Saturday, November 30, 2013

Contemporary American Flash

The dreams disappear and the music stays, but server and barista demand too much time and more effort at emotion than any job pays, and then you busk and strum and cash comes and goes and you leave town and live with your sister and her man and kids and it’s too crowded with family noise. So with acoustical guitar and green canvas sack, you find yourself in your forties on a bus to nowhere, Minnesota, to meet a nowhere man in late autumn chill. It’s a black-girl booty run to a white boy broken and broke. He’s got nothing but small panes in a tiny studio and he dies every day as a recovering artist and addict and no music gets played and no gigs get staged and the slab of steak you fry just for him gets thrown at the wall of the shower stall. Staring out at his old junk and used table and chairs, you wonder why no rusty needles are stuck in the torn pillows of his faded couch. Or under the beaten rug or behind the barren loveseat where his tantrums pour out quick like wine from his bottle, and you know no one is recovering from nothing and the sex is no thrills or never save for one special time when you wait for him all day long in a lavender bath robe and silvery thong. He comes home from his whiskey and beer and mid-life rage and you lower him down on the queen-sized futon and spend too many minutes touching and pointing as he just lies there, a moan and a sigh, and then he groans too loud and softens too soon and that’s the saddest sound of your world getting colder.

Friday, November 29, 2013

thankful for a five-star review

Of course, I could, and would, complain, but aside from the usual, I'm thankful for this new, unsolicited review that I discovered earlier this week for my college commencement story. If you prefer reading for free to shopping at discount, you're welcome to check it out anywhere e-books or downloaded or right off the screen at smashwords.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is This All There Is? November 25, 2013
By BirdieTracy  
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
When I started reading this story I groaned. Was this going to be another tale of collegiate pothead paradise? I am sincerely glad I kept reading. As I read I became convinced that not only did the author attend college, but he has had time to mature and synthesize his experience.

The story centers around a young man who is just about to graduate. As he walks around campus he encounters a wide variety of students. The earnest protesters of the current flavor of evil, those who want to stick it to the man- as long as they don't get caught and other assorted wildlife. It is to be a day of pocket epiphanies.

If I sound dismissive then let me assure you that I am not. College students walk the razor thin line between childhood's final end and adulthood. For the most part, the only ones unconcerned about what comes next are those who already have an in somewhere (and I would imagine that even they are sweating bullets). There is an overwhelming feeling of "is this it?"

The author does a tremendous job of pulling all of this together. And I have to thank him for briefly putting me "back in the day."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

cut 180 pages

Michael James Rizza on Cartilage and Skin:

I started Cartilage and Skin in 1998.  When I went to South Carolina in 2004, I had a complete draft, which was roughly 180 pages longer than the current 324 pages.  As I worked on my PhD, I didn’t really think about my book.  Sometimes during that period, I would open to random pages and tinker with the language.  In 2006, I added a sentence about Horatio Alger; in 2009, I added a sentence about “rhizomatically-inclined sophists.” That was the last sentence I added.  In the spring and summer 2010, after I finished my dissertation, I cut out the 180 pages (which, as I mentioned, dealt with his youth) and moved some things around.

Read more at When Falls the Coliseum.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cartilage and Skin

Congratulations to Michael James Rizza on this past week's release of his award-winning debut novel, Cartilage and Skin. Over at When Falls the Coliseum, in response to my interview questions, Dr. Mike interweaves thoughts about Martin Luther, Karl Marx, male prostitution, the "masculine imagination," and much more that that.

Be sure to check out the interview, and then buy the book.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

what really happens to anyone?

"Tuition is $31,385 a year; meanwhile, Kovalik said Vojtko earned less than $25,000 from teaching eight classes a year. And though Vojtko had worked at the university for 25 years, when she was let go, she wasn’t entitled to severance pay, let alone a pension. Her situation seemed to embody everything that is wrong with the economics of higher education."

Read more of this article from Slate.

Monday, November 18, 2013

to hat not

"A global trade-policy shift in 2005 allowed Chinese factories to flood the U.S. market with hats made by workers paid a fraction of the $15-an-hour average wage Bollman's nonunion workers received. The Adamstown factory had made many inexpensive store-brand hats sold by discount retailers.

"Bollman lost a $4 million Walmart account to the Chinese. Others followed.

"The dropping of trade quotas proved devastating. Domestic hat manufacturing had held about 20 percent of the U.S. market prior to that. Today, it is 5 percent, said Nate Herman, vice president of international trade for the American Apparel and Footwear Association."


Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday, November 8, 2013

full-time work

According to a metric tracked by Gallup since 2011, less than 44 percent of American adults have a full-time job. Although it will always be a goal to increase this percentage, to encourage employers to understand why the stability of full-time work benefits both worker and company, it's also beholden on all of us teaching career-prep college courses to make students aware of this and teach strategies for navigating the world of contingent or permanent part-time employment.

Meanwhile, CNN just "broke the news" that the "U.S. economy added 204,000 jobs in October, more than analysts expected. Unemployment rate rose to 7.3% from 7.2%." Such substantial job gains coupled with a rise in the unemployment rate indicates that there are many more millions of people who'd gladly work were there opportunity to do so.

And here's another piece that includes charts to confirm, once again, that it is a bad time for younger workers in America.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

the middle wages

New statistics are out for 2012 that show the median American worker earns about $27,500 in net compensation as reported on W-2 forms. I assume this is the middle person of working age who, in fact, works. That is, this is the middle person of our roughly 153 million workers and not the median wage of all Americans of working age.

So, as best I understand it, these figures do not include people whose work is not construed as work. Those who aren't counted would include stay-at-home spouses; graduate students with teaching and research assistantships; everyone who lives off income from social security, stock dividends, or bank interest; and so on.

An interesting statistic is that 40 percent of all workers earn less than $20,000, and you don't have to live in New York City or pay a student loan or heating bill to know that living on less than twenty grand a year, before taxes and other deductions, is challenging. When adjusted for inflation, the median worker's income is down $4 from 2011 and at its lowest since 1998.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Mike Pulley's Writers' Harvest

At a time when many lower-income Americans are feeling the pinch, Mike Pulley's Writers' Harvest returns to Clemson University on Thursday, November 21 at 7 p.m. This will be my third year reading at this canned-goods benefit for hungry children in the Upstate, and it feels like our percentage of food-insecure citizens is on the rise. Or maybe it just always feels this way as the cold season approaches. . . I knew a bit about holiday poverty as a child although I have no recollection of ever feeling hungry or "poor" in any permanent sense of the word.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Atticus Books on adjuncts

Dan Cafaro slapped down more of his mouth where his money is, and added a nice post on adjunct advocacy with relevant links to the Atticus Books blog. Many, if not most, Atticus titles focus on how the less secure American working person navigates the arduous task of surviving in our "culture of late capitalism," "neoliberal economy," or whatever else you'd prefer to call it. His latest publication, a novel in stories called Sidewalk Dancing, appears to have an intriguing multi-ethnic, transnational premise.

united states of contingency

Beyond academia, it's in the news, too, and increasingly common among millennials. (I've no statistics on how the writers of all the latter hyperlink's articles were paid, if in fact it was by "exposure," cold hard direct deposit, or any other means.)

Friday, November 1, 2013

44 redux

In a post on Dan Fante's Point Doom, I mentioned being the same age as the narrator, and now it's as if my age is chasing me around the web. Recent findings?

The prison guard featured in a story about the most unequal place in America is 44. He works a night shift in Louisiana for $8.50 an hour.

The guy who learns the vast comic collection he has saved since childhood is worth about $500 is also 44, and now he has to find alternative funding to pay for his kids' college educations.

And the suspect in the Anderson Hall assault on an adjunct is 45.

So, to an extent, it's my age, even in food stamps lost, that's hitting me over the head on this first of November, and it doesn't feel like a good time to be a mid-forties male in America.

I better write fiction quickly from now on. . .

(Returning to this on February 3, 2014, and 1) from a student essay on a magazine advertisement I learned Jennifer Aniston is 44 2) newly crowned Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, Frank Sherlock is 44! and, alas, 3) we've lost a great actor who was 46.)

(Stumbled upon on March 1, 2014, a Times Op-Ed, on what you learn in your 40s that begins, "If all goes according to plan, I’ll turn 44 soon after this column appears.")

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