Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
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New York City, October 20, 2014

weather review sky 102014★★★ The morning was a slightly discolored blue, like an antiqued piece of painted furniture. Haze scattered the light and made the east not even white but colorless. Downtown, a bit of mist—real or fake—floated over a damp and squalid crime scene being staged for cameras in an alley. People in the office huddled in outerwear at their computers till the smell of the heating system spread over the room. The afternoon light up Amsterdam was strong but bleak, even where it found red and green ivy spreading over a building eight stories up. Only at the end did it turn rich and golden, just before it went out. Dinner was organized and early, but nightfall was earlier.

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How Amazon Solved the Problem of Work

On Wednesday, October 8th, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk. The case pits warehouse workers Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro against their former employer. The issue at hand is time: Should minutes spent waiting to be screened at the end of the workday—Integrity manages warehouses that fulfill online shopping orders—be counted as work? If so, then shouldn't workers be paid?

Supreme Court cases that feel ethically simple are often legally complicated; similarly, cases that make it that far and yet appear legally tidy are often ethically difficult. This case seems to fall into the former category: you have decades of opaque labor legislation through which the definition of work must be read and in the shadow of which it must be revised; you also have a specific situation in which workers reach the end of their shifts and are then effectively detained at their workplaces for up to 25 minutes, without pay, in order to be checked for stolen merchandise.

One way to understand this post-work/pre-departure limbo is in terms of incentives: If this time counted as work, it would cost Integrity Staffing Solutions a lot of money, so Integrity Staffing Solutions would be motivated to minimize it. But if this extra time doesn't count as work, there is no direct incentive to fix anything. In that situation, Integrity's objectives are to make sure workers aren't stealing merchandise, and to do so at the minimum possible cost. It does not need to worry about workers' time, because that time, which is valuable to Integrity's efforts to prevent theft, costs them virtually nothing. Meanwhile, the value of this time to the employees has not changed. They're not home. They're not at their other jobs. They're not seeing friends. They are, as far as everyone else in their lives is concerned, still at work.

In some workplaces, long term worker morale would be an additional consideration. An employer might be incentivized to make sure its employees are happy enough to stick around. Being asked to wait in long lines due to an assumption that you are hiding stolen products in your bag is the kind of thing that might make an employee think, "I don't want to work in this place, where I am antagonized and treated as a potential criminal."

Integrity Staffing Solutions does not seem to see itself as the the kind of employer that owes its workers anything at all. In its job listings, it portrays itself as a leader in a bold new economy:

We are the people putting people back to work. We are the leaders of the new normal and we have been since 1997. Providing jobs, solutions and a deep competence for a new economy. We supply the skills that propel life forward. We inspire individuals to find their third, fourth and their umpteenth gear. We are an engine of opportunity. We are the gateway from good to great.

Welcome to the new normal. Welcome to Integrity Staffing Solutions. Engine of Opportunity. Engine of the new economy.

This listing's zealous tone takes on a new dimension when you consider Integrity's star client: Amazon.

READ MORE

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My Day Interviewing For The Service Economy Startup From Hell

HandyI was running to the interview, worried I’d get there late. My temp job was over as of a few days prior. Rent was due at the end of the month, and I needed a new source of income, fast. I was sending out multiple applications per day and I finally had a bite.

A new start-up company called Handybook called me quickly after I hit submit on their online application. I breezed through a phone interview and was invited to interview in person for a Customer Experience Associate position the very next day. Although it wasn't an ideal job, and I wasn’t sure how much it paid, it did promise full-time, steady employment and a standard benefits package—exactly what I needed to get by.

Sweaty and out of breath, I got to Handybook’s Chelsea offices moments before my scheduled interview time. I navigated my way through narrow hallways until I reached a nondescript door, and opened it to reveal around 15 employees at their desks, who all looked up in surprise at my intrusion.

"I’m here for an interview?" I smiled into the office space, trying not to feel uncomfortable by everyone sizing me up at once. Someone went to find the interviewer and I perched on a battered couch to wait.

The office was like a cliché of a start-up company: Everyone was wearing T-shirts and jeans, typing away on laptops and iMacs. The space was cramped and smelled vaguely like pod coffee, cleaning solution, and sweat. Every wall was a whiteboard full of cryptic notes and doodles.

Finally, Lindsay* came to get me, and we walked through a cluster of shelving and into a window-filled conference room with a long table and chairs. A LEGO set took up one end of the table and the walls were covered in more white boards. READ MORE

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The Beatles Never Existed

beatlessss

This is a serious subject, not a joke, and this site is here to expose the actions of those who exploited these young men and defrauded us their fans. It is to defend the honor of everyone involved who did not take part in it willingly. It has become apparent to us in this extensive and painstaking research that there were never just four individual people known as "John", "Paul", "George", and "Ringo" who comprised one Rock & Roll band known as "The Beatles", and rose to fame as the world's first supergroup. For all intents and purposes as far as we can tell, no one such group ever existed.

The Beatles Never Existed Dot Com

The Paul-Is-Dead meme has been kicking around for decades now, based on discrepancies in certain photos and fueled by the free-floating paranoia of the White Album; Paul looks a bit taller in the later photos, it turns out, and maybe the Abbey Road cover looks a bit like a funeral procession. The only reasonable explanation, the theory goes, is that Paul was killed in 1966 and replaced by a double, canonically known as William Campbell.

But recently, a site has suggested taking the theory one step further. If there was no Paul—that is, no singular person responsible for the musical output of "Paul McCartney" between 1942 and the present—then there couldn't really be a Beatles either. Everyone had to be in on it, which suggests they were either doubles themselves or sufficiently threatened by the threat of double-replacement that they kept quiet about it all. The Beatles as we know them, the four smiling lads having a great time playing music and being famous, never existed. It was all just a parade of doubles, orchestrated by a sinister British music establishment.

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Getting Personal with Jonathan Katz

jonathankatzInterviewing Jonathan Katz is an interesting experience, especially when doing so over the phone. After all, most of us know him from the animated sitcom he created, wrote and voiced in the 90’s, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the series and is being celebrated with the release of a new album, Dr. Katz Live. Speaking to Katz over the phone was like talking to the Doctor himself. In fact, at times I caught myself opening up to him as if I were in an actual therapy session. Perhaps this is from his inquisitive nature and because he was genuinely interested in learning more about me as well.

As mentioned on his website, Katz’s comedy is not for everybody. It took him time to find his audience, but once he did, he established himself as a brilliant (and very dry) comedian. I recorded my conversation with him as I always do with interviews, to make sure I didn’t miss anything and in listening back on our conversation, I realized that I initially missed out on some of his humor. There were many moments, that that I never “got” until the second listening. Like the rest of the world, it took some time, but while I was a fan of the show before, now I’m an even bigger fan of the real guy. After you read our conversation, come back and read it again. I promise you’ll appreciate him even more the second time. READ MORE

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Todd Terje, "Delorean Dynamite (for sale)"

A song that you can enjoy aesthetically or for its cheery thesis: That music is a subset of advertising.

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"Ringo Starr Is The New Face Of Skechers."

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Cosmic Moans, Ranked


10. Neptune moan
9. Earth moan 2 ("song")
8. Uranus moan
7. Saturn ring moan
6. Jupiter moan
5. Saturn moan
4. Earth moan 1 ("voice")
3. Miranda moan
2. IO moan (moon-moan)
1. Uranus ring moan

(via Consequence of Sound)

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New York City, October 19, 2014

★★★★ The apartment door banged in its frame where it stood, and howling sounds came from down the hallway. Time to switch to socks that would cover the ankles. Sunlit pieces of plant fluff flared and veered in the forecourt. The pigeon spikes on the near wall were a glittering battlement. Food trucks flanked the Apple Store. Birds twittered over the generator throb. "That is not a ice cream truck!" the three-year-old said. The shortness of the afternoon was palpable. Down by Canal Street, a paper or foam plate soared up and then dived down to bounce off the windshield of a Mercedes. A foam mesh fruit sleeve rolled around on the sidewalk. The shiny parts of the Empire State Building caught the lowering sun and shimmered in the distance.

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Shabazz Palaces, "Motion Sickness"

A narrative video for one of the more accessible tracks on the excellent Lese Majesty, which I've been coming back to again and again over the last couple months (see previously: #CAKE).

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Perverts & Prisons: Madeleine Holden on John Grisham

_56717160_jex_1233818_de27-1The internet throngs daily with bad opinions, but every few weeks an argument will emerge that’s so thoroughly wrongheaded and deeply reprehensible that we're all forced to engage with it. Last week it came in the form of statements made during an interview with once-popular crime novelist John Grisham. Grisham, in case you missed it, issued a suspiciously impassioned defence of middle-aged white men who are imprisoned for accessing child sex abuse images, arguing that these men are harmless because they don’t physically touch children and should therefore be receiving more lenient punishment; and and if that sounds like an alarming position for a best-selling author and lawyer to hold, that's because it is. Grisham’s stomach-dropping defence of white sex offenders his age has rightly enraged advocates for child abuse victims (as well as most other basically decent people), and while he has since apologized for his statements in the wake of widespread criticism, the damage is more or less done. Here's a rundown of the most galling elements of Grisham’s wholly indefensible thesis: READ MORE

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Modern Experience Rendered Accurately

Who do you identify with? Is it one of the many Waldos? All of the Waldos? The guy relaxing briefly at the axis? The unstoppable spinning prism itself? One of the few people who, at the very beginning, runs and then jogs and then walks out of frame?

The object label for this installation (via Chuck Anderson) reads:

Crowd dynamics test using Miarmy for Maya.
Shows the new servo force feature which allows struggling animation once the agent has become dynamic
Rendered with Arnold

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The New York City Tourism Association Thanks You for Visiting the Apple Store

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, Slate Assistant Editor Miriam Krule tells us more about intergenerational information transfer at the Apple store in Grand Central Terminal.

Miriam! So what happened here?

I was heading to Connecticut to celebrate the festival of huts out in the wilderness. My ride had fallen through, so I was taking the train, but the only one that worked for various boring logistical reasons was essentially midday. My parents live in New Jersey, so even though I grew up in New York, I’ve spent very little time in Grand Central Station and didn’t exactly think things through, figuring I could work from there in the morning. I found a nice quiet corner, only to realize that there’s no magical train station Wi-Fi (coincidentally this was as news of “Wi-Fi is a human right” was blowing up). Just as I was about to cave and pay for it (aka, look for a Starbucks), I saw an Apple Wi-Fi option and basically searched for a strong connection and ended up in the Apple Store, which I had no idea existed. (For future reference, it’s on this majestic balcony overlooking the main floor. Also, it’s impossible to miss.)

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"A pregnant unwed mother can’t use Facebook alone to notify the father about the baby before putting the child up for adoption, Oklahoma’s highest civil court has ruled."

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Counselor, World Traveler, Wrangler of Young Jews: A Hiring History

On the last day of Camp FirewoodCamp counselor: In the days of yore, when I was eighteen, I chased 6 and 7 year old children around five days week for eight weeks for one thousand dollars. At the end of everyday they got in the cars of their grownups and drove away and I listened to Dar Williams over and over (ON CASSETTE TAPE). I discovered her after our camp music director played “The Babysitter’s Here” on her guitar. I also made out with another counselor a lot, and then drove at high speeds from their house at five in the morning so I could be at work the next day. As you do.

Wrangler of Young Jews

Job A: I moved to the Midwest for four years to try and convince students at a small liberal arts college, infamous for performance art and communal kitchens and organ playing, that being Jewish was important. It was a fractious community, full of bright, rare, thoughtful humans who came to encompass my entire existence. In the best moments, we read the racy passages in romance novels aloud to one another in the dining hall, watched TV together in the dorm lounges, and crammed into my tiny, beloved apartment to eat snacks and laugh. In the worst, I felt isolated and more than a little crazy. READ MORE

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Your Ebola Halloween Costume: A User's Guide

So you're doing "Ebola" for your halloween costume this year. You've found a topical novelty outfit online, or maybe you've just purchased some cheap and readily available medical clothing, knowing that your peers will have no problem guessing what it's supposed to represent.

But "Ebola" is going to be a very popular costume this year. You're not the only person who heard about this epidemic on the news! If you want to stand out—if you want to be the star of the party, by evoking Ebola hemorrhagic fever—you need to study up. Here are some helpful facts that you can recite to your friends in order to give your Ebola costume that extra dimension of authenticity.

• Ebola kills quickly and painfully. There is no known cure, or vaccine, and the best available treatment in most cases, according to the CDC, is "providing intravenous fluids (IV) and balancing electrolytes (body salts)."

• Ebola is characterized, early on, by fever, weakness, headache and diarrhea. This is followed by hemorrhaging and near-total loss of responsiveness.

• Direct contact with infected patients is the primary mode of transmission for Ebola. Therefore, this disease is most dangerous to the people who choose to provide treatment to the afflicted. Many, many medical professionals have died trying to give care and slow the spread of this terrifying disease.

• Ebola has spread most profoundly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, where a paucity of medical and emergency infrastructure has allowed the disease to spiral out of control. (Don't worry: These places are all at least 4,000 miles away from the nearest American Halloween parties.) Facilities that do exist have been largely overwhelmed, creating hellish scenes of suffering.

• Many of the people fighting this disease do not have access to necessary PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)—equipment that you will be wearing, either in real or replicate form, to a sports bar or fraternity party on October 31st. (Careful: The CDC says that proper PPE "significantly reduces the body’s normal way of getting rid of heat by sweating," increasing the risk of dehydration and heat-related illnesses.)

READ MORE

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Upon closer inspection of the shelves, he noticed that the rear wall stopped short, a couple of inches from the other side, suggesting a gap in between. He peered lower. There was a pinpoint hole in the rear wall. Below it, a toothpick lay on the shelf. Deputy Davis, 43, stuck the toothpick in the hole.

The toothpick pressed a hidden button that released a large magnet that kept a secret compartment locked. Deputy Davis lifted the front of the row of shelves like you would the trunk of a small car, and inside were rows and rows, all different brands, of contraband. Not narcotics or pills, but unopened packs of cigarettes, perfectly legal in the state in which they were bought, but not here. Hence the secret compartment.

You might be wondering: How much are cigarettes from state to state, such that bodegas—forty-eight percent of those inspected by police—stock illegal cigarettes as a matter of course?

What a marvelous excuse to highlight the Awl's annual state-by-state cigarette price index. As the Awl's summer intern discovered a couple months ago, Virginia, where most of the contraband cigarettes seem to come from, sits squarely in the nexus of close and cheap, at $5.25 a pack, making it tied with Missouri for the cheapest cigarettes in the nation.

Light one up for poor Ahmed.

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New York City, October 16, 2014

weather review sky 101614★★★ A soaking rain, lingering from overnight, went off and on before shutting fully off at midday. From the west, the sky began to go blue. The once-fetid air had cooled. The clouds kept dissolving till there was blue shining in the puddles. The sidewalk tables went into service for lunch. Finally the clouds were nothing but gorgeous piles of light and shadow, pure harmless scenery.

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Spell Book of Beauty

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I’ve talked about makeup as magic before—it bleeds through my work. Sometimes I take the message literally and make beauty a ritual to do in the dark. And you know, it’s always worked, even if not entirely in the ways you would expect it to. Here are a few of my favorite spells.

For Recovery & Purification
I do this in the dark times where I relapse into “It was my fault” territory, when I am preoccupied with what I could haves and should haves and what my demons are doing now. Take some clove and burn it in a stone bowl, put it on the ground and start walking in triangle around it. Point, point, point. Walk. I do this until my mind is clear, until things get smaller and quieter. You have to unfocus, dear one. Point, walk. Point, walk. Point, walk. Continue until calm, and the clove is halfway gone. Mix a drop of rosemary oil, myrrh, sandalwood and camelia into a base of your choice, olive oil works fine. Cleanse your face in a circular motion with lukewarm water, then in circular points with your oil, then downwards and out. For as long as necessary. Breathe in the following exercises while reciting the following words internally as affirmation and spellwork: It was not my fault. I am here, now. That’s all, just those words. You can think something else, if you need to. But observe how kind you can be to yourself, all alone. Your skin feels a bit warmer now, you know? Fuller, and quieter. Get familiar with your skin, the contours and bumps it might hold. Press the points of your bones and recognize how strong they are, to keep up all this turmoil. How strong. Hands pink with kindness flowing out through your palms. Keep going. Keep going. You’re fine. You have so much time. Stop when the clove burns out.

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This Week in Lines: Some Things in Life Are Kinda Free

IMG_01171:34 PM Wednesday, October 15th — Free donuts for the Dough opening
Location: 14 West 19th Street
Length: A hundred and ninety-two people with inner Homer Simpsons
Weather: 77 and partly cloudy
Crowd: Local office-workers, for whom a free donut is probably the highlight of their week
Mood: Excited enough to make me question whether or not these people need anymore sugar in their systems
Wait time: Fifty minutes
Lingering question: How long can one function at work after consuming a Dulce de Leche donut? READ MORE

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