mid 70s. He's been an actor (appearing in Bruce Lee's 1972 film Game of Death and in the classic comedy Airplane!) and a prolific writer, especially on the topics of civil rights and African-American history (he earned a BA in history at UCLA). I have used him as the inspiration for an Akashic Brotherhood Master in some of my Mage games.

        As far as the modern NBA goes, it's a huge money machine. And not just for teams and their owners, but the players as well. Part of this is due to Oscar Robertson. In addition to being one of the better players of his generation, his lawsuit against the NBA in his role as president of the NBA Players' Association. Robertson v National Basketball Ass'n was an antitrust suit filed in 1970 to stop the ABA and NBA from merging. It was settled in 1976, with part of the settlement being the change to free agency and draft rules, and ultimately much higher salaries for NBA players. Sam Smith's Hard Labor: The Battle that Birthed the Billion Dollar NBA covers the story fairly well.
        Elsewhere, Brian Windhorst's LeBron, Inc.: The Making of a Billion Dollar Athlete looks at the evolution of LeBron James from top player to business mogul and international brand name. Elevated: The Global Rise of the NBA is a collection of work by various New York Times columnists over the past four decades covering the League. Pete Croatto's From Hang Time to Prime Time is a history of the NBA during the 70s and 80s that looks interesting, but sadly won't be out until September 2020. Likewise Joel Gunderson's (Inter)National Basketball Association, looking at how the NBA has become an international powerhouse and how the growth of basketball around the world has impacted the NBA (with now about a third of their players coming from outside the United States), which won't be out until October.

        As far as specific teams go, I'll mention the Golden State Warriors. Eric Malinowski's Betaball and Ethan Straus's The Victory Machine both look at the team's recent decade of success and more recent troubles. On the other side of the coin, Mick Minas's The Curse looks at the somewhat troubled history of the LA Clippers.

        There aren't really a lot of films about professional basketball, let alone any with supernatural, sci fi, or criminal overtones. (1996's Space Jam is about it, really.) College ball seems much more popular with film makers. I will mention Teen Wolf (1985), with a werewolf playing high school basketball, and The 6th Man (1997), a rather forgettable film with a dead college player haunting his brother and team.

        (At some point I will talk about women's professional basketball.)
        Last edited by No One of Consequence; 02-20-2020, 08:59 PM.


        What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
        Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

        Comment


        • I miss the regular updates to this thread. : (

          But I LOVE that it was created in the first place.

          Thanks again, NOoC.


          "Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger."

          Comment


          • I was planning a post about Social Media, but current events resulted in having to do a lot of additional research.

            I may try to do a post about the Chinese Communist Party and its ties to most modern Western businesses, but it's very likely to turn into an angry diatribe about human rights abuses and political corruption.


            What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
            Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

            Comment


            • Meanwhile, please enjoy this classic piece of PENTEX advertising.


              What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
              Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

              Comment


              • Rather than make a new thread for this, I figure I'd ask it here: how would you go about using Pentex(or any of its subsidiaries) during a game set in the Middle Ages?


                "Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger."

                Comment


                • Welcome back 😊

                  I would do it the same way they did with the Cheiron Group in CoD, by making a corporate predecessor to Pentex (and especially Magadon) set in the Middle Ages. There’s a real German Big Pharma company called Fresenius that actually dates back to the mid 1400s, so there is historical precedent for this.


                  “No one holds command over me. No man, no god, no Prince. Call your damn Hunt. We shall see who I drag screaming down to hell with me.” The last Ahrimane says this when Mithras calls a Blood Hunt against her. She/her (I saw the Chief Technology Officer for a big company do this so I guess I’ll do it too).

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by Fat Larry View Post
                    Rather than make a new thread for this, I figure I'd ask it here: how would you go about using Pentex(or any of its subsidiaries) during a game set in the Middle Ages?
                    I am not the author of this amazing thread, but I would say, look into craft guilds, production centers in the Middle Ages (such as blademaking in Solingen and especially Flanders), as well as the Italian Merchant Republics. And mining, such as tin mining in England, gold mining in Romania, etc.



                    Freelance Writer and Storyteller's Vault contributor. Find my work here: http://www.storytellersvault.com/ind...liate_id=17903

                    Comment


                    • Business corporations did not really exist in the Middle Ages. As legal entities distinct from the people who owned them with limited liability (unlike sole proprietorships or partnerships), they really did not come about until the 1600s. And those were special charters created by crown or parliament to get people to put up money for high risk/high reward enterprises. Universal process of corporations did not come about until much later. There were some exceptions, but not very common. I am not familiar with the Frensenius company, but Wikipedia tells me it was not founded until 1912. It's possible the founder was from a long line of local pharmacists who could date back their store to the 1400s. But that would not be the same thing as it existing as a corporation back then. It's just a family run business.

                      Rather than try to shoehorn PENTEX back in the Middle Ages, I think you need to come up with things appropriate for that era. What are you trying to do?

                      There are some large scale commercial enterprises back then. But they'd be based on partnerships, not corporations. And mostly limited to trading. There's also family banks in some Italian cities. If all you need is some sort of sinister cabal with lots of money, you can go there. They bring in some strange idol from the east that dates back to Rome or earlier. Occult hi-jincks ensues. Or you could look at some of the larger city merchant or artisan guilds.

                      If you want something more like a group that unleashes some kind of evil from the earth, I'd just pick some local mine where the miners digged somewhere they shouldn't. If you need more like that, some Bane controls this group of miners, and sends them outward separately to mine new places to free more banes.

                      If you want something where people are dealing with otherworldly entities to make pacts and create fomori, I wouldn't use a business at all. But make it some kind of witches or warlocks coven, or group of learned scholars utilizing some lost manuscript from the Classical era. Scholars could be professors at a medieval university, early alchemists, secluded monks, or an individual collector. Magic potions and poisons can be used as the basis for creating fomori instead of industrial pollution. In legend, the nymph Scylla was turned into a monster by someone poisoning a spring where she bathed.

                      If you are looking for some large group that could be involved in many things like this under one roof, I'd just use the Circle of Red as mentioned in Dark Ages: Werewolf.

                      Comment


                      • Thank you for the ideas, everyone.


                        "Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger."

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by No One of Consequence View Post
                          SIREN COSMETICS
                          One of the more obscure companies, as the only time they've really been mentioned is in the Enticer fomori breed write up in the various editions of Book of the Wyrm. (For purposes of this thread, I'm treating them like they're there own company; it's entirely possible they could just be a brand name/subsidiary of Young & Smith the way CoverGirl was with Procter & Gamble.)
                          A bit late in the day, however Siren do get some write up in Project Twilight (p72-100).

                          Comment


                          • Originally posted by Black Fox View Post
                            Business corporations did not really exist in the Middle Ages. As legal entities distinct from the people who owned them with limited liability (unlike sole proprietorships or partnerships), they really did not come about until the 1600s. And those were special charters created by crown or parliament to get people to put up money for high risk/high reward enterprises. Universal process of corporations did not come about until much later. There were some exceptions, but not very common. I am not familiar with the Frensenius company, but Wikipedia tells me it was not founded until 1912. It's possible the founder was from a long line of local pharmacists who could date back their store to the 1400s. But that would not be the same thing as it existing as a corporation back then. It's just a family run business.

                            Rather than try to shoehorn PENTEX back in the Middle Ages, I think you need to come up with things appropriate for that era. What are you trying to do?

                            There are some large scale commercial enterprises back then. But they'd be based on partnerships, not corporations. And mostly limited to trading. There's also family banks in some Italian cities. If all you need is some sort of sinister cabal with lots of money, you can go there. They bring in some strange idol from the east that dates back to Rome or earlier. Occult hi-jincks ensues. Or you could look at some of the larger city merchant or artisan guilds.

                            If you want something more like a group that unleashes some kind of evil from the earth, I'd just pick some local mine where the miners digged somewhere they shouldn't. If you need more like that, some Bane controls this group of miners, and sends them outward separately to mine new places to free more banes.

                            If you want something where people are dealing with otherworldly entities to make pacts and create fomori, I wouldn't use a business at all. But make it some kind of witches or warlocks coven, or group of learned scholars utilizing some lost manuscript from the Classical era. Scholars could be professors at a medieval university, early alchemists, secluded monks, or an individual collector. Magic potions and poisons can be used as the basis for creating fomori instead of industrial pollution. In legend, the nymph Scylla was turned into a monster by someone poisoning a spring where she bathed.

                            If you are looking for some large group that could be involved in many things like this under one roof, I'd just use the Circle of Red as mentioned in Dark Ages: Werewolf.
                            They made a big deal in their marketing materials about being founded in 1444, but they probably weren’t technically a corporation back then.


                            “No one holds command over me. No man, no god, no Prince. Call your damn Hunt. We shall see who I drag screaming down to hell with me.” The last Ahrimane says this when Mithras calls a Blood Hunt against her. She/her (I saw the Chief Technology Officer for a big company do this so I guess I’ll do it too).

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by Penelope View Post

                              They made a big deal in their marketing materials about being founded in 1444, but they probably weren’t technically a corporation back then.
                              They could've been a merchant house, which would be the closest thing in the business world at that time. Maybe part of a larger association, such as the Hanseatic League or the League of Rhenish Towns.


                              Freelance Writer and Storyteller's Vault contributor. Find my work here: http://www.storytellersvault.com/ind...liate_id=17903

                              Comment


                              • Originally posted by Jackob View Post

                                They could've been a merchant house, which would be the closest thing in the business world at that time. Maybe part of a larger association, such as the Hanseatic League or the League of Rhenish Towns.
                                Maybe a merchant house


                                “No one holds command over me. No man, no god, no Prince. Call your damn Hunt. We shall see who I drag screaming down to hell with me.” The last Ahrimane says this when Mithras calls a Blood Hunt against her. She/her (I saw the Chief Technology Officer for a big company do this so I guess I’ll do it too).

                                Comment

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