brucekluger.com

    The Los Angeles Times, December 9, 2002

    Commentary
    America to Enron: We'd Like to Buy a Vowel

    By Bruce Kluger


    Americansnever a gang to shy from the delicate
    art of grave-pickingproved themselves to be
    savvy holiday shoppers last week by grabbing up
    vestiges of the bankrupt Enron Corporation at
    auction. In the second of three planned white sales,
    an avalanche of items was put on the block, then
    flew off the shelves at bargain rates: Fancy office
    furniture went for a song, as did computer
    equipment, 60-inch plasma TVs, even a foosball
    table.

    But the most prized lot among collectors was a
    handful of Enron logo sculpturesfeaturing the
    now-infamous tilted E (or, as some have smirkingly
    labeled it, "the crooked E").

    A computer store employee bought a 5-by-5-foot stainless steel E that stood guard
    outside an Enron branch office, paying $44,000; a Houston chemist snagged a
    similar E for $10,000; and an unidentified guy in a silver Ferrari snapped up the
    disco version of the lettera rotating black E whose colorful neons once lighted up
    Enron's lobbyfor 33 grand.

    Although I'm confident that these alphabetical artifacts will make delightful
    conversation pieces, perhaps Enron could have burnished what remains of its
    stained image by not selling these items but instead donating them to those who
    really need a giant E in their lives, such as:

    eBay: Currently the world's premiere online auction company, eBay successfully
    survived the bubble burst that vanquished most of the e-traders, e-tailers and
    mixed e-nuts that once crowded the electronic corridors of the Internet. Now that it's
    playing in the big leagues, however, shouldn't eBaylittle e, big B is the company's
    stylefinally reward itself with a big E? Little boys ultimately graduate to long pants,
    after all; and it's not as though corporate logos don't adapt to changing times. The
    New England Patriots snazzed up their helmets and won the Super Bowl; Coca-Cola
    hopes to boost sales by adding condensation bubbles to its classic red-and-white
    ribbon insignia. Similarly, wouldn't eBay command more authority as EBay? Just call
    it a simple typeface lift.

    President Bush: One thing that really bothers me about our president is his
    inability to pronounce the word "nuclear" correctly. Instead, he proudly says "nuke-
    yoo-lar," a flagrant error that would rattle me whoever the speaker might be but is
    doubly disturbing when spoken by the guy who's got his finger on the button. Still, if
    someone from the White House could arrange to install one of the leftover Enron
    E's directly adjacent to Bush's desk in the Oval Office, perhaps it would serve as a
    subtle reminder to the president that the correct pronunciation is "nuke-LEE-ar."
    (Or, to paraphrase The Music Man, "it's a capital E and that rhymes with 'lee' and
    that stands for boom.")

    Public education: Face it, the American school system isn't getting any better, as
    grade-point averages and classroom attendance drop faster than Al Roker's pants
    size. But we're wasting time trying to slow this academic free fall by tinkering with
    standardized tests and dubious voucher programs. Instead, why not update the
    classic grading systemthe old A, B, C, D, F formulaby adding another letter to
    the lineup? I think high schoolers would thrive if permitted one more level of poor
    performance (marked by a leaning E) before flunking out entirely.

    In fact, using the real Enron fiasco as a model, teachers would simply suspend
    tilted-E students, and perhaps even offer them severance packages. And if this
    helped nudge the nation's school system back on course, maybe we could then
    bring in ex-Arthur Andersen executives to teach the kids the new math.

    Eminem: I've always assumed that the reason I never listen to Eminem is because
    1) I'm 46 years old, and 2) I despise rap music. Yet on further reflection, maybe the
    reason the potty-mouthed rap master leaves me cold is because his name just lies
    there, flatter than the notes he croaks out between expletives. But maybe if Eminem
    began his name with that familiar cockeyed E, I'd be curious enough to give a few of
    his disks a spin. Indeed, such a transformation might persuade Eminem himself to
    imbue his lyrics with more pointed social commentary, perhaps even about
    corporate corruption in America today. After all, no one at Enron seems interested
    in taking the rap.