New York City, April 16, 2015

weather review sky 041615★★★★ Something that was not a pigeon or a gull circled in the sky. Cool air came in through the window. Children were out on the plaza deploying bubbles; behind Trumpville, the line of forsythia along the top of the parking garage was uninterrupted yellow. The light laid a silvery coating on everything. More leaves were emerging, as of course they would, as leaves do. The baby twins from the old apartment building came walking along the block, upright and under their own power. A deeper chill had come on to make the walk up to the grocery store for dinner less than the anticipated delight, but still more than a chore.

Paul F. Tompkins, King of Podcasts

paulftompkinsPaul F. Tompkins is a very busy man; just look at how many appearances on Earwolf podcasts alone he has under his belt. So it was only a matter of time before he started his own show on the network. Spontaneanation with Paul F. Tompkins, which launched two weeks ago, is his follow up to fan favorite, The Pod F.Tompkast. Unlike his previous venture, Spontaneanation requires very little preparation and features a fully improvised story, a free form conversation and focuses on just being in the moment.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Tompkins about what it’s like being the most ubiquitous guest in podcasting and how Spontaneanation came to be.

Synonyms for the Current Economy, Ranked

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26. The bubble economy
25. The digital capital economy
24. The sharing economy
23. The 1099 economy
22. The disruption economy
21. The post-post-capital economy
20. The contract-worker economy
19. The part-time economy
18. The freelance economy
17. The Uber economy
16. The app economy
15. The API economy
14. The gig economy
13. The on-demand economy
12. The middleman econonmy
11. The transitional economy
10. The de-formalized economy

Teach and Frisk

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At the front of the one-classroom schoolhouse in the Mar Vista Gardens housing project in Culver City, California, a handful of high school students and their teacher sit in a circle and participate in small group discussion. Behind them, a dozen or so students who have opted to engage in independent study work silently at their desks. The volume of the class rarely rises above the level of a friendly dinner table conversation.

Affluent families all over the country pay upwards of thirty-thousand dollars a year in private school tuition for settings like this. But this classroom, where students learn about astronomical research in Antarctica from a visiting CalTech scientist, tend to an organic vegetable garden, and practice non-violent conflict resolution, is part of Central High, a Los Angeles Unified School District alternative school for would-be dropouts, which operates out of sixteen sites from San Pedro to North Hollywood.

Yet the man running this class, a forty-two-year-old former public interest lawyer named Vitaly, may be on the brink of being fired. For the last four years, he has refused to conduct mandatory in-class weapons searches of his students—which the district argues keeps classrooms safe—because he believes that the policy is unethical and would destroy everything that makes his classroom successful.

How To Breed Fancy Pigeons

White FrillbackSMALLYou don’t know it yet, but there is a Pigeon Fancier inside of you just cooing to get out. Sure, you think that your passion for books, roller derby, crafts, or S&M is what truly sets your heart ablaze, but that is only because you haven’t tried breeding your own Fancy Pigeons.

My passion for pigeons first ignited in New York City: while my college friends took in the breathtaking skyscrapers, bluegrass accordion acts, and breakdance battles in the cultural epicenter of the universe, I watched the city’s pigeons do their funny pigeon dance and giggled like a woman in love. I was tickled by their little iridescent heads bobbing about on their chubby pigeon bodies as they casually weaved around frantic New Yorkers rushing to do all the important things important New Yorkers do. It brought me peace to know that while I was fretting about school, work and finding love, the pigeons were crapping at will, copulating on the Statue of Liberty, and eating leftover pizza.

When I finally found love with Sam, my now-husband, I kept room in my heart for my feathered friends. After a raucous night at Medieval Times, Sam and I had our first kiss at a bus stop on the side of the New Jersey highway as pigeons encircled us under the stars. When Sam and I moved in together, we awoke each morning to pigeons chortling their festive pigeon songs on the windowsill of our sixth floor walk-up. Sam was less than thrilled with this noisy start to the day, but I greeted the pigeons like a modern day Sleeping Beauty, trilling “Good morning Mildred! Good morning Edith!” as I made breakfast and dressed for work.

When Sam got a great job offer out in Los Angeles, we decided to take the plunge and make the move. Los Angeles was sunny, friendly, and full of kale, but I missed my friends, the seasons, the excitement, and of course, the pigeons. Seagulls are cool and all, but they’re not pigeons.

My pigeon nostalgia took on many whimsical and disturbing forms. I began painting pigeons and writing pigeon poetry. It was what I like to call my “Pigeon Renaissance.” This was a time of great creative flourishing where I painted pigeon masterpieces such as “Pigeon by Day” and “Starry Night Pigeon.” The pigeons were all-consuming. I’d try to draw something else like a bowl of fruit or a self-portrait, but somehow it would still end up looking like a pigeon. Our apartment took on the aesthetic of John Nash’s office at the end of A Beautiful Mind—he too, was fascinated by pigeons. Sam was supportive of (and amused by) these creative endeavors, but also wanted to know what the fuck was going on and encouraged me to meet some new people, maybe join a club?

After some furious Googling, I discovered The Los Angeles Pigeon Club, a place for special pigeon lovers and their “fancy” pigeons. I met some of the kindest retired senior citizens in the world and learned about breeding fancy pigeons or what Leon Stephens, President of the Los Angeles Pigeon Club, likes to refer to as “bio-artistry”.

Unlike common city pigeons that mate for life, Fancy Pigeons are selectively bred by their owners to enhance desired traits such as enormous tails, unusual coloring, puffy chests, funny feet, or curly wings. For centuries, pigeon enthusiasts around the world have been breeding mutant pigeons to create exotic-looking birds for show. Thousands of pigeon breeders compete internationally to become the next Master Breeder.

I wanted to know more about Fancy Pigeons, so I reached out to LA Pigeon Club Master Breeders, Tally Mezzanatto and Frank Barrachina, for a tutorial. They took me under their wing and invited me to spend an afternoon in their backyard pigeon paradise learning the art of Fancy Pigeons. I have returned to share the wisdom of their experience.

So You've Been Publicly Reviewed

sakjdghkjsagh“The actual beating is — surprise! — exponentially worse.” — Choire on the relatively low stakes of the particular kind of internet shaming that is the central concern of Jon Ronson’s new book, which seems to show that, for a certain kind of straight white men, the most terrible form of abuse imaginable is being mocked on Twitter, even though they, more than anyone else, largely seem to do just fine in the end

Photo by jenny downing

“You hear about things like this. You never think it’s gonna happen to you and here I am and it’s happening.”
— Riverdale dentist Jeffrey Schoengold discusses his office manager, Valbona Yzeiraj, “arrested Thursday on accusations of masquerading as a dentist at a Bronx dental office and charged in a 13-count indictment with pulling teeth and even performing root canals.” As someone with a pervasive, longstanding phobia of dentistry I find this horrifying, but perhaps the most frightening part of all is Dr. Schoengold’s quote up there. “You hear about things like this.” REALLY? DO YOU? Do dentists sit around at their dentist bars talking about how they had to let another office manager go because she was impersonating a dentist and pulling teeth while they were away? Is this a regular bit of chit-chat amongst the dentarati? “She seemed fine when I hired her off of Craigslist, but I ran out to get my dry cleaning one afternoon and when I got back she was wearing my white coat and draining an abscess on a walk-in patient.” Oh my God, I am never going near a dentist’s office again.#

New York City, April 15, 2015

★★★★★ The wage-protest march came rattling and chanting around the corner down below, across Amsterdam, and up the sidewalk. Dancers and their shadows stepped and turned; brass instruments gleamed; a cymbal flashed. In the quiet afterward, some meadow bird, a blackbird or oriole, glided over the new apartment building with a flare of color and dropped out of sight. The fountain of the apartment to the north sprayed its streams with no particular symmetry or structure. At 68th there were leaves out—leaves!—on the shortest trees on the Broadway median. Lines of schoolchildren, presumably exiled so as not to disturb other students’ high-stakes testing, processed this way and that. Six minutes was too long, much too long, to wait underground for a train. Shirtsleeves were out, and thighs. A man in a suit, necktie blowing back in the breeze, clambered up a low concrete barrier by Columbus Circle and teetered there for a moment, considering a perilous jaywalk. Downtown the heating posts were radiating unnecessary comfort at the sidewalk lunch tables. It was time to flee the dimness of the office for the roof, till the mounting fear of sunscreenlessness outweighed the dread of the dark. Helicopters stood still in the late-day sky and sirens blared in traffic. There was just enough of a chill gathering on the evening to warn that that was not to be taken for granted.

The Lease Busters

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220 West 98th Street, #4
$3,650 per month
2 bedrooms / 1 bathroom
Nearest subway: 1/2/3 trains at 96th Street

Flip is a startup which makes it easier to break leases. The app is still in beta, but its founder, Susannah Vila, who is finishing up her MBA at Columbia University, has introduced to fellow students at Columbia who are looking to get out of their leases. “The idea came about just because I am the number one customer for it,” Vila told me. “I just love to move. I’ve moved three times since starting business school.” Vila is currently on two leases: She lives in Lower Manhattan, on East Broadway, and sublets her previous apartment. “It’s silly that you get constrained and stuck into leases by the year—you should just be able to move in and out of apartments whenever you want.”

Patrolling the Queer Craigslist

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Queer Exchange, a Facebook group that has been active since 2011, is an online market for NYC’s queer community. As the group has grown to more than seventeen thousand members, moderators Edgar Díaz and Ariel Speed Wagon have done their best to preserve the right balance between commerce and discourse—“Queer Exchange still wants you to trade coats and pots and pans and barbers…and isn’t really interested in talking it over”—and to stamp out the occasional thread that erupts in flames.

Though it was created to facilitate trades, not discussions, the group is queer and this is the internet, so arguments over racism, classism, ableism, and transphobia; how to pay library fees; what to charge for theater tickets; and whether it’s OK to re-home a cat are inevitable. The other day, we chatted about the demands of moderation, the limits of running a messaging board on Facebook, and how internet drama erupts in a group that rejects gender binaries, hierarchies, and heteronormativity.

How did you get involved with Queer Exchange?

Ariel: Robyn Overstreet started Queer Exchange. It was her baby. She’s this genius who wanted to make a space for her friends and her friends’ friends to exchange stuff and find queer-friendly housing and jobs. Little by little they needed more moderators. I had spent time on strapon.org, which was this legendary hard-ass, third-wave feminist message board that came out of the Chainsaw Records message boards. I wasn’t a moderator there, but I spent a lot of time watching and fighting out incredibly heart-wrenching political things on the Internet. I was also a part of various BBSes and—this is embarrassing—on LiveJournal communities. So, at one point Robyn was like, you should just moderate Queer Exchange.

Edgar: Like Ariel, I’d moderated in contentious spaces online before too, mainly at r/Gaybros and r/Gaymers on reddit. I had a reputation for calling oppressive things out there. I’m pretty sure I joined Queer Exchange when it already had several thousand people in it and I would report posts to the mods. I wasn’t looking out for things that were oppressive, just posts that didn’t belong there. Because of my diligence flagging things, I was invited to moderate.