Monthly Archives: December 2009

Why Does Jim DeMint (R-SC) Hate America?

They ain’t all “Paul Blart”

In the aftermath of 9/11, it was recognized that airline safety — and by extension, the safety of American civilians — was not being well-served by the private security services employed exclusively by airlines and airports in the years leading up to 9/11. As cut-throat as the third-party contractors who notoriously locked their employees in Walmart overnight, private security was maybe one step more dignified than outsourced janitorial services, just not as well paid.

Thus was born the idea of the TSA. The logic for the federal government taking control of airport security was simple and straightforward: if airport security workers became federal workers — with all the rights and privileges of federal workers, including the right to form or join one of the unions that represent other federal employees — the job would attract a better calibre of candidate.
TSA screeners would not just make better wages and enjoy benefits and job security not offered your typical mall cop. No, TSA screeners would be “true professionals,” and recognized as civil servants, with opportunities to graduate to jobs as park rangers, FBI, Secret Service, or accountants at GSA (should that be their goal). In the absence of this rationale, there was simply, no other reason for the government to take over the job of providing airport security.
But Congressional Republicans have for decades been so hell-bent on breaking unions — so opposed, generally, to the economic and social mechanisms that brought us the relative economic equality and widely shared prosperity of the “Greatest Generation” — that, national security be damned, they insisted TSA employees never be allowed to unionize, nor to ever otherwise enjoy the wide range of benefits typically enjoyed by federal civil servants. While calling into question Democrats’ patriotism and willingness to fight the “global war on terrorism” — because Democrats at the time made a half-hearted stand to create the TSA jobs as originally envisioned — those same Congressional Republicans in fact permanently compromised our vital national security, creating a new underclass of sub-federal employees, all in the name of busting unions and hating the “gub-mint.”
As a result, the very point of creating TSA in the first place was contravened. And instead we enjoy the morass of airport security as we experience it today, where minimally skilled workers, paid sub-standard wages, and stuck in the ultimate dead-end job, inflict misery on the traveling public in ever increasing doses, while doing little or nothing to improve airline security.
President Obama and his proposed appointee to head the TSA, former FBI agent Erroll Southers, are absolutely right to try and correct this situation, and welcome low-level TSA employees fully into the family of federal employees. But Republican demogoguery has once again reared its head, most notably in the person of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who refuses to let Southers’ nomination go foward. And even in light of last week’s failed penis bombing, Senator DeMint is ready to hold national security hostage to his dreams of a world where every sweat shop is free:
We can only hope that part of what “change” means is that, despite the hysteria surrounding the recent terrorist attempt, DeMint will be called out for the American-hating pimple that he is. There are some signs that Democrats will stand up for the principle of making the necessary changes at TSA — including civil service status and union membership if employees so desire — long overdue at TSA, and which may, after nearly a decade, begin the process of creating a truly professional security apparatus for air travelers. South Carolina Democrats have certainly been pulling no punches:
We can only hope Congressional Democrats will show the same spine demonstrated by their South Carolina brethren, and finally ask the all-important question: “Why Does Jim DeMint hate America?”

Mendelssohn, Mahler and Me — a Christmas Story

[Launch the video below for your musical accompaniment to this post]

Joseph Turner, Westminster Abbey interior

What? You wanted Christmas without a little agita? You must have mistaken me for somebody else.

Three little Jewish choir boys. A Lutheran from Berlin named Mendelssohn; a Catholic from Vienna named Mahler; an Episcopalian from New York named Fleisig. Mendelssohn, who among other perhaps more important gifts of timeless sacred Christian music, is responsible for the seasonal earworm known as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Mahler, whose “Resurrection” and Eighth Symphonies manifest musically the tensions in his own life between the sacred and profane, the earthly and the ethereal, the flesh and the spirit; between mud and sky; who for all the world seemed to have renounced his disengaged Jewish identity in favor of Catholicism out of  purely career motives, but who nevertheless discovered in this very act of renunciation a creative dialectic that drove his greatest works.

And me who, rescued, so to speak, at the age of nine, from the banalities of a lower-middle class upbringing in New York City’s most perpetually striving borough of Queens, to sing with what The New Yorker calls “the best Anglican choir in the country,” a commitment that involved leaving home and living instead at the church’s choir school, a world enwombed by a church in the first throes of the identity crisis that today threatens to tear it asunder. St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in 1968 was in many ways the same place it is today: a cathedral in all but name, the crowning accomplishment of the neo-gothic architect Ralph Adams Cram, the wealthiest Episcopal parish in the United States. It is a place, as the New York Times describes it, of:

elaborate liturgy, rich music, sumptuous visuals…. The architecture, by Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, is flamboyantly Gothic; the stained glass, now under conservation, superb. The church’s great altar screen, 80 feet tall and filigreed with figures, is Zeffirellian in size and impact, complementing the forceful singing of the St. Thomas Choir.

But in other ways, the church in 1968 was in the midst of profound institutional crisis and change. The studied liberalism that has become synonymous with mainstream Protestant churches — including, now, St. Thomas itself — was little in evidence then, especially in contrast to the parish’s own diocesan cathedral, its notoriously liberal and social activist uptown brother, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. At St. Thomas in 1968, despite a constantly declining congregration, Jeans, facial hair and the poor, generally, were greatly discouraged. Negroes were tolerated up to the point that they manifested a more or less de rigeur middle class church-lady affect (or were the mothers or aunts of fellow choristers). St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue was such a well-known symbol of what remained of America’s East Coast WASP establishment, that as the late 60s progressed, evacuating under bomb threat during a service or concert became almost routine. (Today, ironically, African-American and gay congregants, warmly received now, are the new backbone and lifeblood of the parish.)

Choristers of Westminster Abbey

And in this milieu, in this place, a child, a curious little Jewish New Yorker from the wrong side of the Queensborough Bridge who, for four performances and  six rehearsals a week, literally sang for his supper: I, made my spiritual and physical home. And no time of the year was more uplifting, yet fraught with hard work and spiritual and intellectual misgivings, than Christmas. The most daunting service and concert schedule, several performances a day sometimes, with little time for presents or even sleep. Shot through with my own religious conflicts, and a burgeoning awareness — and a longing to join in, of course — of the social disruptions racing around the nearby streets; Moondog and Janish Joplin talking on the corner of 6th Avenue; Sly Stone staying at the Warwick hotel, limousine liberalism ascendant, a mad dash to man some invisible barricade. Still, joyous too, with the hope of family and a week’s vacation to come at the end.

Quite divorced from any contemplation of the Christ child as either sacred object or historical artifact, to me the meaning not just of Christmas, but of spirit, faith, mystery — of very life itself — was then and still is today most magnificently expressed in the sacred choral music in the German and English traditions. The voices of boy choristers are, then, to me, like the voice of g*d herself. And that can come anytime, if I put myself in the place to receive it — a recent winter’s evensong at Westminster Abbey, notably, where a weak white winter sun shone on the famous chiaruscuro floor, and two boy sopranos sang a Mendelssohn duet, the spirit of that most-Jewish-and-yet-not composer once again giving voice to … what, exactly? And without being able to frame it intellectually there wells up in me what I can only describe as a living spirit — what for me stands for the true meaning of Christmas; neither sacred nor profane, but a nativity of both spirit and body without conflict or contour. And it has a purity — in the liturgical analogy, while the Christmas story carries a hint of tragedy, the coming passion of the Christ as the controlling metaphor for the human condition never completely out of sight — it brings, like every birth and rebirth, a hope that is the hope of Christians at Christmas, as it is the hope of the Jews on the New Year, as it is the hope of the world. That off chance that, just this one time, we won’t screw it all up.

And there it is — my wish for all this Christmas season — let’s try together, one more time, to not screw it up. To sing just the right notes. To get through the score. To hit all the high notes. To cheat tragedy and death together, or at least, if we cannot defeat them, to face them (as I said to a dear friend recently) with dignity and integrity. 

One last note: this was going to be a post about the question of whether Mendelssohn’s, Mahler’s and my experiences of being, in effect, Jewish musicians in these dominantly Christian cultures was ultimately examples of an invidious and centuries-old processs of conversion and assimilation, opportunities for social mobility, or merely selfishness on the part of a couple of perfidious and ambitious “bad” Jews. I leave that for your contemplation — and perhaps a future post.

Meanwhile, Christmas breakfast is waiting on this tardy blogger, so off we must go.

Why we still love English newspapers

Guardian columnist Peter Preston

Guardian columnist Peter Preston takes a whack at electronic Christmas cards, impossible privatized trains, and the effects of a little snow on the “industrial action” class:

Meanwhile – second grouch – I’m on an excruciatingly slow local train from St Pancras while a few snowflakes fall. “We’re sorry for these delays,” says a disembodied apologist as full carriages sit and shiver, doors open, at Elephant and Castle. “We are waiting for a relief driver so that we can move forward on our journey to Sutton.” Move forward? Happy prospect! On yet another “journey”? X Factor crooners, like Strictly come prancers, go on “incredible journeys”. Finish bottom, and they must find other ways of “moving forward” with their disappointed lives. But between despair and Loughborough Junction, none of the jargon quite fits. It’s more marketing speak when they should be telling the relief guy to get a move on – or at least shut the bloody door.

“Between despair and Loughborough Junction” has got to be among my favorite phrases of the year. Puts anything Andy Rooney’s written recently to shame.

And, well, on that cynical and curmudgeonly note – HAPPY HOLIDAYS everybody! — a peaceful and prosperous New Year’s to all!

Gone shopping

All you can say is, Wow!

I’m one of those guys that love shopping. My wife can throw her hands up and declare, “there’s just nothing for me here,” but set me loose in Loehmann’s or Neiman Marcus Last Call and I’ll come back to her within half an hour with a year’s worth of must-have wardrobe pieces.

So it’s with a heavy heart (all apologies to LBJ, and gravitas generally) that I ponder this year’s Christmas gift budget. which is virtually non-existent. Last year, one set of nieces and nephews were nicely blown away with Guitar Hero Band Edition, and the wife and I thought nothing of the prices at American Doll Place. Even though I don’t really know how much use the radio controlled Ferrari Enzo actually got during the subsequent year, it certainly looked great under the tree, the aluminum briefcase it came in very, very Mad Men.
So what is the reaction going to be to an “official” Mark Sanchez nerf football, or the “hey ain’t that arty” Tangram play set? It’s harder than I imagine to dream up cool presents in the $25 price range. But the nieces and nephews are still young enough that in the past they seemed less impressed by expensive gifts than their parents. With brownies and playmates galore distracting them, the gifts generally didn’t catch their imagination immediately. Although they were clearly appreciative.
So, kids. Gear up for your first big lesson in anti-materialism. Hey, if I can learn to live with it, so can you, right?

Something to smile about this moneyless Christmas

Radio Shack’s — sorry, that’s “The Shack” to you buster — improbably clever new multi-channel ad campaign.

The Shack is unexpectedly well positioned as a retailer of the less expensive electronics that are flying off the shelves this year — smartphones, PDAs, netbooks, Flips, cheap cameras. Why drag all the way down to the mall for something that only costs $99? Your retrograde Shack store is in some low-rent strip mall near you. And as we all keep our electronic devices just a little longer and longer, they’re also positioned as a reliable source for replacement parts, upgrades and repairs.

So it’s no accident that The Shack has suddenly emerged all over TV, with a very clever series of :15s. And no accident either that they’ve created a YouTube channel with all the executions. (We are hoping they were following Alan’s first rule of emarketing: Even if your Internet ad buy doesn’t cost a lot of money, you still have to bring your A game.) Cisco’s own Flip rebranding don’t hold a candle. From what I can glean from exactly ten seconds of Googling, The Shack’s new (as of April 2009) agency of record is Butler, Shine, Stern and Partners. While still not a Susan Boyle-level viral marketing home run, this is first-rate work, dudes.

Lance What's-His-Name Previews the Team Radio Shack Jersey

And don’t forget, either, that The Shack is now the inheritor — as name sponsor — of the US Postal Service/Discovery Channel cycling team that will feature at least 2 of the favorites for the 2010 Tour de France and other major cycling races — Lance What’s-His-Name and Levi Leipheimer. It will be interesting if they can leverage the ongoing Lance saga — especially if Lance outperforms athletically in the coming season — in ways that the USPS and Discovery Channel never did, and continue to revive a brand that until very recently was deeply mired in the past. Or worse, subject to the cruelest form of slacker ridicule.

Since she’s in the photo business, “Oh Snap,” below, is my wife’s favorite Shack execution:

Craigslist assholes

I’m adding a new category to this blog. I’ve been meaning to do it for ages. It is for assholes advertising for unpaid “interns” to do creative work for free.

I’m not talking about people hiring “interns” at $10 or $15 an hour. Most of these are real, entry-level jobs. But there are a bunch of asshats out there, and they ask in their ads for things like “15 years web experience” (chuckle chuckle), or Creative Suite “pros,” then go on to say, “well, we can’t pay you, but this is a great portfolio-building opportunity.”

I’m hoping to post some of the most egregious “intern” requests regularly, as I continue to scour the Internets for paying work. Some recent examples should suffice to get us started:

Graphic Design / Web Intern (East Village)

Date: 2009-12-05, 11:49AM EST
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]


Television producer looking for a graphic designer with HTML / CSS skills for a really fun project. This project is pitch & pilot for a comedy series for adults featuring puppets for the [adult swim] type crowd. The first four shorts are currently in post-production and will be pitched to networks and branded entertainment partners and be submitted to festivals.

I need someone to create web graphics from existing footage, logo design and web page design. The ideal candidate is comfortable with HTML and CSS and able to prep, slice and post. There are also graphic design needs for the first batch of shorts including title treatments, designing cutaways to computer screens with fake websites, as well as some background design as the footage is shot on green screen.

This is a great opportunity to for the right candidate who wants to gain exposure in the entertainment field. Credit will be given on the website.

Please reply with a link to your portfolio website.

  • Compensation: Unpaid Internship, Credit will be given
  • Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
  • Please, no phone calls about this job!

PostingID: 1496148185

Wow. This person has actually confused college “credit” with getting a “credit” on his yet-to-exist website. Let me go spend the next six months working on this hot project, eh?

Creative Intern Needed (Chelsea)

Date: 2009-12-04, 5:25PM EST
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]


About ‘mktg’:
Headquartered in New York with offices in Cincinnati, San Francisco, Chicago, and Toronto, ‘mktg’ is among the leading marketing and sales promotion companies in North America. ‘mktg’s platform of core competencies and promotional expertise is supported by US Concepts. With a broad list of blue chip clients across a range of categories and distribution channels, ‘mktg’ is nationally recognized as a best-in-class competitor.
Job Description:
Work closely with the Art Director and Traffic Manager of a very busy event marketing agency with well-known clients.

You will assist the CD in print design layout, illustrations / renderings of events as well as on-going production responsibilities. The right candidate will be creative and detail oriented and will possess a strong work ethic.

You must be a Mac lover, and be completely proficient using Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. Basic knowledge of PowerPoint, Indesign, Excel and Word is beneficial.

Some of the responsibilities include:

• Layout of print collateral, such as invitations, ads, program books, POS, collateral materials, event renderings.
• Preparing files for printing (In-depth knowledge of printing procedures and requirements is mandatory)
• Proofreading including possessing excellent grammatical skills
• Researching online photo banks and downloading photography
• Taking direction from Creative Director while working well independently
• Juggling multiple jobs at one time and meeting tight deadline

Intern Requirements:
● Preferably has or is currently pursuing an Undergraduate or Graduate degree
● Must be proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Internet

Positions Available:
1 unpaid internship

Location: New York, NY
Compensation: Unpaid and/or College Credit

PostingID: 1495257186

Yeah. Sounds like an “intern” to me, eh? One of the “leading marketing and sales promotion companies in North America” needs to have its marketing collateral created by some schmuck for free? I can’t wait!

Fortunately, some folks are starting to get equally pissed off about this, and there is a bit of a Cragislist backlash brewing:

Artist Strike (NYC)

Date: 2009-12-05, 4:32PM EST
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

Artists, Illustrators, Photogs, Graphic designers…I’m posting this to pledge allegiance with all of you. Do not work for free – and more – avoid working for exaggerated low rates or so called internships. If you are a student, there should be more than enough resources at your school to present internship possibilities.

If you have an interest in a project that can’t pay you right away – suggest to the poster that you may be interested in signing on as an equity partner. Meaning you are going into a business arrangement with them that can benefit you somewhere down the line.

If you are really itching to get some new work out there, try a collaboration with some other creative working in a complimentary form – graphics people need photographers, illustrators need zine or small press publishers, etc…

So often I see posters asking for interns, and then go on to offer a JOB description in the body of the post. Legally an internship is supposed to benefit the intern in her or his area of interest. For the business owner, this creates a highly qualified candidate for their particular business. That’s the way it was done for hundred of years, and it works.

Contrary to popular belief, art, expression, and creativity are extremely important. This people that belittle your work with comments like: ” if you are good with ( insert medium here ), it shouldn’t take much time!” Are fucking dreamers, to be frank. If their business is legit and really going places, paying for distinctive quality work will not be a problem, trust.

Best of luck to you all, and hello to the other art and craftspeople posting below me!

PostingID: 1496632176

Internships (Everywhere)

Date: 2009-12-06, 10:42PM EST
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

Its remarkable, how artists are perceived as these childlike, carefree souls; free of financial obligations, willing to take any project for free in the hopes that one day we might actually be tossed a bone or two for doing what we live to do, creating art; which apparently has no real world value. Artists apparently inhabit this juvenile fantasy world without families to support, student loans to pay off, groceries to buy, children to support, utilities to pay, and in fact, most of us have families who subsidize our eccentric lifestyles. It seems our abilities are so insignificant in the real world, that we should be grateful for any opportunity; unpaid, tiny stipend, (we’ll pay for materials and buy some beer), just to be able to pursue our irresponsible bohemian lifestyle. Its mind boggling, the number of unpaid internship ads that require very unique and advanced skill sets. Its been stated in the ads; ad nauseam, that these will be wonderful portfolio building opportunities, that could lead to other paying jobs. The harsh reality is that this only perpetuates the idea that there will always be someone available to work for free. Why should they be willing to pay next time if its perceived that there will always be an artist out there willing to do anything to feed their need to be creative, paid or not. In fact every aspect of our society is heavily reliant on art, from the art hanging in innumerable museums, the beautiful architecture around you, to the graphics and illustrations on cereal boxes. Art sells products. Art creates the ambiance in restaurants and churches. Fellow artists, don’t be fooled into believing your time is not as valuable as the plumber. or electrician or the numerous entrepeneurs starting clothing companies who’s success relies on the eye catching art, you provide. Stop taking these freebies, and people will have to start paying a fair wage. The only experience you will receive from doing free work is the experience of getting screwed and wasting your time.
  • Location: Everywhere
  • it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
  • Compensation: fair wages


PostingID: 1498332456

I’ve really come across some gems; as I come across them in the future, I will share the best in more occasional “Craigslist assholes” posts.

Time to sell Apple?

I hate to sound so cynical — you would be too if you lived through the bursting of the original “tech and internet bubble,” the first of our great asset inflations — but when I hear a Morgan Stanley analyst compare today’s Apple to late 90s AOL and Microsoft, my instinct would be to run in the opposite direction, as quickly as possible. (Such a strategy would have made you a rich and happy camper in the Spring of 2000.)

“Apple changed the view of what you can do with that small phone in your back pocket,” says Katy Huberty, a Morgan Stanley analyst. “Applications make the smartphone trend a revolutionary trend — one we haven’t seen in consumer technology for many years.”

Ms. Huberty likens the advent of the App Store and the iPhone to AOL’s pioneering role in driving broad-based consumer adoption of the Internet in the 1990s. She also draws comparisons to ways in which laptops have upended industry assumptions about consumer preferences and desktop computing. But, she notes, something even more profound may now be afoot.

“The iPhone is something different. It’s changing our behavior,” she says. “The game that Apple is playing is to become the Microsoft of the smartphone market.”

Edit: By the way, who in world has ever carried a cell phone “in their back pocket?”

CA anti-cyclist road rager convicted!

One for the good guys!

Despicable Mandeville Canyon/ER doctor road rager (see our earlier coverage here) who purposefully rode down two cyclists earlier this year was found guilty on all counts yesterday in a California courtroom.

Full coverage in Velonation is here. Dr. Christopher Thompson is being held without bail, and faces up to 10 years in jail. Cyclist Ron Peterson, who still has no sensation on his nose and other parts of his face which were severed in the incident, is quoted as saying he’s “happy justice has been served,” and hopes the case will highlight “how vulnerable cyclists are out there.” For these quotes, and an excellent overview of this whole case, see last night’s NPR All Things Considered coverage here.

For too long, the notion that one could, with complete legal impunity, cause all kinds of murder and mayhem behind the wheel of a car, then simply call it an “accident,” has left cyclists and pedestrians vulnerable and legally powerless. Bus ran over your head? Oops, sorry, it was just an accident!

This case will hopefully set a national precedent, that anger behind the wheel does not translate into a license to kill. One can only hope courts in New York State are listening.