You know him as one of the kids dealing with the Upside Down on Netflix’s Stranger Things, but if you see him coming now–you should be the one to run. Gaten Matarazzo is producing and starring in a new prank show, Prank Encounters, and Netflix just ordered eight episodes. Deadline describes it as follows:
Each episode of this terrifying and hilarious prank show takes two complete strangers who each think they’re starting their first day at a new job. It’s business as usual until their paths collide and these part-time jobs turn into full-time nightmares.
Do you know what I have to say to this? No, no, no, and no.
Sure, we love to laugh at people’s misfortune–America’s Funniest Home Videos–made a fortune off people falling off step ladders and tripping over the dog. But, there’s a key difference here: people in that show submitted their own videos–they were laughing at themselves. This show sets people up for public entertainment with unasked for humiliation.
And it does it in a very vulnerable time of life–job hunting.
Looking for a job, or part-time work, or freelance work, is emotionally and intellectually exhausting — certainly if you are over 40, 50 or beyond when age discrimination already severely limits options for many people.
Some people have leaped to her defense — she works so hard! — while others simply wonder how so many other hard-working and talented writers are now, instead, desperately grateful to get paid even 25 percent of what she said she earns.
The poor kids! It poured rain all day….but they went out anyway!
By Caitlin Kelly
So, I have no kids and I don’t live in Brooklyn and I’ve never attended school in New York nor visited a middle school here.
Yet I found this terrific story for The New York Times about an after-school program for students who, in their classroom, build a wooden boat by hand from scratch — then set sail on an inlet of the East River, with huge boats passing and the skyscrapers of Manhattan as a backdrop.
I watch the game show often and, a year or so ago, a contestant said he volunteered with Brooklyn Boatworks, a non-profit program founded by two naval architects.
As a lifelong sailor, I was immediately intrigued — when you think of Brooklyn, you don’t necessarily think first of boats or sailing.
So I did some digging and contacted the program’s executive director and asked her enough questions to pitch the idea, which was accepted. I do this a lot with my potential stories, pre-reporting them enough to create a compelling pitch — that means persuading people to talk to me even though I don’t yet have a definite assignment.
I knew I had to watch a team of students working on the boat so I visited MS (Middle School) 88 on February 14 for two hours and again for two more hours on April 18, the length of each week’s building session. I observed, listened, eavesdropped and took far more notes than I would ever be able to use — I was only allowed a maximum of 1,500 words for the story.
How would I be able to encapsulate this amazing adventure?
I took photos with my phone for later reference and interviewed several students and their two teachers. The students were friendly and easy to talk to. It was great to watch their teamwork and self-confidence easily handling tools as they built a boat together, my favorite being two young Muslim girls in hijab working with cordless drills.
The boats are seven foot, six inches — those buoyancy bags help keep them afloat!
Few of the students had ever even been on a sailboat before and, likely, none as tiny as the Optimist, aka Opti. It all seemed like some sort of dream. Would it ever really be a boat? Was it possible? Would it sink?!
Students wrapped in plastic tried to stay dry while cheering on their team-mates. That’s the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. The orange thing in the photo is a PFD, a personal flotation device every sailor needs to wear in case of capsize.
Program director Marjorie Schulman was the soul of patience for the many, many emails and calls I needed to report the story. This was June 10, the day of “graduation” when every student who participated got a certificate and public recognition of their months of hard work.
Launch day was June 10 — a day of non-stop rain!
The event was held at Pier 2 at Brooklyn Bridge Park, with speeches beforehand and a few special guests. I met the freelance photographer there for the Times and introduced her to some of the people I needed her to focus on; typical of my freelance work, I had never met her before yet we would have to work well together quickly and under uncomfortable conditions.
Dana Garcia, a sixth-grader, said she really enjoyed building the boat. “I sawed many pieces of it and we got to use epoxy, which my parents thought was pretty cool,” she said. “Sawing is actually pretty hard. You have to practice a lot. You have to be safety conscious and patient. We wear gloves so we don’t get cut and safety glasses so no sawdust gets into our eyes.”
Students also had the opportunity to use math and science in the workshop. “When it came to our measurements, we were always trying to get everything right and we had a lesson in the science of sailing, how to use the wind,” Dana said.
Dana, it seems, has caught the building bug. “I’d like to do a sculpture or another boat or a treehouse,” she said.
Other students felt empowered from the experience, too.
“I love learning new stuff,” Karla Miranda, a seventh-grader, said. “Before I was just doing basic girl things —- I’d watch TV, go outside, do homework. I got more comfortable using tools and how to control them,” she continued. “I didn’t know I could do all this.”
My old reporters’ notebook from the New York Daily News, whose logo is that of a classic old-time camera, the Speed Graphic
By Caitlin Kelly
It’s been a while since I came to live in a small suburban town on the eastern side of the Hudson River, with views of passing barges pushed and pulled by tiny, powerful tugboats. A place where red-tailed hawks glide above the tree-tops. Where one of the nation’s wealthiest families, the Rockefellers, live a 15-minute drive north of us — their helicopter always, annoyingly, thrumming too low overhead as they whisk someone south.
I love living here.
It satisfies all my desires: a beautiful landscape, access to great culture in Manhattan and at local venues like Caramoor and the art film house, Jacob Burns, economic and social diversity, (our town has million-dollar townhomes at the river’s edge, with social housing projects a few blocks inland.) I know the guys at the hardware store and the gourmet shop and the gym.
I’ve also, of course, through work and play, have gotten to know what we call The City, aka Manhattan and its four other boroughs. I know that Houston Street is pronounced How-ston and that Bleecker — perhaps confusingly — manages to run both north-south and east-west. I know where to find free street parking.
It did take me a long time, at least a decade, before I felt this was home. New York, as you can imagine of a city of eight million, many of them with multiple Ivy degrees and the most skilled and competitive in their fields and industries, can feel very intimidating.
It is also a place absolutely and rigidly stratified by wealth, social class and race, with its enormous and imposing private clubs, including the row of Ivy League-only clubs (Yale, Harvard, Princeton,. Cornell) that I’ve only visited thanks to events held there. If you head to the uppermost stretch of Park Avenue, the division between extraordinary wealth and deep poverty is, literally, across the street.
But, if you’re lucky and work your ass off, it can soften enough to become more welcoming.
Here are some images of my life here:
Broadway, baby! The dream of so many performers, and the provider of many well-paid union jobs backstage.
Love this restaurant, Via Carota, on Grove Street in the West Village of Manhattan.
It’s expensive, but very good food, with a spectacular and enormous (!) green salad. The West Village is by far my favorite neighborhood — shaded cobble-stoned streets lined with early 19th century brownstone houses and indie shops and tiny and perfect restaurants like Little Owl. It’s become impossibly expensive to live there, but lovely to visit.
This is our local reservoir. No idea what that building is!
This is an amazing place — built in 1857. Truly a time capsule, on the north shore of Long Island (which lies south of New York City)
Such beauty! I love going to the ballet at Lincoln Center (and opera at the Met.)
Every spring there’s Fleet Week, welcoming ships to New York’s harbor.
The New York Botanical Garden, in the Bronx. Such a treasure!
Despite horrific rents, some indie bookstores hang on in Manhattan.
I love auctions! I bought two prints at this one, a splurge. That’s my bidding paddle.
Nosebleed seats (highest row at back of the balcony) still affordable.
The view from our home of the new Tappan Zee bridge, spanning the Hudson
The Brooklyn Bridge
Grand Central Terminal — where thousands of commuters head in and out to the northern and western suburbs; those headed to Long Island use (hideous) Penn Station. GCT is amazing: lots of great shopping and restaurants and a food market. Commuting in from our town, now, has risen to $9.50 one-way in off-peak (non rush hour), making a day trip $19 just to enjoy the city — before a meal, drink, subway ride or activity.
I love the details of this building in the West Village
A tug and barge heading south on the East River
This is a place I know well; my husband worked there for 31 years as a photographer and photo editor. I also write for the paper freelance, so have been in there many times.
I always tell visitors to New York to get out of noisy, crowded, tourist-clogged midtown Manhattan as fast as possible and head to quieter neighborhoods like the East and West Village, Nolita and even parts of the Upper East Side, which is mostly residential but has some treasures like this lovely tearoom.
Get to a riverside park and enjoy the views and breezes. Savor a rooftop cocktail or a sunset bike ride.
I haven’t even mentioned Brooklyn (as I so rarely go there,) but it’s full of great shops and restaurants and views.
Montreal’s Habitat, a legendary bit of architecture
By Caitlin Kelly
If you’ve moved around a fair bit — as every child in a military family knows well, like the author of Small Dog Syndrome blog — it’s sometimes challenging to decide where home really is.
I’ve now lived decades in the same one-bedroom apartment in the same building in the same suburban New York town, by far the longest I have ever lived anywhere.
When my adult midlife peers lament the final sale of their beloved childhood home, I think: “Huh.” Not me.
I’ve moved a lot and have lived in five countries. But it’s now been a long, long time since I last changed residences, absolutely worn out after changing my home location six times in seven years.
It takes time to settle in, to get to know a place and its rhythms.
And, sometimes — despite all your highest hopes and best intentions — it’s just a really poor fit.
I did not enjoy living in Montreal, even with the nicest apartment anywhere ever (fireplace, 15 foot ceilings, spacious rooms) — the winter was too cold and long and snowy and the professional possibilities far too limited. Plus incredibly high taxes and, then anyway, a disturbingly high crime rate. Our building was broken into a lot.
Same for my 1.5 years in small-town New Hampshire, before the Internet, with no family/friends/job and an exhausted/absent medical resident for a boyfriend.
Born, lived to age two.
ages two to five, with my parents, while my father made films for the BBC.
The Ex, an annual event in Toronto
Toronto, ages five to 30
— a gorgeous huge house with a big backyard. Parents divorced when I was seven.
— boarding school Grades 4-9 and summer camp (four of them) ages 8-17
— a downtown apartment shared with my mother.
— a second apartment in the same building, shared with my mother.
— an apartment with my father and his girlfriend.
— a house (owned), also living with with them, in a lovely neighborhood, facing a park.
— a ground-floor, back alley studio in a bad neighborhood, until a man tried to pull me out of the bathroom window while I was in the bath. Lived alone.
— a sorority house, for the summer. Shared space, very comforting!
— a top floor studio apartment near campus; alone.
— a top floor apartment in a downtown Victorian house; with boyfriend.
— the top two floors of a (rented) house; with boyfriend, then alone.
— six months with my mother in a rented apartment, age 14
Montreal has some amazing buildings!
— one year, with my mother in a rented apartment in a downtown brownstone, age 12
— 1.5 years on the top floor of a luxury 1930s-era rental building in downtown while a Montreal Gazette reporter; alone.
Now that’s my kind of delivery! The Marais, one morning…
— eight months in a tiny student dorm room in Cite Universitaire while on an EU-funded journalism fellowship.
Lebanon, New Hampshire
— two years in a rented apartment on the main floor of a farmhouse, with boyfriend-later-husband.
Tarrytown, New York
— current residence; married, divorced, solo, now re-married.
I know people here now.
I run into D, the amiable Frenchman who helps choose stock for our local thrift shop and notice he’s still limping, months after he broke his ankle.
I chat with M, a hardware store sales associate I interviewed in 2009 for my retail book, and who works for a man whose great-grandfather started the company.
I say hello to Hassan, who hands me shards of ham and bits of candied pecans at his gourmet shop.
I bump into friends on the street and at the gym and the train station and the grocery store and at church.
When I return to Montreal and Toronto, I’m also delighted to spend time with old friends and to enjoy familiar foods and sights and sounds and all our shared cultural references that none of my American pals will ever get.
So I feel lucky that so many places have been my home. I feel as bien dans ma peau speaking French in Montreal and Paris as I do hablando en Mexico as I do ordering a bagel with a schmear here in New York.
Another week in the United States — which, every week, only means more gun deaths.
This week, one of them was a student about to graduate high school, Kendrick Castillo, killed trying to save his classmates from a shooter.
In their classroom.
The 18-year-old was watching “The Princess Bride” in his British literature class when the shooter pulled out a gun, demanding that nobody moved. After Kendrick lunged at the shooter, three other students also tackled the gunman and tried to subdue him while the rest of the class fled the room.
Kendrick was an only child, but his friends, including the members of the school’s robotics team, were like his siblings, his father said. They would host holiday gift exchanges at his home, shared his toys as a child and would pay for a friend’s movie tickets if someone didn’t have money.
“Be selfless, that’s what my son was, and it got him killed, but he saved others,” Castillo said.
In the years 2002 and 2003, I traveled the United States, alone, mostly by car, to try and better understand this attachment to firearms, incomprehensible to millions of others — whether Americans or those living outside the country.
I did three sessions of handgun training, and have fired everything from a .22 rifle to an AR-15, a Glock 9mm (standard police issue) to a .357 Magnum.
I don’t own one or want to.
But, unlikely as a Canadian, I’m now considered one of the experts on the subject of Americans and guns.
A few reasons why getting rid of guns is so incredibly difficult:
— Sentimental and emotional reasons. A gun is often handed down as a family heirloom, generation through generation, as revered as a set of delicate china or a favorite armchair. A father’s service weapon, a great-grandfather’s hunting rifle.
–— Hatred and fear of government. This is intensely and unchangingly American in a nation founded on the hatred and fear of centralized authority. I’ve “debated” on BBC a man absolutely convinced the government is likely to burst into his home one day and grab all his guns.
— Self-defense. Linked to fear and hatred of government, the belief (true in some communities) that law enforcement simply won’t be there, or quickly enough, to save your life from an attack.
— Autonomy and independence. Deeply American is the value that it’s all up to you to take care of everything.
— Regional differences.For every urbanite who disdains the very idea of touching a gun, let alone owning one, there are many Americans who love to hunt, whether for sport or for food to feed their families.
— The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. If it didn’t exist, the entire debate could change overnight: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” An analysis, here.
I spoke to 104 Americans from 29 states, from teens to seniors, and asked each one of them how a gun has affected their lives. Some love them, some fear them.
I lay for long lazy hours alone on this beach in July 2017 in Croatia. Heaven!
By Caitlin Kelly
It’s all sort of sad, really.
In this recent New York Times story — putatively touting the benefits of doing absolutely nothing, aka niksen — the whole reason for doing nothing is…to be more productive:
More practically, the idea of niksen is to take conscious, considered time and energy to do activities like gazing out of a window or sitting motionless. The less-enlightened might call such activities “lazy” or “wasteful.” Again: nonsense.
We at Smarter Living have long been fans of taking regular breaks throughout the day, as study after study shows that feeling drowsy, exhausted or otherwise mentally depleted during the workday drastically hinders performance and productivity.
In other words: Whether at home or at work, permission granted to spend the afternoon just hanging out.
Insert my very loud scream right here.
I did something unthinkable to the old me today.
I skipped the second jam-packed day at an annual writers’ conference: missing appointments and new potential clients, not seeing old friends and basically wasting the money I paid for all of it.
Instead, feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, I stayed home, alone and quiet.
I didn’t do this to become more productive!
I did it because I was tired.
I really needed to rest.
I did this because my body told me to sleep 9.5 hours last night, which I gratefully did.
I did it because I cried to a friend in a NYC tea room, worn out with anxiety.
We live in a time when millions of us are being forced into economic precarity — aka the “gig economy”, a phrase I loathe. Because this kind of work is always somewhat unpredictable (I lost my two anchor clients overnight), and can be poorly paid, one is very reluctant to turn away income, to slow down, to just….be still.
Which makes it even more important to just do that.
And plenty of it, dammit!
Do you find it hard to slow down, unplug, unwind and just rest?
I generally avoid wading into political issues here — we get enough of that elsewhere! — but this is a subject I care a lot about, the skyrocketing costs of American university/college education. In an elbows-out nation addicted to capitalism, being hampered in any meaningful way from being able to compete effectively for well-paid work is a huge problem.
Many colleges now charge $60,000 (!) a year, to a wealthy family mere pocket change — and for many others, an unfathomable sum to assume. That’s assuming only undergrad, not graduate school or further professional training.
I taught in 2014-2015 at Pratt Institute, a private college in Brooklyn, to students who had decided that paying $60,000 a year to study writing was a wise investment.
I recently read the comments of an entry-level newspaper reporter — yes, a “real job” — paying $14/hour.
Yes, there are state schools.
Yes, you can spend the first two years at a community college and save a lot of money and transfer for the name on your diploma.
It shocks me deeply — in a nation that fetishizes college (they never call it university) as the golden key to prosperity –– that student debt is the only form of indebtedness you can’t discharge by declaring bankruptcy.
I know people in their 40s and beyond (!) who still owe a significant sum on loans they took out decades earlier.
Higher education opened a million doors for me. It’s how the daughter of a janitor in a small town in Oklahoma got to become a teacher, a law school professor, a U.S. Senator, and eventually, a candidate for President of the United States.
Today, it’s virtually impossible for a young person to find that kind of opportunity. As states have invested less per-student at community colleges and public four-year colleges, the schools themselves have raised tuition and fees to make up the gap. And rather than stepping in to hold states accountable, or to pick up more of the tab and keep costs reasonable, the federal government went with a third option: pushing families that can’t afford to pay the outrageous costs of higher education towards taking out loans.
The result is a huge student loan debt burden that’s crushing millions of families and acting as an anchor on our economy. It’s reducing home ownership rates. It’s leading fewer people to start businesses. It’s forcing students to drop out of school before getting a degree. It’s a problem for all of us.
I first saw this piece posted on Twitter — where, not surprisingly, it had gathered 17,741 re-tweets and 66,877 likes.
I paid $660 a year in the mid 1970s to attend University of Toronto, Canada’s top school. Today, resident tuition for and arts & sciences undergraduate is about $5,000.
That four-year degree gave me the self-confidence and skills to compete effectively against the most expensively groomed and educated writers in New York, the publishing capital.
But if I had graduated burdened by decades of debt, my life — and my career — would have looked very different. Jose, my husband, had all four years at New Mexico State paid for because his father was a Baptist minister in Santa Fe. He, too, rocketed out of school with a degree, a ton of ambition and the freedom to take chances and learn needed professional skills wherever he best could.
We were really lucky.
Success should not be predicated on luck.
Are you — or your kids — saddled with American college debt?
As some of you know, the Pulitzer Prizes were announced earlier this week from Columbia University in New York, where they are judged in two separate rounds, by peers in each category.
Named for their benefactor, Joseph Pulitzer (pronounced Puh-lits-ser), an amazing man born to a wealthy family in Hungary, who made his way to St. Louis, Missouri — and by 25 was publisher of a newspaper there. His later life was one of physical misery (despite huge professional success), blind and with terrible hearing problems.
Starting in 1912, the Pulitzer Prize, awarded for excellence in journalism, books, theater and other categories, began to be awarded.
This year — for the first time — the judging process (the first round) was photographed for posterity by another Pulitzer winner, my husband, Jose R. Lopez. He won one, in 2002, for the team photo editing of pictures of 9/11 by The New York Times.
The reason this was possible was thanks to a professional friendship of many years between Jose and Dana Canedy, former Times-woman who now runs the Pulitzers. Jose proposed the idea and she, and the board, agreed.
I’m impossibly proud of Jose’s ambition and skill, at an age when most of our industry competitors are half our age.
It’s also a time when even the President of the U.S. routinely sneers at journalists and his red-hatted supporters attack us physically for daring to exist, making it essential we all remember why journalism matters and continue to celebrate the best of it.
There’s no question that women face unique risks when traveling solo, experts say.
“We have evidence that shows that women face risks that men don’t face in public spaces, at home, wherever they may be,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, an organization that promotes female equality. Increasingly, “wherever they may be” includes alone in foreign countries.
I’ve traveled alone, most recently in the fall of 2018, driving alone for hours through upstate New York on my way to Canada. For many hours, I was out of cellphone range (although comforted by a system in our car that tracks it and had a way to communicate) and far from ready access to police or a hospital.
I drove only in daylight, as is my habit when going solo, whenever possible.
Was I scared? No.
I’ve also traveled alone in rural Sicily, Istanbul, rural Portugal, Thailand, Mexico and other places where bad things can happen and where “decent” women are generally accompanied by one of three people — their mother/father, their husband or their child(ren) and thus left unhassled.
Yet the worst things that have happened to me have always happened at home — in Toronto, Montreal and suburban small-town New York.
All were robberies, none assault or worse.
Also alone, albeit in my hometown, a place filled with friends
I plan to spend some time alone again this summer, albeit in the cities of a Western European country, more worried about an act of terrorism now than personal attack.
I really love being outdoors and wish I could just go camping alone, but I don’t. I hate that I’m afraid of others, but I think it’s prudent. Last time I did it was about four years ago in a crowded campground at the Grand Canyon.
My mother traveled solo for years, an attractive woman in places where women don’t really go out alone, and was fine. She also taught me how put a chair beneath the door handle of my hotel room to prevent someone opening it and to dress modestly and remain hyper-aware of my surroundings and culture.
I’ve only gotten drunk once while traveling alone (in San Francisco, a few blocks from my hotel) and I don’t take drugs nor dress provocatively. I don’t walk around wearing headphones or staring into a phone or wearing expensive jewelry.
I try to be extremely aware of local customs and dress and behave accordingly.
I think it’s one of the best things a woman can do — to travel alone and know how to trust her instincts. It has, so far, given me tremendous self-confidence and brought me new friendships.
Venice — alone, July 2017
But one of the challenges of solo female travel is knowing that we’re often being closely observed and — yes — sometimes considered vulnerable prey by the wicked. That’s frightening and I know of no very practical solution for it.
Here’s part of a wise comment (722 of them!) on the Times story by a woman in Montana:
solo travel teaches intense situational awareness, reliance on gut instincts, and a willingness to run rather than trying not to offend, as women often do to our detriment.
Been standing on my own two feet for a long, long time
By Caitlin Kelly
I read this story and wanted to weep….at how crazy this is:
Bribing SAT proctors. Fabricating students’ athletic credentials. Paying off college officials. The actions that some wealthy [American] parents were charged with Tuesday — to secure their children a spot at elite colleges — are illegal and scandalous. But they’re part of a broader pattern, albeit on the extreme end of the continuum: parents’ willingness to do anything it takes to help their grown children succeed.
As college has become more competitive and young adults’ economic prospects less assured, parents have begun spending much more time and money on their children — including well after they turn 18. Modern parenting typically remains hands-on, and gets more expensive, when children become young adults, according to a new survey by Morning Consult for The New York Times.
A significant share of parents, across income levels, say they’re involved in their adult children’s daily lives. That includes making doctor’s appointments, reminding them of school and other deadlines, and offering advice on romantic life, found the survey, which was of a nationally representative sample of 1,508 people ages 18 to 28 and 1,136 parents of people that age. More than half of parents give their adult children some form of monthly financial assistance.
I often wonder how I might have turned out if this sort of behavior was normal in my life.
Here’s my college experience:
— Lived at home in Toronto with father and his girlfriend, 13 years my senior, for my freshman year. No additional responsibilities, got terrific grades.
— In November of sophomore year, father announces I need to move out and find a place to live as they are selling the house to live on a boat in the Mediterranean. This is many decades before email or cellphones.
— I get $350 a month from my grandmother to live on. This pays my rent on a studio apartment ($160/month, terrible neighborhood), tuition ($660/year), food, phone and answering service, books. Everything, basically. The monthly income from my maternal grandmother wasn’t enough so I started freelancing at the age of 19 to supplement it.
— My mother was traveling the world alone for years, also far far away. I saw her maybe once a year when she flew me to wherever she was. Sort of fun, mostly weird.
— During my university years, I lived alone, was attacked in my apartment while taking a bath, moved, moved again, suffered some health issues, started writing for national magazines. And attended and graduated from the most demanding and least nurturing (53,000 students) school in Canada.
— In those three years, I had no relatives to check in on me. Just friends. That established a lifelong pattern for me; friends as family.
So, you know, this kind of intense parenting strikes me as completely nuts.
The only reason I was able to get people twice my age to give me ongoing well-paid assignments was being responsible, meeting deadlines, delivering excellence. Was I mature enough to handle all this alone? Well, I had to be. I had no choice.
The New York Times quotes a survey finding that 74 percent of American parents are making medical appointments for their college-age children, the same percentage reminding them not to miss deadlines for tests and classwork.
I mostly loved my independence in those years. I dated all the wrong boys, made some great friendships, wrote a lot for our weekly student newspaper, led a student exchange with UNC-Chapel Hill that was life-changingly great. Jump-started my career.