Tuesday, April 19, 2011

unemployed and in despair

Unemployed and in despair:

"Brian Goodell, of Mission Viejo, Calif., won two gold medals in the 1976 Olympics. An all-American, God-fearing golden boy, he segued into a comfortable career in commercial real estate. Until 2008, when he was laid off. As a 17-year-old swimmer, he set two world records. As a 52-year-old job hunter, he's drowning.

Brock Johnson, of Philadelphia, was groomed at Harvard Business School and McKinsey & Co., and was so sure of his marketability that he resigned in 2009 as CEO of a Fortune 500 company without a new job in hand. Johnson, who asked that his real name not be used, was certain his BlackBerry would be buzzing off its holster with better offers. At 48, he's still unemployed.

Two coasts. Two men who can't find jobs. And one defining moment for the men in the gray flannel suits who used to run this country. Or at least manage it. Capitalism has always been cruel to its castoffs, but those blessed with a college degree and blue-chip résumé have traditionally escaped the worst of it. In recessions past, they've kept their jobs or found new ones as easily as they might hail a cab or board the 5:15 to White Plains. But not this time.

The suits are "doing worse than they have at any time since the Great Depression," says Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute. And while economists don't have fine-grain data on the number of these men who are jobless—many, being men, would rather not admit to it—by all indications this hitherto privileged demo isn't just on its knees, it's flat on its face. Maybe permanently. Once college-educated workers hit 45, notes a post on the professional-finance blog Calculated Risk, "if they lose their job, they are toast."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

two pleasantly bleak quotes from Wallace's The Pale King

"I'm talking about the individual US citizen's deep fear, the same basic fear that you and I have and that everybody has except nobody ever talks about it except existentialists in convoluted French prose. Or Pascal. Our smallness, our insignificance and mortality, yours and mine, the thing that we all spend all our time not thinking about directly, that we are tiny and at the mercy of large forces and that time is always passing and that every day we've lost one more day that will never come back and our childhoods are over and our adolescence and the vigor of youth and soon our adulthood, that everything we see around us all the time is decaying and passing, it's all passing away, and so are we, so am I, and given how fast the first forty-two years have shot by it's not going to be long before I too pass away, whoever imagined that there was a more truthful way to put it than `die,' `pass away,' the very sound of it makes me feel the way I feel at dusk on a wintry Sunday--"

"And not only that, but everybody who knows me or even knows I exist will die, and then everybody who knows those people and might even conceivably have even heard of me will die, and so on, and the gravestones and monuments we spend money to have put in to make sure we're remembered, these'll last what--a hundred years? two hundred?---and they'll crumble, and the grass and insects my decomposition will go to feed will die, and their offspring, or if I'm cremated the trees that are nourished by my windblown ash will die or get cut down and decay, and my urn will decay, and before maybe three or four generations it will be like I never existed, not only will I have passed away but it will be like I was never here, and people in 2104 or whatever will no more think of Stuart A. Nichols Jr. than you or I think of John T. Smith, 1790 to 1864, of Livingston, Virginia, or some such. That everything is on fire, slow fire, and we're all less than a million breaths away from an oblivion more total than we can even bring ourselves to even try to imagine, in fact, probably that's why the manic US obsession with production, produce, produce, impact the world, shape things, to help distract us from how little and totally insignificant and temporary we are."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Preserving an impossible past

Preserve the buildings, but remember a truer past.
This month's issue of Garden & Gun takes a look at Gone: A Photographic Plea for Preservation, and we could hardly rip our occulators from the strangely beautiful images of decaying homes, churches, and iconic landmarks of the Old South.

Nell Dickerson's lush photography creates a haunting cyclorama  for the reprinting of the late Shelby Foote's short story, Pillar of Fire.  (View a promotional video from the publisher.)

As Southerners, we are repulsed and fascinated by the ironic train wreck of our history and culture.  Dickerson's wounding vision documents the erosion of iconic civil-war era structures in sweet, melancholy compositions that contrast powerfully with the Gone With the Wind inspired ideal of a South that never existed.  Romancing an era that willfully caused millions of Americans such misery is the vulgar irony of Southern gentility, but we support preservation of these iconic mansions, cabins, and churches to keep the conversation alive for future generations.

Perhaps they will be sufficiently distant from their past to reject its impossibilities in favor of a truer remembering.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The brainwashing game

Marley was always a critic.
Please don't call us fascists, but in the mornings... well... we like to listen to NPR for some good ol' lefty propaganda.  You know, those are the guys who heap praise on the be-nice-to-each-other, respect-everyone, save-the-planet, use-your-brain, ride-a-train socialist agenda.  Normally, we prefer to have our self-centered WASPy world view unchallenged by the refreshingly unbiased, everything-is-ok-except-for-the-smart-ass-commies-who-say-it-isn't, your-mother-was-a-socialist-for-making-you-share-with-your-little-sister reporting from the insightful commentators at FOX News.  But on some mornings, we like to see how the other side lives. Also, we think that Renee Montagne is hot.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Virtual Victims: PTSD brought to you in HD

Photo by christiancarron2000@flickr
Sometimes, information is a bitch.  Consider the young woman living in an isolated and primitive culture, media-blind and blissfully ignorant of the atrocities, natural and man-made, that afflict humankind.  She and her kin may not know that last month, Mother Nature shrugged off the coast of Japan, killing thousands and setting up a series of calamities that are only just now being eclipsed in the U.S. news by coverage of violent uprisings in the Middle East and the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Site of the Week

Abandoned buildings, theme-parks, and factories describe the flip-side of human endeavor and we admit that we find it difficult to drag our hungry eyeballs off these images of rotting corpus metropoli.

After even the vultures have gone, what we have left has been skillfully captured in soulful images like these at the Broom Factory, bleakday's site of the week.

What, me worry?

Few would accuse Go Daddy co-founder Bob Parsons of being an idiot.  When the globe-trotting millionaire hunter was attacked in the global press for killing an endangered African elephant, he fought back using the medium he knows so well.

Just trying to help.
Parsons released a video describing the plight of Zimbabwean farmers whose crops are often trampled by marauding elephants.  The video shows a flattened sorghum field and tells how a local farmer pleaded with Parsons, his hunting team, and videographers (who just happened to be in the area) to take care of his problem.  Leaning on the dead elephant's shoulder, Bob was photographed smiling, with his gun on its head, flush with the joy of adding his name to the long list of white men who have come to the aid of the thankful African.  The villagers, who have no means of killing elephants themselves, ate the meat without forks and turned the tusks into plowshares.  So, not to worry... everything is alright after all.

Yes, few people call Bob an idiot, but he is pretty sure you are.

The Second Coming, hold the anchovies

Way back in the 20th Century, American aviator John Gillespie piloted his Spitfire high above the British countryside to touch the face of God.  We have often tried to imagine Pilot Officer Gillespie's cockpit rapture during our own flights, gazing, like gods in our own right, upon the earth miles below.   However, inspiration is difficult to come by in coach-class.

It is perhaps evidence of humankind's desperate hunger for meaning that we discover divinity in mundane places.  While we may never fly ourselves into the heavens to touch the face of God, we can always call Dominos and eat a slice of the second member of the Trinity.  Strange communion indeed.

Friday, April 1, 2011

B-Movie, Ishtar producers love illegal downloaders

What is a studio to do when they have a dog in the can and no hope of raking in bundle$ from the normal venues of theatrical release, DVD, syndication, and merchandising?

Let the dog run wild.
Not to worry: with nearly 2 billion people riding the Internet, the odds are that at least a few thousand rubes around the world will download your embarrassing intellectual property without your permission.  In the past, the Motion Picture Association of America has taken a hard stand against those who used file-sharing services to bypass the box office.

But, times, they are a'changing: studios are discovering that if you can't persuade viewers to burn a sawbuck to see their movies, they can instead take their cars, homes, and college savings by suing the daylights out of them when they pilfer a copy from the Intertubes.  The economics are interesting: the contents of the average wallet are small 'taters compared to the value of a downloader's entire net worth.

Nobody likes a bully

Flush with hubris sanctimonius, politicians seeking to use their state budget crises to settle old labor scores are discovering that their efforts are uniting professors in state colleges and breathing new vitality into the very movement they hope to kill.

When The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point faculty voted 283-15 to unionize, they demonstrated the kind of solidarity that groups can achieve only when threatened.

Governor Scott Walker thinks that he and Wisconsin are leading the nation on the issue of bargaining rights for government employees.

If that is true, we can only hope that governors in other states had teachers who taught them that bullies never win.