Archives for category: politics

Sometimes, the news sets an avalanche of accumulated epiphanies snowballing down into the abyss. I’m thinking about shamelessness apropos recent news. The former governor of CT, John Rowland, is bragging as a matter of resume-building that he became a born-again Christian in prison.

John Rowland, former governor of Connecticut, born-again Christian, jailbird.

The Chinese Watergate — phone-tapping his political superiors, among many other depredations by former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, his Lady MacBeth wife, and his party boy son — is making me think I wish I knew more about the Chinese. There’s a wonderful survivor memoir by Zhang Xianliang, a guy who spent 20 years in the Chinese gulag, the lao gai, Grass Soup. One of the things he learned in extremity was:

Yes, I was still able to laugh. I could even consider a tap on my shoulder by the Troop Leader as a special honour. People had already begun to regard the ridiculing of others as a means of education, so it was natural that people became thick-skinned and shameless. After ridicule became a proper and indeed popular method of education in China, we turned into a people that could not be shamed. p 137

Memoirs of the Khmer Rouge and Maoist self-criticism sessions in which, among other things, children were pressured to rat their parents out, a cataclysmic event for Asian filial and shame culture, emphasize the powerful social uses of shame and gossip as a police tool.

Son of Chongqing party boss, Harvard party boy Bo Guagua.

Emily Henderson, the HGTV design star, has made a post about how crazy interns are. Nearly 80 comments are divided between interns who say, what a bitch, you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, and bosses her own age (30ish, trending younger) describing the absolutely feral, off-the-wall and shameless behavior of young job applicants in every field. If the boomers can truly be blamed for something, it is the raising of this devil spawn. Here’s one of the best comments, from Donald of Baltimore, echoing the majority of the rest:

I hired this young, just out of college, guy at my publishing company. We were in the middle of moving from DC to Baltimore and his first week would be in DC then in Bmore permanently (where both he and I lived). My first big red flag….he wanted to know if I would put him up in a hotel in DC for that week because he didn’t think he could get up early enough to catch the train to DC (40 miles between the two cities and the train takes an hour, I gave him the most monumental eye roll in the history of eye rolls). The day before he was to start work I emailed him with the train schedule and just to touch base to answer any questions he might have and he told me that he had taken another job a week earlier and wasn’t going to take my job offer (that he had already accepted). Another week passes and his new job (sports marketing, Craigslist ad, rock and roll office, daily commissions) surprisingly (to him, not me) wasn’t working out and he wanted to know if my job offer was still available. Instead of mocking him for his immaturity and stupidity, I met him for lunch and tried to give him some life lessons and explain why I would never ever ever in a million years hire him, why he should stick it out at his current job, how being a grown up and responsibility go hand in hand, etc. He was the first of many new grads that asked about me buying them laptops to take home, iPhones, extra vacation time the first year (beyond the 2 weeks), could they work from home some days, expense accounts, etc. It’s mind boggling the expectations so many new grads have about their first jobs.

There’s so much that is offensive about this I can hardly deconstruct it, beginning, first, with the cluelessness of a supposedly literate young man — he is applying for work to a publisher — about not telling his employer that he decided not to take the job? And calls a week later to say the asshole job he did take is not working out? The generally accepted idea that you ask to get perks and bonusses to be on time for work? Your first week? Laptops? Iphones? Expense accounts?

This is of a piece with the toad intern Henderson hired who came onto the TV set, headed straight for the free food, stacked a plate high with Funyuns, sat down and started critiquing the show. Because, of course, as the immortal D.C. cab driver told me — the one with the four-foot-long Rasta dreadlocks cap — These people out here think they’re watching television.

Is this like feral latch-key kids of working single mothers?

I think not. It is of a piece with a snippet of information about James Murdoch I am still trying to digest, and which, I think, is the key to the whole implosion in Britain of the Murdochs’ News International media conglomerate. Simon Kelner, the executive editor of the UK Independent, was sitting in the newsroom one day working with the art director when James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, the flame-haired editrix, barged in, apparently without being announced. James was brandishing a copy of the Independent, and was objecting to one of the ad slogans the Independent was running apropos the 2010 elections, each slogan telling voters that vested interests would not determine the outcome of the elections, but that voters would. One of the ads read, “Rupert Murdoch won’t decide this election. You Will”.

It was to this James was objecting, loudly, saying Kelner had impugned the reputation of his family (in 2010!). That’s OK, if entirely assholeish, but then he called Kelner “a fucking fuckwit”.

This is not what even a balls-out executive does when he is being effective.

James Murdoch testifies before the Leveson inquiry on why he called Independent editor Simon Kelner “a fucking fuckwit”.

It reminds me of nothing so much as the conundrum of the war in Iraq I’m still ruminating. Even in the Republicans’ own Kissingerian terms, wouldn’t taking out Saddam destabilize the world simply by eliminating Nuclear Ahmadinejad’s one natural enemy? (Without meeting any of the cockamamie bellum iustus WMD and al Qaeda revenge goals Bush insisted were germane. Not going there. La la la.)

I can’t even.

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=””>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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