Vices we love

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Where did you learn to speak in soundbites darling?

Comfortably ensconced in a large apartment near the top of a brownstone building on west end avenue, I heard the following words; "I'm the only non politician running in this race." The speaker was a loud old man, a boxing promoter in cowboy gear. His daughter is an actress. He won a luxury car in a poker game. With two days to go, he sought my services for the upcoming city council election. Timing is everything- at least he didn't ask me two days after the election. Politics is the only field where you can tout your inexperience in and hostility to a profession as a selling point for being allowed into that profession. Nobody will say "I'm a non professional heart surgeon." Nor will you hear chemists explain to you how much they hate science. I waited a beat. "What is your specific platform?" "I'm the only non politician running in this race." "I understand that but what do you want to accomplish? What do you believe in? What are your plans?" "I'm the only non politician running in this race. I'm also (significant pause) a renter." A renter in New York City. Imagine that. Next we'll hear about how he rides the subway. One of the discomfiting things about modern America is that people's idea of originality and daring do is being the same as everyone else. They pick up words, phrases, ideas from tv and the Internet and run with them, expecting bonus points for the novelty of them also saying what everyone else is saying. This is then mass marketed; someone once asked me to " Pattersonize" their writing, that is re write their work to make it sound more like the books of James Patterson, a best selling writer whose prose is about as lyrical as a furniture assembly manual. He wanted this because, he said, by Pattersonizing, he too would be a best seller. The idea of creating something of his own never occurred to him. This process starts in school. You are not taught much about subjects (an educated population is not in anyone's interest) but you learn rules, structure, conformity and power. Stand up. Say the pledge. Take off your hat mister. Lately, we have added standardized tests into the mix, which function as a way to further separate students. It seems that poor kids who can't afford breakfast score lower: weird huh? They're then judged to be idiots and have approximately zero chance of college and upward mobility, a concept America used to be big on. As you get further along, this is only reinforced. A headhunter once told me to put my skills in billet points at the top of my résumé and make that part larger, font wise. The unspoken message was that nobody would read further. Workplaces are run the same way- no matter how edgy or cool a company pretends to be, they all expect a specific kind of sameness. And they get it. The result is a guy like cowboy who does not understand or know how to think and speak independently and has clearly never needed to.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I don't like people. I don't like being around them, I don't like speaking to them, I don't like- especially- listening to them. I don't like listening to the lies they tell me, the lies they tell themselves, the promises they make, the breeziness with which those promises are broken, the total meaninglessness of every syllable they utter.

True, I can be very charming and nice and polite and blah blah blah. But my heart is not in it. Nothing means anything to anyone. There are no ties. Not social, not religious, not familial. People will love you at 9:02 and hate you at 9:03. This means you are always on your guard. No compliment is ever truly complimentary. No situation is ever safe. No job, school, relationship, promise or assurance is ever assured. And living with that day after day wears you down. Alone.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

This one is for all the EFL teachers out there

What's up dirtbags?

Okay okay too harsh I know. Come on, I'm still one of you, minus the joint and the one armed prostitute with eleven toes. I haven't updated this thing in a while because the privacy of being a loner waygookin has eluded me even in New York the most isolated place on earth. I've
dabbled in blogging since but again, honesty requires anonymity.

I am presently in NY working on my Ph.D. My principal motivation is that knowledge is the one thing nobody can take away from you. If tomorrow morning the Us Dollar was declared illegal or
monetized, I would still have it.

Now, this requires money. Money, sadly requires work. (Though not anymore. See
2:16 to 2:23 here. Truest words ever spoken on television.)

As such, part time teaching jobs, ripe for exploitation, abound. One of them was supposed to start today. They had sent me a very optimistic contract that they would pay me in March when I finish teaching. I explained that this won't fly. They tried to get me to agree to payment ever 5 weeks. No thanks. So two days ago we went down to every two weeks.

Except that when I got down there, to a girls' yeshiva in Borough Park, I was informed that they do not have the authority from the bank to pay me every two weeks. Because...yanno..they need bank permission. So what did I do?

I did what anyone who spent more than 4 seconds in EFL would drool about doing. I turned around and left. I left behind the idea that any promise of a job is better than nothing. I also left behind, one more time, the idea of group loyalty. I am Jewish. They are Jewish. But I'll be fucked if I'll let that overtake my common sense. Besides, do you think they will look out for me?
5:13 to 5:17 asks the same question and it looks like the kid knows the answer already.

Forget it.

Individuality is awesome. Hold on to it.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The decider as straight arrow


A Law Professor’s Inside Take on Bush's Commutation Policy

In March 2003, for the first and only time in my life, I went to the West Wing of the White House. At that time, I was representing a man who was scheduled to be executed by the federal government in less than three weeks. I had filed a request for commutation, asking the President to commute the death sentence to a sentence of life without the possibility of release. Department of Justice rules require that such a request be filed with the Office of the Pardon Attorney in DOJ. Although I had filed the request in December, we had not yet received any response.

While the commutation request was pending, I asked then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales if he would meet with me to discuss the case. (I knew that the White House Counsel was ultimately responsible for making a recommendation to the President on my request.) To my great surprise, he agreed and invited me to a meeting in his office. We met for over an hour. I was allowed to present my argument in some detail, and I answered many questions from Judge Gonzales. I was quite impressed that Judge Gonzales had obviously read my written submissions and had already given the case some thought.

Judge Gonzales told me 3 things about President Bush’s policy in considering requests for commutation. First, that President Bush would not consider commutation if he believed that the case had already received full and fair consideration by the jury and the courts who heard the case. Second, that the President would not consider the request until he had a recommendation from the Department of Justice. Finally, he said that the President would not act on any request for commutation until all judicial avenues in the case had been exhausted.

Just thought you might be interested in what this White House claimed about the commutation process.

(source: Tim Floyd, Wall Street Journal----Tim Floyd, a law professor at Mercer University, emailed his fellow faculty members Tuesday night. )


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy M.Ed. day

Yes, I just completed my degree. Where shall I go? What should I do? And crucially...though irrelevantly...

Who said romance was dead?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Custer was here

One of the things I like about eastern Euro students is that they are real. With certain notable exceptions, they generally have some work and life experience. (Not as much as they think- a flaw I was reminded of when reading some snot-nosed 20 year olds plan to become a "life coach" upon graduation.) Still, they have generally held down jobs, saved, planned (not very well if what I see in class is a guide) ahead and so on. One of these wise old youngsters is Alex a crypto-Jewish Russian immigrant who dabbles in a few dozen businesses including his newest venture, a bowling alley in a village which, for the sake of anonymity starts with pies and ends with tany. Said bowling alley is set in a fake Indian restaurant that would make any Chief weep.(The menu includes Chief Red Feathers' special which has "three meets".) The most striking feature however was the canned Russian rap. Rather than to elucidate on the horrors of canned Russian rap, I'll let you sample the lyrics, which seem to have been written by a demented, world-weary Russian infant:

"I got mad musical selection
It's enough to give me an erection
Which is dope cuz I hate introspection."

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Yes! My niche at last!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Talk about sending mixed messages

Monday, May 28, 2007

Not minority enough part II: The hunt for green fiscal '08

The school rejected my Ph.D. application. Speaking of rejection, I have a pile of thanks/no thanks letters from the U.S. Obtaining said letter is an accomplishment in itself since most simply ignore you. (I have mentioned before that Americans, descendants of Puritan Brits, are utterly incapable of human interaction unless they want something.)

With that in mind, and in a nod to an acquaintance who thinks that I should give seminars in sociology classes on the immigrant experience (thoughts?), allow moi to show you how you too can score a rejection letter.

Step one is to find a job ad. This is easy, especially online. Once you found one that's not an obvious scam, send them a cover letter and a CV. These documents will not be read, so have some fun. One of my old cover letters was something like this:

"Although my resume is geared towards education (I have only recently returned from China, where I earned my CELTA certification), I would like to introduce other pertinent aspects of my history and abilities to you.

Prior to moving to South Korea and China, I taught civil and criminal law, as well as the New York rules of Evidence at the No Standards Except Financial Community College, which is a part of the City University of New York. This was a temporary non-tenured position which I was qualified for on the basis of my extensive legal field work.

I am certified as a paralegal through the City University of New York and have worked in several large international firms, usually on a freelance basis. Some of these firms included Offices Damned Near Everywhere ( and Me Wantee. ( I also worked, prior to 9/11, with the World Trade Center based firm of Greed Is Good ( At these firms I was often responsible for conducting legal research, cite checking, composing correspondance, reviewing depositions and discovery materials, as well as reviewing and filing legal documents with different courts. I also worked for several government officials, again on a free-lance basis, assisting with their campaigns, helping with constituent concerns, researching issues for them and helping to run individual campaigns or comittees. These officials included Assemblyman Greedy McFee ( ), Tennessee Assembly Bigwig Guns'n'Ammo ( ), and, after graduating from the University of Memphis and moving to New York, New York Assemblyman Not Yet Indicted ( ) and City Councilwoman Can't Find Work So I'm Running for Office ( I worked on all aspects of these campaigns as well as Dollar Bill 2000, including fundraising. I also have strong communication skills, fitting my background as an educator.

With regards to my education, I earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1999 at the University of Memphis ( ) in International Relations and later completed a Paralegal Studies program at Brooklyn College, part of the umbrella system of the City University of New York ( where I would later be teaching. I also earned a CELTA certification from Oxford at their Beijing branch.

Currently, I am not only teaching but doing considerable technical writing and editing work as well. My client list is confidential, but work samples are available if you would like to see them. Due to my vast experience in the law and the communication skills I possess, I believe I would be a valuable addition to your team. Please note that I look for, above all else, honesty and integrity in an business relationship. I am looking for a permanent, full-time position and can relocate and start immediately. You can reach me at 1-800-BIG-MONEY

I have attached a sample of my writing-unedited- which I produced for the Seoul Board of Education with the intent of exposing English-fluent Korean students to international events and locations. While not a finished or polished document, it does show proof of writing/communications ability. I have spent seven years as a freelance writer, working for such clients as Woori Bank of Seoul and In all these positions, meeting deadlines was essential.

I hope to qualify for and prove my abilities to your organization."

Almost immediately, you receive a form letter- something like...

"Dear Applicant,

Thanks for your application to be our next useless and disposable personnel. We have added your application to our database where it will never see the light of day. FOAD.


Now you wait. You do not ask for updates and heaven forfend, do not call- after all, these are signs that you want something, which means they have to do something and what they will do is to drop your cv in the trash at the first sign of such uppityness.

The months go by as the person you wrote to valiantly ignores your letter.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, you will receive a form that goes like this:

"Dear Applicant,

We just recently used your CV as wallpaper. Before we start throwing darts at it, please help us find the appropriate slurs for this competition. Please check a box for your ethnicity below:

___ Transparent ___ Opaque ___ Tony Danza
___ Translucent ___ Casper ___ Jerry Seinfeld
___ George Lopez ___ One of the Jeffersons (definitely not George. Don't be afraid)

You do not have to check these boxes but if you decline to do so, you'll be considered too individualistic for employment. On the off-chance that none of these suit you, check the box(es) closest to your ethnic makeup."

I usually check opaque since I assume they want to know the color of my soul. Satisfied, I email this missive and wait once more.

About six months after applying, I get a form letter like this:

"Dear Applicant,

Did you think we read your CV? You did? Ha ha!

Annie Bosses' Niece"

And the process starts anew. Anyone know of a job where I can spend the day applying for jobs? Maybe we can have a seminar about it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

I shall resist the temptation to snark

Yes, I shall resist the temptation to make snarky comments.

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