Recovery for Dummies?

by Sara Clemence on August 13, 2009 in Culture

money-fallingSo the fed says the recession may be coming to a close, but how will you really know when it’s over? Blogger Thomas McDermott entertainingly suggests that it’s when our IRAs go back to pre-bust levels and Vladimir Putin stops referring to the U.S. as “Iceland with no ice.” He also gives props (McDermott, not Putin) to Recessionwire: You’ll know it’s over when we change our name.

Recession Dictionary Entry 150/n. A person with more than one profession, such as a banker-slash-entrepreneur, or an accountant-slash-yoga instructor.

This term (perhaps first coined by Marci Alboher in her book One Person/Multiple Careers — notice the slash) reflects a major shift in thinking about work: People no longer expect to have just one career. In the recession in particular, we see “slash career” as a product of a transition or reinvention (e.g. you plan to ditch the banker or accountant altogether); maybe you’re a professional polymath who is juggling different interests talents. Or maybe the downturn has forced you to cobble together multiple sources of income, as Tina Brown described with “gig economy.” The recession has accelerated the trend.

We use slasher to describe people like some of our Lemonade Makers, including James Young, who became a real estate broker-slash-digital-entrepreneur when his business slowed dramatically last year. And it’s quickly catching on.

Nota bene: Not to be confused with actress-slash-model.

Example: What do you do for a living? I’m a slasher in dance and medicine…

vinyl disk playerOver the past year, the recession has touched nearly every aspect of our lives—from the way we travel, to the way we dress, and even the things we eat—which is why it should come as no surprise that the economic downturn has impacted the way we listen to music, too. After all, great depressions have been known to spark cultural revolutions before.

So will this time be any different, and how exactly has the music industry shifted since this current recession began?

Country musicians and rap stars are changing their tune. While pop singers have pretty much ignored the recession so far, country stars have taken the downturn head on, tapping into the angst of the unemployed with songs like “Shuttin’ Detroit Down,” “Red White and Pink Slip Blues,” and “Prayer of a Common Man.” Rap stars have jumped on the bandwagon as well, coming out with albums that reflect the times, like Young Jeezy’s “The Recession,” and announcing the end of bling…

Recession Dictionary Entry 150n./ Just when we wondered whether we might be running out of new downturn words, we got a Tweet from adventurous polymath Christina Davidson: “They miss what all my laid off journo friends R doing now. We call ‘lazylancing’ a way to justify travel.”

Lazylancing is when you subsidize your travel with freelance work, as Davidson did last year after being laid off from her job. “I decided to take a couple of months and go backpacking through Turkey and Syria,” she says. A story she wrote for The Atlantic ended up covering a good part of her expenses for the three months. “You may be hard pressed to get anyone to admit to this,” she says—writers want you to think they’re working hard. At the same time, more people may be lazylancing; they might as well. “There are so few regular jobs out there, and it’s a lot cheaper in the third world…


Seems like half the planet is filming the recession—or trying to. Next month, our friends over at The Recess Ends will unveil the documentary they spent four months on the road shooting. Back in May, NBC pulled its casting notice for what seemed like a downturn-themed Apprentice. We’re not sure what happened to Fox’s controversial “Someone’s Gotta Go” series.

Feel like you missed your shot at being a recession celebrity? There are more opportunities out there…

nytimes-american-time-use-chart-150Yesterday, The New York Times published a very cool interactive graph (throwbacks like me might have seen the static version in the business section) that maps out how people spend their hours throughout the day. What’s so recessiony about that? Based on the 2008 American Time Use Survey, it lets you see in vivid color what people with jobs and without jobs are doing throughout the day, whether it’s eating, watching television, socializing or talking on the phone.

Some trends are obvious, like: unemployed people are working a lot less. No shit. On the other hand, they are also shopping more. (Huh?) And among the upsides of unemployment…

new-orleans-150What an amazing town. The people… The music… The energy… Ahh, it’s so nice and personable, and fun! I love the character in the buildings, too.

I was surprised to get so many stories in New Orleans, especially because so many people told me the city was doing well now. Upon entering the town, I spoke to a dark-skinned man who explained that a lot of the jobs that resulted in stimulus funding went to people who moved to New Orleans to fill those positions. I got the impression he was referring to light-skinned people.

This morning, I met a man from Detroit named Bernard, who lost his job manufacturing nuts and bolts for the auto industry. He moved to New Orleans to look for work, but he hasn’t had any luck. Although he maintained a professional outlook and wore respectable clothing, he explained that he is homeless for the first time. He’s been on the streets for about a month, and it’s extremely difficult, he said…

fat-stomachIf you’ve noticed more people packing on the pounds as of late, it isn’t your imagination. As the number of unemployed workers has grown over the past year, so has the average American’s waistline, a phenomenon nutritionists are calling “recession obesity.”

Of course this news should hardly come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention at the grocery store checkout line. Sales of junk foods like doughnuts and chips have skyrocketed, while fewer cost-conscious customers are buying organic fruits and veggies at the same rate they were in years past.

For an even better indicator of where our waistlines are heading, the best place to look may end up being the grocery store shelves.

What We’re Consuming
Craft Beers
Although overall beer sales have fallen 1.6 percent this year, business for craft brewers—the kind who make fewer than 60 barrels of beer a year—has actually increased, with sales growing by 6 percent…

“When you look at it, it doesn’t seem all that big,” says a snappy new video put out by our friends at “But it’s a huge number.”

One Trillion Dollars Visualized is meant to wow us with examples of what you could buy with that vast sum. Like, with $1 trillion, you could buy a $3 latte every day for the next 900 million years.

Thing is, when you look at it, it really doesn’t seem all that big…

Downturn Designers

by Sara Clemence on July 27, 2009 in Culture

wrapdress-1501This economic rough patch has not been kind to clothing. It’s become the norm for retailers to offer 70 percent off. Fashion brands from Christian Lacroix to Hartmarx to Kira Plastinina have filed for bankruptcy. (Though it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that a line by a 16-year-old Russian heiress would last less than a year.) Haute couture houses are struggling to survive.

Yet in last week’s New York Times, designer Diane von Furstenberg, who also heads the Council of Fashion Designers of America, advised “confidence.”

“Everyone else is insecure,” she said. “If you start to take a little bit of everyone else’s insecurity—forget it.” (And btw, you were all spending too much during the boom.)

Sure, DVF has an uber-successful fashion company and a billionaire husband. But does she also have a point? Von Furstenberg debuted her namesake brand in 1973, smack in the middle of a major recession. In fact, some of the most popular and respected designers and innovative materials have emerged in downturns—just further evidence that creativity can flourish in recession, and success can take root in hard times…