A Quick Little Post, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

A Quick Little Post.



View of Lake Erie looking West from the Villa Angela Beach Pier.  Taken Saturday.

The dog days of summer are staring to feel like more like Indian Summer this past week here on the North Coast.  Not one day braking 90 last week and seventies this weekend.  Actually, this is the perfect weather for me and it’s really nice to not to have the air conditioner running.  Saturday  I took a walk at Wildwood and Villa Angela.   The surf on Lake Erie were high and the waves were crashing over the breakwalls with wild abandon.  I myself came more than once being splashed with water on the fishermen’s pier at the mouth of Euclid creek.   For some reason, weather like this make my mind wander north and I kept thinking how it would have been a nice day to drive up I-90 to Canada.   Instead, I wound up at a steak dinner in Newbury Ohio.

This past Wednesday, the Washington Post’s Daily 202 has something on the new book that just came out by Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake.  Having just glanced at this ad hoc review by James Hohmann, I must admit that it’s something I might like to take out of the library if possible.

To be honest, I do respect those on the other side who sincerely believe conservative values and are willing to work with liberals and progressives on major policies if need be.  Congressman Flake seems to be one of those in mind.  It is very courageous of him to stick to his guns at a time when so many Republicans chucked those very values out the window once Barack Obama left the White House.

Again, things are developing so fast when it comes to national politics.  I wonder if the Donald would like to frame a copy of the latest issue of Newsweek for one of his golf courses?   Then again, after seeing that publicity stunt..I mean rally…in West Virginia (“lock her up?”), I wonder what the President of Mexico and Prime Minister of Australia think about us since so many actually did vote for this guy.  Thanks to the transcripts, among other things, we all can get a pretty good idea what they think of the man himself.

Other books of interest are out there that caught my eye from one by Canadian journalist Doug Saunders to the latest by the MIT tech geeks Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee titled Machine, Platform, Crowd.   However, what I really would like to do is more writing, and finding a professional audience who is willing to read and share it.   Let’s see what comes up in the next blog posts.


Photographs taken by James Valentino.

A Quick Little Post, My blog., Uncategorized

Don Peck’s Pinched Revisited; A Quick Little Post.

Recently, I went to my local library.   there, among the books by Richard Florida, Mark Levin, and at least three Ann Coulter’s, stood out one I read years before; Pinched by Atlantic’s deputy editor Don Peck.  It came out in 2011 and, at the time, I wrote a review of it for the Yahoo Contributor Network.  While for some reason  I could not google the finished product, I discovered on an old flash drive one of my drafts for it so here it is.

In Pinched, How the Great Recession has narrowed our futures and what we can do about it, Don Peck looks at what has happened in the last three years with the economy; and how it has changed the way we live, work, and how we identify ourselves.

He doesn’t say anything that others, such as Paul Krugman or Kevin Phillips had alluded to in their work, but he does organize things in a clear, concise manner and backs them up with the real life experiences of everyday people.  From a former construction foreman only recently found steady work after losing his job in 2008 to the president of a homeowner’s association in Florida development ravages by the foreclosure crisis, Peck gives the reader an idea of how most people are struggling with the new economic situation in America.  

Mr. Peck also went to the Aspen Ideas Festival where those unaffected by the Recession talked about social issues, policy problems; and as he puts it “a near-total insularity from the non-elites, and a personal detachment from the struggles of other Americans (pg. 115).   He devotes full chapters on the plutonomy, a term three analysts came up with in a paper for the wealthy few as at Aspen, to Generation R, those recent college graduates who end up unemployed and living back at home.   However, Peck examines every level of American society on how economic downturns, and not just the recent one, seriously affect people for years.

There is one paragraph that resonates with me.  He interviews the economist Lisa Kahn who has done studies on how economic downturns affect an individual’s subsequent career.   “When Kahn looks more closely at the unlucky graduates at mid-career, she found some surprising characteristics.   They were significantly less likely to work in professional occupations or other prestigious spheres.   And they clung more tightly to their jobs; average job tenure was unusually long.   People who entered the workforce during the recession ‘didn’t switch jobs as much, and particularly for young workers, that’s how you increase wages,’ Kahn told me.   This behavior may have resulted from a lingering risk aversion, born of a tough start.   But a lack of opportunities may have played a larger role, she said, when you’re forced to start work in a particularly low-level job or uneasy career, it’s easy for other employers to dismiss you as having low potential.  Moving up, or moving to something different and better, becomes more difficult.” (pgs. 64-65).

This is a more wide-spread phenomenon than I ever imagined.  I know that, if I understood this in 2004, perhaps I wouldn’t have given up on my like as I did for half of the last decade.  Yes, Pinched hits me on a personal level; very few books have done that.

As for possible measures to address this present state, Peck does mention a few good things.   Some, such as campaign finance reform and unemployment insurance, have been mentioned by other people before (such as Robert Reich), and possibly make far too much sense to even be discussed in Congress let alone passed.

However, Pinched is definitely worthwhile reading and makes you think.   Mr. Peck sums up his hopes best with one paragraph towards the end of the book.   He believes that,

“A society in which the different classes jostle more frequently alongside one another-living in the same communities and cities, harboring the same hopes and expectations for their children-is inherently healthier than one in which they are segregated physically and split by cultural norms.   Broader exposure to one another would foster the ideals of civic equality and equal opportunity that are our cultural bedrock.” (pgs. 186-187).

I couldn’t write it better myself.

A lot has happened in the nearly six years since it was first published.  The polarization we’re faced with today is in some ways even worse than when Peck wrote this book.  One can also argue that, on November 7th 2016, the plutonomy won after all, and I don’t just mean by Donald Trump becoming president.Yet, Pinched seems worth re-reading so that’s what I am about to do. Continue reading

Opinion, Uncategorized

What Happened to France Magazine?


Cover of the Fall 2011 issue of France Magazine.

I am one of those strange people who actually like to pick up a real book or magazine.   I still have my National Geographic Magazine subscription renewed every year and, when at the library I sometimes check out the New York Review of Books.  Another magazine that I thoroughly enjoyed that I no longer see is France Magazine.  This is not to be confused with the expensive high-gloss publication from the UK I keep receiving emails about but something completely different. I first came across this about 14 years ago at one of my aunts’ houses.  Another aunt, who worked for John Carroll University, would bring back issues over the house for her to look at since the school had a subscription. When I saw that there was a card inside offering a year’s subscription to it, I filled out a check and sent it in.

A publication, or so I thought until recently, of the French-American Cultural Foundation, it came out on a quarterly basis and featured, as the cover put it “The Best of Culture, Travel and Art De Vivre”. The mission of France Magazine was, as editor Karen Taylor put it in the summer 2014 issue, “As always, our objective is to enrich your experience of France, whether in person, in print, or online.” There were no vacation homes in Burgundy for sale under 200,000 pounds in this magazine.  Instead, there were articles on fine dining, the latest in French luxury goods, interior design, interviews, movies, and upcoming events in the United States connected to French art exhibitions.

There were also pieces on different parts of the country.  For example, in their Winter 2001-2002  issue, there was an in-depth look at Brittany including a well written articles on the Rennes Renaissance by Alexander Labrano, and the Emerald Coast by Elizabeth Thrush, that stretch of Brittany to the West of the port of St. Malo that, over a century ago, rivaled the Riviera as a holiday destination and was experiencing a come-back.  In every issue, the writing was top-notch and quite informative.


A few of the books listed in the Fall 2011 issue.

What I really liked about France Magazine were the book lists.  For example, in the Fall 2011 issue, they had Ritz Paris: Haute Cuisine by Michel Roth and Jean-Francois Mesplede (Flammarion Books), which gives the reader a look at what’s on the menu of one of the world’s premier hotels, Saint-Emillion: the Chateaux, Winemakers, and Landscapes of Bordeaux’s Famed Region by Beatrice Massenet, Emmanuelle Ponsan-Dantin and Francois Querre (Abrams New York) is a great coffee table book looking at many of the wineries of the region, and Versailles A Private Invitation by Guillaume Picon (Flammarion Books) which has many photographs of the royal palace from the Opera House to the Petite Trianon. This is just a brief sampling of the books I’ve taken out of my library over the years because I saw it there first.

Sometime in 2015, it dawned on me that I didn’t see any more issues coming through the mail, nor the postcard asking to renew.  Since I always renewed on a yearly basis and publications come and go I said c’est la vie!  However, I still kept those back issues and once in a while look through them, just like I did the last month with the Fall issue of 2014.  It was such a high quality publication it was a shame it folded and I never really knew why.I tried contacting the French-Embassy about its’ fate.  After repeated attempts, I didn’t receive a reply.   On the other hand, I did track down the former editor, Karen Taylor, via of all things Twitter. There right in front of me she listed herself as “former editor of France Magazine 1985-2015.”  I don’t recall receiving a letter at the time stating it folded.  Apparently, it lasted 35 years; not a bad run for a publication

I sent Ms. Taylor a Tweet and she responded with a direct message.  The former editor wrote that she would be happy to answer any questions I may have and that I could reach at, believe it or not, at her old email address for the magazine.  I was pleasantly surprised that Ms Taylor sent a reply to my email. She was very gracious and offered to answer any questions I may have about the life and death of the magazine.

She  explained that France was started by French Embassy’s Press Office in 1985 as a controlled circulation publication.  However, in 2002 it was transferred to the relatively new French-American Cultural Foundation in DC.  The magazine became a sort of a hybrid or as Ms. Taylor put it “a combination of paid circulation and controlled circulation.”  Revenues were derived from grants, fundraising events. advertising and, of course, new stand sales at the time when what has become an online revolution hit the media industry.

However, two events essentially sealed the fate of the magazine.  The first one was when the company that handled their subscriptions was purchased by another firm.  It completely ignored France Magazine and failed to handle subscriptions (which I can personally testify to) thus alienating many subscribers. By the time they were able to move to another company, extensive damage was done.  This happened at a time when a staff of less than 4 people was trying to create an online web presence and getting into social media (like Facebook).  As Ms. Taylor wrote in her email, ” The fulfillment setbacks combined with these new demands and other difficulties created a situation that was more than we could overcome with our tiny staff.” Then, in the fall of 2014, the French-American Cultural Foundation transferred the publication to France-Amerique. Based in New York City, France-Amerique was created in 1943 and had (and still does) a solid reputation producing first-rate content.  After they fulfilled the remaining subscriptions it became bilingual (until then, France-Amerique was written only in French) and kept France Magazine’s mailing list.  I visited their website and it’s very interesting.  However, it’s not France Magazine.

There are two back issue of France Magazine lying on my desk right now.  I used them for the final photograph and, yes, one of them is that 2002 issue with the articles on Brittany.  I do hope that a new and improved version of it is resurrected in the future, or at least France-Amerique (or whoever currently owns it) can hire an intern to update the website and put the archives online as Ms. Taylor wants.  for a subscription that only cost about $20 a year, it was well worth it.



Photographs taken by James Valentino

A Quick Little Post, Opinion, Uncategorized

Kicked Out; A Quick Little Post.

Here’s an excellent piece I caught online on the New York Review of Books website.  Jason deParle reviews Matthew Diamond’s latest book Kicked Out in America!  With almost eight years of research, Mr. Diamond examines the low-income housing situation in the city of Milwaukee and how evictions destabilize neighborhoods and families.He writes that low-income households pay up to 70 percent of their income to have a roof over their head; and leaves little left for such basics as food.

By just reading the review, this book does keep things in perspective, for me at least.  It seems that for every dead beat renter, who is a fly by night operator, there are in fact people who really do need a place to call home. What developers have to do in Montgomery County Maryland (where low-income housing units are integrated into a larger high-income project) should be nationwide in my opinion.   Kicked Out in America!  seems like a really interesting read.