Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Brief Tale of Two Immigrants

Today I happened to read two unrelated news articles about two very different 31-year old males.

The first article was about Fabrice Tourre. Tourre, currently based in London, was born into an upper-class family in France. He attended elite schools in Europe and the US, and ultimately went on to a career in investment banking. The epitome of smug and sleazy, Tourre has given himself the nickname "Fabulous Fabrice" (or "Fab Fab" for short). In his work with Goldman Sachs, Tourre is alleged to have held a primary role in creating a collatoralized debt obligation investment deal that would royally screw investors while allowing select insiders to profit tremendously. Tourre was paid millions for partaking in this role. He's now on trial for accusations of fraud.

The second article was about Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax. Tale-Yax, who was recently living on the streets of Queens, was born into a working-class family in Guatemala. Regarded as a good person by those who knew him, Tale-Yax came to the US illegally in order to try to work in carpentry as a day laborer to scrape together some money so that his family could live a better life in their home country. This morning, however, his life sadly and violently came to an end as he tried to help a woman, a total stranger, who was being attacked by a man on the street in Jamaica, Queens. Tale-Yax was stabbed repeatedly and left to die on the sidewalk, ignored by dozens of passersby as he bled to death over the course of a little over an hour.

What do these unrelated articles about unrelated 31-year old men have in common? They both have led me to particularly misanthropic feelings and thoughts for the week. These two articles bring out lots of things that infuriate me... social class divides (upper-class children are groomed for "success" from the start and most poor or working class kids, even if they are very smart, have extremely limited opportunities to achieve a whole lot in life), dishonesty in business (Wall Street seems to think it's entirely acceptable to screw over as many people as you can, as long as you do not get caught), US immigration policy (making it next to impossible for hardworking immigrants from Central and South America to legally come to the US to do the grunt work that most US citizens have no interest in doing), and indifference to pain and suffering (walking by a man who is on the sidewalk bleeding to death and doing nothing to help him... not even a call to 9-1-1), just to name a few.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Third World Country Experience Right in the Good Old USA

Originally uploaded by robert.matelski
Well, I always thought I would need to renew my passport to visit a third world country... turns out all I needed was a flight from SFO to Cleveland!

On my recent trip to Cleveland, I found that so much of the city has become what appears quite similar to a third world country --- so much abandonment and despair around. It's pretty depressing. Entire neighborhoods have become ghost towns, with only a third of the houses remaining occupied in many parts of town. The other two thirds are either vacant and trashed/vandalized, or have simply been torn down, most likely by the city's own public demolition team.

In the St. Clair Superior neighborhood, garbage, refuse and forgotten pieces of furniture are strewn about everywhere. Anything that could be stolen already is gone, and anything that could be vandalized is pretty much trashed. This image shows that there are at least a few property owners who are trying to protect what little they still have -- the sign on this house on East 69th Street reads "THIS HOUSE HAS BEEN STRIPPED OF COPPER & REPLACED WITH DOGS!! THEY CAN MAKE IT TO THE FENCE IN 3 SEC. CAN YOU?" and appears to indicate that thieves and vandals have gone through this house to steal the copper pipes to sell for scrap. In this kind of place, the only way to keep people from coming in to steal or vandalize some more is by brute force. Neither life nor property are safe here, and unfortunately, it does not look like there is improvement in store anytime soon.

The ongoing decay of the rust belt is a huge sign that the country is heading down a path that is not optimal. While it might not be evident in the Bay Area, there are many parts of the USA that are rapidly returning to "developing nation" status, in terms of the surroundings and in terms of the demographics. The dense, 100+ year-old urban fabric of cities like Cleveland, Buffalo, and Detroit is quickly becoming shredded and set ablaze, tossed aside and forgotten. Does anyone care, or are we going to just sit back and let it continue?


Sunday, December 2, 2007

LED Lights and Cable Cars -- A Sunday Afternoon in San Francisco

Christmas Tree
Originally uploaded by robert.matelski

So I spent this afternoon in San Francisco, which should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows that I spend the vast majority of my time in San Francisco (mainly because that is where I live). Today, however, was a little different than most Sundays. Better? Maybe. More touristy? Heck yes.

MH and I met at Union Square this afternoon to do some shopping and ride the Cable Cars (yes, MH lives here too... we just felt like riding the Cable Cars today, ok?).

Shopping was alright, but the highlight of my afternoon was the Union Square Christmas Tree. This year, the tree is illuminated with LED lights instead of incandescent lights (normal Christmas lights). Who cares, right? Well, Mother Earth does! LED lights use about 90% less energy than normal incandescent lights, and they're available in a huge range of colors and styles, just like traditional Christmas lights. So, save the environment AND money on your power bill by using LED lights for your holiday decorating this year. LED holiday lights are available at most retailers that sell Christmas lights -- it will probably be worth the expense of replacing the ones you have in the long run.

Following our shopping and Union Square excursion, we took the Cable Car, which is perhaps the least efficient public transportation system on Earth, to the top of Nob Hill. As it was approaching, I took a picture of the Cable Car even (Yeah, all the locals do that). In typical fashion, the Cable Cars are all done up for the holidays, but it appears that they have been donned with normal incandescent lights! Oh well... I guess if you're going to be inefficient, you might as well go all out.