First and foremost, R.I.P. Christopher Hitchens, one of my favorite authors. One thing all can agree on, when it comes to Hitchens is that he made his own choices in life. A heavy drinker, chain smoker and relentless pursuer of the truth, he died just like he lived. On his own terms. Just far too soon. In many ways he was a role model, in many others not so much so. Of course the same could be said about most of us. We have our good points and our bad. At then end life breaks out the scales and sees which side outweighed the other. Hitchens broke into the newspaper, and later book, industry the old fashioned way. He simply wrote the pants off of his contemporaries. Of course, times have changed. Now he’d probably have to blog for a few years, see how his hit count stacked up against others, if he could get a sponsor or two and then, and only then, could he be considered for a job. Simply put the world has become crowded with people who claim to have talent in various fields. If you want the latest music just log onto You Tube and you can see thousands of talentless hacks demanding your attention. If you want literature, just slap a genre into Google and prepare to scour millions of blogs all claiming to be the best thing to happen to literature since Chaucer. Not that 99.999% of them will have the slightest clue who Chaucer was, but that’s not the point. They have a blog and they’re not afraid to use it. Over the last 25 years or so the filters have been removed. People no longer have to be vetted by their peers to reach the public eye. In some cases that has been a good thing. Voices that would have been lost to us are now heard. But those are the exceptions, not the rule.
Still, like any good market, the Internet seems to be sorting itself out. i-Tunes, which used to allow any idiot with an MP3 to get a slot now requires that said idiot have distribution, and an aggregator if they don’t have a label. It still allows a lot to get through but they are getting a firmer handle on things. Authors can still self publish, it’s even easier these days thanks to Kindle, but getting a market for your book – beyond friends and family – requires a capital investment large enough to guarantee shelf space at book stores and advertising on line. Both these methods allow the hobbyist to release their stuff for their “fans” but winnow the serious contenders down dramatically before the public is forced to try and choose.
In other words, you need a way to separate yourself from the crowd. Wedding planners in China have caused a minor stir, and the arrest of a local millionaire, for offering strippers for wedding receptions.
They come with the band.
A Chinese man has been arrested after hiring two strippers for his son’s wedding reception, which didn’t sit well with fellow villagers.
Zhang Cheng from Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, had originally planned to hire a band for his son’s special day, before changing his mind. Why? Well, according to the Global Times, Cheng was informed that the strippers would have “special features”.
The newspaper added: “After watching the show, Zhang decided it would be appropriate for his son’s wedding and requested two strippers for the event.
“Barely five minutes had passed before hundreds of villagers in the conservative community were swarming to the venue, trying to catch a glimpse.”
While I’m not entirely sure why the villagers would have reported the incident if they were trying to “catch a glimpse”, I can report that Cheng was arrested the following day, although the charge remains unclear.
According to Financial Times blogger Ranjit Lall, “Jiangsu has been China’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment for the last four years.” I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to wonder what all the money’s being spent on.
Let’s see, middle aged white guys with lots of money whose wives are at home …. gosh, who would have believed a sex industry would have blossomed in that moral environment? And the Chinese are not exactly the cutting edge provocateurs of woman’s rights in the first place.
I’m sure the ladies are using the money they earn to go to college. And become politicians.
Just like Maria Kozhevnikova (which should be spelled Maria Kozhevnikoba if you want to pronounce it right), who has become a ranking member of the Russian government less than two years after she took off all her clothes for Playboy.
A Playboy playmate has been elected as one of Vladimir Putin’s MPs in the Russian parliament, giving him some cheer after all the recent protests against election fraud by his party.
Maria Kozhevnikova, 27, an actress, posed nude for the Russian edition of the magazine two years ago soon after breaking up from a boyfriend.
She featured on the cover and seven revealing pages were devoted to her inside the magazine.
‘Playboy magazine invites readers to meet Maria and get to know her better,’ boasted the title.
The daughter of a Soviet ice hockey player, Alexander Kozhevnikov, who was twice an Olympic champion, Maria was a lead singer in Russian group called Love Stories before taking on film roles.
She is now best known as a star in Univers, a TV sitcom about student life.
Like former spy and glamour icon Anna Chapman, she was a member of the Young Guard of Putin’s political party United Russia, which is currently facing allegations of vote-rigging after this month winning a narrow overall majority in parliament.
Putin says killing of Gaddafi was repulsive as he accuses opponents of working with West to destabilise Russia
‘For me this is an absolutely big event in my life,’ she said after being confirmed as the new MP for ice-clad Tomsk in Siberia.
‘I’m just an ordinary citizen of the Russian Federation. With the problems I face every day, now I’ll be provided a platform where I can speak up the difficulties and offer solutions.’
She insisted: ‘I think now the time has come when the young people’s voice is listened to. The future of our country belongs to young people, and we must also be involved.
‘I faced the problems of not being able to find a job after college, or buy an apartment by myself.’
Despite portraying herself as just like any other Russian woman, whispers in Moscow say her family is close to a Putin ally.
And she showed her loyalty to strongman premier Putin – who is now standing for a return to the Kremlin presidency – by criticising those behind the recent protests against him.
She warned of ‘professional provocateurs’ whose mission was to ‘ignite’ the people.
‘This can lead to a lot of victims among the ordinary people,’ she said.
She made clear she stands for a ‘strong Russia’ under Putin.
The actress-turned-politician originally intended to go into gymnastics, the main career of another United Russia MP Alina Kabaeva, who also posed semi-nude for a Russian magazine.
Kabaeva, 28, who twice won Olympic gold medals in rhythmic gymnastics, has been romantically linked to Putin, though both sides deny a relationship.
But what do you do for a career if you don’t have the physical attributes, or the desire, to be a stripper or nude model? In other words, where do you go if you want to use your brain? According to Deborah Acosta of the Miami Herald, you don’t want to go to Florida. Young people there are re-enacting Exodus to get the heck away from there.
When Christina Caldwell moved back to her native Miami after living out west for six years, she planned to remain. But after two years of dead-end jobs as a bartender and receptionist, she left for California — for good. She now makes more than $100,000 a year at a post-production company in Venice Beach.
“I would never, ever move back to Miami,” she says.
Christina is not alone: South Florida is losing young people in droves, according to recent national and local studies. The area’s high unemployment rate, lack of innovative jobs and huge income gaps have created a perfect storm that many young people are unwilling to wait out.
One study by the Brookings Institute ranks South Florida as fifth among the top five metro areas losing residents in the 25-34 year-old demographic group along with New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The study, released in October, looked at six years’ worth of data, from 2005-2010, from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to rank 51 U.S. metropolitan areas by annual average net migration.
The Miami Herald asked members of this group why so many opted to leave, using an online database of sources who are part of the Public Insight Network .
“There weren’t that many opportunities here,” said Victor Thompson, 33.
Thompson, who grew up in Miami-Dade, went to Florida International University and started his tech career in South Florida at a local Yahoo.com office in Coral Gables.
When he outgrew the local tech industry, he took a position with Sony as lead producer for Crackle Movies en Español, a move that required relocation to California. He’s going in January with his wife and newborn daughter, although somewhat reluctantly.
“It’s tough to realize that you have to leave your home to stay in your job,” he said.
At 10 percent, South Florida’s unemployment rate is much higher than the country’s 8.6 percent, making it more difficult for first-time job seekers to penetrate the local job market.
The area also has one of the smallest shares of tech jobs, lagging most other competing metro areas, according to a study commissioned by Miami-Dade’s economic development agency, the Beacon Council. The council’s study, released earlier this month, also shows that South Florida trails behind in innovation and young professionals.
“I can’t think of one friend in South Florida who has a successful career,” said Lauren Hord, 31, who moved back to Seattle in August after trying to settle in her native South Florida numerous times.
This time, she says, she’s not coming back.
“All of my high school friends with successful careers are in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle,” said Hord, who attended Pine Crest, a Broward private school with a stellar reputation.
The Beacon Council study supports Hord’s conclusion.
Despite South Florida’s high concentration of college students, the region has fewer young professionals compared to competing metro areas nationwide. The young professionals who remain have a lower educational attainment than those in most other competing metros. For instance, 27.8 percent of South Florida’s residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 37.4 percent in Seattle’s metro area, according to the Beacon Council study.
In other words, not only is South Florida losing its educated young professionals, it may be losing the best and the brightest.
“People that I’ve worked with, that are geniuses, are gone,’’ said Thompson, who is gearing up for his relocation to Los Angeles. “That’s why I call it a brain drain — because smart people are leaving.”
Miami-Dade also finished last in its share of college-educated residents when compared with 15 similar metro areas, according to the Beacon Council-commissioned study.
Seattle, Denver, Houston, Dallas and Austin are the top five metro areas gaining residents in the 25-34 year-old demographic, in contrast to South Florida.
Those top cities have the right combination of “the three T’s,” says Richard Florida, an American urban studies theorist and Professor at the Rotman School of Management in the University of Toronto. He defines those as talent, tolerance and technology — qualities, he says, that are imperative in attracting the kind of people that will help build a better economy.
“Miami does very well on diversity, amenity and lifestyle, but it doesn’t have the tech economy or business base to create the kind of job activity that will draw or retain young people,” said Florida, who resides in Miami Beach half the year.
Not all the young professionals who move out of Miami, however, are finding success.
Lke most of the young migrants the Herald spoke to, Alex Montalvo, 33, had countless other reasons for leaving Miami for Seattle two months ago. Chief among them: sense of community.
“South Florida doesn’t offer much for the middle class. The nightlife, the eating options, the maneuverability, all favor the wealthy,” Montalvo said in response to a query from the Herald. “It’s a fun place, but becoming too expensive and with a lack of a vibrant middle class.”
But he’s having difficulty finding a suitable position.
In Miami, where he worked for seven years, he helped develop community environmental education programs for the City of Miami; at various times, he was interim executive director and program director.
Now he’s applying for less-senior positions at nonprofit organizations in Seattle. But he’s not getting any callbacks.
“I feel like Miami in some ways didn’t prepare me enough for a workplace outside of Miami,” he said. “Maybe I didn’t have the right professional development. I’m asking myself those questions now.”
South Florida had the nation’s second-highest rate of income inequality from 2005-2009, according to another report issued in October by the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. This income chasm is among the reasons Liana Minassian, 25, is leaving for Los Angeles on Jan. 14.
After graduating from the University of Miami, she had hoped to settle in Coral Gables but is finding it hard to fit in.
“The majority of my friends have left,” said Minassian, who grew up in Pembroke Pines, and now works as a secretary at the UM Humanities Center. “It kind of confirms what I already think: that no one really wants to stay here.”
Despite the statistics, Richard Florida said things are looking up.
South Florida is “in the early stages of transitioning from a tourism to a quality of life city,” he said. It was becoming a place in which people want to live, he added.
The housing market implosion is helping, he says. Because of the depressed housing market, more young people and families — and fewer wealthy snowbirds — are moving into the downtown areas.
“That creates an active vibrant environment that is likely to serve the city and region well in the future,” he said.
Florida also pointed to the budding art communities in Miami’s Wynwood and downtown areas as a step in the right direction, but he thinks allowing proposed casinos in these areas would undo a lot of the progress.
“The casino is a step backward from where a great, vibrant, locally rooted, diverse community should be going,” he said.
Minassian is pleased with the urban growth in the Wynwood and downtown neighborhoods but says they aren’t yet thriving enough to keep her around.
“I just hope that the people who do like it enough to stay will have a hand in helping to make it so people don’t always leave.”
Having been to South Beach and Miami several times over the past few years I can sum it up thusly. In South Beach there is a boutique that sells the latest fashions at prices that would stun you. Three blocks away, where the poor people live, you can get last years fashions at K-Mart prices. Why? Because there is no middle class to pick up the slack. There are no TJ Max’s or anything like that. You either have the latest and most expensive or you got crap.
By the way, there are some great deals there as long as you don’t wear the stuff in Miami where they’ll make fun of you.
Then again, as regular readers know, Florida is where the gene pool went to die.
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Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG AM 1280, every Thursday morning around 9:10!