ARTHUR NO. 30 is in the works.

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The New York Times – May 25, 2008

Toughest Summer Job This Year Is Finding One


TULSA, Okla. — School is out, and Aaron Stallings, his junior year of high school behind him, wanders the air-conditioned cocoon of the Woodland Hills Mall in search of a job.

Mr. Stallings, 18, says he has been looking for three months, burning gasoline to get to the mall, then filling out applications at stores selling skateboard T-shirts, beach sandals and baseball caps. He likes the idea of working amid the goods he covets. But so far, no offers.

“I’m going to go to Iraq and get a job,” he says acidly. “I hear they’ve got cheap gas.” He grins. “I’m just playing. But I’ve been all over, and nobody’s hiring. They just say, ‘We’ll call you tomorrow.’ And no one ever calls back.”

As the forces of economic downturn ripple widely across the United States, the job market of 2008 is shaping up as the weakest in more than half a century for teenagers looking for summer work, according to labor economists, government data and companies that hire young people.

This deterioration is jeopardizing what many experts consider a crucial beginning stage of working life, one that gives young people experience and confidence along with pocket money.

Little more than one-third of the 16- to 19-year-olds in the United States are likely to be employed this summer, the smallest share since the government began tracking teenage work in 1948, according to a research paper published by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. That is a sharp drop from the 45 percent level of teenage employment reached in 2000.

The rates among minority young people have been particularly low, with only 21 percent of African-Americans and 31 percent of Hispanics from the ages of 16 to 19 employed last summer, according to the Labor Department.

Retailers, a major source of summer jobs, are grappling with a loss of American spending power, causing some to pull back in hiring. Restaurants, also big employers of teenagers, are adding jobs at a slower pace than in previous summers, said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president for research at the National Restaurant Association in Washington.

As older people stay in the work force longer and as experienced workers lose jobs at factories and offices, settling for lower-paying work in restaurants and retail, some teenagers are being squeezed out.

“When you go into a recession, kids always get hit the hardest,” said Andrew Sum, an economist at the Center for Labor Market Studies who led the study on the summer job market. “Kids always go to the back of the hiring queue. Now, they find themselves with a lot of other people in line ahead of them.”

At the lower end of the market, adult Mexican immigrants, in particular, pose competition for jobs traditionally filled by younger Americans, like those at fast food chains.

“Spanish-speaking team members in our stores have increased the age a little bit,” said Andy Lorenzen, senior manager for human resources at Chick-fil-A, a national chain of chicken restaurants based in Atlanta, where 70 percent of the work force is 14 to 19 years old. Adult workers “have lost jobs in this economic downturn and begun to seek employment in our stores.”

Employment among American teenagers has been sliding continuously for the last decade and, with a few ups and downs, dropping steadily since the late 1970s, when nearly half of all 16- to 19-year-olds had summer jobs.

Economists debate the cause of this precipitous decline in teenage employment. Many contend that the drop is largely a favorable trend, reflecting a rising percentage of teenagers completing high school and going on to college, with some enrolling in summer academic programs, leaving less time for work.

“The key factor is the attraction of attending college and enjoying the increasing wage premium that accompanies this,” said John H. Pencavel, a labor economist at Stanford University.

In wealthier households, many have come to see summer work as a waste of time that could be spent gaining an edge in the competition for entry to elite colleges.

“Kids from higher-income households just aren’t going into the labor market,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s “They’re looking for things to put on résumés, and working at Dairy Queen or Wal-Mart just isn’t going to help you get into Wake Forest or Stanford. And they just don’t need the cash.”

But others, like Professor Sum, contend that plenty of teenagers want to work but face increasing difficulties landing jobs. From early 2001 to the middle of 2007, the number of Americans employed outside the military grew more than 8.3 million, according to the Labor Department, yet employment among teenagers fell more than 1.2 million.

In the New York metropolitan area, an index by shows a modest increase in the sorts of jobs typically filled by teenagers in the summer.

Still, with the economy gripped by what many experts believe is a recession, opportunities are growing leaner for teenagers in most of the country.

Even in parts of the country where there are jobs, some teenagers are having trouble finding them.

Tulsa, a town on the banks of the Arkansas River that swelled into a city amid an oil boom early last century, seems at first an easy place to find work. This metropolitan area of 900,000 people never saw the increase in housing prices and subsequent collapse that leveled economies elsewhere. While energy prices are reaching records and the oil patch is buzzing with activity, Tulsa’s unemployment rate was a mere 3.3 percent in March, compared with the national rate of 5.1 percent that month.

Here, the force of Hispanic immigration is being reversed: A bill aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants passed by the state legislature late last year has prompted thousands of them to leave town.

So along the broad suburban avenues in the southern part of town — ribbons of black pavement lined with ice cream shops, burger stands and barbecue joints — managers are having a hard time finding workers.

“Pretty much everybody is hiring,” said Andy Irick, director of operations for Sonic, a restaurant chain based in Oklahoma, complete with blaring music and servers on roller skates. “If you walk in and you’re clean cut and presentable, you’re going to get a job.”

While summer jobs may be abundant in some industries, opportunities tend to divide along traditional fault lines like race, the connections offered by one’s parents and — not least — whether one has a car in this sprawling city of scant public transportation.

More than 15 percent of the city’s population is African-American, according to the 2000 census. Black people are largely clustered in the older, northern part of town, on weather-beaten roads largely devoid of shopping and places to work. The suburban strip malls to the south are miles away.

At a state-financed program that helps lower-income young people find jobs, Arbor Education and Training, some have quit coming to the center because gas prices are too high, and some have lost jobs because they could not get to work, said the program’s director of operations, Jacky Noden.

Meanwhile, at a job skills class at Booker T. Washington High School, considered Tulsa’s most prestigious public campus, six graduating seniors, all bound for college and all possessing cars, already had jobs for the summer.

Greg Robinson, 18, cast his job as an instructor at a golf course as a perfect chance to network. “Golf is the sport of business.”

Shakhura Henderson, 18, saw her job as an assistant in an optometrist’s office as a beachhead in a growing area of the American economy. She and the other students stammered in veritable horror when asked if they would consider working in fast food.

“I don’t see myself saying, ‘Hey, sir, may I take your order,’ ” Ms. Henderson said. “I don’t see any growth in it.”

Claire Tolson, 17, a student at another selective school, Thomas A. Edison Preparatory, said she planned to spend the summer as a hostess at the Local Table, a restaurant specializing in produce from around the area, earning $8 an hour, plus tips.

Tall, blond and poised, and looking ahead to a career in engineering, Ms. Tolson has two friends working at the restaurant already. One of their parents knows the owner, she said.

“I don’t think it’s too hard to find a job,” she said.

But Ms. Tolson’s classmate, Wesley Childers, has no such connections, relying instead on newspaper classified advertisements for his job search. He wants a job so he can save money to buy a car next year, but his lack of a vehicle presents something of a Catch-22.

“Employers want you to have reliable transportation,” he said.

Mr. Childers wears a pressed blue suit and shiny black loafers to job interviews. He has applied to McDonald’s and to Target, the discount department store, among other places.

“I haven’t heard anything back,” he said. “There’s so many other kids, and there’s also so many other people who are unemployed. It’s getting frustrating.”

At Will Rogers High School in a heavily Hispanic part of town, a 15-year-old sophomore named José, who has lived here since he was 2 years old but lacks legal immigration papers, worried that he would not find a job. He would happily work in fast food, he said, but word is that more places are checking papers.

“It limits your choices,” he said. “A lot of people are afraid.”


Recession or war: Time to re-enlist

Military benefits and job security are prompting many soldiers to re-up despite the possibility of a return to combat.

By Aaron Smith, staff writer
Last Updated: May 21, 2008: 1:17 PM EDT

NEW YORK ( — Job hunt in a sluggish economy? Or re-enlist during wartime? Marine Sgt. Jimmy Spence faced that dilemma a year ago, and in the end, the military won.

In fact, the one-time infantryman, who was stationed in Iraq from April to October of 2006, is now preaching the virtues of a life in the military as a re-enlistment counselor for other Marines.

“I don’t have to go out and fight for a job in the real world,” said Spence, who’s married and has a five-year-old daughter. “No matter what, I’ve got a paycheck coming. I’m providing food on the table. I’m guaranteed to have a place to live for me and my family,” he said.

Spence re-upped in February of 2007 with the promise of a stateside job. But even though he’s stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., he’s still an infantryman and a marksman instructor, and he could get sent back to Iraq at any time.

“I could still go to combat,” he said. The hardship of deployment is “one of the things you have to deal with, being in the military lifestyle.”

Spence advises Marines approaching the ends of their terms that military rigors are outweighed by the benefits, namely healthcare. “If my kid ever got hurt, she’s covered,” he said. “Same with my wife. I’ve got nothing to worry about.”
No shortage of signers

Even with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both the Army and Marine Corps have exceeded their re-enlistment goals in the past five years, according to the Department of Defense. The Navy and Air Force recently missed their re-enlistment goals, but only slightly, with a 97% success rate for the Navy and 91% for the Air Force for their current fiscal year, according to the DOD.

“Some people knock the military, but I think it’s a good thing,” said Kendrick Stamps, a security guard in New Orleans who had to leave the Marines in 2003 to take care of his ailing father, who died last year.

In retrospect, Stamps said he would have been better off keeping his Marine job in supply administration. He said he makes about $31,000 a year as a civilian, compared with about $33,000 as a sergeant with 13 years in the Marines. The military also provides healthcare and education, as well as a retirement pension, equal to half-pay after 20 years of service. Pay and benefits are equal across the air force, navy, marines and army

There are also allowances for housing and food, which vary depending on location and dependents. As a sergeant in New Orleans, Stamps would receive $964 a month to pay his rent or mortgage, or $1,242 with a wife or children, according to the DOD. If Stamps was stationed in Honolulu, he would receive $1,794 a month, or $2,114 with dependents.

Most military personnel are also eligible for a food allowance, with enlisted men and women receiving $294 a month and officers receiving $202, according to the DOD. If they live in high-cost areas like Hawaii or Japan, or if they have dependents, they’re probably eligible for even more money, as a cost-of-living allowance.
Looking for a little security

In an economy that has lost jobs for four months straight, re-enlisting also promises stability. “The job security was the biggest pull for staying in,” said Stamps.

When military personnel approach the end of their terms, they meet with military career counselors to weigh the pros and cons of re-enlistment versus civilian life. The counselors help them match their pay scale, along with education and job kills, to equivalent civilian jobs.

“We talk about what their true compensation is, because in reality our salaries are somewhat competitive,” said Capt. Bill Foster, director of the center of career development for the Navy.

The majority of military personnel are non-commissioned officers, such as sergeants and corporals, according to the DOD. Towards the end of their first four-year term, these non-coms make about $25,000 a year, while the lowest-ranked commissioned officers make about $39,000.

Foster said some sailors are motivated by the military pension, which requires 20 years of service but no financial contributions. Still others are motivated by the re-enlistment bonus, which averages $10,000 to $15,000, but can range up to $75,000 for linguists and nuclear power technicians, said Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy at the DOD.

“It is nearly miraculous that we’ve been able to sustain recruiting and retention with unemployment below 5% and a long and challenging war,” said Carr. “Many – and I include myself among them – would not have considered that possible.”

Steven Mayfield, an Air Force re-enlistment counselor, said many airmen are headed out the door until they realize the benefits they’re giving up. “For those who are separating and not retiring, the medical, dental and health insurance become very big issues,” he said. “I do have a lot of folks who, when they see the facts, decide to stay in the military.”

This is especially true for parents, said Mayfield: “Just to go get an ultrasound is a $500 experience. For a young E-4 [Air Force senior airman or Army corporal making $25,000 to $31,000] who just separated from the military, that’s an experience that perhaps they can’t afford.”

But John Bienvenu, an Iraq vet, said he found more money-making opportunities in the civilian sector. Bienvenu’s base pay as a four-year Army sergeant was about $25,000 a year. But now he makes $60,000 as a manager with a company that removes hurricane debris in New Orleans.

Bienvenu had considered a 20-year career with the Army when he joined at the relatively advanced age of 35. But he did not re-enlist after his four-year term because he felt that the military capped his earning potential.

“[Military pay] is the equivalent of a fixed income, and I’ve tasted money for too long to settle for that,” said Bienvenu, who has no regrets about serving one term.

As a manager he said he would definitely consider hiring vets, even if they didn’t have the specific job skills required. “Just knowing that their experience combined with motivation [makes them] a quick study.”

But, he said, “Financially speaking, and only financially speaking, if the person has the gumption and the character to build some wealth, they’re better off on the civilian side.”

First Published: May 21, 2008: 10:32 AM EDT

NOAH SHELDON'S perpetual wind chime sculptures

“Noah Sheldon, who first studied to be a composer at the New England Conservatory of Music, transforms space through a methodical juxtaposition of sculpture, photography, video, light and sound. Sheldon’s installations often combine mundane sculptural materials with subtle yet intricate nuances, such as luminous or acoustic elements. The result is meditative. For example, Sheldon’s 2007 solo exhibition at D’Amelio Terras consisted in part of a kind of synthetic hypnotic Zen garden complete with mechanical wind chimes, a trickling fountain and pink fluorescent lights. A second installation by the artist included a picnic bench scattered with envelopes from the local film developing shop that contained snapshots of Sheldon’s most recent road trip. Sheldon encourages the viewer to slow down, become aware of their atmospheric surroundings, stay as long as they like and leave with the nostalgia of their own personal experience.

“In his exhibition at Cherry and Martin, Noah Sheldon will use the front gallery to house one of his perpetual wind chime sculptures. Constructed out of fragmented building materials such as wood, steel, metal cable and fence post caps, these sculptures resemble an oversized version of your typical porch ornamentation. Complete with a motor that gives the strings intermittent tugs and causes the chimes to gently strike each other, Sheldon has designed a wind-driven percussion instrument traditionally hung outdoors for an indoor space (with no wind).”

Uncontacted tribe photographed in the Amazon

Isolated tribe spotted in Brazil

The photos are being used to prove the tribe’s existence

Image: Gleison Miranda, Funai

(BBC): One of South America’s few remaining uncontacted indigenous tribes has been spotted and photographed on the border between Brazil and Peru.

The Brazilian government says it took the images to prove the tribe exists and help protect its land.

The pictures, taken from an aeroplane, show red-painted tribe members brandishing bows and arrows.

More than half the world’s 100 uncontacted tribes live in Brazil or Peru, Survival International says.

Stephen Corry, the director of the group – which supports tribal people around the world – said such tribes would “soon be made extinct” if their land was not protected.

‘Monumental crime’

Survival International says that although this particular group is increasing in number, others in the area are at risk from illegal logging.

The photos were taken during several flights over one of the most remote parts of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil’s Acre region.

They show tribe members outside thatched huts, surrounded by the dense jungle, pointing bows and arrows up at the camera.

“We did the overflight to show their houses, to show they are there, to show they exist,” the group quoted Jose Carlos dos Reis Meirelles Junior, an official in the Brazilian government’s Indian affairs department, as saying.

“This is very important because there are some who doubt their existence.”

He described the threats to such tribes and their land as “a monumental crime against the natural world” and “further testimony to the complete irrationality with which we, the ‘civilised’ ones, treat the world”.

Disease is also a risk, as members of tribal groups that have been contacted in the past have died of illnesses that they have no defence against, ranging from chicken pox to the common cold.

Arthur presents HOOTENANNY HOOT tonight at Cinefamily

Tonight the Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theatre is screening the rare ’60s gem Hootenanny Hoot! See below, I contributed the description for the program and have included the longish version below. If you’re in the neighborhood and ready for a pre-psychedelic ride through the controversy filled birth of the 60s college folk movement, I couldn’t recommend this film with more enthusiasm.

Thought I would mention, this one is pretty rare…

Folk Americana Series:

Tonite (5/29) @ 8pm…

“We’ll be hootin’ it up, firin’ up the grill, swillin’ moonshine, and then watching the flick. One of our patrons has offered to cook up a whole batch of theme-appropriate food (potato salad, baked beans, chili and gumbo), so feel free to contribute to the potluck yourself as well. Dancing in the aisles is allowed, as long as you do “the pigeon”.

HOOTENANNY HOOT (1963, on 16mm)
Far away from the smoky boho coffee klatches of New York, the wild college kids of 1963 had their own fun. They loved country music, danced and sang down by the river in bikinis and short shorts. They called these gatherings Hootenannies and people took them seriously. So seriously that in 1963 B-movie mogul Sam Katzman capitalized on the phenomenon in the long lost, TCM favorite Hootenanny Hoot! Previously cashing in on fads and crazes and fads in Rock Around the Clock and Let’s Twist Again, these films are known for forgettable plots, but come par boiled with endearing nostalgia for the wild innocence of youth. Hootenanny Hoot a hip happening ride set at the tail end of Ike’s 1950s when kids lived life on the brink and rocked the night away in Kennedy’s Camelot.

In HH, two randy Madison Ave ad men travel up the Hudson River Valley in search of a pretty babe for a new soap commercial. They wind up chasing tail and end up staying all weekend at the Hootennany. The frivolity is fun and goes down easy, but the reason not to miss the Hoot are the performances. Johnny Cash pulls up in a station wagon and plunks down a version of “Frankie and Johnny”. Staples like Sheb Wooley, The Brothers Four and Joe and Eddie get the party started with semi-suggestive folk ballads that hint at the times and how they soon would be a-changin’.

But it’s Judy Henske, Queen of the Beatniks, whose signature “The Ballad of Little Romy” and “Wade in the Water” taps the root and awakens the beast that lies within Hootenanny Hoot! Long before Janis, Grace Slick or Stevie Nicks, her pipes made Chippewa Falls famous and routinely blew the house down. Completely out of place and over the top, her performance transports the audience to the wishing well of the early 60s when great songs, well sung (loudly) were enough to shake loose the soul. Rumor has it that Zappa was in part inspired by this film and years later signed Judy and her husband Jerry Yester to his Warner/Straight imprint yielding the seminal “Farewell Aldebaran” LP.

If you like early gentle folk rock, the circus and Hee Haw, you’ll love Hootenanny Hoot! If you hate that stuff and thought A Mighty Wind could have been funnier, you’ll love goofing on Hootenanny Hoot!