Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Helen Levitt (August 31, 1913 – March 29, 2009) was an American photographer. She was particularly noted for "street photography" around New York City, and has been called "the most celebrated and least known photographer of her time.
Born in New York City, Levitt began her career in photography at age 18 while working in a portrait studio in the Bronx. It is there she acquired technical prowess but the inspiration to make images came through a consumption of art and photography exhibits, theater performances and films. While other photographers of the 1930s were documenting social injustice around the country and the world, Levitt chose to devote a long career to a place and people just blocks away: the children of the New York neighborhoods. Her photographs reveal the subtle expressions and gestures of adults engaged in conversation and children at play in curious and imaginative ways. Levitt is often referred to as "one of the great living poets of urban life." Her photographs are collected by most major museums world wide and she continues to live and work in New York.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
This is the second part of the interview with Vincent Shaw who is relating his experiences with a Turkish company. Interview with Vincent-Part 1
So when were you given the job of Human Resources in a Turkish company?
Well, I can’t say. Every other week my position would change. It depended on her moods [Cat woman, the owner] and his bright ideas [Penguin, the owner].. or what he had promised somebody else. I think I was Business Development officer at the same time as I was Human Resources.
So you were telling us about your experiences working with a Clinical Research Organization in Turkey. I get the impresssion that you don’t think much of the owner’s business practices. Am I correct?
It was like some kind of MBA study of how NOT to run a company. I suppose the biggest.. or should I say, over-riding problem- was that the husband and the wife , the owners and directors-used the company as a battle ground for their crappy marriage. They got to a point where they didn’t want to even be there at the same time. He would make this big announcement – his latest “ great idea”- and then she would come in and tell everybody to ignore it. This kind of thing kept happening.
I remember one time reminding them that, according to Turkish Labor Laws, the employees were entitled to some kind of vacation time. A few had been there something like two years without having any real time off. She was, like, annoyed. He told me to make the arrangements.
So, I checked back to starting dates of each of the employees and determined if they had worked a year.
To see if they qualified for a paid vacation.
Right. She came to me and said. “No. No. This isn’t right. You will give all the employees a vacation before the end of this year.” I tried to tell her that some of the employees would not have completed a full year before the calendar year would end. But you could see the light in her eyes kind of fade. She said, I mean, really sharply, “This is HOW major companies in Europe do things!”
And what happened?
Well, I gave everybody a calendar and asked them to arrange their holidays to be used before the end of the year. Which they did, even though some of them had started like 6 months before. And this was in October or so. Anyway, they had not completed a year.
So after the vacation dates were coordinated, Cat Woman comes in, takes one look at it and says, “I didn’t approve of this. No way. You will have to tell them this will not be acceptable.”
You mean, after you told them they could have vacations.. you had to go back and tell them they couldn’t have one?
Exactly. She denied that she had insisted on it and tried to blame me for it. But, as I said, this is just a small example. She was always doing things like this. But her dishonesty was much worse. Also she had this very destructive love for gossip with the employees.
What about “The Penguin”?
First of all, it was an open secret that he was cheating on his wife. I mean, everybody knew about it because he liked to brag about it all the time. That made things pretty uncomfortable, of course.
Also, he liked to undermine company rules. One time, we had an employee that like press the limits of office dress. You know, very low tops without a bra, very high skirts. Now this is a very touchy subject for a lot of women and a dress code is like a nightmare for a Human Resource office. Anyway, sometimes it was her hair. Sometimes it was her top. Sometimes it was her skirt. One day, Cat woman, who had been noticing this, came and said, “Well, bingo. Today ‘s all three at the same time.” I have to say, it was a bit embarrassing.
What did you say?
I asked her to go home and change into something more suitable for an office. I have to say, we were having guests that day. so it was pretty important to give a good impression. She handled it ok and left and came back looking a bit better. Problem solved?
No. She immediately went to Penguin and complained about the dress code. He told her to ignore it and that I must have been in a bad mood or something.
One thing I don’t understand. Obviously the conditions were bad. Why did you stay there?
Good question. First of all, every day was not a nightmare. Some days were pretty rewarding. And I suppose I have worked in some pretty crappy jobs in the past. Penguin kept telling me that I was doing a good job and he appreciated my input. I always felt like I was making slow progress. But, by Christmas time, I was about finished.
What happened then?
We had had a audit from the client which was, like, a super big deal. We had been informed about it about 3 months in advance. I had drawn up a schedule so that by the time of the audit, we could have checked and double checked everything. It gave us plenty of time to make sure every last detail was correct.
Cat woman ignored it. Forget about Penguin. He generally refused to take any active part in office operations, despite being the director of operations. So weeks passed and I did everything I could to get her interested. At least so that I could have my own department ready.
In the end, she waited until the very last day. She made bad fakes of training sessions that had never happened and bogus job descriptions and slipped them into my files on the morning of the auditors’ visit. I had no idea until we had to bring the files to the auditors.
When the auditors saw this, they immediately called me in for an interview. They asked questions about the training and I told them the truth. I told him that I had no idea where those documents had come from and they, as he could see, I had signed none of them. He asked me,”You don’t have any background in Human Resources or Business Administration, do you? What makes you think you are qualified to do this particular job?” Talk about degrading .
What did you say?
I said, “Hell if I know.” Seriously, I told him that it had never been my decision in the first place. But that was when I decided that, unless they pay for some serious training in Human Resources, I would have to take my final bow and leave.
But you never got a chance to resign did you?
No. Well, not as I had planned anyway.
Next week, the interview continues. Don’t hesitate to comment. I’d be glad to hear what you think.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
A teenager got away with painting a 60ft phallus on the roof of his parents' home for a year before his parents found out.
Rory McInnes, 18, climbed on to the flat roof of his parents' home and daubed the symbol using a tin of white paint, after watching a programme about Google Earth.
Web surfers can view detailed images from satellites using the Google software, enabling them to zoom in on their homes to see them from above.
But parents Andy and Clare did not discover their son's rude artwork until a helicopter spotted it on top of their home near Hungerford, Berks.
The pilot called The Sun newspaper, which then contacted Mr McInnes to tell him.
Mr McInnes, 54, a company director, thought the newspaper was having a joke.
He said: "It's an April Fool's joke, right? There's no way there's a 60ft phallus on top of my house."
However, when he asked each of his four children if there was indeed the image of a phallus on their newly-completed roof, Rory owned up.
When Mr McInnes phoned his son, who is currently in Brazil on a gap year, the teenager said: "Oh, you've found it then!"
The boy's father appeared to take the prank in good humour.
But he said: "When Rory gets home he will be given a scrubbing brush and white spirit and he can go and scrub it off."
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
So, last year wasn’t your best year, I take it.
Yeah, you can say that.
Can you describe for our readers how you got into this mess?
The mess that was last year? Well, through a friend I met this doctor and his wife. Let’s call him Penguin and Cat woman. They operated a small CRO business with about 10 employees. They wanted to offer me a job with their company.
Clinical Research Organization. What they do is help arrange clinical drug trials with doctors. The doctors find patients and then they test the drugs and submit the results for analysis. The CRO is there to make sure the doctors are following the proper protocol.
Got it. So how much experience had you had with Clinical research?
About 0%. Still, what they wanted .. at least.. initially, was somebody to help their staff with their English, for writing emails and speaking on the phones and face to face interviews with the clients. I was onboard with that. No problem.
I see. But you said “initially"?
About a month into it, the owner, this doctor, Penguin, I mean, decided that he liked my presentation skills so much that he wanted me to train his staff on Clinical research as well.
So let me get this straight. You were asked to give training about a subject you knew nothing about to experienced staff? What did you say?
I said, hmmm.. ok. You have to understand Turkey. Anything is possible. Everything is learning by on the job training. I was no more unqualified than anybody else there. None of the employees had a background in medicine, at that time. But this company is not at all unique in this way.
Actually, I told them-repeatedly- that I could not do it. But I told them that I could prepare a program for them and supervise the re-training. I wanted the owner or the manager or the supervisor to do the actual training. I was fine with that.
But that didn’t happen?
No. That didn’t happen. The Penguin was so encouraging. Also, the person who should have been responsible for training was the supervisor. I think they called her a line chief or something like that. The supervisor-who was a bully, by the way, loved to shout orders at people but was secretly very self-conscious that she might not be doing her job according to the rules. She was like this Gorgon who behaved like some kind of top executive, coming an going whenever she liked. Also, she was very worried that, if the employees learned the rules they would see how she was doing things incorrectly.
Even when she trained new employees she would give them meaningless or petty tasks or give them tasks without explaining to them how it fit into some kind of overall structure. This was, in fact, her idea of training.
And I would imagine that following the rules is pretty important to this line of work?
Exactly. They have this thing called SOPs which means Standard Operating Procedures. And every single detail is laid out on how to do this and how to do that and what to do if this happens.
But then, shouldn’t this be pretty easy in terms of training?
Well, the owners didn’t want the employees to see the SOPs. I never could figure that out but I think it had something to do with where they came from. I think the set of SOPs were stolen from her previous employer and she was afraid of the legal ramifications if they ever found out. So she kept the only copy of the SOPs locked in a cabinet in the hallway.
Hmmm.. ok. So what did Penguin expect you to do exactly?
Training. He wanted me to train the staff and train new employees as well. Never mind that I wasn’t qualified. I told him over and over that I was an English teacher. But he kept saying he knew this but he was sure I could do a great job.
Why didn’t you simply decline the offer?
First of all, I suppose I was sick of teaching. I think I needed a break. I was looking for some different kind of challenge. Secondly, it looked interesting. It had a future and also, he offered me a lot of money to start. Money is NOT a problem in CROs. Last of all, I really honestly believed I could do it.
Our main – our only client, actually- also had a publishing company for Clinical Research. So my first step was to order training books through this company and study the materials intensively.
What about working permission? Was that going to be a problem?
Penguin told me that, I think, this was the first thing he said, that his company would hire me as a English teacher/advisor as a permanent position in the company. The lawyer said that this sort of thing was done all the time. It was just a formality.
Did you believe them?
Sure. Why not? I had no reason not to believe them. After all, I assumed that they needed me no more or less than I needed them. So what would have been point of lying?
If rules were not so important to them, I imagine you saw a lot of dubious things going on.
Practically every day. The first week, for example. There was going to be this auditor come in for a quick visit, I remember, and she spent the last 24 hours, faking all kinds of documents in case they asked. Fake trainings sessions, fake signatures. I thought that was pretty funny at the time. I never occurred to me how important it was to stick to the protocols and follow procedures. I had no clue really.
It didn’t matter anyway. The auditor- and this guy is like a mind-reading bloodless alien- he could zero in on a phony document or nonsensical excuse. He wouldn’t, like, start shouting or anything. He would ask for certain paperwork, spend about two or three hours studying every detail and then, make notes. In about a month, he would send a draft of his findings.
I see. So how long did it take to set up the training program?
I ordered this set of self-training books for Clinical Research- there were like 9 or 10 of them.. and began to outline each chapter. Then, using PowerPoint, I made presentations for each of the books. That took quite a bit of time and energy. After I finished the first 5 or 6 presentations along with comprehension tests on the materials in about 2 months, I told them I was ready. But then, Cat woman reviewed my training program and wanted to make adjustments. For example, she wanted me to pair up the employees so they could prepare their own presentations as well on the materials.
But.. why? Didn’t that make it overly complicated?
You’re telling me. But this is how everything falls apart in an organization in Turkey. Nobody wants to follow the rules but everybody wants to make adjustments. One person does all the work and everybody stands around and makes comments and criticizes and tinkers. Anyway, that is the way it worked in this case. The funniest part was, after the first presentation, the owners decided they did not want to participate. She wanted to go to get her hair done and he wanted to go shopping at IKEA.
So how did the first training session go?
The first presentation was really successful I thought. Lots of enthusiasm and people asked good questions. The more experienced members were discussing different points with the newer employees. And really in the end, after the test on the material in the book, the results were very interesting.
The top level of management- the Gorgon, for example, had the worst scores on the tests. The newest employees had the highest. This probably meant that they didn’t even read the books because they thought they knew more about Clinical Research than the books did. The books came from the client so I felt I had a pretty strong argument.
Then we went on to the next book. That was when I started to have problems. We had this guy there- we was like a class clown in high school and totally incompetent. But Penguin needed to have a side-kick to go out drinking and “carousing” with him after hours, so this guy had permanent job security no matter how many times he screwed things up, which was, like, one or two times a week. Not just accidents or mistakes but purposeful and dishonest behavior.
Anyway, we had finished the presentations and on that Friday, when I gave the test, Penguin walked through the room and sniggered and left. Afterwards, he asked me if I had seen “The Joker” cheating on the test. He thought it was very amusing.
But you didn't?
No. I didn’t. I mean, this guy was like 30 years old and he was acting like a kid in junior high. After all, following the rules and NOT cheating is probably the most important point of the training anyway. More importantly, the owner’s attitude was, like, isn’t that cute?
So what did you do?
I told them that they would have to speak to him and warn him. It was not fair to the others who had studied the books.
They said they would but they didn’t. It was like they were afraid to make this guy angry. They were intimidated by their own employees, especially popular ones. I waited for some kind of action. I mean, if they hadn’t wanted to make it a larger problem then they could have told the supervisor to speak to him. But instead, they simply laughed about it.
And what did you do?
I told them I was not there to teach children and suspended the training program. I waited and waited but nothing happened. During that time, so many other things were happening. In fact, Penguin hated one of the key principles of company organization and structure. Job Descriptions. He hated them. He thought they were unnecessary and restricting. He wanted all of the employees doing whatever he asked them to do. Including me.
Part 2 of this interview will be posted next week – March 29 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
One morning several years I was sitting on my balcony, having my coffee in my sweat pants and T-shirt like some kind of Chaplin aristocrat. It was my day off and I had made no plan but to be as lazy as a house cat all that day. The birdies were a twittering and the coolness in the air was just beginning to fade into what was sure to be another smothering late summer day. Just out of reach was a lemon tree with a few surviving fruit. Life, it seemed at that rare but rapturous moment, could hardly be much improved upon.
However, that morning was not as glorious for others I noticed. On one side of the parking lot, I saw a man attempting to restart his car. The fading circular grumbling sound told me that his battery was dead. Coincidentally not too far away, I spotted another neighbor similarly distressed. During the night, his right front tire had gone flat. Added to that, apparently his spare tire was also flat. (My father would have torn him to shreds for allowing such negligence.)
I watched them both grow increasingly angry and frustrated until each one called a mechanic for help. Their mornings clearly were off to a bad beginning. Eventually, of course, they managed to solve their individual problems and arrived to their prospective offices a few hours late.
Later, after some idle deliberation about what I had seen, I realized something. At no time did either of the two men look past their own difficulties and make commiseration. How hard it would have been to make some kind of neighborly greeting, if nothing else, to share the aggravation? I have seen it often enough in Midwest. If one man had a car problem,a committee of husbands would be formed and some makeshift solution would be arranged. It struck me as a bit odd that it hadn't happen in this case, as well. After all, nobody can fault Turks for not being social.
And if either of these men had made the least little attempt at sharing and empathizing, they might have quickly solved their own problems. The man with the flat tire could have used his car as a jump for the other man, and the first man could have, in exchange, driven the second man to the gas station to air up his spare tire.
Pain shared is pain lessened; joy shared is joy increased. Thus do we refute entropy.
Monday, March 16, 2009
When you were a tadpole and I was a fish In the Paleozoic time, And side by side on the ebbing tide We sprawled through the ooze and slime, Or skittered with many a caudal flip Through the depths of the Cambrian fen, My heart was rife with the joy of life, For I loved you even then.
|Mindless we lived and mindless we loved And mindless at last we died; And deep in the rift of the Caradoc drift We slumbered side by side. The world turned on in the lathe of time, The hot lands heaved amain, Till we caught our breath from the womb of death And crept into light again|
We were amphibians, scaled and tailed, And drab as a dead man's hand; We coiled at ease 'neath the dripping trees Or trailed through the mud and sand. Croaking and blind, with our three-clawed feet, Writing a language dumb, With never a spark in the empty dark To hint at a life to come.
|Yet happy we lived and happy we loved, And happy we died once more; Our forms were rolled in the clinging mold Of a Neocomian shore. The eons came and the eons fled And the sleep that wrapped us fast Was riven away in a newer day And the night of death was past|
Then light and swift through the jungle trees We swung in our airy flights, Or breathed in the balms of the fronded palms In the hush of the moonless nights; And, oh! what beautiful years were there When our hearts clung each to each; When life was filled and our senses thrilled In the first faint dawn of speech.
Thus life by life and love by love We passed through the cycles strange, And breath by breath and death by death We followed the chain of change. Till there came a time in the law of life When over the nursing sod, The shadows broke and the soul awoke In a strange, dim dream of God.
I was thewed like an Auroch bull And tusked like the great cave bear; And you, my sweet, from head to feet Were gowned in your glorious hair. Deep in the gloom of a fireless cave, When the night fell o'er the plain And the moon hung red o'er the river bed We mumbled the bones of the slain.
I flaked a flint to a cutting edge And shaped it with brutish craft; I broke a shank from the woodland lank And fitted it, head and haft; Then I hid me close to the reedy tarn Where the mammoth came to drink; Through the brawn and bone I drove the stone And slew him upon the brink.
Loud I howled through the moonlit wastes, Loud answered our kith and kin; From west to east to the crimson feast The clan came tramping in. O'er joint and gristle and padded bone We fought and clawed and tore, And cheek by jowl with many a growl We talked the marvel o'er.
I carved the fight on a reindeer bone With rude and hairy hand; I pictured his fall on the cavern wall That men might understand. For we lived by blood and the right of might Ere human laws were drawn, And the age of sin did not begin Till our brutal tusks were gone.
And that was a million years ago In a time that no man knows; Yet here tonight in the mellow light We sit at Delmonico's. Your eyes are deep as the Devon springs, Your hair is dark as jet, Your years are few, your life is new, Your soul untried, and yet -
Our trail is on the Kimmeridge clay And the scarp of the Purbeck flags; We have left our bones in the Bagshot stones And deep in the Coralline crags; Our love is old, our lives are old, And death shall come amain; Should it come today, what man may say We shall not live again?
God wrought our souls from the Tremadoc beds And furnished them wings to fly; He sowed our spawn in the world's dim dawn, And I know that it shall not die, Though cities have sprung above the graves Where the crook-bone men make war And the oxwain creaks o'er the buried caves Where the mummied mammoths are.
Then as we linger at luncheon here O'er many a dainty dish, Let us drink anew to the time when you Were a tadpole and I was a fish.
- Langdon Smith
Sunday, March 15, 2009
From this window,
I can see
(though another building's half-obstructing)
a scruffy team of workmen
amid the cold
with some kind of thing
they are constructing.
I'd like to go out
and ask them
"Say, whatever this supposed to be?
A warehouse, office building
Ottoman castle, or factory?
Explain. It's not so clear
Insallah, one of them might
with crooked speech
and earnest look
and try his best,
by hook or crook,
to recall the English lessons
he once took.
I might have heard
I would still not divine
the strain of though
from the train of words.
(like every Turk I've ever known)
would not be content
to leave my ignorant well-enoughs alone.
January 30, 1991
In most tourist cities in Turkey, (or well, anywhere in the Mediterranean really) you will find something called "bar street" and as the name would suggest, it is there you can find any number of establishments for dancing, drinking and playing the dating game.
Due to their close proximity, each bar is obviously in direct competition with each other and, if the truth be known, there is hardly much difference between any of them. The same menu, the tired and dazed faces behind the bar could be interchangeable, the same service and inflated prices (and yes, that is not an accident) and the vulgar decor is hopelessly predictable- dizzy, spinning lights and dark nooks. There is, in fact, no real variety between them and no one bar is better or worse than any other. In the end, it all works out because, as there is little real variety, the clientele- which is, in fact, the only variable here- tends to shift easily from place to place. A happy ending evenly distributed- from the business side with a less than satisfactory result- from the pub crawlers vantage.
A stroll down a bar street can be a fairly nerve-frazzling experience. A young man with an open and loud shirt showing his chains like Marley’s ghost and a goatee/piercing/ tattoo or silly hat. He is generally a very VERY extroverted type with great English and hip to the point of being on the other side of dodgy, attempts to lure the unsuspecting and gullible into the bar. The music is set on LETHAL-(The Greatest Hits of Eurovision, for example) and your chest vibrates like the top of a drum.
Campaigning in Turkey is a lot like a walk down any bar street. Unlucky you if you should be caught on the sidewalk as a campaign bus ( speakers on wheels, actually) comes driving up beside you. It is like being hit with intense X-rays for a few shuddersome seconds. An over modulated yet somehow screechy woman's voice screams deliriously about the [insert your own three letters here] Party which hits you like a ton of incomprehensible bricks. On the sides of these "noise-mobiles" are the grossly-enlarged faces of the smartly dressed politician with smiles and that dreamy glint of optimism in his whale-like eyes. And, then, as if God has heard your prayer, the van passes by and you are surrounded by others pedestrians with benumbed scowls and disgusted sour expressions. It must be how a vampire feels when caught in a beam of spotlight.
When a politician comes to a city to rally his supporters, he or she will inevitably hang an enormous- (and I mean, building sized) poster on the side of a tall structure of himself next to Ataturk, looking gallant and dignified as ever. There is a lot of mindless flag waving and, a week later, another politician comes and makes his noise, flies his banners and makes his promises. And somehow, poor Ataturk's face appears next THIS pole's face as well. Can they ALL have the same political ideology as the founder of the Republic? Is that possible?
The local elections are to be held on March 29th and local issues seem to be taking a backseat- I mean, how else can you explain nobody talking about arsenic poisoning (AND shortages) in the city water supplies of the largest cities in Turkey? Instead, this election appears to be more of a referendum about the ruling AKP party. There is here in Turkey a deep-seated cynicism and general indifference to the outcome of any election. I still haven't figured out whether it is a realistic view or whether it is merely a self-fulfilling, self-defeating way of seeing politics. I will let you know.. but on the other hand, who can blame the voters for not having much faith in a system based on a bar street mentality?
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
First Virtual Reality Technology To Let You See, Hear, Smell, Taste And Touch
ScienceDaily (Mar. 4, 2009) — The first virtual reality headset that can stimulate all five senses has been developed. What was it really like to live in Ancient Egypt? What did the streets there actually look, sound and smell like? For decades, Virtual Reality has held out the hope that, one day, we might be able visit all kinds of places and periods as 'virtual' tourists. (Click on link below to read more..)http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090304091227.htm
Human-Interface Engineers Create Virtual-Reality Experience by Letting Users Walk in Rotating Sphere
April 1, 2006 — A new invention allows users to explore virtual worlds while moving around safely in their real physical environment. Wearing a virtual-reality helmet, users walk inside a rotating, hollow sphere, while a computer responds by changing the visuals displayed in the helmet. The sphere could find applications in education, firefighter training, and entertainment. (Click on link below to read more..)http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2006/0409-the_new_virtual_reality.htm
So who needs cars anyway?
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The challenge was to eliminate some key part of a photograph using Photoshop for a humorous effect. Here are a couple of my favorites but do.. do ..do check out the others at the link below.
Check out the rest of the entries at: http://www.b3ta.com/challenge/invisible/
They say life is what we make of it. By the end of this post, I hope to have helped you decide whether that statement is true or not.
There is no doubt that life has its ups and downs. However, how we deal with them can sometimes make all the difference. Today I want to share eight harsh truths that I've come to learn from life. There's also a message in each that I think we can all learn from, and when applied, will improve our lives infinitely. (Click on link to read more…)
Written on 2/26/2009 by Glen Allsop. Glen writes on the subject of Personal Development atPluginID. His site's main aim is to help people Plug into their Identity, be who they want to be, and live the life they want to live.