Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hating on the G-Train

Okay, enough with the Debbie Downer posts. Here's Jack Donaghy interviewing for a job at a dot com ("A little help there, Men's Wearhouse.") after Don Guise goes into a coma and Jack's future at GE gets thrown into turmoil. This is taken from the deleted scenes section from the Season 2 DVD of 30 Rock.

Monday, September 29, 2008

After the Reckoning

I left you, dear readers/shy commenters, a bit in the lurch on Thursday. Indeed I--and my colleagues--were haled into a meeting in the main conference room later that day. The chairs had been removed, ominously, to fit all the people. We packed in, and spilled over to the smaller rooms nearby. As I stood amidst the nervous chatter, I looked around and saw, with great embarrassment, how many people work at the firm I had never before laid eyes on: IT people, kitchen workers, mail room guys emerged from the lower floors and stood shoulder to shoulder with attorneys to hear the formal news of their termination. I suppose when the executioner's blade falls, there is no class, there is no creed, that separates us. The chairman appeared and wasted little time in announcing that the firm was taking steps to dissolve (with a formal vote for dissolution scheduled for the next day).

The news was greeted with a mix of stunned silence and bitter smiles. Something can be a long-time-coming, but still knock the wind out of you. Soon, the smiles began to vanish, the silence turned to sighs, and as the San Francisco office's managing partner delivered his eulogy, a slow dirge about the venerable firm he joined before I was born, the sighs turned into tears: the same secretaries who had been sobbing at their desks before passed out tissue paper and hid their eyes behind sunglasses -- perhaps that is not remarkable. What is remarkable though, at least to me, is this: scores of grown men, luminaries in their field, weeping in the arms of any who would have them. I have seen nothing like it before.

I continue to work. A law firm in dissolution is still a law firm. Business winds down, and euthanization is set for November 28th. I work on cases that will find new homes elsewhere. I work hard for people whose good opinion will have no bearing on my career. I receive emails from partners about job leads. I trip over boxes, heading to the men's room. I sit at my desk as representatives of potential sub-lessees poke their heads in to my office, sizing up the space, but ignoring the human being seated before them. I will be at work tomorrow morning, but yesterday I was having some problems with my computer and called the IT helpdesk, only to find I had reached a disconnected number.

These are strange times.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"One Day We Will All Look Back at This and Laugh."

Today at 1 PM I expect to be fired.

Okay, laid-off.

That is, I expect to be another one of those faceless drones who volunteered to have his hopes and dreams shredded for the advancement of Corporate America (and the advancement of my own pocketbook), but who never expected this.

Over the course of the last one and a half weeks -- the hospice period for the dying firm at which I work -- I have asked myself, David-Byrne-like, how did I get here? But there are few answers. I had a wealth of choices, and I thought I chose wisely, but alas...

Law firms can fall victim to the whims of the economy, it is true, but it is rare for them to dissolve outright. There is a larger misfeasance at play here. Now, I have my own thoughts about management, about greed, about out-sized ambition, but this is not the forum in which to share them. I am angry, yes, I am confused about what lies ahead -- never in the last 25 years have I not been enrolled in school or employed -- but, my election posts notwithstanding, I am an optimist, and I expect that this too shall pass. This job, this strange 11-month odyssey, was in some respects a charade. It's not what I'm meant to do, I know, and maybe now I will be forced to think hard about what it is that I want out of my professional life.

Don't feel sorry for me. Just two weeks ago I was sitting in a financial planning seminar, organized by the firm, listening to a pleasant lady talk about the best strategies for buying a second house or financing private school for your kids. I remember sitting there and having one of those moments of clarity that exist only in facile television programs. This is all just, just so wrong. Then, a weirder thought -- one probably better suited for HBO -- gripped me: If the revolution gathered on the streets below, spilled forth through the lobby, up the elevator, and slaughtered us all, it would be justified. No one needs to be talking about second homes. No one needs to send their kids to private school. When this becomes your everyday reality, maybe, just maybe, you have forfeited that which makes you part of a common humanity. But I digress...

The above quote has become sort of a mantra here. It's the only appropriate thing to say to people who are sharing in this experience with you. I have heard it from many colleagues, but right now, there are secretaries, who have spent 20, 30, years toiling here, but can't manage to find a private place to cry, so they sit at their desks, with tears streaming down their face, trying to check headings on somebody's motion to dismiss. When I look back at all of this, that -- more than anything else -- will be what I remember.

ps -- Should you feel compelled to comment, please do not mention the name of The Firm at Which I Will be Working for a Few More Hours.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

who can it be now?

i went to a party on friday attended by a fairly typical 20-to-30 something crowd: journalists, lawyers, dudes (and token ladies) in finance, etc. what we all shared was a genuine sense of apprehension and fear about our jobs and our respective industries. one woman took a buy-out from her newspaper, which sam zell and the tribune company recently bought, and moved to new york. she reassessed her industry and the viability of print media in general and decided to leave journalism altogether. another woman who works at a prominent credit card company told me that she and her coworkers essentially stopped doing anything at work because they all wanted to be the first to be laid off with the (rumored) 4-month severance package. and of course, a lawyer and i whispered to each other, "so...are you busy nowadays?"

when my sister left her job at lehman brothers 2 years ago she received a letter stating that she held [REDACTED] shares in her name. this was news to her and she decided to just let the shares sit since they were valued at over $70/share at that point and, y'know, lehman has been in existence for over 150 years. we joked that this was her path to retirement. what are lehman shares worth today? a little over 3 dollars. and by the time i wake up tomorrow the company may no longer exist. unbelievable.

i whined and bitched when the fed rescued bear stearns. with my limited knowlege and more based on some level of principle, i'm relieved that the fed didn't finance another bailout. and i'm not exactly sympathetic to bankers and their cushy earnings; i'm fairly certain most will find their way.

despite all this, i await with both curiosity and dread at what will happen to the financial markets and, as a consequence, new york city.

anyway, here's some solace from a masterpiece.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008

The late 90's were heady days. Like a lot of young collegians I discovered writers--like Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, and, of course, David Foster Wallace--who made me understand for the first time what it meant to be ironic, to write in a post-modern vein, to trample on conventional ideas of voice and linearity. When I was 17 I read On the Road and Catcher in the Rye, and thought, so what? When I was 18 I read Broom of the System, and wasn't sure if I liked what I was reading, but "so what? was the furthest thing from my mind. Self-reference, meta-narrative, ironic dissociation, and footnotes are hallmarks of Wallace's work, but perhaps the one lesson I took from him--the one lesson I took to heart--is that you can be prolix and intellectual and at the same time luxuriate in the word "fuck" in its myriad non-sexual forms. (E.g., "[T]he rhetoric of the enterprise is fucked.") Faithful readers of this blog know I have made a habit of this classic tendency of Wallace's.

Now I never finished Infinite Jest (and yes, blog reader, Owen, one day I will return your copy), I sort of hated Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, but, you, David Foster Wallace could write the fuck out of an essay. (See below.)

Today you hanged yourself, and though I don't know what drives a man to that, I hope you have found peace.

(Here's an interview of DFW that The Believer did and here's his absolutely iconic piece on the now-unrecognizable next President of our country.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Helen Keller Watches The Matrix

So, this has been a very confusing week for me. I found myself in the camp of people who think McCain's post-Convention bounce would prove to be totally ephemeral, especially in the battleground states Obama's targeting, but then polls from New Mexico and elsewhere started to suggest that I've misapprehended this race entirely.

I still think that Palin mania has topped off. A whole bunch of people jumped onto the Republican ticket in the wake of the announcement, but at least some of them will get buyer's remorse before November 4th. Whatever enthusiasm she's generated can only go down from here. Although, let's be serious, it doesn't seem to be going down. And more to the point, in the last weeks, the Republicans have done exactly what we expected them to, and the Democrats have reacted in kind--that is, to say ineffectually. We may wring our hands and bang our heads, as the wretched lies in McCain's latest ads unfold, but how is it possible that in the last 20 years, the Democratic Party hasn't learned that a constructive majority of the country votes from the gut?

The other day I spoke to my dad, who is sitting thousands of miles away in a country so mismanaged it's in a massive energy crisis, in a country now ruled by a man who won office on name recognition alone, in a country held together by the weakest of threads. How Pakistan is like America is the subject of another post, I assure you. As I was saying, I spoke to my dad and he said he doesn't understand how Democrats became this way. JFK hustled his way into the White House. His knuckles bled blue after that election. Where is that party now? I had no answer for him, and couldn't explain to him why people here actually thought Obama was the heir to the Kennedy mantle.

I had two or three days of optimism, yes, but I came to realize this election is lost when I saw Obama on Keith Olbermann's show say, "The American people aren't stupid. They are going to get it." It's not just that he said it -- he meant it. But they -- that is to say, we -- are stupid. We are demonstrably and unabashedly stupid. We don't get how our leaders' environmental poilcies mean our descendants will have to conquer Mars for the species to continue. We don't get that fiscal policy isn't just for eggheads. 13% of us think Obama's a Muslim. Fully, 100% of us, apparently, think John McCain is a war hero because he didn't know how to fly his plane and got tortured for five and a half years as a result. And countless hordes of us will never, ever, ever vote for a black man.

Still, the hope-mongers insist that Obama is The Matrix. He is transformative, impossibly cool, burgeoning with ideas, a visceral and intellectual mindfuck. He will free us from the grime of our daily lives. But the American people are Helen Keller, deaf and blind to all that he may be.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Drill, Baby, Drill

O.M. god. Do you think they make this for Wii? Because if they do, then I know what 'Pockets is getting for her birthday.

links i like

as written earlier, i have given up any hope. i'm not doing it to be a partypooper or to be contrarian or to jump on a bandwagon. i am just not feeling it anymore. "it" has been replaced with an overwhelming sense of doom.

so here are some funny/informative links. yay.

1) everyone luvs the guv! i really hope he ascends to a bigger platform than even new york bc he really is the straight talk express.
2) i don't find anderson cooper all that attractive, but i dare you to not laugh at this video.
3) here's some more fodder for those of us who think sarah palin is a fucking idiot who makes me ashamed to be a woman. and/or a hockey fan.
4) you should read this. painkiller addiction? check. daddy issues? check. crazy? check.

oh yeah, the greatest news of all: 30 rock is returning on october 30. i'll just put the season premiere on loop to get me through election day.

L.E.S. Democracy

Today is Luke Henry's day of reckoning. Go out and vote for him. Well, think about it at least. I mean, maybe you should vote for Paul Newell instead. I'm not telling you what to do, Fighting 64th District. Just think long and hard about who should replace Shelly Silver. Sorry, AA, that's the best endorsement I can come up with.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Rage & Hope

Every so often, I'm amazed by my own capacity to hate. Thank you, Sarah Palin, for surprising me anew.

The other night, you delivered a speech so antagonistic to truth (Bridge to Nowhere), so dripping with condescension (Barack Obama's presidency as journey of personal discovery), so bursting with sarcasm ("community organizers"), I just wanted to reach through my TV and punch you in the face. Okay, I've been raised right, so I wouldn't really do that -- but I would spit in your face. I would do that much. So you should avoid me, Sarah Palin. You criticize Harry Reid for running a "do nothing" Senate, but you dismiss government as too big and meddling; you call the other candidate an elitist, but mock his work with poor people in Chicago. You are a horrible person -- in some ways more horrible than George W. Bush, whose religious conversion I always took to be more politically calculated than anything else. You, Sarah Palin, believe -- and I can tell this isn't an act -- you believe in a God who wants to smite Muslims, who wants to see the Earth depleted of its natural treasures, who wants teenagers to deliver their rapists' babies into this world without nary a handout from the government.

Listening to your speech, I vacillated between two thoughts: either this parade of sugar-coated lunacy will unite the desultory base of the Republican party while alienating moderate women and undecided independents, or the narrative of the entire election has been recrafted. If you just accomplish the former, you and your grandfather and his jaundiced smile lose. But if you accomplish the latter, and if, as I believe, the McCain campaign is right when they say issues don't matter to Americans, personalities do, then you will sweep into the White House, emboldened in the belief that you are doing God's bidding.

Oh, and one more thing. I know all us good liberals are supposed to say, "John McCain's an American hero, but...," but fuck that. The guy was a lousy midshipman, shirked his duties while training to become an aviator, and crashed four planes in non-combat situations. Tell me what he did to help win the Vietnam War, and I'll give a shit about his service. Getting tortured sucks for John McCain, no doubt, but if he wins because of it, then it sucks for me too.

So, here it is, anonymous Alex. the official c4ts endorsement:

Obama-Biden '08.