Jonathan Harris, 10/5/2009

Current Occupation: realtor
Former Occupation: Hollywood script reader
Contact Information: Jonathan Harris received his MFA from Pacific University and lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife, Jacqueline, and their two nifty kids, Mickey and Rebecca. His poetry book The Wave That Did Not Break is slated for publication in 2010.

* * *

The Daily Grind


You are here at arrow point

mother nature draws back

her bow you want to die

knowing the big picture

start trudging up the hill

you huff by a lowly worm

who baits you to stop & talk

about Aristotle you point

at your wristwatch head up

the dusty trail where tiger

swallowtails twirl in midair

the brightest doubling back

to ask you if you’ve read

Plato “Me? No,” you blankly

reply slave to your desire

sight set on the summit

above Aristophanes’ clouds

you push on up the steep

slope your calves working

pistons accelerated heart-

beat the drum roll you hear

then a rimshot when you reach

the top & collapse beside

your boulder this is what

you love to do but of course

rolling down is easier.

Housekeeping, 10/5/2009

Work? What kind of work is this work?
(Richard Foreman, Catastrophic Conversations with Mr. X)

There are plenty of tactful ways to say “I’m unemployed.” At the time of this writing, the unemployment rate in America is 9.8%. That’s a lot of people, which means that “I’m unemployed” is going to become a lot more common. Acceptable, even. After all, it’s not your fault you got laid off. It’s just the way things are.

But there is an edge in this kind of unemployment: what do you do with your free time? Look for new jobs? Finish the grout-work in the bathroom? Eat ice cream and watch the news all day? It seems like the temporarily non-working worker still does “work” during this time. However, this “work” is distinct from a “job” for several reasons:

  1. it’s unpaid
  2. it occurs in the home
  3. it accrues value from the time put into it, not the market receiving it

For example, a man who has worked for 15 years at a chainsaw factory gets laid off. He goes home, mopes for a few weeks, and then decides to pursue his passion. He begins creating massive, totemic carvings, using his chainsaw to sculpt uncured wood. He works tirelessly on his art, longer hours than he ever put in at the factory. Nobody will buy these things. They’re ridiculous-looking, crude, and difficult to ship. The art has no market value, because nobody will pay for them—and the buyer certainly wouldn’t pay what the carvings are worth.

If the man worked on a piece for 100 hours, and applied his usual factory wage, he’d probably set the price at around $1800. (That’s for bare labor, without material costs, medical benefits or half-hour lunch breaks included.) If the other aspects of creating the piece are included, at least another zero can be appended to the price tag. If the man holding the chainsaw is named Henry Moore, yet another zero.

But the man has never been to college, you could argue. He hasn’t studied art. He doesn’t have an MFA. He can’t name any of the great sculptors, nor could he describe his influences. He works in his backyard, not in a studio. The chainsaw carvings are folk art, not “high art.” It’s practically a hobby.

Does that matter? Should it?

Take a different scenario. A woman works ten hours a day in the home. She cleans, sews, shops for groceries, prepares meals, and does at least eight hours of childcare. She does not leave her home unless it’s to run an errand, or maybe meet another mother for a playdate and coffee. The woman does not have an insurance plan, except as her husband’s dependent. She has no income of her own, unless she has personal investments or runs a small-scale business. She does at least five different kinds of tasks every day, often multitasking to save time. Hiring a professional to do the work she does would be astronomically expensive—but the woman is not paid. In fact, when her husband comes home from his white-collar job, the house looks very much the same as it did when he left that morning.

Does that mean her work has no value?

If there is no money that changes hands for this non-work, what is the reward? There’s no paycheck, no benefits, no boss giving you a pat on the back. So is fulfillment derived from the creative process, the knowledge that you did a good job? We do it every day (it holds the world together). What kind of work is this work? (CRF)

Second Life, 9/28/2009

In Second Life, players relax in surreal surroundings.

In Second Life, players relax in surreal surroundings.

Linden Labs seeks Solution Providers. Solution Provider is the curious job of producing nothing out of something. Code becomes script which manipulates a figure rendered in a 3D vitual environment hosted on Linden Labs servers. Solution Providers use code to create clothing, “skins” (a combination of body features one can drag and drop on an avatar to instantly change the body shape & look), develop audio scripts, landscape, terraform, create textures like wood grain for a tree or a living room floor, animate movements, or assist with marketing for businesses.

In 2002, Linden Labs released the first public version of a 3D web-based virtual world called SecondLife (SL). As of a lecture the founder made in 2008, SL has 250,000 people logging in every day and at that time (it has since grown) was considered 25,000 times larger than the game World of Warcraft. Anyone anywhere with a computer and internet access can download a program which logs users into an online fauxland. Each user has an Avatar, a 3D virtual body that moves through the SL world. Users may customize their virtual bodies (Ex: big nose, wide hips, rosy cheeks and long arms, five foot two, or maybe today you want to be six foot two with fuller lips, long legs, flippers for hands and a receding hairline), change gender, change clothes styles, change into a fox or a kitten or a Monty Python character. Whatever you want to be, you can be. The catch is that SL is not real.

The rules of gravity and proportion are flexible in SL.

The rules of gravity and proportion are flexible in SL.

In some regards, SL is like its name: a second life. It is a place to meet new people or old friends, join classes, watch movies, attend lectures and interviews, produce plays and interact much as in real life. At the same time, SL is nothing. It is a game. The things you make out of code have to stay there. Unless you are in possession of a 3D copy machine, you will never be able to transfer things you make or purchase to the real world. While Linden Labs has enabled a talk feature (speak through your computer microphone with others in SL as if making a phone call), most conversations happen in an Instant Messaging format. Even though a virtual room can be full of virtual representations of real people, there often is no dialog as the real people are IMing friend-to-friend.

Many SL members (SLers, for short) are engaged in obtaining Lindens, fake money (that exchanges with real money at about two to three hundred Linden per US dollar), or in manipulating their avatars around stripper poles. Some SLers make their avatars maneuver through various uninspired sexual activities. Members or Solution Providers make code which moves avatars in particular ways: facial expressions, posturing, sex acts, and dancing. Dancing is popular and begs the question: what are the people at home doing?

Virtual property is bought and sold via online auctions. Property can be blank land which you terraform and naturescape as you would in a game like SimCity, or you can purchase property pre-loaded with landscaping and houses. A pre-made castle (a ‘drag and drop’ building) can be bought for about a thousand Lindens and put on your property. Linden Labs provides community spaces called Sandboxes where people can test out designs built with code. Sometimes these designs include codes which control other avatars, other times the code designs make flying machines or simulations of Star Wars scenes; whatever the code designer wants. Anything is possible. Theoretically, space for property is only as limited as the Linden Labs’ servers. And all the code, everything in the faux-universe, needs someone to provide maintenance. The people who do this are called Solution Providers.

The application to become a Solution Provider is not very complicated. As an applicant, you either can do the work, or not. One has to log in with a SL user name and password in order to see the application. Most of what is requested is typical to any application for any job.

    • Description
      Up to 250 words describing your offerings and business; do not include returns in your text
    • Business Focus
      Please select up to 3 that best describe the services you provide

These things are not out of the ordinary. You either have code and design skills, or you don’t. So, to you, brave Solution Provider, we salute your intangible job. JMM

Matt Love, 9/28/2009

Current Occupation: English teacher, Newport High School, Newport, Oregon
Former Occupation: sportswriter
Contact Information: Matt Love grew up in Oregon City and is the publisher of Nestucca Spit Press (www.nestuccaspitpress.com) and author/editor of The Beaver State Trilogy and Citadel of the Spirit: Oregon’s Sesquicentennial Anthology. He lives in South Beach on the Oregon Coast and his latest book is Super Sunday in Newport: Notes From My First Year in Town. He’s a regular contributor to the Oregonian and writes the “On Oregon” blog for powells.com. He teaches English and journalism at Newport High School and is currently working on a book about the filming of Sometimes a Great Notion in Lincoln County in 1970.

# # #

How to Become America’s Worst High School Freshman Advisor

With apologies to Lorrie Moore

First, forget you were ever a high school freshman and that sniffing glue and shoulder tapping were once serious ninth grade offenses. Forget that today some freshmen shoot their teachers instead of keying their cars or hack into their email and access porn from the library computer.

Hope for the return of the military draft (this time, women too) and the reintroduction of the phrase “cannon fodder” into the lexicon of American political life. Hope for the reinstatement of corporal punishment in public schools and that electric guitars drop from heaven. Hope that a 14-year old kid eating a hot dog and wearing a baseball cap sideways doesn’t show up on your doorstep wanting to “kick it” with his newly found father—you.

Thank the gods that freshmen advisor period is only once a week, 50 minutes long, and is usually cancelled anyway because of assemblies trying to educate freshmen how to become productive, well adjusted and disease-free adults.

Next, remember that fast food and Ritalin are routinely digested together. Remember that trick or treaters take anti-depressants and many teenagers have never ridden a bicycle. Develop a mutual apathy, better yet aversion, toward helping the students plan goals. Accept as truth the statement from a girl wearing pajamas and green eyeliner who contends that establishing long range goals only sets one up for future failure. Accept as valid, quite possibly existential, the curt responses from a boy who went from redneck to emo two weeks after school started. He wrote: Personal Goal: Class. Academic Goal: Pass. Career Goal: Job. Skills: Blank. Interests: None.

Accept as Zen Buddhist the statement from the girl with a Rockstar and Red Bull on either side of her desk who refused to define and list her goals because, “I want to figure it out as I go along.” Don’t tell her she won’t ever figure it out. But do tell her she ought to read Twilight and become a vampire or fall in love with one.

Learn at least 15 different sugarcoated synonyms for the word “loser” and resist the fantasy of handing every student in your advisor group a copy of On The Road or Fear in Loathing in Las Vegas and telling them “this should be your plan.” Appear to care for the well being of every student and then discharge them from your mind like a rocket propelled grenade the minute the bell rings and they begin to walk out into the horny hallway to ultimately succeed or fail in American life despite anything you said or did or didn’t say or do as their freshman advisor.

And remember that you never had a freshman advisor and you turned out just fine.

Ileanna Portillo, 9/21/2009

Current Occupation: none provided
Former Occupation: none provided
Contact Information: Ileanna Portillo is a poet living and working in Riverside, California. Her work is forthcoming in Snow Monkey Literary Magazine. Her chapbook Poems was published in August.

* * *

Day Labor

Every Saturday when I come to work

my dirty windows look out on the street

where very short men wait for jobs

to offer themselves up.

At eight in the morning they are standing

on the sidewalk, their bicycles

Huffy and Mongoose

chained to a speed limit sign.

They wear baseball caps

and have silver-capped

front teeth.

By ten they are sitting in a line.

On the narrow sidewalk, they wait.

When their jobs drive up in late model trucks

The scramble begins—

knocking on windows, whistling,

and fingers in the air.

Only one or two will get it

out of the fifteen men who do this every morning.

The rest disperse.

The hot coffee burns my tongue.

Au Pair Care, 9/21/2009

This website looks more like an airline commercial than an au pair agency. A young blonde woman hoists a smiling baby. They’re surrounded by splashy ads for au pair testimonials, links to applications and host family forums. It’s overwhelming, actually—too bright, the font just a little too commercial. Au Pair Care really wants you to like it.

And why shouldn’t it want that? After all, Au Pair Care’s bread and butter is connecting compatible people: families needing childcare, and young men and women looking to see the world. But creating this kind of compatibility is more complicated than, say, filling out a Walmart application. This is a delicate business. Both the au pair and the family are vulnerable. (Would you invite a sociopath to care for your children? Would you live in a house with a monstrous, selfish family?) Au Pair Care seeks to bridge the gap of mutual suspicion. Trust Us, their website says, littered with accolades and accreditation.

In terms of recruitment, however, their methods are hazy. Interested applicants need only to like children, have no criminal record, and be in good health. (Further interview questions were not available; presumably they would be administered in person.) The interested host families have to share even less about themselves, nor do they have to submit to an interview. Au Pair Care acts on the behalf of “typical American families … hard-working, friendly, busy, and [who] want the best for their children.” It has representatives in nearly every country to interview interested au pair candidates. (US citizens are not eligible to become au pairs. Import only.) Looking at the website, there’s the sense of a giant, international network of nannies, all of whom are absolutely trustworthy, unmarried, childless, moral people under 25. Indeed, the company promises “high-quality, pre-screened” au pairs. The same language we use in this country to describe firearms, pharmaceuticals, blood donations.

Is it right to commodify such an intimate connection as that of a domestic worker and a child? Live-in help has fallen from the mainstream in America. It is perceived as being hooty-snooty, the privilege of the upper crust, the refuge of those who don’t want to raise their own children. It’s fine to have a babysitter, of course, or even a nanny but an au pair? A foreigner? It grates against the basic American sensibility of self-reliance. Au Pair Care addresses that by presenting au pairs as wanting “to see the world, to study abroad.” The involved parties are mutually indulgent. More than one host family testimonial compares hiring an au pair to having another child. The word “host” is used, instead of “employ.” Is it really that simple?

Perhaps these doubts are misplaced. However, the differences between a nanny and an au pair are substantial—and they don’t seem to come out in the au pair’s favor. CRF

Interview With Mary Preis, 9/14/2009

by Luke Strahota
photos by Kim Oahn Nguyen

Mary Preis, at her installment "Office Hours" at PNCA.

Mary Preis, at her installment "Office Hours" at PNCA.

Most occupations are on display: postal carriers, baristas, construction workers, bankers, farmers, politicians, street performers, taxi drivers, lawyers, beggars, merchants … but not academics. In addition to displaying their work publicly, artists and designers open their studios and offices. When we see objects and images, we are only witnessing the evidence of work. And this work is informed by the even more mysterious teachings that enabled it.

Educators are nestled in crevasses behind guards, locked oak doors, stacks of papers and books—beyond reach when not in the classroom or running between meetings.

Here, academia is revealed. Office hours are on public display so that anyone can observe what life is really like behind those daunting doors.

– Mary L. R. Preis

What have you done here?

I have created an office for myself in the front window of the Pacific Northwest College of Art as part of the faculty biannual art exhibit. This happens to also be the bicentennial year for the school, so it’s a special faculty exhibit. I decided there is no better to way to be to part of the faculty and to show what we do at PNCA than to do it in the front window, create an office and show people the day-to-day work that happens. I thought I would expose the inner workings of academia a bit. What we do during our days is always work. I mean, we do a lot. It brings up the concept of more process-oriented jobs versus more product-oriented jobs. I want a coffee. I go, I get a coffee. I see someone make it there, it is done. Contract completed. There’s a commodity and you bought that commodity. Then there’s the service-oriented jobs where there’s sort of a commodity, but what are you buying when you buy education? You don’t really know what that looks like: how many hours a week do I get with my teacher?

How do you think the act of working is art?

Just by looking at the most everyday activities, things that make the world run. I see my postal carrier and I say, “Something’s happening there.” There’s an accomplishment, an actual product of mail going into the box. With teaching, I never get that satisfaction until maybe I see a student years down the road with an art show. You often don’t get to see the end result of the contract. There is sort of this magic and mystery of teaching. You try to keep up with the students and that’s what’s been so fun about this project. One of the other things is that here at PNCA we don’t have regular offices. You have a lot of student one-to-one time, but no one really knows about it—it happens sort of in dark corners … Here, you get the satisfaction of people coming in any time and saying “Wow, you know what? That was effective to me.” And other people get to witness that, and they say, “Hey something’s really going on there. It’s not the mysterious behind-these-doors activity. It’s an actual physical thing.

Desk, posters, carpet, lamp.

Desk, lamp, papers, fan.

What’s your equation for work and money? Often time artists work for very little money.

The equation: materials plus labor equals work. The materials are straightforward but then you can value that work however you want. Maybe you want to value it as twice as much as those things combined. Either you’re using detritus from the street or you’re using gold and there’s a cost/value already associated with that. Then you have the labor. If you’re a lawyer, you charge for every second you’re doing it and you charge per half hour. As artists we don’t get to charge for sleepless nights. We don’t charge for the concert we went to Friday night but that actually inspired us quite a lot about relationships. You get to charge more when you are college-educated but not necessarily $25,000 a year, which is what it costs to go to college. So how do you put a value on that labor? And how do I put value on my time too? I don’t get paid by the hour by working with my students. I think you get used to the fact that most of us are working for $5 an hour and part of the experience of doing this is to have people understand how much time and energy goes into being a student, being a professor, being an artist.

Do you think society in general would be more productive if we all had to work in a display case?

People would in one way be more productive, but you still can’t see what’s on the computer screen—if they’re checking Facebook and not doing work. I think there would be more of an appreciation that all jobs work and even pay equity for certain jobs. People understand that trash men get paid well because people see trash men and they think, “If I had to do that all day long…” It’s back-breaking work down to the core. I don’t think people understand how much I run around up and down stairs, carrying books back and forth. I’m physically beat by end of day too. You would start to see that. I think I should get paid for my mental abilities—my education I had to invest in—I think that if people all saw that they’d appreciate the equality of work more. We all do different things, but we all have the same stake in what needs to get done for life to efficiently move. There is an ethical responsibility to work at work.

Even if you’re not passionate about your day job?

Well, the thing about teaching is that most teachers are passionate about it. We’re obviously not doing it for the money. I think the extra layer of difficulty is that I teach at an art school. Nobody goes to art school for just the hell of it. Nobody generally teaches at an art school for the hell of it. There’s a certain dedication. And there’s already this thin line, if any, between art and life. That’s always this sort of question: what is art and what is life? And then you take it one step further, it gets to be difficult. I love my job, but I never go home and am done with my job. That’s another reason for this project: so that when I go home maybe I’ll stop working, because otherwise I’ll work until midnight, wake up and do it all again.

So you work hard then. Why do you work hard?

(Long, drawn-out pause.) I like work. Why not turn my work into my art, which is what I’ve done here? It’s good work. It’s work I feel strongly about, work that I feel needs to be accomplished. However, I do work more than I probably should. I wish I had more time in the studio, but if I’m not going to be there, why not combine my studio work my visual work? I really don’t see much of a distinction between working in the studio and sitting and grading a bunch of papers. They all are the same and all come from the same place and go back to the same place, which is this internal conversation amongst humanity about what we do/why we do/how we do it.

What are the good things and bad things about your job?

The good things are that I get to think interesting thoughts with interesting people all day long. The bad thing is that you’re never done working—everywhere you go, everything you do influences the work—you don’t really have an end. What I’ve also tried to put on display here is the amount of administration and paperwork that goes into what I do. The unglamorous side, where little by little my office is getting messier—stacks of paper are rising— what started as a nicely appointed space is turning into what my house usually looks like, because all of this junk is usually there. And I think a lot of people think of art school as just some funky place where you go, for both students and faculty, where it’s just fun and it is just studio time. In reality, there’s a lot of work that goes into this. I just got out of my department chair meeting and we have to deal with health issues and we have to deal with accreditation issues, writing self studies and curriculum development, and acquisition of new buildings and programs and places.

Can we be creative and still have a non-creative day job?

I truly believe that all people do have a creative side and there’s a great book called Homo Aestheticus that talks about creativity and aesthetic appreciation as an evolutionary necessity. And in that sense I tend to agree we are all aesthetic beings and have an aesthetic appreciation. There must be some kind of biological benefit to that, otherwise we wouldn’t have continued to develop that part of our brain—devote times of our life where we apparently get “nothing” in return. But we apparently do because we keep doing it. But then the question is balancing that part of one’s creative impulse which we all have in some way and our work. I haven’t gotten there yet. One of the benefits of working at an art school is that even if I don’t get enough time to make my own art, I have enough time that I can be around others. I can feed that creative will. I would also say that being a teacher is creative and as being a department chair, being a chairman of a liberal arts department and creating curriculum is creative. But as far as my own work goes, I’ve always been a multidisciplinary artist, I don’t think I even make simply “studio time” although I try every day. I try to devote something. You do what you need to do for the art.

Do you have a fantasy job you’ve always wanted to do but never would do it?

I don’t know how to drive an 18-wheeler. So many of the other jobs I’d love to do all involve teaching. Like being a tour guide would be interesting for a while, or teaching middle school. But besides just being an artist? I really don’t know. I’ve got a green thumb. Maybe a gardener, I love to garden but I don’t have the time to do it because I’m doing this [other] stuff.

Why do you push yourself so hard to do all this stuff?

I like to make good differences. Why not? It’s like all good art, you don’t have a choice. You have to. You feel a compulsion. I don’t have to, I just can’t imagine not. I’ve never not taught and I’ve never not been an artist, so I don’t know what else to do, and I’m not very good at sitting still—which is really hard to do at the desk.

What have you discovered so far with this project?

One thing that I find very frustrating is how inefficient so many offices are, both for the individual and the organization. I think that we all need to step back and think about what works for us and what makes us efficient workers. The office cube doesn’t really inspire work, it inspires people to work on Facebook. And that’s why I usually work from home. I’m more productive there than at the faculty offices here, which are communal. I don’t work well in that environment, but I don’t have an option unless I get to build my own like I’m doing here.

NB: Professor Preis will be displaying Office Hours through October 17.
To schedule your office hours, contact her at:

Pacific Northwest College of Art
1241 NW Johnson St.
Portland, Oregon 97209
www.pnca.edu

Sean Davis, 9/14/2009

Current Occupation: Account Manager, Film Maker, Life Coach, Test Pilot

Former Occupation: Security Guard

Contact Information: Sean Davis is a Portland writer with a tendency to focus on characters that are weird, lonely and hold a skewed view of the world. In 2004 P-Town Independent Press published 1,000 copies of his dark comedic novel Motivation and Toleration which sold out at local book stores in a little over a year. Sean won the Editor’s Choice Award at Ooligan Press in 2008 and again in 2009 for his short fiction. He is one of two writers to ever win consecutive Editor’s Choice awards. His short stories have appeared in local zines such as The P-Town Ripple, Reflections, and Pathos Literary Magazine. He lives in the Alberta neighborhood with his beautiful wife and daughters. You can see more of his work here: www.ptownsean.wordpress.com

Sean Davis, Security Guard

Sean Davis, Security Guard

Waiting on a Sandwich

I’m the guy dressed up with a fake badge, in clothes borrowed from an airline pilot. I’m sitting at a desk as people walk by oblivious to my existence until they see something they don’t like.

A man talks on a blue tooth while eating an ice cream cone. He wears a bike helmet as he walks through the lobby of the building and into the elevator. His tongue explores the outside of the big scoop like a blind worm. Deep from inside his throat he is saying yes, a small laugh, yes again. He walks straight into an open elevator and disappears.

I get a call over the radio that a transient is bothering people in front of Whole Foods.

Every male panhandler I chase off the blocks tells me that they are an Iraqi War vet. This one has a tattoo of a bird on his neck, the right side, left as I’m looking at him. He says he’ll leave soon. He’s only waiting for his friend.

His friend is inside buying him a sandwich.

I tell him that he can’t panhandle on the Brewery Blocks.

He says that he’s diabetic and if he doesn’t eat…

He doesn’t finish the sentence.

I tell him that he can’t panhandle on the Brewery Blocks.

He says that he’s just arrived five minutes ago and that there was another guy panhandling on the other bench for an hour and a half before him.

I say that I must have missed him, but I would have told him the same thing.

He says he was a marine for ten years and he was in Iraq. His guts were blown out of him. He was in the top part of a humvee.

I say that is horrible and tell him I was in Iraq. I ask where he was hit.

He says the Green Zone.

I say I was in the Green Zone. I ask where he was hit.

He says he’ll leave as soon as his friend comes out with his sandwich he’ll be out in five minutes.

We stand on the corner not talking to each other for a couple minutes.

A dog tied to a bike rack barks at me.

I say that not even the dogs around here like the security guards.

Again he tells me that his friend is buying him a sandwich.

I tell him that I used to volunteer at the Vet Center and if he really is a veteran they have resources.

He tells me fuck resources, he does it himself. Then he puts the change I saw him panhandle into his pocket.

Safe keeping.

He does it himself he tells me and because of that he picked Carhartt jeans and jacket. They are warmer.

Thicker too I say.

Thicker too he says.

His cap is hunter-camouflage and his goatee is nicely trimmed. He tells me the only family he has left is an aunt and uncle in Eugene but he doesn’t have the money to take the bus down there. It only costs 22 dollars.

I tell him if he calls the Vet Center that they would help him.

He pulls out his cell phone and asks me the number.

I tell him.

He looks like he is dialing the number.

I walk away to give him some privacy, so he doesn’t embarrass himself. I walk down the street to Burnside and watch some construction workers in reflective vests dig up a strip of pavement. I smell diesel fumes and hear the loud jackhammer pounding. The dog behind me barks some more. The sun feels warm. I walk back to the bench in front of Whole Foods and he is gone.

I return to the desk in the lobby. The elevator rings and its female voice says first floor, going up. The man with the bike helmet walks out, his ice cream gone. I sit down


M.F. McAuliffe, 9/7/2009

Current Occupation: fighting malnutrition

Former Occupations: finding the creamy goodness in every passing day

Contact Information: M.F. McAuliffe is co-founder and contributing editor as the award-winning, multilingual magazine Gobshite Quarterly. She made her US debut in Damon Knight’s Clarion Awards, and in the following 25 years published fiction and verse in many venues in the US and Australia. Her collections include Fighting Monsters and a series of mini-chapbooks. The following piece is an excerpt from her novel Swimming With Heraclitus.

* * *

The Private Sektor

(November 1989–August 1993)

Your resume is you!

It is a dynamic, supercharged portrait of your potential!

In less than 20 seconds it must show why you, the kickass candidate, have to be interviewed and hired today!!

#

START WITH THE LATEST!

#

Name the three greatest accomplishments of your last position.

Use a separate page for each accomplishment. Use the same format for each accomplishment. Empower each accomplishment with the title it deserves!

#

ACCOMPLISHMENT #1

#

Problem: Being passed over for Year-2 training despite my competence and seniority/being forced to wait another six months for desperately-needed pay-raise.

#

Response: At a confidential discussion I told my supervisor that I knew X had begun Year-2 training out of order of seniority. My supervisor replied that this had been planned for about 8 months. I replied that she had described seniority as the training order, during my annual review, only three months before this discussion.

    • i) My supervisor apologized for not having told me that this was going to happen.
    • ii) I stood up, not knowing whether I was going to leave the room or the job. I said I supposed I would forgive her some day.
    • iii) She told me she would make it up to me. She arranged for me to begin training the following week.

#

Results: I received the $2,600/yr payraise 6-8 months earlier than otherwise. Gain of $1,300-$1,700.

#

    • i) For the next 12 months my supervisor treated me as though I should sit down, shut up & disappear.
    • ii) I was put last on all schedules for new training.
    • iii) I was kept off assignments that were later treated as prerequisites for further promotion.

Qualities: Desperation, bloodymindedness, despisal of treachery and lies.

Title for this accomplishment: Discovering the landscape.

#

ACCOMPLISHMENT #2

#

Problem: Being put in a cubicle/being made to work in solitary confinement.

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Responses: Visual:

i) Began fantasizing high-contrast b&w images on bland, obliterating grey walls.

ii) Sandwiched & collaged old negatives, new images for photo-work, Cubist treatment of dark, dark place. Installed on north wall of cubicle.

iii) Arranged coloured sequences of pet cat chasing birds, squirrels in rented garden. Installed on outer edge of south wall of cubicle for easy identification of own seat when returning from bathroom.

iv) Adapted collage/installation mindset to single-image editing. At night, restructured & edited 2 photosequences, sold 1.

v) Completed and edited several other sequences to form collection now being marketed.

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Responses: Audio:

Learned to listen to radio while performing to Company standards.

i) Improved my knowledge of classical music.

ii) Caught up on 20 years of punk & alt. rock music

iii) Heard speeches, interviews, with left-wing political & social writers & observers.

Responses: Whole-body: Maintained intermittent eye-contact with, arranged walks on breaks with, discreet, depressed colleagues. Ate sandwiches in mutual despair.

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Qualities: Desperation, bloodymindedness, a tokenish supportiveness.

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Title for this accomplishment: Survival.

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ACCOMPLISHMENT #3

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Problem: Special assignment schedule/greater than average share of horrible task.

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Response: Sent memo to the manager who prepared the schedule. Requested reason for illogical and demonstrably unfair work-allocation.

Results:

i) Manager replied, offering ease of administration as reason, switched me to different team as solution.

ii) Two days later manager delivered revised work-schedule featuring equal work-assignments for all editing teams.

iii) Manager subsequently greeted me with unvarying coldness, avoided all eye-contact.

iv) Manager refused me a position in new Dept. which is replacing Dept. I currently work in.

v) Negative notation about my communication-style appeared in my annual review.

Qualities: Desperation, bloodymindedness, inability to face being buried in a hole forever, again.

#

Title for this accomplishment: Outplacement.

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She decided.

She wanted a job to do with photography.

Mouth of earth.

Fire/death/shattering

She couldn’t be freelance.

There were stock photo agencies in Seattle. She could go there.

She took her severance, cashed her pension, and moved. She finally got a job in an agency.

She took the few prints she had of Tom’s and had them floated on acid-free board, and framed.

Blackwater USA, 9/7/2009

The Applicant Questionnaire for Blackwater USA is chilling. It starts out simply enough: name, languages spoken, qualifications. Then it asks which major airport is nearest to you. Then it wants to know which weapons you are qualified to use. (The list of weapons, by the way, is listed alphabetically from an AT-4 to a shotgun.)

This is no ordinary application.

Blackwater USA, owned by Erik Prince (American, Evangelican Christian, former Navy SEAL), has been in the news frequently over the last year. The company was hired by the US government as a contractor, to aid in the war in Iraq. Blackwater has been called a “mercenary” company of “war profiteers.” In fact, the company’s structure is very similar to that of the American military. Blackwater recruits pilots, police, mechanics—even plumbers. It claims to train more efficiently, working with “military, security and law enforcement professionals as well as civilians.” Many of its employees are former members of the military—the freedom fighters.

However, unlike the military, Blackwater hires from countries outside the US (and sometimes hostile to it). Also, it’s not shy about being part of the engine of war. The Blackwater USA website presents each visitor with a scrolling slideshow of images of people holding guns, working with muzzled German Shepherds, and crouching on a firing range. Compare this with the US Navy website, which shows a pair of women sitting at a conference table, a helicopter landing on an aircraft carrier, and Marines doing construction in Tarawa. The US Army website mainly features photos of soldiers getting H1N1 vaccinations.

It’s as if Blackwater represents the ugly side of the military, that part that does the nation’s dirty work. This isn’t a marketable aspect of the military—their emphasis is on patriotism, teamwork, and a hand up to better things. The business of overt violence is farmed out to a contractor—and Blackwater is portrayed as attracting wingnuts who are itching to fight, instead of recruits hoping to find a career and earn money for college. This unapologetic, unmasked attitude towards violence is what makes the Blackwater application so jarring. It asks, Are you willing to kill? Have you killed before?

And why is admitting this—weapons proficiency, combat experience, and the willingness to do it for money—all it takes to change a soldier from a uniformed “freedom fighter” to a contracted “war profiteer”? Where is the line between duty and exploitation? CRF

Whole Foods, 8/31/2009

The corporate mission statement is a tricky thing. As a rule, it cites lofty goals, high ideals, and usually the words “commitment to” and “excellence.” However, the mission statement—in this cynical age—seems to have gone by the wayside. The idea that any corporation could have a conscience seems untrustworthy at best. As consumers become more aware of marketing techniques, they are less likely to “buy” the ideas in a mission statement. Rather, the ideas are used to make the corporation seem “better.” Shell Oil does this with their environmental research advertisements, which crop up regularly on billboards and the back pages of magazines. Companies that donate to cancer research, international human aid funds and food banks are quick to display their laurels.

Whole Foods walks the line between genuine earnestness and shameless pandering. Its Declaration of Interdependence says, without a trace of cynicism,

Achieving unity of vision about the future of our company, and building trust between Team Members is a goal of Whole Foods Market. At the same time diversity and individual differences are recognized and honored. We aim to cultivate a strong sense of community and dedication to the company. We also realize how important leisure time, family, and community involvement outside of work is for a rich, meaningful and balanced life. We must remember that we are not “Whole Life Market.” … “Us versus them” thinking has no place in our company.

This kind of language pervades the employment section as well. There is not one mission statement, but three: each reiterates something said in the Declaration, as well as describing the “fun, friendly and diverse bunch of team members and leadership.” There’s a separate section on Core Values, the Green Mission and more. The mission statement, which in another company might be a single paragraph, gets an amazing amount of attention at Whole Foods. In fact, the “mission” appears in some form on every single page of the website.

So the question is: what is Whole Foods selling?

And with so much ethical, environmental, and community justification, what could it possibly do wrong? CRF