Monday, April 27, 2009

First they came for the coffee

How American capitalism will seize the opportunity presented by this economic crisis to turn back the clock on everything we define as a workplace benefit.

It starts with the easy wins -- the things they know we can't argue, like the free lunch and the company christmas party. Some of the big ticket items raise eyebrows -- the annual sales meeting, the sports sponsorships, the ad campaign -- but it feels like bling-com holdovers we have outgrown.

A few cryptic company emails about cutting corners, masked in conservationism and corporate citizenship. You are too overworked to notice.

You are too busy because new hires are frozen, and some of the "fat" (read: low status drones without connections or last names people can readily recollect. At Simmons, they called these "randoms.") are being escorted out. A partner, vendor, or big client hits the skids, and this seems like a good reason to cut loose anyone affiliated with those projects. The projects go forward.

You begin to notice that in spite of there being no Jobs in America, there is no shortage of WORK to be done. You are recast as the ones worth keeping ("so don't prove us wrong") but not worth the raise you earned or the investment in your future savings. A skilled worker brings his own tools, so please provide pens and paper. And, while you're at it.... think about providing your own insurance.

In Massachusetts, you have heard, health care is an individual's responsibility. Give the Company an inch, they will take a mile.

True story: as an incentive to take a "healthcare survey," the Company offered a drawing for answering the following questions, which I am not even sure are legal.
1. How much did you and your family spend ...for health care in 2008?
2. What do you think is the average cost for a visit to a primary care doctor?
3. What do you think is the average cost for an emergency room visit?
4. What do you think is the average cost for having a baby?
5. Have you registered on [we are watching your]?
6-8 are about this website
9. Do you and your family members get regular preventive care?
10. If not, why not? [chills just now]
question 14: What is your age?
What is your age.

If you don't think this is a potential blacklist, you have not read enough American history.

While perhaps not rolling in excess of the heyday, The Company can certainly afford to provide soda and coffee. They can afford the 401 match. Even with "First Tier" and European prices, they can afford health insurance. But today they find they can cry poor and cut all the amenities that had become a staple of the American workplace. And I don't mean dogs at work and Xboxes and free TV handouts. I mean benefits, balance, a few niceties. A coffee cup. A MAMMOGRAM.

When the economy gets that bad, companies fold. They don't give away a million in charity and turn out their pockets at the workforce. Don't let them tell you, don't let yourself say it out loud, (and I know you already have) "I'm just glad to have a job." Are you? At any cost?

From here "be glad you have a job" spreads to "if you don't want this job, there are plenty who do," until we are back in the 1830s and The Man owns us. The Millennials will walk away because their stakes are still low. They will go back to retail and travel industry, back to the bike shop, and live happy-hippy lives of ski bums and service workers who are in bands on the weekends. They will never save a dime, but they will also never be in debt. Or they will move to Malaysia, because why not? All their friends are on My Space anyway, and you can get free healthcare if you ex-pat to Europe.

But the Gen Ys are getting married, and the Gen Xrs are stuck in upside-down equity and 2nd and 3rd pregnancies. And we LateBoomers are just trying to get through the next 20 years with perscription coverage. If you did indeed promise your 10 year-old self, "I want to claw my way to middle management," congratulations. You made it.

You know that your company defines your "compensation package" as the total payout, and that is getting smaller. Your salary may be the same (if you have not been furloughed) but your value has been diminished. Don't fool yourself.

Click here for your preferred inspirational theme song:
Billy Don't Be a Hero
Big Rock Candy Mountain
ILGW - Look for the Union Label
Bread & Roses

Happy May Day Brothers and Sisters

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How to love Joan Crawford

In Ten Fierce Lessons

The Brow

The Brow Sweat
The Lips

The Shoes


The Awkward Femininity

The Back

The Moxie

The Ballz

The Triumphant Walk into Dawn

Saturday, April 18, 2009

How policewomen rolled when the world was brown

Seat belts are for the unLiberated.
"Throw the kids in the hatchback and light me a smoke while I steer with my knee! Mama wants to drive!"

Friday, April 17, 2009

Vanishing America

Wallet Pop recently published this year's list of things that are "vanishing" from America. They failed to mention ViewMaster, which Fisher-Price laid to rest this year as well.

How I happened onto this list will be told in a different post, but let's just say a couple on this year's list hit a little close to home. And it wasn't wild salmon.

I will comment on this list FB-style with 25 random facts about me and this list.

25. Typists
Of course, people type more than ever in our society. The list refers to professional Typists, such as the original Caroline herself. I learned on a Royal c.1940s, heavy as an anvil. I took a Brother to college, and had the IBM Selectric on my junior secretary's desk. The senior secretary had a beanbag ashtray.

24. Catholic Schools
My town just lost one this year. That small teacher: student ratio got to be less of a selling point. The Church has a lot of bills to pay.

23. Ka-ching cash registers
Ka-ching (or cha-ching) is the sound for money, as we know, but fewer people will know why. See also that record scratch noise we make to signal an abrupt stop to something. Ask a teenager what that's the sound of.

22. Wild salmon
Steven Colbert will tell you, that's because of bears. Ooops, I meant this. But this is good too.
salmon aren't as interesting.

21. Alleys
In my hometown neighborhood, we called the spaces between backyards "alleys." We had never seen an alley. We always hoped we might meet hobos there, burying their money, as we knew Hobos to do.

20. Charcoal
One more thing made out of trees

19. Hiring neighborhood kids
Cute story a friend told recently about her 12 yr old daughter's first babysitting gig. She went through the class and everything (of course in our day, you went through 6th grade and that's how you became a babysitter), and she didn't know --- she didn't know -- she was going to get paid. Today's parents would not send their kids next door to mow, shovel, feed the dog, rake the leaves, clean out the trunks in the attic. And as a result today's kids are missing out on a great opportunity to go through the neighbors' drawers. shame.

18. The trading pits
It does make you wonder what purpose this absurd approach to trading serves anymore, global market-wise and all. I have no personal story about this except that Pit is a much better card game than Uno, but not as good as Mille Bornes, and no one I ever knew played Rook.

17. Manual transmission
Smurph can back me up on this. He had to have his new car special ordered. Not on the lot. Here's a fan of the even older old school.
And never google "manny tranny." You won't like the cookies it leaves.

16. Homes without cable
I think they are wrong about this one. Homes may have cable, but not everyone is using it. I know 2 households without TV reception at all. I would include mine, but the cable comes with the condo fee. All Netflix, all the time.

15. 401K match
Too soon, Wallet Pop. Too soon....

14. Dental coverage
What's next America? Tissue boxes and coffee cups?? Oh. wait a minute....

13. Butcher shops
I think you've got to live in a pretty big American city to have a Butcher shop. Boston is still one of them, and that live chicken kill place in Cambridge is pretty cool.

12. Working on your own car
I used to change my own oil on my first car. And dump it in the alley for the hobos to find. Then I stopped driving for 13 years, and by the time I lifted another hood, I didn't know what the what I was looking at.

11. No down payment on your mortgage
yeh, well that was a crazy idea anyway

10. 0% balance transfer

9. Customer Service
After they shut off the free soda, the last vestige of the Internet start-up is the bloated call center. See my updated resume at

8. Toxic toys
This was a weird listing, like we should be nostalgic for it. I know my splintery lead-painted Tinker Toys certainly made long division seem less bleak. The point was some new legislation around chemicals used to make toys -- the best thing since we suggested since pajamas that should not be made of kerosene. I didn't get all the facts, because it didn't make for a good joke.

Damn, this is a long list, isn't it.

7. Maple syrup
That will be a loss. But I can confirm that maple syrup lasts indefinitely. It is like butter, which doesn't really ever go bad. So stock up.

6. Sidewalks
I do have to get in my car to drive to another neighborhood to be able to walk on sidewalks. I could walk around the condo-loop, but then I would have to talk to my neighbors.

5. Fax machines

True story: 1990. One of my summer staff had an internship where he was the rock star who knew how to use the fax machine. Not FIX it or anything. Just USE it. My other favorite fax story is sending a 25 page script to a producer faced the wrong way so she got 25 blank pages. And it cost our station a million dollars or some other outrageous figure I needed to be reprimanded over. Screw you, fax machine. good riddance.
4. Your net worth.
Well, see the above. If your retirement hasn't tanked, you can't afford a house either. And your teeth are falling out. But if you wander behind my mother's house, there may be tramp money in an alley.

3. 10pm drama
Honestly, I don't know the TV schedule anymore. But it seems that 10pm is no longer the adult drama timeslot. Personally, I've been watching the Jane Seymour version of East of Eden. I recommend you re-watch all the golden mini-series, and give up contemporary television.

I know a couple of people you can blame for this, but you'll just have to buy my book.

1. Community Banks
I wanted to end on a happy story. so here is one. Tell them Nick sent you.

Now, last year's list has me a little worried, because a lot of these are in my own home.
Last year: outhouses, Yellow pages, Classifieds, movie rental stores, dial up ISP, phone landlines, blue crabs, VCRs, ash trees, ham radio, swimmin' holes, answering machines, camera film, incandescent bulbs, bowling alleys, milkmen, hand-written letters, wild horses, personal checks, drive-ins, mumps & measles, bees, TV news, Analog TV, family farms.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Confronting our -isms

I wanted to be able to reflect on this more deeper (and longer) before posting, but I fear this 15 minute window will close quickly, and since the rest of my life is based on "just in time" fulfillment, why not go all in.

In fact, I am sure that there are a thousand posts on this topic right now. I have decided not to investigate that because

a). I could easily be convinced it is overkill and lose sight of the fact that most of This Readership don't read a lot of other blogs

2). I don't want to find out I agree with Heather Armstrong on much of anything

3). I am not actually connected to the Internet at this moment. I would like you think I am writing this on a yellow legal pad with a pen. I'm not. But please remember me when.

That intro is too long. It's like Rodgers and Hammerstein are my editors.

So everyone is talking about Susan Boyle, she of Britain's got it some talent. And yes, she is amazing. The Jury has (quite lit-rilly) ruled on that. I want to talk about why she blows us away.

What we say politely is that we can't imagine that voice came out of that woman. What we mean is we did not expect talent from someone Nanny would have said flatly "ain't a bit pretty," and Lee Smith would add, "....bless her heart..."

I call this essay Confronting Our -isms because I am not ashamed to say I was shocked by her performance, and I have spent a lot of time talking through why.

We can lay some of the blame on the Simon Cowell enterprise. We have become accustomed to the heartbreaking audition, the contestant in way over their head, but not even their closest friends would squash their dream. Simon, that ass hat, is glad to do so if it clears room for the "real" singers (you can say it like him, if you like, sneer and draw out that Rrrrr and a little Britishy through your nose).

Enter Billy Hung. I will not link to him. it makes me cry to watch.

American Idol would not even let someone Susan Boyle's age on. They thought Taylor Hicks was goofing us with his gray hair and dad-pants.

47 and Belle of Amherst virginal, Susan Boyle decks out her best Mother of the Bride and gives Simon a little cheek. (British cheek. Nothing risque) A lot of the kids who show up at the Family Show at Boston Improv are like this -- living room funny and over-indulged -- and it takes some effort to get them back to their seats when they have had the spotlight. When Susan opens with her awkward Goofy Aunt Bess pelvic thrust, you think you know what you are about it get.

but it was more like this, without the sad twist:

So, Britain's Got Talent, let's see if you'll deliver on your premise of finding the UK's next new star, undiscovered and unexpected. Will you will really coach Susan to her potential recording stardom and still let Susan be Susan? Or will she get a full makeover? And will we say what a great improvement it is, and what does that say about us?

I have an ongoing discussion with a dear friend about leg shaving. She reluctantly does it because she feels society expects it (esp. in her workplace). I agree with her on that point, but I also think body hair is revolting, so I do it to avoid looking less like a lower primate. But when it comes to whether I should know my best foundation shade or consider Lasix,the subject is closed and who wants more pie.

I want to be above thinking Susan could use a new do and an eyebrow treatment, because otherwise I have to accept that I could too. I want to applaud Justice Ginsberg for knowing that the lace jabot does not make the bench, but seriously.... Ruthy.... Ruthy...

I have written here before (my first post, in fact) about the time I heard Gloria Steinem read from her memoir Revolution Within, and how in the bathroom line after an hour of true inspiration, a pre-Boomer of Gloria's own cohort lamented that Gloria should do "something with her hair."

Certainly a recording star like Boyle could be as big as Elaine Paige just as she is. But I bet she gets handlers, and soon, and a couple of albums from now she will be back to singing in the shower because she just wanted to be heard, not seen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

From the In Box - 2

I felt that yesterday's clipshow had reached a respectable limit, and I should continue later. And I could make it look like I post frequently than I do.

Dipping a little deeper into the In Box, I being you several fun links from Pete, my authority on GENUINE old school Mass. history. And Mass history, but that's not we're talking about just now.

Here's a nice video of Blizzard shots, including a narration of the real-deal Mass. accent, south shore style. This is about 10 minutes long, so pour a soda. And please appreciate that in some parts of the region, it snowed on Easter Sunday.

Because I was not here for the big one, I will never be a real New England-a. wicked sorry.
Once you pop the top on Massachusetts disasters (that's pwop the twop), there's your lunch hour. There's about 500 years of history to deal with. This will get you started.

My personal favorites are the fires, as you must know by now, which are not technically disasters but catastrophes. The great ones are featured here too:

Boston 1870s
Chelsea 1900s
The Cocoanut Grove 1940s. you come visit me, and I'll take you here, then show you all my Grove artifacts. And you may never visit again.

See, this post didn't really go well with yesterday's.

Monday, April 13, 2009

From the In Box

Not everything in The DrawingIn Room is drawn in. Some of it is sent by you. In her real life, Miss Bender is a living google-net that you depend on to provide instant answers -- via phone, text, and sometimes in person -- on topics like "what's the difference between Elijah and Elisha again? And why are they called.....(fill in the blank). Miss Bender thanks you for rewarding her with potential blog topics that you would like to know more about, but don't have the hermit-like lifestyle to explore.

Thanks for knowing I do. What I no longer have is the attention span and writers' colony support system that allows me to focus on things longer that the average Pandora timeout session.

So you are just going to get a Show-n-Tell

To clear out the In Box, The DrawingIn Room presents, in no particular order, your recent discoveries and "what about this" submissions. Any conclusions drawn in are strictly miraculous.
Dolly Parton herself sent me the poster for 9to5 The Musical. I will camp out for this. come on, Allison Janney as Violet Newstead? How can you not love that? For every 6' girl who wanted to be a star. This blog spend more time on Dolly than you might imagine. Use the search box if you don't believe me.

Speaking of Backwoods Barbie (her words, not mine), I have 2 recent Barbie submissions. The inside circle knows you do not diss the Doll in my hearing.

Especially this doll, who turns 50 this year.

If you turn the red wig inside out, she is Batgirl. Greatest of All Sisters thought of that. Barbie came dressed as Cleopatra -- no doubt due to Liz Taylor -- and that bathing suit has a zipper. we had to go to the moon before we could mine velcro. By the way, Fee, this Barbie is priced at $250, so keep the puppy away from it, please.

Anyway.... Barbie story #1 was from the Baroness, announcing THIS. (made ya link). "Accessories include faux pearl necklace and stylish white hat. " just like the real infield.

Buy your real hat here. This linkback ought to annoy them no end.

Barbie story #2 came from Greatest of All Sisters, who is only slightly younger than Barbie (as if her Barbie itself doesn't give that away). We also had PJs and Talking Kens. PJ bent at the waist so she could... what, class? Do the twist. Dear god, am I old.

Anyway, Sister sent this. It speaks for itself, but was titled Barbie at 50.

I can tell you that little sister Skipper at 45 is still looking for a bra that fits properly.

One last thing about Barbie before we close this session of the InBox.
Real Barbie gift Sister gave one year.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Websites that suck
Trying to improve the world wide web... one horrifying layout at a time.

I like the one that looks like it was built by Dr Bonner. You have to trust this thumbnail image, because the real deal takes so long to load I burned my muffins.

The website for websitesthatsuck has its own category names. I have renamed them for my own amusement, but these are their real winners.
Most opthamology kickbacks: Tracy's Karate
Sally on her lunch hour award: Sail New York
People who have not used the web since Prodigy: Sarasota Tampa Express
(by the way, this one has blue mountain e*cards style Casio music)

All this taunting of course makes me wonder whether my website would pass the test. I use a Blogger template (which I have considered changing, but I fear a Facebook style backlash). Websitesthatsuck offers a checklist you can run through, but they warn that you if don't know anything about web design, you may not understand the checklist.

I use this template (which is called Scribe) because it comes the closest to the Mill Girl vibe I am trying to cast. While talking about ViewMasters, contemporary art and the Prophets. Which is probably a mark of a website that sucks content-wise if not format-wise.

Well you know what I say to that.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


What I am doing for entertainment because I can't summon the energy to write:
I am Facebook chatting with S-@-L and making a Wordle of Drawing In.
Is that the bloggiest web-cloudy Conversation 2.0 thing you've ever read? I am sure it is the most I have ever written.

I don't know why it is called a "Wordle." We are in a moment where the suffix for new and trendy is -dle. I have always missed the -O ending of the 50s. This would be Word-O. In the 90s, of course, e-word, or eWord. I am going to start adding -dle to things with a straight face. It is harder than you would think. will create this word cloud out of any website, or any group of words you throw at it. This is DrawingIn as a wordle. This is also a fair diagram of Caroline's brain. Just look how big the word Netflix is. And the word "just," which I clearly use more often than I realize, and JUST used in back-to-back sentences. The baroness sent me this tip back in February, and I promised I would talk about it soon. In fact, so much time has passed that this is a different picture than what it looked like a month ago. And the tool has gotten more creative, too -- more fonts and shapes and colors to play with.

Check out "70s," dead center. I dig that.

This morning, Karen rocks into the living room with a t-shirt on that says 1973 on it, in that faux-neon Soul Train font. Well, more bauhaus, but you get the idea.

I didn't like the font on the 1960s ones as well, but I am still considering a 1964. I was more excited about getting the customized Braille T-shirt. And having it say "For Hire."

here's where you can shop. Dr A, you'll want the Scrabble one.

My Wordle would not look good on a t-shirt.

So I wordled a few other interesting documents to see how they came out. Enjoy.

The Gettysburg Address

Scarlett's "Never be hungry" speech

A random letter, perhaps t0 you

That font, by the way, is called Refrigerator Letters. I am considering writing all my letters this way, at least for a month. Why should I do all the work?