As Pete Newcomb says on the Forbes on Fox show dedicated to Michaels' memory, Jim was adept at using fear to motivate the troops, but, as I found out, he also had a personable, warm side. A year and a half after moving to San Francisco to help start Forbes' Silicon Valley bureau, I received an attractive offer from a competitor. Knowing how important loyalty was to Jim and the Forbes organization in general, I was all but out the door, just hoping I'd be able to slink away before Jim's storied wrath descended on me.
The phone in my office rang. It was Jim. I steeled myself for a verbal beatdown...
I wrote entries on 22 globally heavy hitters; 15 of them made the final cut. Apologies to the 7 who fell to the pitiless X-Acto of my editors, Peter Newcomb and Heather Halberstadt. You have 10 months to remake yourselves into the power-dripping, large-living, Graydon-Carterrific beings we see depicted in the list's sepia, golden and money-green glory.
Suds flew Tuesday night at a Literary Death Match at the dance club Harlot. The competition, sponsored by Opium, a New York "journal of literary humor," featured four writers representing literary magazines.
The judges: Porchlight series co-founder Beth Lisick on performance, Jon Wolanske of the theatrical troupe Killing My Lobster on "intangibles," and Zyzzyva founder-editor Howard Junker on literary merit.
The first round pitted Joyce Maynard, representing Canteen, reading against Stephen Elliott, representing McSweeney's.
Judge Junker, leading off, was not positive. According to Elliott, reached the next day, Junker said, "Stephen Elliott is a writer of no literary merit." Junker, reached the next day, said his comment was that the piece "made me laugh a couple of times, but otherwise had no literary merit." Since the exact wording of this is essential if readers are to form their own opinions, I asked Opium co-founder Todd Zuniga to transcribe the words from a tape of the event. If Junker's recollection was accurate, said Elliott, he would buy him a new shirt. The exact comment, as transcribed: "Stephen Elliott made me laugh occasionally, but as a writer, I think he has no literary merit.'' In this particular Memory Death Match, Elliott takes the game.
Elliott said he was taken aback by criticism he said referred not to a particular piece but to his work in general.
Then, in a throng of people socializing offstage, Junker passed Elliott in the crowd, an opportunity the writer used to toss his beer on the judge and to make a humorous "bring it on" gesture. (He would never have engaged in a physical fight, he said later.)
"All of a sudden my shirt was drenched," said Junker. "I had no idea where it came from. I ... looked back and saw Stephen Elliott had thrown his drink on me. I walked past him to tell the organizers that I was going home." Litquake's Jack Boulware took up Junker's duties.
"I don't understand why Junker left last night," said Elliott the next day. "I had a shirt in my bag he could have borrowed."
Great piece in the April 07 issue of Mother Jones by Bill McKibben, author of Enough, on the intersection of economics and psychology. "Happynomics" is a deft moniker. The answer McKibben provides at the end, small farms, feels a little anticlimactic, but hey, maybe thinking small really is the answer.
Say what you will about the benefits of capitalism - and there are plenty of 'em - this article depicts something that is tough to behold without shuddering: the state of the black art of marketing targeted at toddler-age kids.
Gary McLaughlin, an electrical contractor in San Francisco, recently got a call from a real estate agent who needed a house rewired before its new owners moved in. He checked out the house and faxed in his bid. McLaughlin, 31, employs two electricians and a bookkeeper and says his bid was about 25% less than what larger contractors would charge. But it wasn't low enough.
Later that day the agent called back and asked McLaughlin if perhaps he'd made a typo on his estimate. "I have two other bids here," she said, "that are half what you're asking." The difference, McLaughlin told her, is that he has a license and pays workers' comp insurance and payroll taxes on his employees, who are in the country legally.
"Well, that isn't my problem," the agent said. McLaughlin lost the job.
Working on a piece about U.S. tech jobs going offshore, specifically,
I think part of what's so hard for people to deal with, as
you can see in recent coverage of the phenomenon in the SJ Merc, Business Week,
Time, etc., is that the legend of America's technological
unassailability that went hand-in-hand with the tech financing boom
survived the equities crash and even the recession pretty well. People
figured that the Troubles were mainly due to the overheating in the
stock market, and once that mess evened itself out, we'd be back on
track. The people who got put on pedestals/magazine covers - the heroes
of the late 90s - were engineers and programmers.
Now the economy and
employment pictures look to be coming around or at least stabilizing,
but suddenly everyone is freaking out about India, which is where a lot
of the new software engineering and programming jobs are being created
- by U.S. tech companies. Smart people are smart enough to know that
America has no monopoly on smarts. There was some noise in 1997 about
tech-savvy immigrants coming to the U.S. and doing formerly high-paying
jobs for rock bottom prices. But that gripe was nothing compared to
this - having the jobs done in a place
where the cost of living is a fraction of what it is here. Easy choice
for U.S. companies, and are their shareholders going to complain that
their labor costs suddenly dropped
by 60%? Not likely.
But there's more to it: first, the U.S. companies save money and
perhaps get stronger and bigger and hire more people in the US who can
do stuff that can't be done in India; or they just keep hiring more and
more people in India and growing bigger and bigger and their stock
prices get bigger too, which their shareholders like.
second, the end product is still being sold by a U.S. company - maybe
to customers in other countries, even India. So that's money to the
That said, everyone I've talked to agrees that it sucks to be in a job that
gets offshored. The remedies
I've heard suggested are: 1. lots of retraining (as soon as you've
figured out how to do one thing, get ready to learn something
completely new). 2. Some kind of insurance pool that goes into a
retraining fund for displaced workers.