Archive for June, 2020

Service of How to Speak Up–or Should We?

Monday, June 29th, 2020

Photo: cbs8.com

I didn’t say a word when years ago a man lit a cigarette in the subway as the train headed into the tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan. I thought about asking him politely not to smoke and wondered “What if the train stopped for an extended period and the little air we share in the car is poisoned by his smoke?” I was afraid he’d attack me and I’d have nowhere to run and escape.

Today it’s about masks. I wrote about them on May 14th in “Service of Symbols III.” Since then NY Governor Cuomo had a contest for the best video to promote their use and immunologist Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and other authorities repeatedly tout their impact on slowing down the spread of Covid-19.

Nothing seems to drive home their purpose with some. A New York Times article by Margot Sanger-Katz “On Coronavirus, Americans Still Trust the Experts” explains what’s going on. She reported: “In the Times survey, 84 percent of voters said they trusted medical scientists to provide reliable information about the virus, with 90 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans trusting the experts. Overall trust in the C.D.C. was 77 percent — 71 percent among Republicans and 83 percent among Democrats.”

Photo: abcnews.go.com

Gregory A. Poland, MD told the audience on a WOR 710 NY radio program last week that a man yelled at him for wearing a mask when he was out walking with his wife. Poland knows more than most about why he wears one. He is director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group and editor-in-chief of the medical journal Vaccine. He didn’t engage the aggressor who didn’t know who he was harassing.

Most stores post signs asking visitors to wear masks but there are no laws about it. It’s up to the retail staff–even youngsters with summer jobs–to reprimand and confront potential customers and ask the mask-less to return with a mask on.

A friend who owns a business in the suburbs said a man came inside last week, stopped, said, “Oh my–I forgot my mask in the car,” raced out and returned. That can happen.

Often the omission is aggressive and deliberate. A NYC radio talk show host boasted that he’s deep-sixed his mask and nevertheless enters the small shops in his Manhattan neighborhood and nobody stops him. He’s tired of wearing one. He’s not alone. It’s not enough that these people imperil the health of others, I’ve read that some punch mask-wearers.

Photo: youtuebe.com

Anecdotal information from friends who live in or are visiting New England tourist destinations report streets crowded with vacationers gleeful to be freed from sheltering at home. Many left behind their facial protection and social distancing awareness. Shops with seasonal business that are starved for sales employ staff who, like most sane people, are fearful of getting sick. They are especially stressed when potential customers pass right by mask signs and enter with exposed nose and mouth.

Does a business that wants to protect its staff need to hire a six foot 200 pound guard? If you worked in a restaurant, shop, hair styling salon, barbershop or any business that welcomes outsiders how would you ask patrons to put on a mask or would you grin and bear it?

Would a request to put on a mask on a recording in well recognized, respected voices that employees could easily and invisibly engage when someone enters without a mask help avoid confrontation?

If you are a customer trapped in an establishment and someone enters without a mask, do you speak up? What do you say?

Photo: twitter.com

 

Service of “I Couldn’t Live Without It” Until I Did Post Pandemic

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

There were plenty of things I thought were essential to my happiness and survival that have changed since the pandemic.

Meat

I am not a vegetarian. I usually eat a traditional dinner consisting of a little meat or fish, potato or rice and a vegetable. But I hesitate to pay $6.50-$15/lb for garden variety hamburger. So I will be eating a lot of other things until prices readjust if ever they do.

Photo: seriouseats.com

Unfortunately my diet isn’t healthy if you consider the fettuccine Alfredo and ice cream that lace my dinner menus instead. I sometimes divide a pound of Alaskan salmon into four meals while ignoring the price because I know it’s healthy.

Work Colleagues

Since March I’ve not seen the people who share office space with me. I love going to an office. I enjoy the camaraderie and I’ll miss the banter. Like many who aren’t comfortable sharing closed space these days with others for long periods I’ve just moved my office home.

Large Handbag, Lucky Star

Because I no longer go to an office, a friend’s house, out for a meal or to meetings I don’t need to leave home with the paraphernalia I’ve deemed essential my adult life that required a pounds-heavy handbag to hold makeup, fat wallet, pens and so forth and often a tote bag as well.

I don’t miss a handbag though I’ve run into trouble without it.

  • Early on in the pandemic I pulled out my phone from my jeans pocket with clumsy plastic gloves on and my credit card came out too. The black card fell on the dark brown carpet by the elevator in my apartment. I didn’t notice until I went to pay for groceries. A neighbor returned it. Two weeks ago I was on an empty street and found a $20 bill in the gutter. I am sure that bill came out of the owner’s pocket just as my credit card did.
  • To avoid a reprise I graduated to a small purse [photo above, center] just big enough to hold essentials: credit card, keys and a little cash. You may have read my Facebook posting this week about the wonderful New York Department of Transportation construction workers who returned it to me. I thought I’d slipped it into one of the giant TJ Maxx bags loaded with groceries and planted on my shoulders but instead, it landed on the street. I attribute this mistake to a mask that acts like a horse’s blinders, a sweaty hand in gloves that remove feeling from my fingers and my attention focused on social distancing and what’s going on around me.

 Have you realized that you can live without anything you once thought was imperative?

Photo: Pinterest.com

Service of One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Is Etsy Too Big?

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

I was in awe of the Etsy platform when it launched 15 years ago as “a virtual storefront for hipsters’ arts and crafts” as Taylor Majewski wrote in builtinnyc.com. It went public in 2015 and describes itself as “an American e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and craft supplies. These items fall under a wide range of categories, including jewelry, bags, clothing, home décor and furniture, toys, art, as well as craft supplies and tools.”

According to statista.com, last year it reported 2.5 million sellers and 39.4 million buyers around the world.

I’ve loved and bought crafts for decades, promoted one of the big east coast shows for years and was thrilled that talented artisans had another vital way to expand their customer bases and generate sales.

Something happened. Carlene Gleman founder, artist and owner of Greymount Paper & Press, described her predicament in a series of Facebook postings. If her name and company are familiar it’s because I featured her in “Service of Ordering Online During a Pandemic,” last month.

Gleman claims that Etsy’s new off-site advertising program has “directly led to our artwork being repeatedly stolen.”  She found over 20 instances of theft in three months. Before Etsy introduced this new program, it had only happened once in five years.

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

While the platform appears to be helping promote some of its successful vendors’ products without repercussions, for a business like Greymount based on an artist’s creations, it is at huge cost. She said while the company’s new marketing approach should work for furniture makers, for example, “it creates trouble for shops whose artwork can be stolen with the click of a mouse.”

With a simple fix her work wouldn’t be in jeopardy, but in the last year, the brand has begun to insist on 2,000px high-resolution images for all listings. “A thief can download, copy, and easily remove watermarks from photos with this resolution,” said Gleman. “Lower resolution images, which Etsy allowed in the past, discourage theft by largely preventing enlargement and printing.”

Sellers who generate $10,000 gross profit according to Etsy’s calculations, [they include postage in the sales total!], must participate in Etsy’s new offsite marketing program, and, Gleman reports, are excluded from the platform’s internal search engine. [You know–the toolbar that helps you find “greeting cards” or “art featuring otters.”]

Upon learning about the new program, Gleman immediately turned off all advertising for her shop, to prevent her listing images from appearing on websites thought to be resources for copyright theft.

She checked her seller dashboard after she realized that her images were being stolen from her Etsy listings. She was incurring advertising fees. “Etsy was blasting my artwork across the web without my knowledge.”

She has hired a lawyer to fight the art thieves and has turned off her Etsy shop, permanently. She now sells her greeting cards, art prints, and gifts exclusively through her own website.

“See if an artist has a website and if it’s possible purchase through them directly,” Gleman recommends. She has decided to never again sell on a 3rd party platform that forces her to participate in advertising programs where she can’t control where her artwork appears.

The world of craft is diverse. The marketers at Etsy aren’t taking this into account. Do you know of other businesses that have tripped up when they haven’t recognized the differences in their clients?  Can you share other examples of copyright infringement?

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

 

 

Service of Uneven Performances During a Pandemic

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

Photo: facebook.com

When a company or organization works well these days it does so splendidly and when it doesn’t……I’ve encountered both.

Kudos to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. In spite of the pandemic, its staff sent me a receipt in record time acknowledging they’d destroyed the license plates we’d shipped to them. Shortly thereafter I received a refund check for what they owed me because there was still time on my registration.

It took a shockingly few minutes to cancel my auto insurance. When I called USAA the customer service person trusted the date on my motor vehicles receipt and voila! Done.

Photo: thecity.nyc

On the other hand, the New York State Board of Elections so far gets an F. I requested a write-in ballot well over a month ago and since have read and heard countless suggestions from the NYC Mayor and others urging folks to do the same. The deadline to vote in the June 23 primary is approaching and no ballot as of yesterday. I reported this to my councilman’s office. The staffer who took the message said that someone in the office was looking into this as plenty of others are in the same boat.

Photo: Techcrunch.com

Have you tried to call Verizon? Ha! What a rigamarole to report a change of address! I was refused access to my online account; live chat doesn’t handle this task and sent me back to the site I couldn’t enter. There is no place on the bill to  make the address adjustment. I pleaded with Mr. or Ms. Live Chat for a phone number which I got. I called,  clicking on “technical difficulties” to get a person who heard my distress and transferred me to a woman in the finance department. Jackpot. Let’s hope I get the next bill at the right address. Time wasted: 3/4 of a frustrating anxiety-provoking  hour.

I filled out the online United States Postal Service change of address form and when done was asked for my credit card number. I thought “I must be in a scam lookalike website,” and clicked off. I then asked for the old fashioned paper form at the post office and mentioned the credit card request that had alarmed me. The postal clerk told me that I was on the right site and that online address changes cost $1. I’d be happy to donate $1 but the reason for the charge and credit card request should have been made clear. I’ve been burned before: I thought I was on a site that I had accessed. It was an almost-the-same address. The mistake scrambled my computer requiring an expert to salvage it.

One friend still waits for her stimulus check when everyone else seems to have received theirs; another in an adjacent state hasn’t seen a cent of unemployment money in six weeks. She called the office 70 times one day and couldn’t get through.

Please share experiences that you have faced trying to get things done during the pandemic– more remarkable than exasperating I trust.

Photo: faq.usps.com

 

Service of Set in Stone: Make Changes but Leave Statues Alone

Monday, June 15th, 2020

Photo: Patch.com

I disagree with the downing of statues. A piece of history and art is gone. But what has the destruction done to change the lives of injured parties?

I maintain that most citizens haven’t a clue about the people depicted in the statues much less anything about their lives.

John McDonogh Photo: en.wikipedia.org

I hadn’t heard of John McDonogh until this weekend when his statue landed in the Mississippi River. A successful entrepreneur, some highlights about him in addition to his being a slaveholder according to Wikipedia : “He had devised a manumission scheme whereby the people he held as enslaved could ‘buy’ their own freedom, which took them some 15 years. In his will he provided large grants for the public education of children of poor whites and freed people of color in New Orleans and Baltimore.” He also supported the American Colonization Society, which organized transportation for freed people of color to Liberia.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants the bronze statue of Christopher Columbus by Jeronimo Suñol in Manhattan to remain in place. “He said he supports the iconic Manhattan monument because it has come to represent the assimilation of Italian-American people,” Jon Campbell of usatoday.com reported. “Protesters, who have also targeted Confederate monuments across the country, say Columbus’ exploration shouldn’t be idolized because it led to the massacre and forced migration of Native Americans,” Campbell wrote.

While the New York Governor isn’t keen on pulling down statues, he actually DID SOMETHING to face up to police brutality: he signed a bill banning police choke holds and other modifications while implementing executive orders demanding changes with teeth for towns throughout the state. If local administrations want state money they must comply.

Jay Leno Photo: pinterest.com

History isn’t our strong suit. Like me most Americans couldn’t identify the 19th and early 20th century people represented in most statuary so they could hardly be offended by it. Remember Jay Leno’s “JayWalking” segments in which he’d ask questions of the public like “who is this?” showing a photo of Barack Obama when he ran for President–the respondent didn’t know–or “Where is Bangkok?” Answer: “a hotel” or “What was the disaster of 1986?” Answer “Pearl Harbor.”

Is there a single public figure who hasn’t infuriated one or another group? If we take down one statue shouldn’t we take them all down and make it a law that no statues be allowed in public places in future?

Don’t most prominent figures have a few redeeming virtues and accomplishments along with what we find repugnant about them today? Is removing a figure of someone whose behavior, in hindsight, is considered atrocious supposed to change what happened or substantially help the offended?

Photo: inc.com

Service of Who Would Have Thought

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

Photo: ewastedisposal.net

Facts can tell an unexpected story.  Some balk at facing them while others are surprised by them.

Who’d have thought that the incidence of coronavirus infection would ever be lower in New York City than in other parts of the country or that in spite of the unfortunate dramatic increase in customers that the funeral business would be unprofitable?

Even though we’re sick of wearing masks and social distancing the facts suggest we must and that even though more and more states are loosening their restrictions on businesses, we’ve not yet closed the door on the virus.

Is Anyone Listening? Don’t Spoil it Now

Photo: livescience.com

The threat of Covid-19 isn’t nearly over but too many people in my neighborhood, three days after NYC opened just a crack in Phase 1, act as though it is. I’m unhappily surprised.

I was in awe, in the thick of it, at how many New Yorkers followed recommendations of the CDC. Most wore masks and kept their distance for months. We are told that’s why we are in such good shape earlier than hoped for.

The sudden behavior reversal I witnessed isn’t promising based on other states that have loosened their pandemic belts. Oliver Milman wrote on June 9 in The Guardian: “A total of 14 states and the US territory of Puerto Rico have recorded their worst week yet for new coronavirus infections, with Texas hitting a record high in Covid-19 hospitalizations, all while restrictions to curb the pandemic are being relaxed across America.

“According to data tracked by the Washington Post, since the start of June……..the states are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.”

The Governor of Arizona, a state that Milman reported showed “one of the largest jumps in the country,” attributed it to more testing.

He wrote: “As states in the north-east experience drops in new cases, states across the south and California are seeing increases even as they loosen social distancing rules designed to prevent person-to-person transmission of the virus.”

Photo: concordmonitor.com

Kids will be kids is no longer acceptable when the outcome is potentially deadly. “Point Pleasant Beach was ‘treated like an absolute toilet,’ mayor says after thousands gather for pop-up party” Anthony G. Attrino wrote on nj.com. “Mayor Paul Kanitra took to Facebook on Wednesday and said the youthful partiers left ‘trash everywhere,’ drank alcohol and smoked marijuana in public, changed clothes in residents’ yards and were seen ‘urinating in bushes.’” On WOR 710 radio this morning the Mayor said that masks were not part of the scene. In 14 days we’ll see the result.

Too Much Business Doesn’t Translate to Profits

In light of brisk business due to Covid-19 deaths alone you’d think that funeral parlors would be doing very well. Because cremation–which costs less than a burial at graveside–and the elimination of wakes during the pandemic, the opposite is true.

Barbara Kemmis, executive director of the Cremation Association of North America told USA Today:  “More people are choosing cremation because they can’t have a funeral.” Kemmis told Bloomberg News: ” The rate of cremations now may be as high as 80% in some parts of the country where they’ve historically been less than 50%.

Jef Feeley of Bloomberg News wrote: “The viciousness of covid-19, with the U.S. death toll topping 100,000, is upending cherished traditions in the $16.3 billion funeral industry. Services where hundreds once mourned now offer a sad tableau of 10 family members at a grave site or cremation mausoleum. Satin-lined caskets carrying price tags of $10,000 or more are replaced by $300 cremation urns ordered online. Drive-by and video viewings are required in these socially distanced times.”

Feeley wrote: “Another drain on funeral-home resources is the need to provide masks, heavy gloves and protective clothing for workers handling bodies.”

Because businesses are opening up do people you know act as though we’ve seen the last of Covid-19?  In spite of recommendations by doctors, have citizens in your city or town become lax in social distancing and wearing masks? Were you surprised that the funeral industry, with the dramatic uptick in business, has taken such a financial hit?

Photo: krtv.com

 

Service of Old Wives Wisdom

Monday, June 8th, 2020

Photo: amindfulmon.com

Most cultures pass on old wives’ wisdom for generations.

I asked Google about the lore surrounding the curative powers of chicken soup: “Chicken soup appears to help fight colds, according to several studies. It helps clear nasal congestion as well as thin mucus so you can better cough it up. In addition, research shows it may have a mild anti-inflammatory effect than can help ease symptoms.”

So what I read on usatoday.com didn’t surprise given the source of the legend: “CDC: Americans desperate to kill coronavirus are dangerously mixing cleaners, bleaching food.”

Photo: clorox.com

Adrianna Rodriguez wrote: “Don’t wash your food with bleach. Don’t eat or drink cleaning products. These lifesaving warnings may seem like common sense, but a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests Americans are throwing common sense out the window as they attempt to keep the coronavirus out of their homes.

“In a survey published Friday, 39% of 502 respondents reported engaging in ‘non-recommend, [sic] high-risk practices,’ including using bleach on food, applying household cleaning or disinfectant products to their skin and inhaling or ingesting such products.”

Rodriguez continued: “One caller even asked how she was supposed to drink a cleaning product after President Donald Trump made a comment about drinking disinfectant, which triggered several states to issue a warning against dangerous disinfectant use.”

The president made the suggestion on April 23.

Photo: zoro.com

Rodriguez added: “The National Poison Data System noted the following increases in call volumes between March 2019 and March 2020, and between April 2019 and April 2020:

  • A nearly 60% increase in calls about bleach products in March and a 77% increase in April.
  • A 94% increase in calls about disinfectants in March and a 122% increase in April.”

According to Rodriquez, Michele Caliva, administrative director of the Upstate New York Poison Center shared simple tips: “Follow directions; don’t mix chemicals; don’t use cleaners or disinfectants on the body; don’t ingest them; be vigilant in keeping such products and hand sanitizers away from children; and don’t spray bags or packages containing food.”

How has a daily apple panned out for you? Raw steak on a black eye? Did cleaning windows with newspaper ever  work? [Not for me.] Does anyone still wait an hour before swimming after eating? Do you know anyone tempted to ingest disinfectant based on the suggestion of the leader of the free world?

Photo: facebook.com

 

Service of Crowds

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

Photo: ny.curbed.com

New Yorkers were used to crowds. Before the pandemic hundreds of us would routinely enter a concert, game or theater at once, while others would similarly board rush hour subways, commuter trains and buses daily.

I don’t like crowds so if possible I’ve been strategic to avoid them. When I depended on a subway to get to the office I’d leave early or late and always missed rush hour at day’s end by working until well after 6:00 pm. Even if at a protest, I’d go alone and plant myself at the crowd’s edge so I could leave promptly.

In line for discount theater tickets @ TKTS Photo: en.wikipedia.com

In addition to a feeling of loss of control created by walking among a mass of people, these days there’s the potential danger of exposure to virus-infected droplets if marchers, ignoring social distancing, wear masks or not. That’s why I was alarmed when I couldn’t cross 50th Street and Second Avenue on my way home on Tuesday afternoon. Vehicular traffic and bicycles were stopped at the street as if at the starting line of a race, backed up for blocks making a giant parking lot.

We–me at a distance from them and other pedestrians standing appropriately apart–watched an enthusiastic throng of mostly youngsters protesting against police brutality and racism who only by the virus and their proximity to one another posed any danger. There was nothing to do but wait or come face to face with marchers by struggling past a tight line of them to reach the other side of the street. Finally there was a slight break and we raced through it to continue downtown on fairly empty streets.

Washington State June 2020 protest Photo: en.wikipedia.com

I empathize with the marcher’s goal of solidarity but NYC isn’t theirs alone. It’s mine too. I didn’t like feeling trapped. This morning on WOR 710 radio Arthur L. Caplan, Ph.D., Professor of Bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, warned in an interview that the marchers must take care not to block ambulances from reaching the hospital which he said has happened.

The Democratic National Committee, which moved its convention from July to end August, is exploring some kind of virtual convention. In “If Democrats Hold a Big Convention, Will Anybody Come?” in The New York Times Reid J. Epstein wrote: “Interviews with 59 members of the Democratic National Committee and superdelegates who will formally nominate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in August found that the vast majority of them don’t want to risk their own health or the health of others by traveling to Milwaukee and congregating inside the convention facilities.”

With the uncertainty around the spread of Covid-19–we’re now hearing that the heat of summer may have no impact on lessening it as hoped–I wondered if anyone has asked the some 50,000 Republicans, of which 2,550 are delegates, that the president expects to attend the August convention if they still plan to stand shoulder-to-shoulder for hours under one roof?

Do you hope as I do that there will not be an uptick in Covid-19 cases as a result of the marches in spite of dire predictions by many in the medical community? That would be a big relief to both parties and all Americans.

Republican 2016 convention. Photo: politico.com

 

Service of Food as Art

Monday, June 1st, 2020

Food is missing from too many American tables and in the short-term, between record unemployment and Covid-19’s impact on prices, the appalling situation promises to get worse.

Simultaneously two gallerists attempting to keep an oar in the water while galleries are closed worldwide during the pandemic selected to promote a 1990 installation by Cuban-born visual artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres involving a cookie.

Hunger in America

According to Thomas Franck of cnbc.com writing in mid-May “The Labor Department reported Tuesday that prices U.S. consumers paid for groceries jumped 2.6% in April, the largest one-month pop since February 1974. The spike in supermarket prices was broad based and impacted items from broccoli and ham to oatmeal and tuna.

Photo: cannedfoodhx.com

“The price of the meats, poultry, fish and eggs category rose 4.3%, fruits and vegetables climbed 1.5%, cereals and bakery products advanced 2.9%, and dairy goods gained 1.5%.”

Lauren Bauer writing in the brookings.edu blog reported a 460 percent increase in mothers who said the children in their households 12 years and under “were not eating enough because we just couldn’t afford enough food.”

Interactive Cookie Installation

It is against this background that Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled (Fortune Cookie Corner),” is being installed at 1,000 sites around the globe. It is promoted/resurrected by Andrea Rosen, show curator and director of The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation who is partnering with German art dealer David Zwirner. Sarrah Cascone wrote about the exhibitions on artnet.com.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled (Fortune Cookie Corner)” Photo: artnet.com

The original installation had 10 thousand fortune cookies piled up in the corner of a room. Today there will be from 240 to 2,000 cookies featured in the homes, museums or public places that Rosen selected via her choice of participants. Viewers are encouraged to help themselves to a cookie.

Cascone wrote: “The owner needs to follow specific but open-ended parameters in manifesting the work, which can be installed in more than one place at a time—making it perfect for our current moment, when much of the world is under indefinite lockdown.”

The curators, artist’s friends and colleagues invited to participate supply their own cookies. Rosen said “halfway through, everyone has to regenerate it to the original size. So everyone has the opportunity to experience both the potential loss within the piece, and also the notions of rebuilding and regeneration that is a very important part of the work.”

Rosen, told Cascone: “This is one of the only works in the world that can travel and be accessible right now. There’s so many people right now trying to do incredible online projects. Felix can actually afford people a physical experience with an artwork—and not just looking at it, but thinking about it, and their involvement and what it means to them.”

My post isn’t about the validity of the installation: It passed the test within the art community. However the timing strikes a false note for me for involving food in a frivolous way at a time when it is missing from so many tables. What do you think?

Even if the piles were made up of basic comestibles accessible to people needing help, the fact that they would have to reach down on the floor for the food and take only one or two packages lacks respect for the situation’s severity. Your thoughts?

Photo: cannedfoodhx.com

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