Wednesday, July 23, 2008

a thought

i'm feeling both guilty about not having blogged in about a millenium, and too lazy to write a post, but i did have a thought today that i thought i'd share with you all...

when i first read about spain's new laws protecting the rights of apes, i was all for it. but then today it dawned on me that technically, when i'm doing the kind of office work i like to call "monkey work," it might actually now be illegal in spain to subject a monkey to my job. aka yes a monkey could do this, but a monkey would never have to stoop so low.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Review: Personal Days

You're young.  You're restless, and every day you wake up earlier than you really want to hobble into the strictly-scheduled bathroom and create some semblance of "I'm alert" on your face and give yourself some mental pep-talk for the day ahead while you're washing the lethargy away.  All this preparation to go to a job.  Probably your first job.  Most likely not your last job.  And likely not your favorite job.  This is what the first year looks like to most undergraduates that find themselves working in an office that isn't quite i-banking/consultancy crazy but also isn't as free-spirited as how you'd imagine the lives of those young reporters and publicists are (although it's probably true that, as you're lathering that Clearasil on your face in the shower, they're mindlessly rubbing a stick of deodorant on, wondering where the weekend went).
It was this general feeling of being stuck in the workplace doldrums that made me notice the interesting cover of the book Personal Days by Ed Park, and it was my own general fed-up-ness with Corporate America that moved me to buy it after reading the little blurb on the back, which I will conveniently lay out for you here:
In an unnamed New York-based company, the employees are getting restless as everything around them unravels.  There's Pru, the former grad student turned spreadsheet drone; Laars, the hysteric whose work anxiety stalks him in his tooth-grinding dreams; and Jack II, who gives unwanted back rubs, aka "jackrubs" - to his co-workers.
On a Sunday, one of them is called at home.  And the Firings begin.
[Personal Days is] ... a novel for anyone who has ever worked in an office and wondered: "Where does the time go?  Where does the life go?  And whose banana is in the fridge?"
Before I get into my opinions of the book and what, if anything, it made me felt, let me go ahead and just lay out some of the basics.  It's a quick, easy and inexpensive read, taking only $13 out of my wallet and a couple hours of my time (the story only spans about 241 pages of this small paperback).  What's more, Ed's interesting use of formatting and storytelling (moving from first person descriptive, to casual, to an intimate confession from one colleague to another) draws you in, and if you've been working in real job for any span beyond the typical internship-commitment, definitely hooks you.
And the story itself?  Park does a great job of casually introducing you to each character, giving you a small glimpse into their personalities, dreams and backgrounds but leaving most of their personal development up to your own pure conjecture.  You are brought into this unnamed company through water cooler conversation and incomplete memos scrawled on Post-Its, and you are introduced to workers at their most awkward moments, sometimes only very briefly.  In essence Park makes you another worker at the office, privy to all the gossip that travels between cubes but not a connoisseur of any particular information- after all, how much do you really even know about the people that you actually work with?
I found the story, the dialog and the way in which Park unfolds his plot completely believable, totally engrossing and altogether endearing.  As much as I wanted each character to reveal more about themselves, to succeed in the office, I had an equally strong desire for them to be let go, to be given the opportunity to find that piece of them that invariably went missing while sunning day after day under the florescent lights of the floor.  Park creates a completely realistic (at times scarily so) portrait of the workplace that could really be applied to any industry or city, and at once thoroughly captures the essence of this generation's cynicism while simultaneously showcasing our enduring and ironic optimism.
To put it shortly: I completely enjoyed it, and recommend that you check it out.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Black? Help us keep out the Mexicans!

So I meant to blog about this a WHILE ago (like when I first read the article) but I've had a lot going on an dam a negligent blogger - sorry Kaya!  Anyway, according to the New York Times, the US Border Patrol, in an effort to beef up its forces, is now reaching out to young African Americans.  You read that right- border patrol is stocking up on Black kids.
Maybe I'm being a bit sensitive, after all I usually get pissed when I hear about one government group or another reaching into a very specific pool of minorities b/c they figure those kids have no other alternatives and little prospect for work outside of government or law enforcement.. but even so this seems severely fucked up.  I don't normally like to 'air family business,' but I think it's no secret that Black Americans have a huge and I mean HUGE amount of tension and resentment for ethnically diverse immigrants.  Why?  Well, outside of the normally American reasons ("they take away our jobs!" "they suck up resources!" "they take space in schools!") many immigrant groups come to America with a messed up view of Black Americans fueled by hip hop videos, violent movies and racist portrayals, and this perception can sometimes manifest itself in feelings of superiority.  Not to mention Black Americans are pretty much the lowest caste in American society, and the idea that people can come in from another country, be in America for a few months and already have more social and economic capital than Black Americans (who were the base and foundation of even creating America) is pretty fucked up.
So, even though you know they would never admit this, I think it's pretty obvious that this is definitely helping their recruitment agenda.  Kill two birds with one stone- help darken up the group that's trying to keep a country built on immigration "pure" and recruit kids that have a blind resentment (and sometimes hatred) toward a group of people that they have more in common with than they think.
You know, these are the times when my dual status as both a Black American and a first generation latino immigrant make me have all sorts of complicated emotions.  It's all just very sad.