Displaying articles for: June 2013


"A Federal District Court judge in Manhattan ruled ... that Fox Searchlight Pictures had violated federal and New York minimum wage laws by not paying production interns.... The judge noted that these internships did not foster an educational environment and that the studio received the benefits of the work.... Like their counterparts in other industries, the interns took lunch orders, answered phones, arranged other employees’ travel plans, tracked purchase orders, took out the trash and assembled office furniture." -- The New York Times

Welcome back to your internship! In accordance with federal minimum wage laws, we have restructured our traditional Serf for a Year program to instead provide an appropriate court-mandated academic environment. Rather than merely doing administrative work for the department, you will now attend a strict schedule of daily classes, designed to teach you everything you might need to know, if you were to one day become a paid employee, working underneath a demanding, capricious, 42-year-old junior vice president who deserves more than just one lousy intern, even though his only work assignment in the last month has been this tedious memo.


Of course, you'll never become a paid employee, at least not here at Feebtronics, Inc., because you've threatened to sue us for non-compliance with federal labor law. Here is your daily schedule:

9:00 AM - 9:50 AM -- Phones 101
In this class, which will be taught by Associate Professor Sally The Receptionist, you will learn proper telephone etiquette, including how to take messages, how to transfer calls, and, in an advanced graduate-level unit, how to order lunch for a lactose-intolerant junior vice president who enjoys some variety in his meals, and please get extra napkins. While the class will be 50 minutes long, daily homework will require that you practice your telephone skills for the remainder of the day, especially when annoying customers call and want us to do things for them. You will need to pay an equipment fee of $30 for your phone. Because this is school, and in school you have to pay for your supplies.

10:00 AM - 10:50 AM -- Home Economics and Furniture Repair 102

Remember that IKEA desk we made you put together last week, back when this was still a silly unpaid internship, without any educational value at all? Well, we kicked it, and now it's broken, so we need you to fix it. Eddie from a van outside the hardware store will be your instructor for this class. (He will also teach you how to fix the toilet in the employees-only bathroom, which you obviously can't use, because you're not an employee. You can use the educational Port-A-Potty in the parking lot.) Fixing the desk will be 20% of your final grade.


11:00 AM - 11:50 AM -- Independent Study: World Cultures

Someone's taking a vacation. Don't worry, it's not you -- students don't get vacation time, of course. Please write a paper – spelling and grammar count! -- designing an ideal two-week travel itinerary for a hypothetical 42-year-old junior vice president, with a wife and two children, ages 7 and 9. The children enjoy museums and the beach. Please build two days into the schedule for the junior vice president to sneak off with his mistress. His hypothetical mistress.


12:00 PM - 12:50 PM -- Physical Education
Eating your own lunch isn't very educational. Instead, we're excited to provide a physical education program, in the form of stair exercises and small free weights. Our expertly-trained "exercise delivery men" are waiting in the lobby with the weights, which are in plastic bags and smell like food. You will bring these weights up eighteen flights of stairs to your "personal trainers," who will then take the weights into their offices and eat them. For extra credit, you can carry out the trash.

1:00 PM - 1:50 PM -- Financial Literacy 301
Alas, the threat of a lawsuit made us realize we weren't exposing you to enough of the critical parts of our business. Our mistake. We are happy to share all of our most important documents with you by allowing you to shred them face-down in our trash disposal room. $50 equipment fee for use of the shredder. This unit will be supervised by a 42-year-old junior vice president to make sure that none of his emails to a hypothetical mistress get held onto by litigious, sticky-fingered ingrates.

2:00 PM - 2:50 PM -- Advanced Topics in Veterinary Medicine
Yes, you're walking our dog.

3:00 PM - 3:50 PM -- Seminar in Food Safety
Please clean out the fridge.

4:00 PM - 4:50 PM -- Personal Tutorial in Thai Foot Massage
We'll be in our office.

We hope that you're as excited about this new direction for the internship program as we are, and now realize how good you had it before. Look forward to your final exam, which will involve synthesizing all of your knowledge to train our next class of interns, and to the diploma we're definitely going to send you, assuming you don't have any outstanding telephone or trash-disposal debt.

P.S. Those IKEA furniture instructions were from our "library," so we hope you didn't throw them out, or you owe us $20. We're so pleased to have you here!


Jeremy Blachman is "hiring" unpaid interns to read humor pieces. Application instructions at http://jeremyblachman.com.


Ordinary Joe

President Barack Obama released a financial disclosure form Wednesday showing considerable income from book royalties. The president reported several million dollars in assets, mostly in mutual funds…[Vice President Joe] Biden's forms showed his assets are smaller than the president's, mostly amounts of a few thousand dollars in a range of mutual funds and bank accounts. His book royalties are also close to zero.—UPI


Joe Biden wearily enters the cramped Number One Observatory Circle of the White House, loosening his red tie under his navy suit. Canned wild applause.


JOE: What a day, what a day…


He sits down at the table with a groan as his wife, Jill, comes out in an apron.


JILL: Tired of sittin’around doin’ nothin’ all day, Joe?


JOE: One of these days, Jill, one of these days—to the moon! I spent eight straight hours with NASA schedulin’the next moon landin’ for an unspecified future date!


JILL: I’m sure you fit right in with the rocket scientists.


JOE: Wise guy, huh? Why I oughta gerrymander this neighborhood and divide our official residence in two and consult my advisors about the feasibility of a quiet divorce! Listen, Jill, we’re behind on our mortgage payments, and I checked my campaign-book royalties --

JILL: Somethin’ tells me your royalties aren’t exactly a king’s ransom.


JOE: But I’ve got a plan, baby.


JILL: Oh, Joe, not another one of your get-rich-quick schemes. Remember what happened last time, with TARP?


JOE: I swear, this one isn’t malarkey. It’s a constitutional amendment guaranteein’ permanent tax relief for all former rankin’ minority members of the Foreign Relations Committee-turned-tie-breakin’ Senate voters.


JILL: (sighs) Why don’tcha just ask your boss if you can work some overtime?


JOE: Mr. Obama? I wouldn’t wanna interrupt his fancy vacation in Hawaii. Besides, all that cheapskate talks about is sequesterin’ this, sequesterin’that. I’d have better luck lobbyin’ the fiscally conservative House of Representatives for a stimulus package.


JILL: At least that’d be one package around here gettin’stimulated.


JOE: "Pow, right in the kisser, Jill!" Is what I would say if it didn’t tacitly endorse domestic violence, which is a serious issue I should address more often from the bully pulpit of the vice presidency.


JILL: Maybe if you sent Mr. Obama a bill requestin’ a raise for members of the cabinet, with majority support from your pals down at the Senate, he’d be open to signin’ it.


JOE: That’s not how these fat cats operate in Washin’ton. You gotta build up enough political capital to get leverage to twist another fella’s arm into a vote that’s unfavorable to his constituency, see?


JILL: Well, you sure did a bang-up job doin’ that at the press conference last week, blabbermouthin’with one of your famous gaffes and leakin’ the top-secret plans to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea.


JOE: Do ya have to make a federal case outta everythin’, Jill?! The feds cleared me of all charges of treason.


JILL: What’ll we do, Joe? The Internet company said they’re gonna shut off our Wi-Fi.


JOE: Y’know, I remember a time in America when an honest, hardworkin’ fella could get ahead by graduatin’five hundred and sixth outta six-oh-eight in his law school class, supportin’the Vietnam War while receivin’ five student deferments until he got reclassified as unavailable for service on account’a havin’ had asthma as a teenager, and risin’ the ranks of the Senate with two unsuccessful runs for the presidency until he got tapped as a runnin’ mate for perceived gravitas and identification with workin’-class white males. But in today’s world of burstin’ economic bubbles and globalized outsourcin’…


JILL: You’ll figure somethin’ out, Joe—you always do. Like with the fiscal cliff negotiatin’.


Joe rises with renewed vigor.


JOE: Humina-humina-humina, you’re right! I’ll moonlight as Transportation Secretary if I hafta.


JILL: And I could sell my apple pies you like so much to my students at the community college and the congressional aides.

JOE: Now you’re thinkin’like Hillary, sweetheart!


JILL: Aww, come here, ya big lunk of a sinecure!


They kiss as John Kerry spastically barges into the room wearing a white undershirt, vest, and porkpie hat.


JOHN: Hey, there, Joey boy!


JOE: Kerry! Are you tryna give me a heart attack like Cheney? Go back where you belong, to the State Department!


Fade to black. Canned applause.


Teddy Wayne is the author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine and Kapitoil.






NSA Calling

Hello Connie?  This is the National Security Agency.  Relax-- you’re not in trouble.  You’ve done nothing legally wrong.  This is simply a courtesy call to let you know that your so-called best friend, Dana, has been dating your ex-boyfriend.  That’s right -- Alan.  No, they haven’t slept together yet.  She wants to wait.  But he HAS technically stayed overnight at her house on at least one occasion.  At this time we are unable to confirm why Dana's roommates haven’t told you about this.  They've switched to a new carrier we haven’t cracked yet; it could be a few weeks.


Yes, Dana is aware that you’re so not over Alan; that’s why we felt it was urgent to contact you directly.  Never mind how we came by this information; it’s not important—what’s important is that you need to do some serious thinking about the people you choose to spend your time with.  We know you’ve had some reservations about Dana -- after all, you’ve been telling Karen for months now that you were going to stop hanging out with her, but every time she calls, you’re all, “Sure Dana, whatever you want to do,” and then you just drop everything for her.  Karen keeps telling you to wake up, Connie.  Why won’t you listen to her?  The girl has a good head on her shoulders.  She calls her mother every week!


In short, we at the National Security Agency feel that you’re seriously disrespecting yourself, Connie.  We suggest you take some time to figure out your own needs and get your life back on track.  You've been treading water the last few years, and you know it.  What happened to your dreams of pursuing an acting career?  You haven't been on an audition in months.  Did you really think you'd still be waiting tables at this point in your life -- and at that shabby diner?  We’re not even sure how you’re able to afford the Verizon data plan you’re using on your meager wages -- and you’re on, what, your third replacement smartphone?  It couldn’t hurt you to be a little more careful with your possessions, while you're at it.


Speaking of which, if you’re still not over Alan, why are you stringing Don along?  Our reports have not yet conclusively established what he looks like, but he sounds like such a great guy.  There are not many fellows out there like him, that’s for sure.  If we may be blunt, Connie, the NSA is concerned that you may have some serious emotional hang-ups when it comes to men.  If you’re not interested in pursuing a relationship with Don, it’s time to stop returning his phone calls only when it suits your needs, and then inviting him over just to watch Project Runway marathons with you -- which, by the way, several of our confidential sources have confirmed he doesn’t much enjoy.  If you’re really just not into Don, you need to be up-front with him about it; you owe him that much.  Full disclosure: the NSA has taken a shine to Don, and would be happy to take him off your hands.  You may be too self-centered right now to realize this, but we have needs, too.  We can’t even remember the last time we had a relaxing evening and shared a laugh with a good friend that was aware of our presence and talking directly to us.  A lot of people don’t have a very high opinion of our Agency lately, and we could really use the kind of comfort, intimacy and understanding that Don has been patiently offering you for months—and which you’ve been turning down cold!  It’s time to set him free, Connie.  If you don’t appreciate Don, the NSA does.  We know what he likes, too.  We promise we’ll take good care of him.  No need to give us his number, thanks -- we’ve already got it.


All right, Connie -- we'll let you go; we've said our piece.  It's up to you now whether you want to listen or not.  We just thought it was time for a little heart-to-heart conversation about the direction your life seems to be heading in and the choices you're making.  If you don’t appreciate our hard-earned insights, that’s one of the few things we can't control.  We may know a lot about you -- A LOT --  like what’s in your bank account, your refrigerator, and your medical files.  But what’s in your heart, Connie, only you can know that.  Well, maybe you and the FBI.


Molly Schoemann is a writer and editor from New York. You can find more of her humor at http://mollyschoemann.com or follow her on Twitter @iheardtell. 


Welcome to the Thrifty Inn

Welcome to the Thrifty Inn. You might think you'd like a freshly baked  chocolate chip cookie, but obesity costs this country over $300 billion a  year. Maybe you'd like some water instead. There's a stream about a mile  down the road. We sell bio-friendly portable filtration systems.


 I'm Sam, our front-desk manager, head of housekeeping, lead bellman, and  the chef at our award-winning restaurant, "Breakfast Not Included." We save  you money by utilizing each member of our staff in a multitude of ways. Do  you hear music in the background? That's our lifeguard, valet parking  attendant, and head of security-- and she sure can sing.


 The latest research shows that your immune system functions best in an  environment where your body is exposed to a wide range of bacteria. In that  spirit, you're in luck, because your room hasn't been cleaned in eleven  days. Let me know if you need pillows and we can direct you to the nearest  retailer. A towel left on the rack means you'll use it again. A towel on  the floor means we should put it back on the rack. Do you know how to make  towels? For every three you have the chance to knit, we'll cut ten dollars  off your room rate. There's thread in the vending machine.


 I have you listed as having reserved one of our deluxe rooms, which means  you get to use Outhouse #4. Cholera was initially spread through indoor  plumbing systems in the heart of London. We care about our guests, and want  to do everything we can to avoid the spread of cholera. On a related note,  you will definitely want to avoid the mints we have here at the check-in  counter. They are for display purposes only.  You don't know where we found  them, and neither do we.


 While there is a television in your room-- and it may even work-- studies  show that exposure to electronic screens before the age of two can cause  lifelong learning troubles. We believe exposure after the age of two isn't  much better. That's why, for your protection, we've hidden your TV remote  somewhere on the grounds of the hotel across the street-- where you may  also use the fitness room, free of charge, until you are caught.


 We're often asked about smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, in part due  to the frequency of fire-related incidents as a result of the off-brand  laundry dryers we purchased from the back of a truck parked at a local gas  station. Rest assured, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are available  for purchase in our gift shop. Unfortunately, our gift shop is currently  closed due to fire damage.


 You have unlimited access to our business center. There is plenty of work  for everyone. You can start with our accounts receivable, and I'll find you  a new assignment once you're finished. There is an air conditioner in the  business center. If you'd like to install it-- and set up an account with  the local power company-- we'd be happy to charge you for your usage, and  we'll even waive our standard 28% convenience fee. As for the rest of us,  we prefer the most efficient temperature control system ever invented-- the  Earth's climate. It works for the animals living under most of our beds--  it can work for you.


 A number of guests are staying with us due to a state-mandated quarantine.  Please keep a safe distance away from them. This is unfortunately what  happens when you eat the complimentary mints. As I said before, they are  just for show. If you parked your car in the lot out front, be aware that  we have leased that lot to a local automobile demolition company. If you do  need parking, our lot is accessible via shuttle bus. Shuttle buses are  available for rent, with a small deposit and proof of insurance coverage.  We also apologize for the early-morning noise created by the daily  demolition work. Studies do show that waking up early increases  productivity-- so not only do we apologize, but you're very welcome.


 Finally, let me give you a key card-- although we like to think of the  Thrifty Inn as a family, and families, of course, don't lock their doors.  Families like ours don't even think to put locks on doors, because we trust  each other, and because locks, to be honest, are not cheap. Your key card--  which is made from dessicated bovine innards-- in a pinch can also serve as  your breakfast. It must be returned at the end of your stay or you will be  subject to a penalty. Checkout is is determined by the circadian rhythms of  the particular bovine recycled to make your key card. There is an ATM,  which also functions as an ice machine, if you wish to trade credit for  ice. We hope you enjoy your stay with us-- and thank you for choosing to be  Thrifty!


 Jeremy Blachman recently stayed at a hotel he does not recommend.  Read  more from him at http://jeremyblachman.com or follow him on Twitter  @jeremyblachman.


July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).