Daily Edition December 6, 2013
Redlining is the practice of denying, or charging more, for services like banking, insurance and healthcare to residents in particular areas. It’s a practice often determined by the racial make-up of the community. It’s deplorable, but also eminently sensible in the view of an unregulated capitalist, whose goal is to minimize risk, not promote equality. For a decade now hip-hop magnate Russell Simmons has been selling a prepaid debit card, the RushCard, and directly targeting young black people. According to his financial services company, UniRush, LLC, the RushCard is filling a niche: more than 68 million Americans who cannot (or choose not to) open a traditional banking account. With the help of the fifth largest bank in the US, The Bancorp Bank, and Visa (NYSE: V, $202), RushCard holders can easily accept direct deposit, write checks, and transfer money. You can pay as you go (charged per transaction) or pay a monthly fee of $8 or $10. Simmons’ company is so magnanimous that you can: “Direct Deposit your payroll to your RushCard and get access to your money up to 2 days sooner.” Umm, sooner than what? It works like this: you give this company your money, and then they let you spend it, minus the vigorish. Believe it or not things are tough enough out there that people are grateful for the service. Simmons says he started RushCard to “improve the financial well-being for (sic) millions of people.”
But there’s also a thing called “reverse redlining,” where instead of denying a high risk minority services, you target him but charge him more. Is that RushCard? Is it not viewed that way because so many people trust Simmons? He has created a reputation not only as an entrepreneur, but a philanthropist, too–backing animal rights, gay rights. He even showed his support of Occupy Wall Street by visiting protesters at Zuccotti Park–and this just months after publishing his book Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All. (Come to think of it, being a super-rich Occupy protester is having it all.) Perhaps receiving financial advice from Simmons isn’t as bad as getting it from rival Capital One’s TV spokesperson Alec Baldwin, another celebrity who visited OWS protestors in Zuccotti Park. Not as rich as Simmons, Baldwin was nevertheless put on the defensive. Soon after his OWS visit, he tweeted that he donated all his fees from the Capital One commercials to arts charities. Simmons’ take of RushCard revenues aren’t so transparently revealed.
Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take is the first comprehensive survey on the work of contemporary American artist Jim Hodges. On view now at the Dallas Museum of Art until January 12, 2014, the exhibition explores the trajectory of the artist’s 25-year career. Approximately 80 works – photography, drawing, works on paper, objects rendered in mirror, light bulbs, and glass alongside several major room-size installations – are on view. The exhibition will travel to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (Feb-May 2014), the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston (June-Sept 2014), and the UCLA Hammer Museum (Oct 2014-Jan 2015). Hodges is working closely with each museum’s curators to create an exhibition design and experience unique to each venue.
Highlighted works include: Untitled (Gate), 1991, a room-size installation that one cannot enter; it marks one of Hodges’ earliest major articulations of the web motif that become a recurrent theme in the artist’s work for many years. And As close as I can get, 1998, a large-scale “drawing” rendered in Pantone color chips held together with tape.
Jim Hodges, Arranged, 1996, Folded book with metal paper clips, 33 x 16.5 x 26 cm, Heidi L. Steiger. © Jim Hodges
The legendary chef answers the question…What did you eat today, Jeremiah Tower?
“The jungle around me has gone quiet since my scream.”
Sipping 25-year-old Cruzan rum sitting high above Magen Bay on St Thomas listening to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I wonder if my taste buds will ever return to normal. I need to wait an hour so I can tell whether the avocado and bitter orange sauce I want to serve with the filet of dorado I bought at the local fish market is a good idea, or not? While shopping for lunch I had a run-in with Scotch Bonnets without even knowing it. As any judge will tell you, ignorance of the law is no defense–in this case the law of knowing that around any roadside stand in the islands when you ask the stupid question “Is it hot,” the greater the silence, the hotter the chilies. And the greater the hooting, howling and laughter among the islanders after you leave, the more trouble you are in. But of course once you have bought the old Snapple bottles full of Mexican-tile-red sauce, or the one with red, yellow, green, orange and a few other-colored chilies in white vinegar, you just have to try it. You may circle them for hours, every bit of common sense and experience publishing warnings in your head. Sooner or later, however, you are going to put a finger in one of those two bottles. In my case it was getting late enough so that the aquamarine waters of the bay below me had turned to dark robin’s egg blue as I finished 20 laps in the horizon pool between my two-pavilion villa. The pleasure high from the swim had shut off the warnings and I sucked on a teaspoon of the red puree.
The jungle around me has gone quiet since my scream. Had there been howler monkeys in the trees, they wouldn’t bother howling again. They have been forever outdone. The bottle fell to the counter and made a puddle for which I will need those thick gloves emergency workers wear when cleaning up an outbreak of Ebola. But first there was the question of the emergency in my mouth. I wanted to squeeze a whole tube of aloe vera sunburn cream in my mouth, but made do with cold half and half instead, since it was closest at hand in the refrigerator. That worked only to put me off cream forever as it warmed up and curdled. Nothing for it but to jump back in the pool and stick my mouth over the nozzle pumping re-chlorinated water back in it. That seemed to work. Now, two hours later, the growth around the house seems still very quiet. I think all the animals have gone down the road to howl and laugh with the very jolly ladies at the stand whose only reply to the heat question when I bought the sauce, was a long, slow and effective rolling of the eyes. “Don lak hot, hot, hot?” was all they said. I still don’t know whether she meant me or her, but I know they heard the scream. // Jeremiah Tower
A couple of months ago, I did something I never would have dreamed of doing when I began my career as an author: I turned down an offer from a Big Five publisher—and not, as would usually be the case, to take a better offer from another Big Five publisher. Why? Because, after carefully evaluating the deal and stacking it up against the risks and benefits of publishing my book (not my first, but my first foray into fiction) with my own press, the case for doing so was so compelling that even my deepest insecurities weren’t enough to stop me from seeing the light. Yes, it was hard to walk away from the validation and status that comes with a traditional book deal. But when I took a long hard look at what that deal had to offer and compared it with the thrilling new possibilities that thinking outside of the Big Five box now have to offer, it wasn’t much of a contest. This is partly because, in the years since I published my first book traditionally and now, radical changes in technology have made it possible for independent presses to do just about everything big publishing houses can do. But it was also because, in the years since my first book and this one, I founded a startup and learned, for the first time, to think like an entrepreneur.
This was instrumental because for 99% of authors (all but those who get the rare Really Big Deals from a major house, and believe me, I would have taken one of those if it had been offered), entrepreneurship has become part of our professional lives whether we like it or not. New books are like startups, and authors are their founders, CEOs, marketing departments, and human resources, all rolled up into one. In light of this, authors need to stop viewing the average traditional deal as the only legitimate way to publish, but to think instead as business owners evaluating the terms of a partnership, weighing what they get against what they give away. And I would argue that for most of the 99%, what traditional publishers offer is not worth what they demand in exchange—a whopping 85% of the ownership of an author’s book. With my newly launched press, I will get editorial and production support that equals what I would have gotten at a traditional house (we are published by a former Big Five Executive Editor, who uses all the same freelancers she did before), and, in the most exciting new development, we will be distributed to the trade by Ingram Publisher Services. Yes, I will pay for these things, but the price is affordable ($3900), and the backend is stupendous – I keep 70% of the net proceeds on sales. Of course this isn’t right for everyone, the biggest issue being the initial investment in a book when weighed against the possibility of an advance. But it certainly deserves the attention of any thoughtful authorpreneur, who should take a look before making the traditional-publishing-deal leap.
–Kamy Wicoff is the founder of She Writes–a community, virtual workplace, and emerging marketplace for women who write, with over 20,000 active members from all 50 states and more than 30 countries. She is also the founder of She Writes Press, a book publisher. A version of this article originally appeared here.
The latest dispatches from Slate and The Daily Beast have dismissed the “knockout game,” longtime outrage fodder for Fox News and recent topic of panicked discussion between your suburban relatives, as hype. The reported incidents in St. Louis, New York, and other cities have been significantly over-reported or were misunderstood, they say, and only serve as a means for any bigoted element in the country to continue narrowing their views. Posing as gotcha media watchdogs, publications like The Daily Beast and Slate cavalierly dismiss real violent events on the basis that even bigger media like FOX News are trying to make a pattern where there is none. Everyone who’s ever watched the news knows that the media is prone to making faulty connections and jumping to sensational conclusions–so when some writer on the Internet says it’s not a real thing, this savage game of Knockout being played by urban teens, the better angels of our nature are happy to believe it. But just because the TV news sometimes exaggerates doesn’t mean it always does. Yes, sometimes FOX and CBS news will fan a twig fire, when there is nothing really there. But those writers who claim that Knockout is a figment of the media’s imagination might think differently if they were ever knocked out waiting for a train. Like I was.
On September 25th, 2008, while waiting for a train, I was racially profiled and attacked from behind by three black teenaged boys. Before I could turn to look at my blindspot, one of them sucker-punched me, sending my head into the cement subway platform and knocking me out cold for ten minutes. When I was revived by the police, my iPod was gone and I was on the way to the hospital. The detectives assigned to my case told me that I had been selected to be punched at random as a form of gang initiation and that several similar crimes had been committed recently. The perpetrators were never caught. As a culture, we rightfully shame those who question or dismiss victims of violent crime, of abuse, of rape. Now I’m being told that the event that put me into the hospital and into years of therapy did not happen. Maybe next, Slate will write an article intimating that people like me were asking for it by dressing a certain way or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It wasn’t enough to get knocked out in 2008. Legitimate victims of the knockout game now have to put up with technical knockouts from the media.
–Mike Drummey is an actor and writer living in New York City
Hedge Fund King and Philanthropist Stanley Druckenmiller Wants To Stop “Generational Theft.” After all, the one thing Occupy and Wall Street have in common is the future.
Stan Druckenmiller looks across the table at Charlie Rose, bemused. Rose’s questions are doing that long-tail staccato thing they do when Rose is visibly tired: the questions can’t stop themselves, they sputter on like a Grateful Dead jam. Each time Druckenmiller begins an answer Rose claws the desk and tosses another stray word–and then another–onto the end of his question. Even the camera doesn’t know where to point. It’s all very strange, since Druckenmiller–one of the most financially astute and successful men in the world–has come to this chair bearing potential solutions to the most vexing issue of our time: how to secure a viable financial future for US citizens–all of them. It’s just the sort of thing Rose should want to hear about, but he just keeps asking whether Druckemiller’s old boss George Soros agrees and whether his ideas have a “chance in hell” of getting traction in Washington. Druckenmiller, a man accustomed to autonomy, has presumably disdained this kind of meandering during his storied career. He slowly goes from bemused to resigned; you can see it in his intelligent eyes. This is what it’s going to be like, he realizes, trying to talk to the old guard about reform. That’s why Druckenmiller, a man so rich he has changed his title from Hedge Fund Guru to simply philanthropist, is taking his show on the road–directly to college kids. Young people whipped this country into rethinking gay marriage in record time, he says. And they’ve even moved the needle on climate change, an assertion he sneaks in edgewise against Rose’s inquisitive noise. Young people can do this, too–create a movement.
But what exactly will disruption-minded students at Bowdoin and Chapel Hill, Berkeley and Stanford espouse? Since Rose didn’t much get to it, here’s Stan Druckenmiller’s solution. Entitlement reform. That sounds cold (and old), but when you start calling the current entitlement structure “generational theft” it gets hotter. And youth likes it hot. For starters, Druckenmiller doesn’t think he should be getting $3,500 a month in social security–not least because he’s worth $3 billion. Taxes on capital gains and dividends, the bread and butter of the 1%? Raise those rates to regular income tax levels. Higher taxes then? That’s the advice from this iconoclastic Wall Street wizard? Not entirely, no. He’d put the corporate tax rate at ZERO, in a bid to–among other salutary effects–eliminate the corruption and bad deals that gum up the economy. (Hey, many big corporations pay zero anyway, gaming a gameable system.) But the main point is that while a social contract that creates and sustains social security, medicare and their like is necessary and important, it hasn’t been intelligently administered (much like the pension plans of many big companies). And because of mismanagement what happens is that some junior at Rutgers is financing Druckenmiller’s social security check and that’s a raw deal, he says. (They both would say, no doubt.) Maybe even the Occupy movement could get behind this–adopt a cause, instead of just a complaint. Hard times make for strange bedfellows. It’s clear anyway that Druckenmiller is having no problem getting the attention of lots of mad, smart kids on the bad end of the deal–even if he can’t get Charlie Rose to listen. Maybe that’s the real sign he’s onto something.
The world makes a sudden shift and becomes half virtual. Your online self battles for importance against your flesh-and-blood self. The plot of a sci-fi flick being streamed from Amazon space? No, it’s the real world. You blinked, and Mark Zuckerberg happened. Now you realize extraordinary power is within your grasp–of the kind previously available only to media barons. Everywhere you turn is news about how you have been liberated–you have tools, the technology at your fingertips. So–with Beethoven’s Fifth bursting in the background– you Tweet! You befriend. You opine. You set up ImHereDamnIt.com. And finally you know what it means about the tree falling in the woods and no one hearing. But my tools! My power! How does this all work? So you search the Web for answers. And if you are very lucky and pretty smart, you’ll come upon Megan Marrs, one of those newly empowered people with actual wisdom to impart. She will help you make a sound.
Facebook Graph Search and Privacy: Should You Be Worried? asks one Marrs post. She’ll tell you what you need to know. (Answer: probably, unless you…) And she’s not trying to convert or convince–she’s simply there to educate. Should you buy Twitter followers? Marrs doesn’t know–that’s up to you–but she’ll tell you every reason why you should and then every reason why you should just friggin’ fugetaboutit. And besides the clear writing (she asks questions like “is it a wonder or a pestilence?”) and deep understanding there’s a droll humor that comes from knowing what she’s talking about in a worldwide room full of schemers and screamers. That’s why you’re lucky to find Megan Marrs–because with so many voices shouting nonsense, real sense can get crowded out. Fortunately when her tree crashes–she posts every couple of weeks–it goes BOOM! Check out the Marrs blog. She’s one of those people who can honestly say: I’m here to help.
Q: Having lived well, long, and successfully enough to confidently call your memoir My Mistake, what percentage of life’s accidents, do you think, are happy ones?
A: Depends on the life. Conception itself is such a random matter that it ought to teach us how large a role happenstance plays in all our lives. If it had been a different night for our parents, Matthew McGillicuddy Menaker might be responding to Terwilliger Mackin*, and about who knows what? I know that it is largely accidental and extremely rare, globally, to be born into comfortable and loving circumstances, almost no matter how askew those circumstances are.
But if I must answer the question directly, something I am always loath to do, evidently, I would say about 50%. I don’t know what makes me say that–maybe some conviction that the cosmos tend, without any interest in the matter, to even things out. Sadly, for a lot of people, it’s only 1%–like finding half a candy bar on a sidewalk somewhere. While for others, also sadly but not nearly THAT sadly, it’s probably up there in the 90s.
*the question was posed by Joe Mackin
–Daniel Menaker, whose new book is called My Mistake, began his career as a fact checker at The New Yorker, where he became an editor and worked for twenty-six years. He later became Executive Editor in Chief at Random House. Menaker is the author of six books; he has written for the New York Times, The Atlantic, and many others. A far, far better biography of the man can be found here, in his own words.
It was the summer of 1995, and I had just graduated from a very stressful MFA program, which I did not like at all. My husband Damon and I decided to go to New York to live, and I was just barely surviving, as I had an autoimmune disorder from all the stress. That went away, as my husband tenderly cooked macrobiotically for me, and that did the trick. Anyway, I insisted on going to NYC three months ahead of him, and he capitulated. My goal was to find a job and an apartment for us, since I was a native New Yorker. It made sense to me at the time. I was staying alternately with friends in Manhattan and at my grandmother’s house in Brooklyn, when on my third day back I met a girl of about 15, who wanted to read my palm. I figured that she must need the money, so I let her, and I even gave her more money than she asked for. Afterwards, I went over to look at Kings Highway and the building where I grew up, and then on my way back to my grandmother’s, I met this same girl’s mother, who said, “Somebody’s putting evil work on you.” I felt at the time like I knew who it was (can’t say anything else about that, though). The girl’s mother said she wanted $20 to burn candles for me, and I gave it to her. Then I went to St. Brendan’s Church and got myself blessed by a priest–I had a bad feeling.
Throughout the next three months, I ran around all over New York with these Romanian Gypsies, buying everything from jewelry to gift certificates for Tavern on The Green, just so that they could remove this curse. Don’t get me wrong, by this time I was in an honest-to-God mania (my first of two before I was medicated), but I was having the time of my life. I didn’t tell a soul. Whenever I tried to tell my husband, his nose would bleed and I was frightened. (The Gypsies told me never to say a word to anyone or all our souls would be lost and great bodily harm would come to us.) Anyway, when I finally “came down,” and came to my senses, I told my husband everything with a friend of ours present. His nose didn’t bleed. We moved to Park Slope and never saw the Gypsies ever again. My credit was pretty much ruined. But hey, when you’re 25 and have designs on poetry, there are a lot worse things that can happen, and it definitely was an adventure of a lifetime.
–Noelle Kocot is the author of six collections of poetry including 4, The Raving Fortune, Soul in Space, and The Bigger World. A recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Academy of American Poets, her work has been anthologized in Best American Poetry in 2001, 2012, and 2013.
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