When Vilma and Greta Zenelaj came across a Craigslist job ad that promised they could make as much as $22 an hour and get paid fast, it seemed like a good deal. The Albanian sisters had moved to Santa Monica to get a foothold in the film industry, and though they had produced a few independent features, they had run out of savings before they could also make a living. Now they were desperate to pay their bills.
Handy (then Handybook), the company that posted the Craigslist ad, is best known as a cleaning service. But unlike Merry Maids or your local cleaning franchise, it doesn’t actually employ any cleaners. Instead, it relies on an army of independent contractors to complete jobs, taking a 15% to 20% commission of every hour worked. It’s part of the “gig economy,” a much-hyped new class of the service industry where workers are expected to operate like mini-businesses. The influence of these companies is growing: according to an analysis by Greylock Partners, the value of transactions over platforms such as car services Lyft and Uber, grocery delivery service Instacart, courier service Postmates, and others could grow as large as $10 billion this year.
But the Zenelajs had never heard of the gig economy, and it wasn’t until orientation that they realized they would not be employees of Handy.
Five years ago I was invited to become the chief political commentator of theTelegraph. It was a job I was very proud to accept. The Telegraph has long been the most important conservative-leaning newspaper in Britain, admired as much for its integrity as for its superb news coverage. When I joined theTelegraph had just broken the MPs’ expenses scandal, the most important political scoop of the 21st century.
I was very conscious that I was joining a formidable tradition of political commentary. I spent my summer holiday before taking up my duties as columnist reading the essays of the great Peter Utley, edited by Charles Moore and Simon Heffer, two other masters of the art.
No one has ever expressed quite as well as Utley the quiet decency and pragmatism of British conservatism. The Mail is raucous and populist, while theTimes is proud to swing with the wind as the voice of the official class. TheTelegraph stood in a different tradition. It is read by the nation as a whole, not just by the City and Westminster. It is confident of its own values. It has long been famous for the accuracy of its news reporting. I imagine its readers to be country solicitors, struggling small businessmen, harassed second secretaries in foreign embassies, schoolteachers, military folk, farmers—decent people with a stake in the country.
My grandfather, Lt Col Tom Oborne DSO, had been a Telegraph reader. He was also a churchwarden and played a role in the Petersfield Conservative Association. He had a special rack on the breakfast table and would read the paper carefully over his bacon and eggs, devoting special attention to the leaders. I often thought about my grandfather when I wrote my Telegraphcolumns.
The heat that afternoon was intense. Weather maps across Iowa were deep red, and warnings flashed across the screen. A high school football player on the other side of the state had died from heat exhaustion the week before. Cornfields wilted and shrank into hills of despondent brown.
I was running late as I parked and shuffled to a dilapidated satellite classroom building. I introduced myself to a teacher sitting at a desk and told him that I was there to meet a 21-year-old man named “Scooter” — a childhood nickname, I’d later learn, that had stuck. (I’ve changed all names and some details to protect him and to comply with privacy laws.) I needed a summer job after my first year of grad school, and he needed staff.
My experience with autism had been limited to movies and anecdotes from friends who worked in “the field” — care industry shorthand for post-institutional residential and community-living nonprofits supporting people with developmental disabilities. (“We’re always looking,” the agency had said, and hired me without any sort of drug screening and a cursory, astonishingly fast background check. The drug screening was my only concern while filling out applications.)
The teacher looked like he was close to retirement age and wore a hearing aid. He asked about my experience working with people diagnosed with autism. “None,” I said, and his face dropped.
“Don’t stand directly in front of him,” the teacher said, “and avoid making eye contact. He might perceive that as a threat. He’s very keyed in on body language. Introduce yourself, but let me take the lead.”
The hulking members of the Power Team—veins budged, muscles swollen, eyes lit from radiant fire within—knew this. They’d come to this realization through years of practice, performing, and proselytizing. And so, in 1991, when they took the stage in front of a stadium of post-Perestroika’d Russians, the Americans didn’t waste time with preaching about the glory of Jesus. The translator could sit this part out. Instead, they broke through the language barrier with noodling guitar riffs, pyrotechnics, and incredible feats of strength.
With their bare hands, they broke handcuffs and tore phone books in half. They bent steel and smashed concrete with their skulls. They rammed flesh and bone against ice walls and burning timber, and the Lord let them pass through, relatively unscathed. And the Russians—all 70,000 or so of them—stood up, shouted, and accepted God into their hearts.
If reaching people is the goal of any ministry, the Power Team fulfilled it. They encircled the globe, Bible Belt missions interspersed with passport stamps from South Africa, New Zealand, and Israel. They hosted a weekly show on TBN, the world’s largest Christian television network, and they released VHSs and CDs. Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic wore their T-shirts during Bleach-era shows. Chuck Norris even put them in an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. They were an $11 million a year industry.
The Power Team, at their height, were the Christian superstars of the 80s who would reportedly preach to over a million teenagers in a calendar year. And, in 2002, they filed for bankruptcy.
Japan is poised to force workers to take at least five days of paid vacation a year, a compromise between employers’ groups calling for three and labor unions that wanted eight. Everyone in the country seems to agree that it’s critical workers take their legally guaranteed vacation time, because not only are Japanese people not having sex, they’re also refusing to take a break from the grind—and it’s becoming an economic and health crisis.
UnderJapan’s Labor Standards Law, employees are entitled to at least ten days of paid annual leave per year, with one extra day per year worked until the employee reaches a 20-day-a-year cap. The average employee in 2013 was entitled to 18.5 vacation days and received 15 days off for national holidays. That’s already the second lowest amount of vacation among the world’s wealthiest nations—behind only the United States, with ourten federal holidaysandlack of (federally) guaranteedpaid leave.
Perhaps most surprising is thatless than half of Japanese folks took their full vacation allotment in 2013, with the typical worker claiming only nine of an available 18.5 vacation days. One in six workers took none.
The sleeves on Dr. Paul Campion’s maroon shirt are rolled back, revealing paisley cuffs, a passel of bracelets on his right wrist, and an elegant watch on his left. His knick-knacks rest in wooden cubbies behind him: a conch shell, a decanter, an ostrich egg, a Japanese warrior sculpture, two beakers, and a molecular model of glucose.
At 56, he’s in better shape than he was in his 30s. He flips through pictures on his iPhone 6 showing me the belly he carried three years ago, before he began taking testosterone supplements. In recent photos, his abdominals look like a sculpture of Morse code.
The old, pre-testosterone Campion was an ophthalmologist, an eye doctor, in the wooded wonderland north of San Francisco. “I was just at the gym watching the 30-year-olds at the pull-up bar building muscles in three weeks. And I’m at the pull up bar and nothing’s happening,” he recalls. “I’m not feeling good. I’m sleepy all the time. All I want to do is sit down and eat potato chips and watch TV. Something’s not right.”
So he went to Cenegenics, a medical start-up that trains physicians to run their own “age management” practices. They updated his diet, put him on a new workout regimen, and started giving him testosterone. Within six months, his body fat was down to nine percent. “That’s pretty hard to maintain—I’m closer to 12 percent now,” he humblebrags. After his personal success, Cenegenics asked if he’d like to take their training course, so he did, and quickly, he found himself switching specialties and business models. He became a testosterone doctor.
Teach for America, the well known program that recruits college kids for teaching gigs in disadvantaged schools around the country, said recently that it had experienced a sudden decline in applications for this school year. And the program has received fewer applications for the next school year than it had at this point a year ago, after many years of rapid expansion since the program began in 1990. The decline is once again raising questions about the program’s model, which has always been controversial.
The program’s critics say it doesn’t train its recruits adequately. They say that since Teach for America recruits only commits teachers to two years of teaching, it undermines the idea that teaching is a profession and a career. Proponents say pupils who are assigned to Teach for America staff perform better on standardized tests than their peers, and Teach for America has recently made changes in responses to claims that it puts naïve — if intelligent — college graduates in front of children whose great educational disadvantages they aren’t prepared to address.
In 2013, Teach for America experienced a high number of applicants, but that was due to the program’s efforts to persuade older people with experience in other professions to give teaching a try, according to a Teach for America representative. The number of applications declined by 12 percent the following year, and as of last month, there have been 10 percent fewer applications to teach in the next school year than there were last year, although the final deadline hasn’t yet passed. The decline in applications was primarily among college students. Whether that decline is only temporary, or whether it shows that the group has reached some kind of limit, remains to be seen.
Dear Search Committee:
I am applying for the position of Assistant Professor in Philosophy. I am an advanced doctoral candidate in Philosophy (with minors in Urban Studies and English), and expect to defend my dissertation in May, 2015.
My dissertation, Both Sides Now applies a bilateral, hylomorphic analysis to the phenomenon that is described by the signifier “clouds.” Having been constituted in Western discourse both positively as “rows and flows of angel hair,” “ice cream castles in the air,” “feather canyons everywhere,” and negatively as objects that exist solely to obscure the sun, express rain and snow, and hinder the achievement of various goals, we can conclude that after the application of this bilateral, hylomorphic analysis that due to these contradictory “up” and “down” epistemologies of cloud tropes, the reality of clouds is somehow still understudied, having been ignored in favor of their Platonic form/sign, and that we really don’t “know” clouds at all.
If you could dip into the database for our Date Lab feature (where we match people up and send them out), you’d find them all there. They’re government workers, lawyers, teachers, doctors, bakers, bouncers, bicycle couriers. Mostly young, but plenty are older. They are looking for love or a fun time or a soul mate. They find broad shoulders a turn-on. Or maybe it’s book smarts. Perhaps a razor-sharp wit?
They are the daters of the D.C. area, and after years of sifting through their lengthy Date Lab applications, we know that though they are busy building their careers, traveling, maybe even raising kids, they still find time to pursue romance, whether it’s via a matchmaking site, a bold move at the office or by way of Grandma, who knows this nice young man who is “marriage material.”
We know their pet peeves: matches who send creepy shirtless selfies, who seem overly focused on their date’s résumé, who equate fit with rail-thin, who can’t follow basic rules of grammar. (It’s “you’re” really hot, not “your.” You’re. You are. Ugh.) We know that their horror stories often hit the same notes: the dates who “forget” their wallets, or show up looking nothing like their photo, talk obsessively about their ex, or down a bottle of wine and vomit in the taxi.
And their success stories, their “best dates”? Those sound awfully similar, too. Whether the romantic high point was a helicopter tour of Paris or a day-long hike followed by a picnic, the best dates come down to this: There is always, always a spark. Date Labbers rarely can describe just what sparks the spark — if we had a dollar for everyone who said, “I can’t quite put my finger on it … ” — but like daters everywhere, they know when it’s there. And when it’s not. And they’re rarely willing to give chemistry a second chance to appear, sometimes deeply disappointing the readers following along.
We don’t know if they’re as picky when Date Lab’s not involved, but we do know that technology has vastly expanded their reach, making dating a buffet that offers up an almost endless array of, um, dishes. (For tips on dating online, click here; for reviews of new apps, click here.) But has it also left them feeling stuffed without ever reaching the main course? Has the trend toward delaying marriage, while easing the spouse-hunting pressure for young daters, lowered the stakes too much? Are daters today less serious about finding a match?
For insight into dating today, we asked a variety of daters about their experiences. These are their stories.
Not long ago, I was at a dinner party with several couples in their 40s, all married except for my boyfriend and me. The mood was jovial until, over dessert, one guest made an offhand joke about Internet porn.
His wife took issue, and during a tense back-and-forth between them, the rest of us sensed that we were about to learn way too much about their personal lives. Fortunately, another husband deftly maneuvered to a safe topic for middle-aged parents (kids and screen time!), and after a lively discussion about iPads, we made our excuses to leave.
In the car, I turned to my boyfriend and said, “I bet there won’t be any sex happening in their bedroom tonight.”
He smiled and shook his head. He predicted that the hosts would be the least likely to have sex that night.
“Exactly,” my boyfriend said. “Least likely.”