Monday, August 31, 2009

Euphemism Watch: Working for Free

As a freelance writer and an editor, I feel a strange compulsion - no, a duty - to check the writing/editing job listings on Craigslist on a regular basis. It has become a depressing and humbling ritual in recent times. In fact, about the only pleasurable part of it for me is marveling at all the creative ways the only prospective "employers" left these days attempt to infer that working for them for nothing is somehow a lucrative opportunity, while simultaneously avoiding any explicit mention of, you know, having to work for them for nothing.

Indeed, I heartily recommend this sleazy exercise in euphemism-spotting to others. Rubbernecking through these lonely missives from a dying industry can be a darkly amusing experience, especially if you're the kind of person who greets news of any major disaster by packing a picnic and loading the kids into the car, or if you enjoy seeing the English language being abused to within an inch of reality.

To give you a taste, today I saw perhaps my favorite attempt yet at turning a lack of meaningful pay into a benefit. This ad seeking a voluntary editorial manager for some unnamed, underfunded internet startup helpfully mentions "... if you happen to be on unemployment insurance, this work will not jeopardize your benefits." No, and it won't trouble your bank balance either.

Interviews will be taking place soon; please leave your dignity at the door.

Originally published at

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

KQED: Kronos Quartet on Grass

I love experiencing art in weird places. Unconventional settings challenge our entrenched ideas and opinions, and are normally lots more fun too. Which is why I jumped at the chance to see the Kronos Quartet at Rancho Nicasio in Marin on Sunday, August 16. True, this is a group that's known for straying far from the traditional confines of classical music, and they've made this appearance an annual tradition in recent years. But let's face it, it's still pretty unusual to see an internationally-renowned string ensemble play in the beer garden of a rural Californian bar.

By Keith Laidlaw. Read the full article here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

How Stupid Is the US Postal Service?

This letter arrived at our house yesterday. I've messed around with the photo a little (to protect our privacy), but on the original you can clearly see our house number and street address, under a long-departed previous resident's name. Well, you can as long as you ignore the large black cross my wife added to the envelope the first time it passed through our mailbox about a week ago, along with the big circle round the return address and the lettering that says "return to sender addressee unknown."

Maybe we missed some detail of the US Postal Service's protocol for correctly marking return mail, but the intention seems fairly clear. While I realise that much of the sorting system is automated these days, I was still labouring under the delusion that someone human would look at a letter before it gets delivered. Perhaps not.

We've now released this salmon-like letter back into the wild, intrigued to see if it manages to find its way to the wrong destination for a third time.

Originally published at

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

KQED: Bowling for San Francisco

The biggest cultural smackdown in San Francisco for years has ended, but with no clear winner. In one corner, Gap founder Donald Fisher has been forced to abandon his plan to build a monumental new gallery in the Presidio, but he hasn't had to give up on his vanity art project completely. Let's face it, anyone looking to spend $100 million on a showcase for a billion-dollar art collection is unlikely to have too much trouble finding an alternate location. Meanwhile, the venerable Presidio Bowling Center, which was facing destruction to make way for Don's mega art shack, has escaped the wrecking ball for now, but its long-term future is still far from secure.

You may think I'm overstating the cultural signifigance of this battle royal, and you're probably right. The Fisherarium was never going to make much of an impact on the arts scene of an area already well served with internationally renowned exhibition spaces. But the Presidio Bowling Center is a different matter. It's pretty much the only place to roll in San Francisco, and losing it would leave a deep gap (no pun intended) in the city's leisure landscape.

Of course, my perspective on the importance of bowling may be a little skewed...

By Keith Laidlaw. Read the full article here.