A Curious Career is about the art of being nosy. Lynn Barber is more than a legend in her own mind. She is a clever British journalist and author that graduated from Oxford, went to work for Bob Guccione at “Penthouse”, and later created a career in journalism. With a keen sense of what titillates the general public, Barber honed interview skills that elicit the best and worst of famous people of the late 20th and early 21st century.
The youthful voice of Alison Larkin recalls a young energetic Lynn Barber that interviews personalities that range from the weird Salvador Dali to the athletic Rafael Nadal. Along the way, Barber explains how a quality interview is created. Barber notes that using a tape recorder sets a stage for her craft; not with intent to make one nervous but to emphasize the beginning of a serious and professional interview. Barber always tapes her interviews to be sure accurate quotes are used in her articles. Barber explains the interview itself is her least favorite part of the process because of time constraint, and the difficulty of eliciting information that makes an article interesting to read.
Preparation is a key to a good interview. Questions are created in advance, based on background investigation of the person to be interviewed. A favorite follow-up question for Barber is “why” because it elicits more personal and real information. Barber focuses on details because they personalize her articles. Details range from what a person is wearing to the way they talk. Good background information leads to questions about what a person “did not” say in a previous public article. Barber focuses her questions on those un-revealed pieces of an interviewee’s life.
Barber explains that Dali was interviewed when she worked for Penthouse. She enjoyed the interview because of Dali’s uninhibited personality and unsolicited comments; i.e. comments ranging from masturbation as a sexual preference to signing blank pieces of paper, with Dali’s explanation that he is printing money. The blank pieces of paper become doodled pictures by others who would sell them as Dali originals.
When Rafael Nadal is nearing number one on the tennis circuit, Barber interviews him with questions that infer he is gay. Nadal is in his mid-twenties at the time of the interview. Barber’s background investigation shows that Nadal announced he has a girlfriend in his native county. However, with follow-up questions, Barber finds the girlfriend rarely comes to his matches. Nadal only occasionally visits his girl’s home when not playing tennis. This is proof of nothing but there is an underlying inference in Barber’s article. One might conclude this is one of the reasons people hate interviews that are publicly reported. Many might say who cares if Nadal is or is not gay, but after writing the article, Barber receives death threats and becomes a minor league twitterverse’ superstar.
There are a number of similar anecdotes in Barber’s memoir. On one hand, it is easy to see why there is a battle between the press and the famous; on the other hand, what Barber reveals is what the public is often most interested in knowing. A more palatable anecdote is Barber’s interview of Jimmy Savile with questions about his lascivious treatment of young girls, before it is known by the general public. (In 2011, Sir James Wilson Vincent Savile dies in disgrace.) A Curious Career is a primer for aspiring journalists; particularly for those who use the interview process to reveal the truth of what is important.
As They See ‘Em: A Fan’s Travels in the Land of Umpires
By Bruce Weber
Narrated by: Charley Steiner
Bruce Weber creates a Plimpton’ like book about baseball umpires in As They See ‘Em. True to Plimpton’s modus vivendi, Weber (nearing 50 years of age) goes to umpire school to conduct research on what baseball fans might call a dismal science.
Even lesser baseball fans will find a lot to like about Weber’s book. He calls strikes and balls about what is good and bad about the umpire life with a reporter’s veracity for second source confirmation of facts, whenever possible. There are a number of surprises.
One, becoming a big league professional umpire is a slow slog. It is a harder position to acquire than becoming a professional baseball player. You receive minimum wage for the baseball season and nothing for the remainder of the year. You may never reach the big leagues, even after ten years tenure as a rising minor league umpire. If you are a woman, you will not make it. If you are a minority, the odds are against you. Two, everyone hates umpires except fellow umpires. Fans, players, team coaches, team owners, and interestingly, sports writers and commentators (particularly former players) hate you. Three, the reason for umpire dislike is because of the nature of calling balls and strikes and the inevitable errors in judgment when making safe and out baseball decisions. Four, respect is the most important requirement of an umpire which is the fundamental reason umpires rarely say they make a mistake in calling a play. This, of course, compounds umpire hatred.
In the end, one wonders why anyone would want to become a baseball umpire. If you reach the “bigs”, your income averages $200,000 a year. Not bad for a season’s work, but plan on ten years of wages that will not support a family. If you make it, you are among the elite of the elite but Weber tells two stories that show how rabid fans are capable of threatening your life and your family. Add disrespect shown by baseball managers, writers, commentators, and the general public, and it makes more sense to go to jail for ten years and be vilified as a convict than try to become an umpire.
Weber completes his book like Plimpton did when he entered the boxing ring with Joe Louis. He umpires a pre-season game. Weber explains the fear and thrill of calling a professional baseball player’s game. Umpires are gods of the game. The power of an umpire to control a game is revealed. Power is tempered by fear; i.e. mistakes made by not really seeing a play but having to make a decision. Weber explains how the strike zone is a myth and comes down to an umpire’s judgment more than a definitive description.
He notes how one of the hardest calls to make is whether a ball is foul or fair but decisions must be made and it is difficult to turn back.
Weber explains how in a season game, umpires are vilified by commentators that have a two-dimensional vision of a ball and strike, based on an idealize box drawn on a screen placed in front of the batter. This two-dimensional look belies the umpires’ three dimensional split second decisions. It is not that the umpire’s call is always right, but a commentator is not staring at a 97 mile per hour fastball aimed at his head. A sportscaster has little justification for snide remarks about the ball being a hair too high.
If one is an occasional, or fanatic baseball fan, As They See ‘Em is an eye-opening entertainment; well written, and nicely narrated. It is a must read for anyone seriously considering a career as a baseball umpire.
By Chet Yarbrough
The Feminine Mystique By: Betty Friedan
Narration by: Parker Posey
By writing–women are human beings first–, Betty Friedan speaks truth to power. Friedan’s theme in The Feminine Mystique attempts to enlighten thick-headed males and doubting women about the equality of human beings. It is sad to realize that such a banal and obvious statement as “women are human beings first” so perfectly exposes the ignorance of prejudice.
Every rational human being has a brain that functions in the same way. This is not to suggest that genetics do not matter. It is not to suggest that environment does not matter. It suggests that sexual function, color of one’s skin, and culture are outside influences that create prejudice while the brain is an infinitely malleable organ that carries the potential for genius as well as stupidity.
Friedan suggests the Oedipus complex and penis envy are male delusions about female sexuality, perpetrated by Sigmund Freud and endorsed by most intellectuals and academicians in the early 20th century. The Feminine Mystique, published in 1963, acknowledges Freud’s great insight to the psychology of human beings but derides diagnosis of female hysteria as a valid mental disorder.
Female hysteria disappears from professional psychology schools in the mid-20th century. Friedan suggests female hysteria has little to do with sexuality, women’s menstruation, or change-of-life diagnosis. Her argument is that conversion disorder; hypochondria, depression and anxiety in women are more likely caused by The Feminine Mystique, a false notion of a woman’s “role” in society; i.e. the idea that a woman can only be a spinster, wife, or mother. Those roles limit the productive capability of half the human race. If a spinster chooses not to have a husband, there is more time to make productive contribution to the world. If a woman chooses to be a wife, sharing the costs and burdens of domestic together-hood leaves ample opportunity for other life interests; the same applies to motherhood. Being denied constructive opportunity drives women to the neuroses of the modern age.
A woman can be a spinster, wife, or mother but she can also be a scientist, a President, or a business mogul. Sadly, today she can also be a homeless beggar. The Feminine Mystique exposes the false premise that women are primarily breeders and caregivers rather than equals in humanities’ race for money, power, and prestige. What Friedan reveals in The Feminine Mystique is that women can bear children and be equally interested in and capable of excelling in the world of money, power, and prestige. However, women are frustrated by inequality of opportunity caused by The Feminine Mystique which identifies women in a role that should be shared by all members of the human race.
Birthing children is unique to women just as sperm production is unique to men. Beyond these unique capabilities, a world of opportunity is open to both men and women, but men have a culturally and historically defined advantage. Friedan defines men’s advantages by noting false barriers produced by psychologists like Freud that fail to understand they are discounting productive potential of half the human race.
Worse than the existence of barriers to equal opportunity for women, Friedan explains the unconscious conspiracy that pervades American culture. Friedan acknowledges it is not a cabal of men but that it is a pervasive misunderstanding of what a human being is. The tragedy is that this misunderstanding becomes self-perpetuating.
Advertising trades on sexual innuendo that perpetuates objectification of women; studies like the Kinsey report falsely infer natural sexuality is inhibited in women that have higher education; blame is placed on women for children that become delinquents because they are not always present as homemakers and caregivers.
Rationally, most people realize women are not sex objects. Advertising based on sexual innuendo is unlikely to change. The more ominous concerns raised by Friedan are false correlations suggesting higher education diminishes natural sexuality and that women, mothers, are primarily responsible for what children become as adults. Higher education is the primary hope for breaking the cycle of unequal treatment of women. Children become adults as a result of many things—not only from parenting but from genetics, health, and environment. Mothers are no more to blame than fathers who fail to share the responsibilities of home making and parenting.
Freidan’s concern is that women are not treated as equals even though women are approximately equal-in-number to men. Things have changed since 1963 but equality remains a work-in-process. Of the fortune 500 companies in the United States, only 25 have female CEOs. Women doing the same job as men in 2010 receive $.81 for every $1 paid to men, a 19% difference. Though house work is shared more now than in the 1960s, women work 18 hours a week homemaking while men work 10 hours a week (according to a PEW Research Study in 2011); i.e. the greatest burden remains with women. Without meaning to argue that the glass is half empty rather than half full, the revolution exemplified by Freidan’s book is incomplete. Many people continue to fight for equality of all human beings but many men and women continue to resist; to the detriment of society.
The Feminine Mystique should be required reading in high schools. It is as relevant today as it was in 1963.
By Chet Yarbrough
Art & fear By David Bayles & Ted Orland
Narrated by Arthur Morey
Art and fear seem odd conjunctive words for the title of a non-fiction book. The authors, David Bayles and Ted Orland, waste no time in explaining why the conjunction makes sense. Their definition of art revolves around humans that choose to take a risk to produce something unique that may mean much to the maker and nothing to anyone else. An artist is always alone.
Bayles and Orland are professional photographers. They take photographs in a field that became known as “fine art” in the 1970s. Bayles and Orland argue that fear is a common element in the life of artists because of risk; i.e. the risk of untethered freedom of choice, ego deflation, and financial insecurity.
An artist’s fear seems similar to the fear that every entrepreneur in the world feels when he/she chooses to start their own business. Undoubtedly there is some similarity except that an entrepreneur’s risk is largely quantifiable; an artist’s is not.
Bayles and Orland suggest there are great artists and good artists but the distinction is not singularly defined by talent. They argue that most art is made by people who work at it; not because of innate talent but because of a compulsion to produce something unique. Artists are defined by persistence, volume, and aesthetics (a set of principles concerned with the nature and appreciation of beauty).
Art is never perfect in Bayles’ and Orland’s conception. Art is the pursuit of refinement in the face of imperfection. Bayles and Orland make a distinction between great craft and great art; i.e. they argue that great craft represents technical perfection while great art represents human’ imperfection. Art pursues meaning to an artist and to an artist’s audience. Art is psychically successful when it represents what the artist means; art is only economically successful when it represents meaning to others.
Fear of failure, both private and public, is an artist’s constant companion because reward and failure come in many guises. The artist fails if art does not represent artist’s intent. The artist fails if art does not appeal to the public. The artist’s art is often ignored or reviled in the artist’s life time. In life, an artist’s reward may only be personal; in death, an artist’s reward can only be fame. Every work of art is personal; every work of art challenges the artist’s sense of self-worth.
Bayles and Orland argue that fear is an artist’s perennial companion. In contrast, a business entrepreneur is rewarded, or not, within a life time. The business entrepreneur has options after failure. The business entrepreneur starts another business or goes to work for others. The artist is alone in success and failure.
One may get a sense of Tina Fey’s book by watching Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the 2013 Golden Globes’ fete. If one liked Fey and Poehler’s performance at the Golden Globes, “Bossypants” will be a belly laugh; if not, “Bossypants” is a face plant.
“Bossypants” makes people laugh because Fey exposes her own foibles to remind human beings of their own insecurities. Fey offers a glimpse of her life before and after fame. She vivifies the
face and stature of her father, the celebrity of Alec Baldwin, and the singular focus of talented comediennes like Amy Poehler.
“Bossypants” is a brief history of Fey’s rise to fame, the early days of high school and college, the struggle to find a paying job, the break at Second City Chicago,
and the growing success of “30 Rock”. Along the way Fey explains marriage, motherhood, and the genesis of the Palin parody.
Interweaved in her story are Fey’s views on women’s rights, gay rights, politics, and the essence of improvised theater.
Bossypants is a fun listen with Tina Fey’s comic timing, writing, and direction.
Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent
By Edward Luce
Narrated by Ralph Lister
Edward Luce is an Oxford educated British financial journalist that writes for the “Financial Times, London”. He is a modern British, rather than French, de Tocqueville with a less sanguine view of the current condition and future of America.
The first quarter of Luce’s book addresses the American education system and its failure to provide American children a basic education for pursuit of 21st century employment. Luce suggests that the fundamental cause is loss of middle class financial stability.
America offers a good education to those who live in decent housing, have a living wage, and have an opportunity to grow into better paying jobs. Luce suggests that those opportunities are declining in America because of growing socio-economic disparity.
Middle class parents are working harder and making less money with fewer chances to rise above their current, and dwindling, real incomes. Parents cannot offer enough security and symbolic achievement for their children to think that early education is important. Children see their parents struggling to make ends meet even though their parents may be relatively well-educated. Middle class parents that lose their jobs compound children’s negative image of education as a pathway to success.
Adding this economic struggle to an education system that fails to offer opportunity for jobs that create vertical socio-economic opportunity dooms future American prosperity. Luce suggests that teachers’ unions, most government programs, and efforts of “do-good” organizations like Bill Gate’s foundation are addressing the wrong issues in America’s failing education system. America needs good teachers but until children see that the hard work of their middle class parents offers opportunity to grow out of a deepening middle class financial hole, they will continue to ignore the value of education.
Higher education in the United States is considered to be the best in the world but the primary beneficiaries are wealthy American families and foreign students; i.e. foreign students that are increasingly inclined to leave the United States because of a stultified middle class.
Luce disparages America’s loss of status in the world. He suggests that America needs to re-visit manufacturing and become more than a service industry economy. Luce believes America should become more protectionist by increasing import tariffs to offset unfair competition of economic power houses like China, India, Germany, and Japan. His belief is that State subsidy of private industry in other nations is a primary cause for jobs being sent overseas. His argument is that the American government should use those same tools to re-establish itself as a manufacturing behemoth. One might call this a new kind of Cold War.
Luce is disgusted with the political grid-lock that consumes American government and changes it from a government of checks and balances to a Parliamentary mess; stultified by factionalism and focused on pursuit of re-election rather than good government.
“Jobs, jobs, jobs” is a phrase heard in every political speech given in today’s economy but it is more than jobs. It is jobs that fulfill the needs of 21st century living; jobs that demand continuing education and investment in research and development by both the government and the private sector. It is jobs that pay a living wage; with opportunity for Americans to improve their socio-economic status. It is jobs that future generations can admire and emulate to make their own way in the world.
Luce does not give one the warm feeling felt when reading de Tocqueville but he rings a bell of truth when he writes about the loss of middle class participation in the American dream because of the growing disparity between the rich, the poor, and the soon-to-be poor. [contact-form-7 id=”1710″ title=”Contact form 1″]
By Chet Yarbrough Honor and respect is earned by Army service personnel in the United States and abroad. America’s appreciation for military service does not stop either before a recruit decides to join the Army or at the end of an enlistment.
Local business man and former enlisted Army Intelligence sergeant, Shane Lloyd, gives a firsthand descripton of Army recruitment and eventual transition from military to civilian life. Shane’s High School Vice Principal helped him with the decision to join the Army. The Vice Principal called Shane into his office and said, “There is someone I want you to meet, an Army recruiter.”
Joining the Army afforded Shane an opportunity to explore and develop strengths he learned from being raised in a challenged family environment. After taking an Army aptitude test and graduating from High School, Shane chose a job in Army Intelligence.
A key to entry into that job classification is aptitude. But, even with aptitude for the job, a candidate must have clean credit and no criminal record. An extensive background search is done before acceptance into Army Intelligence. Company First Sergeant Bula, the Las Vegas Valley and Southern Utah NCO in charge of recruitment, explained, “Any credit problems, drug use, criminal record issues, even misdemeanor crimes, can deny an Army candidate an opportunity to join Army Intelligence.”
Shane served in Intelligence for five years and felt he was at a crossroad; i.e. stay in the military or return to civilian life.
An Army program designed to help veterans transition from military to civilian life is ACAP (Army Career and Alumni Program). Jeff Ross, a U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Chief, said “ACAP is a mandatory transition program for all personnel leaving the military”. Shane Lloyd explained that ACAP helped him translate military experience to civilian employment. Ross said, “ACAP shows veterans how to research the job market for their skill set, how to get an employment interview, how to dress for an interview and how to handle interview questions.” ACAP also arranges interviews with local employers (e.g. Police Departments, FBI, PaYS companies, etc.) to talk to veterans about jobs.
Shane went through ACAP. Shane said, “It was challenging.” He said, “I felt a loss of structure when I left the Army.” Shane added, “On the other hand, I didn’t have to go to PT (physical training) at 6:00 am.” His decision to leave the service seemed as big as his decision to join. Shane went to his last duty station at Fort Sill Oklahoma for ACAP orientation (Ft. Irwin in CA is the closest ACAP near Nevada). Shane noted that at discharge the Army gives you a physical, including a dental examination, to insure that discharged veterans are in good health. He said, “ACAP opens your eyes to what you did in the military and what type of job you are qualified to seek.”
Shane said, “I returned to my home town and found my parents no longer lived there.” “I had no home to go back to.” With some nervousness, he wondered, “What do I do now?” He thought about going back into the Army.
Shane said, “I have always been interested in business; why not start my own business?” Shane explained that his job in the military “taught him how to gather information, collate it, make informed decisions, and act decisively”. Because Shane had set up automatic payroll deposits to a bank while in the service; he said, “My credit rating was excellent. “ Shane admitted, even with the help of ACAP, “Transitioning to civilian life makes one feel trapped in a clueless experience.”
Shane said, “It took minutes on the phone with SBA to explain what he was doing and what he wanted to accomplish by starting his own business.” With excellent credit, Shane was able to get a $30,000 loan. As is often the case with new business startups, the business did not pay enough to support him. Shane said, “I supplemented my income by going to work for another company.”
The other company was owned by a military veteran. Shane said, “Because my new employer was a veteran, he knew what I was going through.”
Ross said, “Often employers do not understand what a person with military experience brings to the table.” Shane demonstrated a veteran’s maturity and ability to make decisions with follow through and decisive action.
Shane said, “There is a bond felt with people that have been in the military.” Shane added, “A common experience and understanding make veterans good leaders, decision makers, and followers.” Speaking as an employer, Shane said, “When I interview a potential employee, I know a veteran understands the meaning of the acronym, ‘LDRSHIP’ (loyalty, duty, respect, social service, honor, integrity, and pride).”
Ross explained, “More civilian jobs than government jobs are found by veterans because employment by the government entails a slow and complicated application process.” Ross admitted, “Some veterans choose not to pursue a career as soon as they get out but a veteran needs to stand above the crowd when looking for a job.” He explained that going back to school may be critical. Ross gave the example of Police Departments that say a high school diploma is all that is required when Police Departments are really looking for college graduates.
One of many programs to help veterans transition to a civilian job is the PaYS program. PaYS helps those who are career oriented. Ross gives an example. He said, “A 19 year old wants to be a cop but cannot become one in Las Vegas unless he is 21.” “If a 19 year old chooses to join the Army, he may have the opportunity to join the military police.” LVPD is a PaYS program participant which means that someone who is honorably discharged from the military is guaranteed an interview with the Las Vegas Police Department. Ross said, “This is not a guarantee of a job but it is a foot in the door”. There are 349 companies in the United States that have signed PaYS agreements with the Army. PaYS maintains an internet data base with five year job projections. Every participating company in the PaYS program is required to have a PaYS representative on staff. Every Army veteran is guaranteed an interview with a PaYS company. Ross said, “Every recruit is given the opportunity to be enrolled in PaYS at enlistment”.
Near the end of our meeting, Sergeant Bula said, “I love the Army, and I have been in it for 16 years, beginning as paratrooper and now as a Company 1st Sergeant for Recruitment.” His pitch to young men and women that are interested is, “Come see us; learn what your options are”.
The Army is a storied fighting force. It seeks the “BEST OF THE BEST” in pursuit of making itself better. Recruitment is a complex task designed to create and maintain a modern volunteer military organization. It is a process that begins with community involvement, education outreach, and volunteer pre-qualification; it ends with signed recruits, committed to serve their country.
Sergeant Bula described one of the Army’s community involvement programs. He said, “Local recruitment office personnel visit Las Vegas Valley high schools to offer Army support for general education”. The program is called “March 2 Success”. It is a program for the scholastically gifted as well as the challenged. Without any obligation to the military, the Army offers free help for high school students to prepare and practice SAT, LSAT and other measurement tests taken to qualify students for career employment or continuing education. The goal is to help students graduate from high school, pursue career goals, or go on to higher education which may or may not include military service. With nearly a 50% drop out rate in the Las Vegas Valley, the Army feels it is vital that this support be offered to the public.
Sergeant Bula is looking for “…quality not quantity” when evaluating students that want to become candidates for the Army. School beyond the 12th grade is not for everyone but the Army recognizes that graduation from high school is the single most important step in a student’s journey to adulthood. Without a high school diploma, military enlistment is practically impossible and private sector opportunities are limited. Bula and his staff use community outreach and recruitment goals as a subject for conversation with High School counselors, students, and their parents. Bula notes, “Contact is often initiated by Councilors but preference is given to meeting with students and their parents, whenever possible.” Both “Regular Army” and “Reserve Army” opportunities are outlined by Recruitment offices but Bula said “high school graduation is critically important if a student is interested in joining the service because many more applicants apply than are qualified to enter the Army”.
Sergeant Bula said, “High School students need to educate themselves on their options.” Bula noted that every year people retire or leave the military before retirement. Bula explained, “There is no favoritism in the military.” “A recruit is either qualified for a job or not – A recruit is not paid more or less in the military than any other qualified candidate.” The more popular jobs in the Army are health care, special forces, and military police. If a recruit wants a specific job in the military and they are qualified by aptitude and education, they can join when there is an opening for the position. The maximum age for a candidate is 34 years with at least 1 day before a 35th birthday. The maximum allowed time in service is 30 years.
Sergeant Bula broadly outlines an example of what can happen with a candidate who wants a particular job. They can wait until the job they want becomes available. If they are married and have more than two children, they will have to get a waiver. They must have a High School diploma or, in very rare cases, may be able to get a waiver with a GED. No paper mill degrees are accepted (schools without COPA accreditation are denied). If a candidate wants a job in Army intelligence, they must have good credit and be able to pass an extensive security clearance investigation. Being smart enough is not the only qualification for entry into the Army. There are many self-inflicted causes for disqualification.
National recruitment goals for new military personnel are declining. Jeff Ross explains that national Army recruitment goals “dropped from 64,000 last year to 58,000 this year; reserve goals dropped from 19,320 to 16,320”. This is partially due to the Army’s high retention rate. Ross believes cut-backs will be greater next year.
The “Las Vegas Review Journal” thanks Sergeant Paul Bula, Jeff Ross, and Shane Lloyd for their military service and the time spent with us to explain the Army recruitment process, Army benefits, and two of the Army’s job transition programs.