Slice her up, poor cow

24 07 2018

“You’re not the boss of me!”

That’s pretty much my reaction to policies like WeWork’s decision to ban meat.

Now, two things: One, WeWork is not, in fact, the boss of me, but as someone who works (for others) for a living, I have had and do have bosses—who get to, at work, boss me around.

Two, they’re not actually banning meat: employees can still bring their own meat-infested lunches to work. The ban is actually a decision not to reimburse meaty lunch expenses, nor to provide flesh at company-sponsored events.

For environmental reasons, they say: “The company estimates that the policy will save 445.1m pounds of CO2 emissions and 15,507,103 animals by 2023.”

Uh huh. As Felix Salmon notes, however:

WeWork, of course, has a substantial environmental impact of its own, almost none of which is food-related. It manages 10 million square feet of office space in 76 cities around the world, including Warsaw and Chengdu; across its 406 locations, some have much higher carbon footprints than others. As a tenant in those buildings, WeWork has very little control over how much energy they waste, but if it wanted to, it could confine itself to LEED-certified buildings. That way, landlords would have a strong economic incentive to make their buildings energy-efficient and therefore attractive to WeWork and other environmentally conscious tenants.

That might cut into the bottom line, however, whereas cutting out cows, well, if that happens to save the company money, what a happy coincidence!

Yes, I am skeptical of their reasoning, but even if I’d grant the founders’ sincerity (and I don’t: as Salmon notes, co-founder Miguel McKelvey “is building a multimillion-dollar mountaintop house in Utah”), I’d still see this as of a piece of company’s butting into their workers’ (non) business.

Again, it’s probably unfair to WeWork to lump them in with companies which coerce their employees into wellness programs, ask for social media passwords, or otherwise police their behavior off the job—again, WeWork is simply saying “we’ll pay for this, we won’t pay for that”—and it doesn’t engage in the kinds of intrusive surveillance of on-the-clock conduct that you find at too many companies, but, goddamn, it seems like just one more way for the boss to boss you around.

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Oh, but things ain’t just the same

4 07 2018

Yeah, I’m an inconstant bum, but still. . .





Do you hope to find new ways of doing better than your worst

10 06 2018

I could just as easily led this off with any number of “Hello. . . ” lyrics, for any of you left reading this.

It’s been awhile, yeah. Sorry about that.

Truly, I am. It’s taken me years to get more than a few followers, and while I doubt you’ve been pacing for the past month or two wondering When is Terri gonna get off her ass and write, still, I haven’t kept my (written) word to you.

It’s the same thing, really, that I’ve written about before. I’m out of sorts, drifting, and, lately, sad. I think of something to write and then I don’t and then I think Oh, I should write and then I don’t and then it’s easier not to write because I haven’t written and the longer I haven’t written the more the not-writing weighs and the long I’m silent I wonder is it better to be silent than mediocre?

I am not the only one to get sucked into this whirlpool of anxiety, I know; the sucking sucks, nonetheless.

My life isn’t terrible. I’m teaching this summer, doing some freelance work with someone I’ve worked with previously and who I like. I finally bought a new mattress (loooooooooong overdue) and new bedframe (because) and I’m working out and eating fine and, y’know, I’m mostly fine, in most of the important ways.

But I am drifting, and sad, and I need to do something about both, sooner rather than later. There is no emergency, and while I can look at Kate Spade (who was only a few years older than me) and Anthony Bourdain (whose most famous book I’ve read and whose shows I’ve watched) with a weary sympathy, where they ended up is on the other side of where I am, now.  I’m sad, not self-destructive.

And I’m not sure what to do about it. Therapy, sure, yes, I’ve done some initial checking-around, and I should follow through, but, okay, yes, I should, no buts.

But: I’ve never done therapy when it wasn’t propelled by an emergency. Therapy was a backstop to self-destruction, something I deliberately put in the way of my own conflictedly-willed erasure. I used it both the prepare for and to prevent my end.

That’s not how I would use it, now, and maybe that’s what bumfuzzling me. What is it like to try for something more, rather than something less?





If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake

2 04 2018

Why didn’t anyone tell me about The Great British Baking Show?

Okay, yes, there all kinds of social media stories and tweets and whatnot about the show, but still.

I was scrolling through Netflix last weekend, once again failing to get into Jessica Jones, and thought, huh, this Brit bake bit, why not.

Why not, indeed. I slurped down that first season Fri-Sat, then on Sunday watched the entirety of season two. This past weekend, did the same with seasons three and four. (I was going to save that last available season until next weekend, but then thought, Who am I kidding, and binged away.)

I don’t know why I liked it so much. I have watched my share of cooking shows (tho’ I’m not much for cooking) and enjoy baking (tho’ rarely do), and even a few competitive cooking shows, but nothing about all of the media around the show made me particularly want to watch it.

The set-up (for the eight of you who haven’t watch it) is simple: 12 (in one season, 13) amateur bakers start in episode one; after 3 different bakes judged by two judges (and watched over by the mildly-comic-relief hosts), one person is declared star baker and one sent home. Episode 2, same as the first, on down to the last episode, in which the final three bakers compete for the title.

That’s it. Regular folk from across the UK watching their custards curdle and caramels crystallize and peering into their ovens for their goods to rise and bake in the too-little time left.

All the while trying to meet judge Mary Berry’s standard of “sheer perfection”.

It’s charming.

The bakers are both competitive and cooperative, aware of their own positions but also helping each other and teasing each other and sharing a kind of esprit de corps in the face of the judges oft bewildering instructions.

And withering criticism: Berry and fellow judge Paul Hollywood are unsparing, clear in what they like and don’t like.

That first season, I admit, I cringed at the criticism. I found it hard to watch the bakers as they presented wilted towers and underbaked breads to the judges, watched the color flow into or out of their faces as Berry and Hollywood noted precisely what was wrong with the bake.

Of course, there was plenty of praise for “good bakes”, too, but it was the criticism that got to me.

I’m terrible with criticism, more so now than I was when younger (when I was also not great with it). I have difficulty separating a critique of a performance or an essay from an evaluation of my very existence as a human being, which has meant, unsurprisingly, that I have difficulty putting forth anything which matters to me out in front of other people.

I have of course: am doing so now, with this blog. But it took awhile to get comfortable with this—early on I went to some effort to separate my give name from my chosen blog-name—and even now I oft say, Well, it’s not like any of this matters.

(Which is, of course, a dismissal of those of you who do read this. The joy of neuroses lies in the double move of magnifying the number of those who see one’s faults and diminishing those who see the good.)

Anyway, these firefighters and gardeners and stay-at-home moms and students are afraid—literally shaking afraid—and putting themselves out there in front of gods and country and having a go.

So there it is: not just charming, but inspiring.





Everybody wants a box of chocolates, 24

20 03 2018

Too much money makes people weird.

I am not at all opposed to weird—I got a whole series on “weird wonder”—but man, the weirdness that comes out of wealth often ranges from the pitiful(ly out of touch with the rest of the human world) to the just plain creepy.

I’m not quite sure where to put this:

The audacious real estate project – branded Powder Mountain – is becoming a mecca for altruistically minded members of the global elite. “The goal will always remain the same,” says Elliott Bisnow, Rosenthal’s business partner: “To be a beacon of inspiration and a light in the world.”

A mountain retreat for the psychographically correct billionaire as beacon. Huh.

The beautiful surroundings and unique blend of people, Rosenthal believes, will create the “exponential opportunities of the future”. “I have this whole rap with Gertrude Stein, Katharine Graham, De’ Medici, Bauhaus. There’s this rich history of groups coming together, where the whole is more than the sum of the parts, right?” he says. “I think that’s what’s happening here.”

Again: huh.

It’s not just rich folks on a mountain, though; it’s also rich folks thinking something like this is a good idea:

Further Future, a gathering in the Nevada desert attended by the ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, which has been described as “Burning Man for the 1%”, promises a culture of “mindful optimism, wonder and exploration”. . . .

Oh, god. Burn it all.

Anyway, back to Powder Mountain (which, really, that’s the best name you could come up with? Powder fucking Mountain? Christ, I think there’s some 75′ snowhill in south-central Wisconsin called Powder Mountain): of course, it would be gauche actually to discuss MONEYMONEYMONEY at a place like this:

Rosenthal had told me I would be immersed in a community of “polymaths” and “savants”, but they would be a humble bunch. “If people are really like ‘oooh’, showing off, showing you pictures of their supercars or some shit at the dinner table? Probably not a cultural fit at Summit,” he says. . . . .

Like others, I had been quietly schooled in the unwritten social rules. Asking someone what they do is considered a faux pas (the socially acceptable alternative is “What is your passion?”). Business cards, I was warned, should not be exchanged in a brazen way.

So, okay to exchange those cards, just not “brazenly”.

Oh, and I don’t need to mention the talks take place in a yurt-ish structure, do I?

For years the team worked remotely in Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, New York, Miami and Barcelona. They would combine work with snowboarding in Montana and surfing in Nicaragua. But by late 2011, the friends were approaching 30 and starting to travel less. They were living and working out of a mansion in Malibu and, Rosenthal recalls, hosting “amazing dinners that became pretty culturally significant in LA at that time”.

I. . . what?

I [journalist Paul Lewis] steer the conversation to the subject of how utterly detached from the real world elites seem to have become. “Elitism, the way I would define it, is obtainable,” he replies. “All that stands between you and being elite is your own investment in yourself.”

I invest myself in sleep: I am a sleep-elite! And cheese! I am a cheese-elite!

Oh my god, I hadn’t read all the way through, and just stumbled on this (after Lewis had pressed him about hard work not always leading to wealth):

“What are you doing to create the utility for yourself? Are you introducing people so they can collaborate?” he says. Struggling Americans, he adds, might want to “host a dinner. Invite 10 strangers. See what happens.”

Rosenthal presses on with his thesis, telling me there are just not enough people in the world who will “excessively commit their lives to something. Journalism, cheese, automobiles, whatever. Rocket ships – perfect example. Everyone wants to work at SpaceX, no one wants to go to engineering school.” [emphasis added]

“Everyone wants to eat cheese but no one wants to milk the cow!” I am an aphorism-elite! Pay me monies to talk at your rich people!

There is, of course, more of this, because there’s always more of this. I mean, these people are so ridiculous that I almost feel a little bad pointing out how ridiculous they are.

When I hitch a ride in Chawla’s SUV, he tells me how he came to invest in Powder Mountain. He had just been on a disappointing trip to Verbier, a resort in the Swiss Alps where the food was “not that progressive”. Utah, he says, made for a refreshing change. “I bumped into 30 of my friends. I didn’t have to do anything. The food was amazing,” he says. “There was a moment when they served coconut water.” Coconut water was the very thing he’d been craving in Switzerland. At that moment, he thought to himself, “These guys just get me.” He adds: “I thought, you know what, I’d love to support this project.”

But then I remember they’re all billionaires with their snoots so far up their own asses they sneeze into their large intestines—

He tells me he’s “still evolving”. He’s been meditating, reading, learning about ecology and sustainable farming. If Bisnow is committed to altruism, why is the Summit Institute, the not-for-profit wing of his empire, so minuscule, with an annual budget that is a fraction of what it cost to build his house?

“We’ve just been so busy with so many things, we thought there’s no rush,” he replies. “Why not just slowly ramp it up?”

—and I think, Fuck ’em.





You can be active with the activists

19 03 2018

Cynthia Nixon is running for governor of New York. Huh.

That’s a real, not snarky, “huh”: I don’t like Cuomo and thus am interested in any Dem who’d run against him, and don’t know enough about Nixon to have an opinion one way or another.

Yeah, I generally think it’s a good idea for candidates to have political experience at the lower levels before running for higher levels, but, unlike the presidency, I don’t think that’s an absolute requirement for other offices. And she has been politically active for years, which does count.

As for policies: she’s in favor of fixing the MTA, (which, jesus, someone should be) and opposed to the Independent Democratic Conference (which gave the Republicans control of the Senate), and she highlights the screaming inequality in our state—so, y’know, righteous on the basics.

It’ll take more than basics, of course, not least because other candidates (if there are other candidates) will also be righteous: she’ll need to lay out a framework for how she plans to govern, that is, what skills she’ll bring to move her agenda through the fetid mire that is New York state politics.

I don’t know if she has those skills, but she’s got time to show what she could do; if I’m not yet convinced, I am convince-able.

After all, she does start with one significant advantage:

 





We celebrate the land that made us refugees

17 03 2018

Happy feckin’ St Paddy’s Day.

Sláinte!