Archives for posts with tag: the new economy

Shrewd subalterns rise to the top of the meritocracy by telling us about the lie, and living it large. By being Eddie Said, tall, tan, and terrific in Savile Row tweeds, throwing stones at the Israelis’ wall, stifling Carolyn Heilbrun, and conferring an agency on Jane Austen never imagined by the generations of white sexist professors when Said, the brown one, said The Gentle Author was a tool of British imperialism. The lie, for women of my class, is more easily apprehensible than it is for the men, and if it comes through, it is apprehended in epiphanies about life at the top.

Said’s revolutionary 1978 book, which invented post-colonial and subaltern studies.

The lie is basically that progress is inevitable, and that if you work hard enough, keep all your teeth, speak business English, dress like them in chinos, blue button downs, and Top Siders, you will get a good job. Which will procure a trophy woman and trophy children. You will keep both the good job and the expensive woman and the talented children. This isn’t a lie. It happens. The lie is that if you do everything right, you will feel as if you are in the flow, and capitalist society, if not the god of Protestant money management and the prosperity Gospel, will inevitably make you rich and fill your life with abundance. This works for basketball players the way it does for George W. Bush, the benchmark of whose white privilege, lest you forget, was being handed his presidency on a silver platter by the Supreme Court majority his father had confected. God gives you these things if your grandfather was a Senator and you have the stones to run for president on an anti-Washington platform.

Bush v. Gore, 2000.

Creating and getting into the flow of white privilege is what all of us who want to make a living need to do. Your grandpa needs to be a Senator, and I wish you the best of luck with that. For women or people of color, the ’60s generation who intervened in the flow, or just tried to get good jobs, the apprehension of the lie, it seems to me, came in little doses.

Click, as Jane O’Reilly defined, forty years ago,  the moment of revolutionary insight for feminists. I am looking at the typewriter font and pixelated red margins of the six-ply newspaper copy paper on which the editor at the great metropolitan daily newspaper wrote and posted office memos. Between the inch and a half-wide red stripes, with the white silhouettes of spectral sixes glowing in them, he has typed the schedule of who is working weekends. My name is on the list maybe three times more often than the two white boys who were hired the same time I was.

Click. Jane O’Reilly’s cover story for the inaugural issue of Ms. magazine.

Click. I am in the White House press room, which Nixon built over JFK’s notorious swimming pool. I am feeding quarters into the Coca Cola machine and staring at the framed black and white photographs on the wall opposite. They’re of the White House press corps of bygone days, this one sometime during World War Two. Maybe 60 men in fedoras are sitting on a bleacher in front of the Capitol. Their names are written underneath. I read them all, and think, I haven’t heard of any of these people except Merriman Smith. The great UPI reporter had just committed suicide.

Click. The newshens, women who had become reporters in the ’30s. ’40s. and ’50s, who fought like tigers to edit copy at night or cover Pat Nixon, gave all of us our start in the newspaper business. Literally. One of them took me to the White House for the first time to show me how to cover Pat Nixon. Dorothy McCardle was then in her seventies, and had started out in life covering the Lindbergh baby trial and the explosion of the Hindenberg. I once watched her, like Baryshnikov doing sleight-of-body in The Dybbuk, slip through the Secret Service, police and other protection lines to follow Jackie Kennedy on her private tour of the Kennedy Center on the night of its opening. I went to Dorothy’s dentist for 15 years, until an emergency visit to the periodontist revealed he hadn’t been cleaning my teeth, every four months, properly, for nearly a generation.

Click. Another one of the newshens got me good assignments and a $5,000 raise. And one day, may God forgive me, I raised my eyes from my typewriter, and saw her, across the newsroom, approaching 60, breaking her ass over some other Pat Nixon story, and said, if I stay here another minute, I will turn into that. My brilliant black friend, who finally got the job at the New York Times, looked up from her computer one day at a little grey man in a little grey suit killing himself over some other Pat Nixon story, and said to herself, that’s the famous reporter pundit William Boot. This is all there is.

Nixon resigns, by Harry Benson. They also serve who only stand and wait.

And so, when the laid-off executives and retired moguls and the redundant electricians, all those guys who bought it, start complaining that no one invites them out to dinner any more, that people look through them at cocktail parties, that they feel like their cocks fell off, that all their friends departed once they lost the driver/the access/the money/the juice and that bitch of a gold-digging wife, that they know how the n*****s and the s***s feel when they are turned down for the hundreds of jobs they’re applying for, that the charities they volunteer for offer them work picking up dog shit, that they claim, in their eponymous geezer websites, now to be “making art”, though the jay pegs posted show little evidence of it, despite all those weekends off that my ass worked instead of theirs, or, like Leonard Woolf, the radiant stoic, calculate that over the 90 years of his highly productive life he had, in 200,000 hours of labor, produced nothing of lasting value, you know what I think?

I think click.

That’s all there is.

My BBF and I knew it when we were 30 years old. Grow the fuck up.  My BBF also showed me that a real woman pays her own mortgage, through thick and thin. It will make a man of you.  Writes Woolf,

Looking back at the age of eighty-eight over the fifty-seven years of my political work in England, knowing what I aimed at and the results, meditating on the history of Britain and the world since 1914, I see clearly that I achieved practically nothing. The world today and the history of the human anthill during the last fifty-seven years would be exactly the same as it is if I had played pingpong instead of sitting on committees and writing books and memoranda. I have therefore to make the rather ignominious confession to myself and to anyone who may read this book that I must have in a long life ground through between 150,000 and 200,000 hours of perfectly useless work.
— The Journey Not the Arrival Matters, 158.

Virginia and Leonard Woolf.

Poignant, to me, is the book store sticker on the faded paper cover of this hardback book. It says Savile Book Shop, 3236 P St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20007. The Savile closed in 1978;  I was reading Leonard’s observations about work shortly after the publication of the foruth volume of his biography in 1970, and quoting the old socialist in the newspaper by the early ’70s. Working weekends. And nights. Not the best prescription for a marriage.

So it seems as if there would be no surprises, no damage done, to such a person when I started, thirty-two years later, aged 62, to look for work. Again.

To be continued.

I’ve started reading from its beginning the blog of a young father and artist, who makes his living being one, who is also a big foodie. I’ve known two other fine artists well who also lived to cook, and who were wonderful gardeners. I think it’s the same engagement with materiality rather, I submit, than sensuality. Hmm. Marxist materialism?

I was inspired to read this guy’s blog through Punk Domestics, which concept I’m much interested in. The PD blog is basically about DIY preserving — meat, jam, canning. I was hoping it would have more home-made household cleansers and tips. I am interested to know how it differs from the Gen X peak oil survivalist bunkerites and the competitive tiger moms intent on banning all germs, toxins, and vaccinations from the lives of their autistic children before they give up the SUV. One clue is the punks are urban and arguably exogamous.

Artisanal Brooklyn is strongly implied, with rooftop gardening and urban farming , food coops like Rainbow Grocery run by the grey spikes rather than the grey ponytails, ghetto green guerrillas and communitarian gardens implicated. As opposed to bunkers far away from the scary black people.

An Oakland guerrilla green tells her tale.

I am much concerned about humane meat and am pretty much not reassured by Jamie Oliver’s snuff films, the allegation that that famous empath,  Zuckerberg, kills all his own meat and became a man eating chicken gizzards. Now it is alleged he wants to learn to hunt.

I am not reassured by urban farmers growing turkeys and pigs in their own tiny rowhouse back yards. I am often horrified in the punk/survivalist blogs at the ignorant inhumanity with which domestic animals are treated, exposed to every disease and predator by people who don’t have the money for proper feed, fences, pasture, waste management, and veterinarians. And brag about it. I actually called the humane society in a rural Montana county to sic them on people shamelessly abusing goats. I’m trying to figure out how to do it in France.

I am curious about the punk canning mentality.

This young man now makes his own salami and Edam or Gouda cheese, in the tradition of the hippie generation of chefs like Paul Bertolli, who Italified Chez Panisse,  and the Gen X granny chefs like Mario Batali, Manhattan’s hot chef, whose father retired after 30 years at Boeing to make salami. Punk Domestics had a year-long Charcutepalooza based on Ruhlman’s new meat-curing Bible. These are not your hippie grandpa’s peace-to-all-beings vegetarians. I would suspect their ethics less if they were nicer to their ghetto rowhouse animals, and if they ate more tripe.

I am reassured that Ruhlman et al., if not the punk domestics, have engaged with, and give recipes for, the Marxist materiality of pig’s blood, heads, and ears. It’s not just about the killing, Zuckerberg, or the Ozzy Osbourne machismo of biting the head off  something besides a Whopper. It’s about the dead and respecting every part. It’s about authenticity.

The earliest parts of the young man’s food blog are interestingly concerned with the transformation of leftovers into something else, vegan onion soup into calzones, for example. There was a brief post on the composition and color of the plating of the leftover risotto balls he’d made into arancini. This suggests more an upcycling, hoarding, thrifting, transsubstantiation, magpie, collageur mentality than an actually discriminating palate.

We’ll see. The question is, how much salami do you need in the apocalypse, and whether or not this DIY everything is a full employment mandate scam, as I suspect attachment parenting/breastfeeding the ambulatory is for SAHMs.

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. – A. J. Liebling

Press critic A. J. Liebling

I was once talking to a publisher of very fancy books and he was complaining how his edition of Gary Snyder’s latest, I think it was, had sold only 12,000 copies.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since.

Virginia Woolf, to whom I keep referring because she is the one thing I know almost everything about, having realized, when I set out to be a reporter, 43 years ago, that it would be a state of being one mile wide and one inch deep, and if I wanted any self-respect at all, I needed to know everything about one thing, and it was she, was her own publisher.

Famously, she said it gave her the freedom to write some of 20th century modernity’s earliest works. This includes experimental novels like The Waves, which goes up blow-for-blow against Ulysses. In fact the Hogarth Press which she founded with her husband, for which she was both typesetter and  reader, turned down the opportunity to publish Ulysses in 1919.

Much has been made of what Virginia, who may be the finest literary critic of the 20th century, did not like and what she stole from Ulysses.

But as a matter of fact her husband, Leonard, who did the heavy lifting as publisher, writes that they decided to print it if they could find a printer willing to risk it. He showed Ulysses to two printers, and they “said no respectable printer would have anything to do with it, for the publisher and the printer of it would certainly be prosecuted.” [Beginning Again, 247]

Virginia’s ownership of her own means of production, her sales, her “platform” as the daughter of England’s foremost literary journalist, who herself made a living writing book reviews, have always been a part of my thinking about book sales and newspaper circulation. Her masterpiece, well-reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement, had two print runs, the first of 7,000 and the second, in the same year, of 5,000.[The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 4, 48, Note 3.]

The Waves will be read as long as people have eyes. Gary Snyder won’t be. To sell 12,000 copies of a truly arcane novel, in 1931, or late 20th century beatnik poetry, in 1996, is an fn miracle of literacy and good fortune.

To think that there are 12,000 people who can read arcana, and have the money to buy the book — last I checked fancy editions of Snyder are selling for $41 — is unprecedented in history. Snyder’s publisher was certainly thinking about the Dan Brown ball park, or maybe Tupac’s, and I made him pay for lunch because a.) he made fun of the waitress’ pronunciation and b.) he was so clearly delusional.

The paradigm is this: nobody goes into the quality writing business to make money. If you want to be Dan Brown, be Dan Brown. If you’re a poet, or a journalist, or the 20th century’s best writer of fiction, repeat after me. You’re not in this for the money, and you’re not going to make any, and 12,000 in sales is a miracle in the history of mankind.

If you’re a newspaper publisher, you’re not in it for the money. If you’re a rich Silicon Valley start up entrepeneur, and like nouveaux riches throughout the history of money, you find yourself mesmerized by the prospect of being a “newspaper” “publisher”, for lack of a better term, because of the supposed political entree, clout and social cachet that entails — oh! what fun we’ll have eating with Gwen Ifill and Ram Emmanuel in our kewel Watergate offices overlooking the Potomac! — you need to do four things.

Prepare to lose all your money, to have a separate income stream, to reinvent online journalism so as to monetize itself, or if you’re to produce real online journalism, suffer the circulation/advertising/monetizing consequences. Or else.

Finance is not my bailiwick. I don’t need to know the multiplication tables to see which way the wind and the invention of fiduciary instruments like sending college kids credit cards or bundling mortgages, blows. Craigslist has gutted newspaper revenues.  Newspaper advertising sales people are the slowest on the digital uptake.  Next?

Harvard’s Nieman people and the Columbia Journalism Review and the Project for Excellence in Journalism are among the serious players on the case. PEJ to be most trusted because they actually talk to working journalists about revenues and circulation.

Here we have Nieman, who are fanboyz, interviewing Ben Huh, the progenitor of I Can Haz Cheezburger. Huh, like every plutocrat since the beginning of time, is being sucked into the glamourous world, as he sees it, of “newspaper” “publication”. He is going to take his Cheez revenues and reinvent the news.

Ben Huh reinvents the news with his I Can Haz Cheezburger pelf.

http://www.niemanlab.org/2012/05/cheezburgers-ben-huh-says-news-organizations-should-think-like-teenagers-if-they-want-to-survive/

Let me say, first of all, I dote on I Can Haz Cheezburger.  Because I am and always have been, despite certain bluestocking tastes, a Downtown Girl, and what I think of as the Digital Watercooler Journalism — we all hang around cyberspace looking at LOL cats and reading aggregated Gawker riffs about John Travolta’s private parts as we trudge through our digi day — is a true benison of socially redeeming importance to all us cyberdrones.

As for Ben Huh’s ideas about journalism, keep your knees together and your hands on your wallet.

Next up:

huh

monetize with conferences or salons or kaplan
http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/the_washington_post_cos_self-d.php

PEJ — it’s reconforming truth: kickstart journalism, pro publica

http://archives.newyorker.com/?i=2010-01-25#folio=038 http://www.cjr.org/the_news_frontier/

Technorati’s top ten websites 5.7.12.

The Washington Post lost $22 million in its last quarter, are aggressively buying out senior, rain-making, prize-winning reporters, and apparently turning the newsroom into a click-thru sweatshop, complete with a screen recording story hits in real time.

The bigfeet reporters are worried.
http://www.adweek.com/news/press/secret-meeting-has-washington-post-buzzing-140036

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting rid of expensive old reporters and replacing them with young ones.

I do think there is a difference between the clickhound journalism of Gawker or The Mail Online, however, and reporters.

News is curated for the public good. You need to keep your eyes on the prize. I think the public good is high, if not universal, voter turnout, and the journalism version of Friday Night Lights. Grassroots issues and community.

The Washington Post needs to figure out what that prize is, and cover the two local industries they have — U.S. politics and Chocolate City — with what I’m thinking of as Freakonomics Politico, a journalism paradigm for the 21st century. I think the old avatar of Freako Politico is Mike Davis, the Marxist. His City of Quartz is probably the very best Holy Shit Story of his generation, as Steven Levitt (I am still checking him out) may be of his generation.

Everybody knows from writing their own blogs what gets the most clix. Use the word porn in your headline and your clix will increase 20 fold.

I once posted a photograph to Flickr of the weird python-like process of creating and stuffing a cloth doll. I called it Getting Stuffed. It got nearly a thousand hits in two hours until I changed the headline. In 10 years of blogging privately, this Getting Stuffed photograph was my greatest hit in what we shall call, for journalism curriculum purposes, the Scandanavian Christmas Elf Tomte Syndrome:

Getting stuffed.

So the perfect capitalist tool of a newspaper, as WaPo president and general manager Steve Hills  seems to have told the senior reporters, to maximize the website, would be 10 rainmakers, 1,000 clix drones, and the words “Getting Stuffed” in every headline. Today’s lede stories in the NYT:

At Cusp of Major Power, Bo Xilai Gets Stuffed by Own Hard Tactics

A Scramble as Biden Gets Stuffed on Same Sex Marriage

Stock Trading Is Still Getting Stuffed After ’08

Hollande Calling for ‘Get Stuffed’ Amid Cuts in Europe

Even more trenchantly, for the clix hix, this minute’s top four most e-mailed stories from the NYT:

For the Hard of Hearing, Clarity Out of the Getting Stuffed

When Illness Makes a Spouse Get Stuffed

Those Getting Stuffed Europeans

Black Women and Getting Stuffed

Stephen P. Hills, ad guy, Harvard B School, former San Mateo, CA sports reporter. President and general manager of The Washington Post.

Good luck with that. Other newspapers are making it online, as the Technorati top ten screen cap shows. Why can’t the Post?

One, no one in the national and international audience a website is going for is interested in the politics they cover or the way they cover it. Stop being provincial.  Let Politico do that for the local wonk readership; they like it, they’re good at it, let the tiny niche wonk market go.

Two, The Root D.C. is not a substitute for covering The Post’s other great franchise, Chocolate City. Last I checked, the demographics for black people in the D.C. metro area were that they were the best-educated, richest per capita black people in the U.S. and probably in the world. The Post’s new Root D.C. website is attempting real time coverage of the grassroots issues for people of color the world over inherent in the local coverage of Chocolate City. There never was a story like the D.C. riots, which the late Bob Maynard, the founder of the Maynard Institute, covered for The Washington Post wearing his clogs. There never was a story like Marion Barry or the suburbanization into redneck Prince George’s County of D.C.’s upwardly mobile Talented Tenth.  I’d simply like to point out to you that Ron We’re-an-empire-now Suskind, one of the great Freako Politico reporters, won his Pulitzer prize in The Wall Street Journal, telling the story of one black kid trying to get though the D.C. schools and into the Ivy League. And The Wire, recently voted the best TV show of the last 25 years by New York magazine, was set in inner city Baltimore and written by a Baltimore reporter.

Eyes on the prize, Hills. You’re not from around here, are you? Get George Pelecanos to give you some story ideas.

Ever since I noticed a back channel used car business, conducted entirely in cash and Espanol, running on Saturdays in the large suburban Maryland parking lot where the last outpost survives of a grand store, G Street Remnants, that fled the city for the burbs during the Martin Luther King riots, I have known parking lots were a beat.

I was not surprised to find a good number of Cambodian refugees manning the suburban cutting tables at the venerable fabric store.

I have also said, in a private blog, if I were a young reporter starting out I’d invent and cover the parking lot beat. I think all kinds of things take place there, including drug transactions, lovers’ lanes, dances, suburban teenage life, the entry level immigrant life (see back channel economy, above) whereby the brown peoples have taken over the close-in, formerly lily-white, burbs, and in which the D. C. snipers invented a new kind of crime which can paralyze the megalopolis.

Now comes a report, due out in March, from MIT urban planning professor Eran Ben-Joseph, called Rethinking a Lot, which proposes upcycling and greening parking lots, “the single most salient landscape feature of our built environment”.

You read it here first.


Police search highway verge at Seven Corners Shopping Mall in Virginia after the D.C. snipers, parked in a car across the four-lane highway, shot and killed Linda Franklin in the Home Depot parking lot. The motive was probably to frighten Mohammed’s former wife, who worked in a mall-based Michael’s hobby shop store.

Behind the cut, I have italicized the important propositions that greening the parking lots have for The New Economy.

The most important concept, not fully worked out in this NYT piece, is the pop-up or flash-mob day care center, one of the things the post office workers in the near-abandoned ’70s shopping mall in Fishkill, NY, told architects they wanted. These could be fabricated from school busses or RVs. Children don’t need play equipment or $100-a-square-foot soft-fall surfaces — they’re a boondoggle. Scores of unsupervised city children over the centuries have come up with asphalt games, well represented at the 2001 Smithsonian folk life festival which feattured New York City, ranging from street hockey to jumprope, broomstick/Spaldeen softball, the paraffin-filled bottle cap game, whose name I’ll be Googling in a minute. Skully.

Before he became a physician and a PhD. in education, Bill Cosby was a kid playing football between the cars on the streets of Philadelphia.

I think any reporter who spent time in a parking lot where back channel economies are practised, nights and weekends, would discover, for example, back channel soccer leagues where important community projects — job markets, fake IDs — are played forward as vigorously as the second-hand soccer balls. While I didn’t love Tom Wolfe’s last novel but one or two, A Man in Full, it was important in ways no other prose writer — except perhaps Ehrenreich, in Nickeled and Dimed – is aware of. For this, Wolfe is still, aged 193, a reporter to watch, for the as-yet undeveloped insight that the back channel, or Blade Runner, economy is where we’re all headed.

It takes place in parking lots. Be there or be square.

Pamphlet on <a href=”http://www.laforum.org/content/publications/pamphlet/dead-malls-pamphlet”>2003 Dead Malls competition</a> which Interboro, the Brooklyn architectural firm cited in the Kimmelman piece, seems to have won.

Copyright Jeannette Smyth, 2012, All Rights Reserved.

Kimmelman’s NYT Parking Lot Piece

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