frenchtown fiber

Chris Mundy and Kate House try to make art while navigating the crap life throws at them.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Small Measure of Freedom

I just submitted my final essay for my history class, so that makes me free as a bird who is not taking any courses next semester. Now I can just sit around and wait for hurricane Irene to hit. We have done virtually nothing to prepare. I expect we will get a lot of rain and wind. It is pretty common to get tropical storms around here this time of year. By common, I mean, I guess, every couple of years. Or house was flooded by a storm named Doria in 1971. The next real big one that flooded my parent's house was Floyd in 1999. There have been others, but I don't remember them. I am really really glad that my parents sold that house.

It's raining now, but there is not even any wind yet.
Hey, want to see my essay? It isn't too long, and you will most likely learn stuff about the 14th amendment. I would say it is the most important amendment. Many Supreme Court decisions are based on it. I really was not too familiar with it until now. Here, check it out:

The 14th Amendment Then and Now
As a result of the Civil War the slaves were set free, but blacks in the South still did not have any civil rights. Southern states had no intention of giving them the same rights as whites, but Northern states considered it essential, as so many had fought and died for it. At the time the North had total control of congress since the defeated states had no representatives yet. (Des Chenes, 2009)
The 14th Amendment was passed by Congress June 13, 1866. It was ratified July 9, 1868.
The 14th amendment brought about a huge change in the government of the US. Some scholars call it the “second constitution.” It has come to ensure that all Americans have equal protection under state and local laws and guarantees civil rights for everyone. (Des Chenes, 2009)
Section 1 states that everyone who is born or naturalized in the United States, except members of Indian Tribes and children of foreign diplomats, is a citizen of both the US and the state they live in. (The exception for Indians was overridden in 1924.) No State can make or enforce any law that deprives any person, not just citizens, of life, liberty, or property. Furthermore, every person within a state, not just citizens, must be treated equally by law without arbitrary discrimination.
Section 2 says that a state that denies the right to vote to any male citizen over the age of 21 will have their representation in the government reduced. This provision was intended to penalize Southern states if they did not allow blacks to vote. (The 26th amendment changed the voting age to 18.)
Section 3 states that no person who has previously pledged allegiance to the US government as a federal or state official is eligible to hold such an office again if they have participated in an insurrection against the US government.  This section was intended to prevent officials in Southern states who fought against the Union from holding office or military command in the future unless they were individually permitted to do so by congress.
Section 4 states that  the US must pay all of its debts, including benefits owed to members of the Union army or civilians who performed services. However, the US government is specifically forbidden to pay for any debt incurred by the Confederacy and will not compensate slaveholders for slaves lost because of emancipation.
Section 5 states that the Congress has the power to pass laws to enforce the provisions.
Today we think of equal rights as minority rights, but in many parts of the South after the Civil War blacks were in the majority. This was one of the reasons Southern states resisted giving blacks the right to vote. The whites would likely be voted out of office and blacks could hardly be expected to pass laws favorable to their former masters. Laws known as Black Codes were passed to restrict the rights of black citizens. (Des Chenes, 2009)
Congress needed to amend the constitution in order to have the power to regulate what the states did in that regard.
The main author of the 14th amendment, John Bingham, had a vision of an ideal republic in which everyone would be Equal. He said, “The equality of all to the right to live,  the right to know, to argue and to utter, according to conscience, to work and enjoy the product of their toil, is the rock on which the constitution rests, it’s sure foundation and defense." (Des Chenes, 2009)

Some people who argued against the bill were able to see a time when having this amendment in the constitution would lead to more rights for black men than anyone could imagine at the time. The Supreme Court has been arguing ever since about what the amendment implies.
In 1886 the Supreme Court case Yick Wo v. Hopkins, ruled that equal protection applied to everyone, including Chinese immigrants. This was the first time the law was acknowledged to apply to anyone besides black people. (Des Chenes, 2009)
The extent of the rights protected and the categories of people protected have continued to broaden gradually over the years. In 1896   in Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court decided that it was ok to provide separate accommodations to blacks and whites, as long as they were equal. In the 1954 decision  Brown v. Board of Education, it was struck down, In this decision, the court ruled that in the modern era, the mere fact of segregation had a detrimental effect on the education of black children. (Des Chenes, 2009)

In his book Marriage, Loving, and the Law, Kermit Roosevelt writes that the equal protection law does not ban all discrimination, only discrimination that is intended to oppress a particular group or brand its members as inferior. If there is a rational justification for discrimination, it is not unconstitutional. There was a time when most people believed there was a rational justification for banning interracial marriage. Social attitudes change, as we can see now in respect to homosexuality. At some point in the future, attitudes may change enough that if the Supreme Court validates same sex marriage, we will say, "what took so long?" just the same way as we say that now about the decision in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down state laws against interracial marriage. (Des Chenes, 2009)
Currently, a number of states have enacted laws requiring voters to show an unexpired government photo ID before being allowed to cast a ballot. Some are saying that the push for photo identification cards carries echoes of the Jim Crow laws — with their poll taxes and literacy tests — that inhibited black voters in the South from Reconstruction through the 1960s. Election experts say minorities, poor people, students and older voters are among those least likely to have valid driver’s licenses, the most common form of identification. While defending its photo ID law before the Supreme Court, Indiana was unable to cite a single instance of actual voter impersonation at any point in its history. (Alvarez, 2011)
Also, conservative legislators from five states have opened a national campaign to end the automatic granting of American citizenship to children born in the United States of illegal immigrants. (Preston, 2010)
Recently, the White House ruled out the possibility that President Obama would cite the 14th Amendment to disregard the debt-limit law during the recent battle in congress as to whether to raise the debt limit. (Calmes, & Steinhhaer, 2011)
It looks as though the 14th amendment will be revisited again and again as the US Supreme Court continues to interpret situations based on it.

Des Chenes, E. (2009). Amendment xiv: Equal Protection. Detroit: Greenhaven Press.

Preston, J. (2010, August 11). Births to illegal immigrants are studied. The New York Times, Retrieved from

Alvarez, L. (2011, May 28). Republican legislators push to tighten voting rules. The New York Times, Retrieved from
Calmes, J., & Steinhhaer, J. (2011, July 29). Rejecting the 14th amendment, again. The New York Times, Retrieved from

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The 5 O'Clock Train is Leaving

As you might imagine, people are pretty discouraged where I work. It has gone from fear to anger in pretty short order. Individuals are realizing that the extra hours and dedication they had previously displayed are for nothing, and they are finished. Now at 5pm we say, the 5 O'Clock train is leaving, and we get up and go.

I am so busy right now it is crazy. It is hard for me to take it easy. If someone does not get their work done, who suffers? The giant Corporation? No, it is the fellow ant I work with, who is scrambling like the rest of us.  Just the same, I am not killing myself anymore.

The department down the hall  is going through this. They have a slightly different version. They got e-mails informing them that those who are employed as "Strategic Thinkers" would remain employees. Those who are "implementers" would become contract workers. Translated into normal English from Bullshit Corporate Lingo, Implementors are those who actually do work. Strategic thinkers come up with words like "Rebadging." We asked the person who was reporting this to us what category she falls into, and she wasn't sure. She'll find out soon enough.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Bit of Information:

At 9:30 am we had a teleconference at work, our whole department, at all of the sites. (New Jersey and Pennsylvania) The short version is this, at the present time they are investigating 4 different agencies that we could be outsourced to. They will make a choice by end of September. From there, the transition will take 2 months. Merry Christmas.

After the meeting was over, we had our own meeting, to discuss the whole thing. One of the managers was there, and told us some of what he had observed. He said he had been involved in some of the negotiations. He said that most of these organizations had no intention of giving us any paid time off. Here we are worried that our big fat vacations are going to be gone, but really they will not even give you a paid holiday! This manager said he was fighting against this and thought we will end up doing better.

I think that white collar work is the new sweatshop. Of course there is not really any comparison, but we are really being squeezed, My husband said he would not blame me if I quit. I will wait the thing out and see how it goes. The problem is they really have us over a barrel. Everyone knows that the economy blows and it's hard to get any job. When the meeting was over I went right back to work, but I find it difficult to concentrate. We are all talking, trading rumors, grousing, cursing. Later in the day I made my appointment at the photo studio to have my picture taken. I told you, right? How we are doing a new campaign to promote our department and we are all having our pictures taken for the website. We will be bringing in props that show our personality. I may have mentioned that I think this is rather insensitive to do this at this time. Joe said to ignore it, which I did for a while, but they started to hound me. I figured that I might at least get a nice picture out of it. I decided to bring in a bunch of my books, since they would represent all of my interests. I am going to lay on the floor and read with them all around me. So I am talking to the photographer about this, and generally complaining about our situation, when 2 guys ran into the room and said, "Did you feel the earthquake?" We did not feel any earthquake. We were informed that the building had been evacuated.

I went back to my desk, and sure enough, the place was deserted. There was a 5.5 earthquake in Virginia and we had the after shocks. How do I manage to miss these things? And like I was not already distracted enough. Plenty of people felt it, but many didn't. Joe says that he was driving and didn't feel it. Kate was working in the supermarket and did not feel it.

At the end of the day, the manager I was telling you about called me into his office and shut the door, He said, "Don't lose hope, you may not lose your job." Immediately my heart sank. He said, "They will most likely keep one person to lead each department. You might lead your department." I don't know what to think. If I end up staying, things have got to change. I started mulling it over and thought, to hell with it. We'll see how it goes. I am so ready for change.

My Job Has Become Toxic

It really does feel that way. Upon arriving at work this morning I could just feel the waves of anxiety roll through me. As I read through the e-mails I could feel the adrenaline filling me. I have done this job for years, 15 years. It is everything that does not come natural to me. It is fast paced, it requires a lot of organization, I have to deal with all kinds of people, most of whom are also way stressed out. Everything is ridiculous and a waste of time and blown way out of proportion. How have I done this for so long? The person I work with everyday is so completely opposite to my personality, and that in itself is taking a toll on me. This is a person who will tell you every detail of her health regardless how humiliating or disgusting. She is a person who will find endless amusement in the fact that we have worn the same color shirt one day. She will laugh like a hyena over any reference to a penis, breasts, ass or poop or any other stupid childish thing. And her work sucks.

You know when you have to pee really bad, and when you get near a toilet, when relief is in sight, it becomes especially unbearable? That's where I'm at with this job. I'm finally near a bathroom. It ain't funny.

And tomorrow morning at 9 am everyone in the department has been invited to participate in a teleconference with the big cheese. Please, please, put me out of my misery.

Meanwhile, I have stopped drinking. Here is what I miss about it. It is actually an activity. It was a thing my husband and I did together, an after work ritual. "Honey," he would say. "You want a drink?" and I would say yes. He would either get a bucket ready, fill it with ice and water and open a bottle of white wine, or he would mix a cocktail. Now, after work feels a little disjointed without this ritual. But what also has happened is I have a lot of energy. I am up late (It is 12:03 am) I am agitated and thinking a lot. It may seem counter intuitive, but I feel that I want to be wide awake for all of this. I don't want to be sedated. You might think this would be an ideal time to work in an art journal, but I can't do it. Yesterday I picked up a quilt that I started last year. I had it and some strips that I had sewn together, that needed to be attached, hanging from a clothesline in the basement. I sewed together those pieces and spread it out over the bed. This thing is not nearly wide enough. What was I going to do? What was my original plan? If there are more pieces to sew to this, where are they? I believe my concentration may have been ruined forever.

Which reminds me, I am dropping my college class. Fuck it. I got a bill from the college, and I had already paid it. So I called the bursar and argued the point, until it became apparent that I had not paid it. That was last semester. It seemed like yesterday. That's because it takes so long to submit the paper work and get the thing approved, that it had just been completed on August 8. You can see why it felt like I just paid it. I'm just doing too many things. I really need to let go and chill out. I was feeling bad, because it is my last chance to take a college class. See how diligent I am? So that's it, I'm going to be a giant slacker and NOT take a college class. Evil! Slut! Bitch!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Fertile Void

I'm reading this book called "50 is the New Fifty" It's a book that makes you understand that your life is at a crossroads, everything is about to change, you have no idea what's coming, hang on, it's going to be a bumpy ride. It is perfect for me right now. The author's name is Suzanne Braun Levine. I recommend it if you are a certain age and you really do feel like... what I just said.

I had some "women's trouble" surgery on Thursday, right after getting home from a little weekend in Cape May. I had been fretting about the surgery, even though this is a very common procedure and they kick you out as soon as you wake up. Part of what was freaking me was the anesthesia. The last time I had it was when I was 8 years old and I had my tonsils out. I think it was ether, and made me throw up later.This time I had an IV in my arm already, and the anesthesiologist said he would give me some Ibuprophen and an anti nausea medicine along with the knock out juice. As the medicine was going through my vein, it was hurting. The doctor could see i was uncomfortable, and rubbed my arm. At that moment I felt something wipe across my brain. It was the stuff. I said, that works fast. A few minutes later they roused me, I guess they were going to give me some further instruction? No, the operation was done! I laughed. 

I was a little groggy, but I just felt better as the day went on. I sat my ass on the couch and watched DVD after DVD of Ken Burns the Civil War. I felt so indulgent, wicked almost. I had Friday off, and by then it was like it never happened. 

I am making this event, or non event, kind of the beginning of a new phase in my life. As Suzanne calls it, my Fertile Void. I would say that very soon I will know my fate as far as my job goes. It seems very real that we will be made contractors. Get this, they call it being "re-badged." How's that for a giant load of crap? I was expecting to be bridged to retirement, meaning that I will get my pension somehow, either in a lump sum to be invested, or monthly when I become retirement age. Most people elect to get the lump sum. Who knows if there will be pensions when I finally retire. The other thing you can count on is severance pay based on your years of service. For me, that's like 6 months pay. Not a bad consolation prize. But wait! They've made a new rule. If you get laid off, that is the case, but if you get RE-BADGED, then it is 50%. Hey, wait a minute, rip off! Those bastards. This went into effect as of August 1, although we did not hear about it until just this week. 

Meanwhile, my department is re-branding itself. We are changing our look and out colors and our mission statement. W are supposed to have our picture taken and bring along props that show our personality. Can you believe they are doing this in the middle of this turmoil?? 
I really want to quit. I want to try my hand at voice over work. I would gladly be the person who reads books on tape. Everyone is so scared. Everyone says, they are glad we will at least still have jobs. But I already work so hard at this job, do they expect me to do this job the same way with reduced benefits and likely new pay? At least I would like to do something different. I really can't take it any more. 
So that is where I'm at. and I have suddenly quit drinking. Seemed like a good idea. I think I need to purify myself.  

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Should I Take a Web Class?

I've already signed up for a class for the fall semester (possibly the last one my employer will pay for) but I have always thought it might be good to take a web course. If nothing else, I can figure out what I am doing with my blog. I just tried to look at a comment someone made here, and it told me I could not view it and that I had to change my java script settings. I clicked on this help button provided, and it was help for any kind of thing you could think of. I started scrolling through and after a couple of minutes just thought, "Hell with it." I can access the comments from the dashboard.

I forget what class I did take. Let me look it up...

Organizational ethics: This course focuses on the application of ethical theories and principles to organizational systems and decision-making. Emphasis will be placed on how ethical principles affect and are applied to organizational policy-making, leadership behavior, systems of communication, technology use, and other systems of organization. 

  This class, by the way, is listed under Philosophy. I have so many classes left to take for my Bachelor's degree. I was saving all the shitty classes for last, namely math, thinking that I could die before I finish and maybe never get around to taking Calculus. But I had a number of other options, I could take an Anthropology course, Political Science, Sociology, Linguistics. I looked under everyone of those subjects, and I had either taken a similar class, or I was not interested, or there was nothing. I moved on to my core Communication classes. Intro to Journalism? It's a writing intensive class, but probably useful. They are not offering it this semester. so, I ended up with Organizational Ethics. Drexel University is an expensive school, and I will not be able to continue without my tuition being paid. I think it would be pretty crazy to take on student loans at my age. Back to the web course, maybe it would make me a touch more marketable.

Yesterday I sat down to watch a documentary about the reconstruction. I turned on the TV, and the news was on and they were telling me that the credit of the US has been downgraded for the first time in history. Gee Wizzz, how interesting.  I wonder what that will be like? They say interest rates will go up. Does that mean that the interest on my saving account will go up? Or does it only apply to money I want to borrow?

I think I will make an appointment with my financial advisor this week. This is another free service provided by the company I work for!

Here is a comment I had on yesterday's blog: "Chris at least you have a great attitude. Working isn't all it's cracked up to be. I'm racking my brain on how we can make the break and move to an island or Costa Rica or the Yucatan in Mexico." 

I hear that. Work sucks. I really want to make some changes. I would not mind living somewhere different. I'm not sure if that is a midlife kind of dissatisfaction thing or what. Joe and I want to live in Italy. Too bad they are now falling to pieces, plus, I don't think Italians have an easy time finding jobs either. Any kind of wonderings like this are always punctuated by the "What about Kate?" thing. I can't leave her behind, and if I don't really know what i would do in Italy, what the hell would Kate do? Start learning Italian?

 More later. I'm going to try to make art today.

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Poor Neglected Blog

Hey, check out these postcards. These are ones that I have sent:

I'm up to my ass in the civil war, but that's OK, pretty interesting.Summer is moving quickly along, like it always does. Next weekend I am going to Cape May for 4 days, always good fun.

Meanwhile, the world economy is falling apart. Just before the debt ceiling fight was resolved, I chucked a bunch of money in my 401K into a money market. When they were done, something told me not to take it out. The stock market has been going down ever since. I may be able to retire when I am 80 years old. Just to add a touch more excitement, the company I work for, which became gigantic after they merged with another company, announced they are cutting 12,000 jobs. I did not think that they were finished with the layoffs they announced last year. Right after that announcement was made, the Vice President of my group sent an e-mail warning us that we were going to get hit. Right after THAT, my manager sent an e-mail to say that surely we would be affected.

I always knew this day would come, but really, I don't exactly know how it would go down. I'm in the graphic art department, and that has absolutely nothing to do with the core business of this company. Pretty much since I started here in 1997, the idea has floated that they could eliminate us at any time. Maybe we will revert to contractor status. Meanwhile, I have accumulated 5 weeks vacation, a pension and probably 6 months severance. Yo, it's the vacation that really has me down.

When this kind of thing happens, you see the people you work with fall into 2 camps. Those who freak out, and those who don't. I am happy to say that I am not freaking out. It is not because I am such an amazing person. It's just my personality. Last year, the company decided to shut down for Christmas week, meaning that every one had to use vacation days for that. Some people freaked out because they were being told when to use their vacation. Not surprisingly, these are the same people who are freaking out now. They just don't deal well with change.

We should know what is going down by the end of October. I know it's looney, but part of me is excited. What will I do next??? Possibly rot on unemployment until it runs out. I hope that is not the case, but what I do know is that I am not "screwed" as the freak out people are describing themselves. I would guess that my good paycheck days are over, but they aren't going to kill me. I can still enjoy life. Joe and I were talking about how much we could live without. Plenty. Glad I went to Italy when I did!

Joe is at a motorcycle rally this weekend. I don't have a whole lot to do apart from turn in an essay about how Philadelphia should promote tourism during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. (I'm struggling, because Philadelphia is pretty much all about the Revolutionary War) I have been unable to sit down and make art for a long time. A couple times I sat in front of a bunch of half finished Journal pages and pretty much just spaced out. I need a lot of time to get creative. Maybe I will drink a lot of wine tonight and stay up very late.

The person I work with has been on vacation all week. I am here doing all the work by myself and it has been heaven. She really stresses me out. If I lose my job, one big plus would be never having to hear her bitch again. I'll have to hear an hour of why things went wrong during her time off when she gets back Monday.

Hey, check out these postcards. These are ones that I have sent: