November 10, 2008

Dispute shakes up One World cafe

A Salt Lake restaurant that was based on the altruistic model that diners pay what they can afford has adopted a standard business model after a labor dispute. The restaurant's chef/manager was fired and its employees walked off the job last month.

That doesn't mean that One World Everybody Eats is closing or abandoning its original mission, founder and owner Denise Cerreta said Friday. The cafe at 300 East and South Temple and the nonprofit agency behind it have had to impose changes to its day-to-day kitchen operation as well as rectify some legal unknowns regarding its tax-exempt status, she said.

During a telephone press conference that One World called in response to an article in the current issue of the alternative newspaper City Weekly, Cerreta said that she and the two fellow governing board members were taking a firmer hand, particularly in reducing overhead in the wake of recent economic troubles that were driving up food costs as well as the size of its clientele, but driving down revenue.

"We started as a mom-and-pop place," Cerreta said. "But as we've grown more popular, my lack of expertise for running a kitchen and a business was becoming more pronounced. We realized we needed a lot more structure and accountability, and we started moving that direction about a year ago."

Employees were generally resistant to the idea, believing that imposing an establishment business model was a fundamentally wrong approach to running a restaurant that has gained both local success and national attention by letting customers pick the size of their meal portions and trusting them to pay what they believe the food is worth.

According to employees cited in City Weekly, Cerreta's taking control started to violate the basic trust the restaurant is built on. When chef and manager Bo Dean was fired for what the staff believed were unjustified or at least vague reasons, employees grew increasingly upset and walked out Oct. 16.

Governing board member Don Merrill said the issues weren't about trust but about inventory control, employee hours "and a variety of costs that were unexplainable."

The per-plate average that had been steady at $10 to $12 the past several months had fallen to around $7 per meal. At the same time, the payroll had reached what Cerreta called an "outrageous" $20,000 a month. "We had to find out at the ground level what was going on," Merrill said.

It wasn't the board "just deciding we had bad employees," Cerreta said, noting that she wishes them well, even if, as some have claimed, they will start their own restaurant. "We will help them any way we can. That's what we're about."

The change hasn't been easy but was necessary, she added, noting that it was induced in part by the board's desire to resolve the collective inexperience of how to do it. "The lack of adopting an initial business model is one of our failings."

Someone who has the business model down is Steve Lyman, the restaurateur behind Gastronomy, the Bambara and others. He also regularly entertains One World diners, playing background classical guitar. Lyman has been helping Cerreta free of charge to recast the structure of daily operations, including the hiring of a new chef who starts today.

Merrill said the basic idea of "helping people fill their stomachs and their spirits" will be maintained. "There is an arc to altruistic endeavors like this. At first, it's volunteers, everybody's family and the rules are loose. If you start to get successful — and this one is modeled all over the country — it has to take on a professional appeal. It's been difficult and painful, but people just felt it was moving away from meeting those new expectations."


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The Borowitz Report

Comedian Andy Borowitz graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, where he was president of the humor magazine the Harvard Lampoon, which you would never guess if you’ve ever seen Square Pegs, that horrifying 1980’s television series where he got his start as a screenwriter.

Borowitz went on to represent black people as actual people in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the show he created and for which he was given an award by the NAACP. Now he writes satirical news stories on his website, the Borowitz Report, which is a lot like The Onion, except in single serving doses.

Recently Borowitz posted a faux news story called “Palin Hoping to be Named Ambassador to Africa,” in which he said:
Sarah Palin of Alaska has reached out to President-elect Obama's transition team to indicate her interest in being named "ambassador to the nation of Africa," the governor confirmed today.

Gov. Palin said that although she had planned to continue in her position in Juneau, she was willing to leave the governorship "because Africa is just such a darned important country."

"I have always been very, very interested in the nation of Africa, partly because of it being located where it is," she said. "If you are standing in Africa and you look real close, you can see South Africa."

She added that she had received phone calls encouraging her to vie for the post, including one from French president Nicholas Sarkozy.
The Borowitz Report has been syndicated and is printed in newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, the Seattle Times, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He also blogs for the Huffington Post, as half of the American media currently does.


Best poems of T.S. Elliot


When we came home across the hill
No leaves were fallen from the trees;
The gentle fingers of the breeze
Had torn no quivering cobweb down.

The hedgerow bloomed with flowers still,
No withered petals lay beneath;
But the wild roses in your wreath
Were faded, and the leaves were brown.


If space and time, as sages say,
Are things which cannot be,
The fly that lives a single day
Has lived as long as we.
But let us live while yet we may,
While love and life are free,
For time is time, and runs away,
Though sages disagree.

The flowers I sent thee when the dew
Was trembling on the vine,
Were withered ere the wild bee flew
To suck the eglantine.
But let us haste to pluck anew
Nor mourn to see them pine,
And though the flowers of love be few
Yet let them be divine.

Before Morning

While all the East was weaving red with gray,
The flowers at the window turned toward dawn,
Petal on petal, waiting for the day,
Fresh flowers, withered flowers, flowers of dawn.

This morning's flowers and flowers of yesterday
Their fragrance drifts across the room at dawn,
Fragrance of bloom and fragrance of decay,
Fresh flowers, withered flowers, flowers of dawn.

Circe's Palace

Around her fountain which flows
With the voice of men in pain,
Are flowers that no man knows.
Their petals are fanged and red
With hideous streak and stain.
They sprang from the limbs of the dead.--
We shall not come here again.

Panthers rise from their lairs
In the forest which thickens below,
Along the garden stairs
The sluggish python lies;
The peacock's walk, stately and slow
And they look at us with the eyes
Of men whom we knew long ago.

On a Portrait

Among a crowd of tenuous dreams, unknown
To us of restless brain and weary feet,
Forever hurrying, up and down the street,
She stands at evening in the room alone.

Not like a tranquil goddess carved of stone
But evanescent, as if one should meet
A pensive lamia in some wood-retreat,
An immaterial fancy of one's own.

No meditations glad or ominous
Disturb her lips, or move the slender hands;
Her dark eyes keep their secrets hid from us,
Beyond the circle of our thoughts she stands.

The parrot on the bar, a silent spy,
Regards her with a patient curious eye.


The moonflower opens to the moth,
The mist crawls in from sea;
A great white bird, a snowy owl,
Slips from the alder tree.

Whiter the flowers, love, you hold,
Than the white mist on the sea;
Have you no brighter tropic flowers
With scarlet life, for me?


Romeo, grand sérieux, to importune
Guitar and hat in hand, beside the gate
With Juliet, in the usual debate
Of love, beneath a bored but courteous moon;
The conversation failing, strikes some tune
Banal, and out of pity for their fate
Behind the wall I have some servant wait,
Stab, and the lady sinks into a swoon.

Blood looks effective on the moonlit ground--
The hero smiles; in my best mode oblique
Rolls toward the moon a frenzied eye profound,
(No need of "Love forever?"--"Love next week?")
While female readers all in tears are drowned:--
"The perfect climax all true lovers seek!"

Humouresque (After J. Laforgue)

One of my marionettes is dead
Though not yet tired of the game--
But weak in body as in head,
(A jumping-jack has such a frame).

But this deceaséd marionette
I rather liked: a common face,
(The kind of face that we forget)
Pinched in a comic, dull grimace;

Half bullying, half imploring air,
Mouth twisted to the latest tune;
His who-the-devil-are-you stare;
Translated, maybe, to the moon.

With Limbo's other useless things
Haranguing spectres, set him there;
"The snappiest fashion since last spring's,
"The newest style, on Earth, I swear.

"Why don't you people get some class?
(Feebly contemptuous of nose),
"Your damned thin moonlight, worse than gas--
"Now in New York"--and so it goes.

Logic a marionette's, all wrong
Of premises; yet in some star
A hero!--Where would he belong?
But, even at that, what mask bizarre!


Sunday: this satisfied procession
Of definite Sunday faces;
Bonnets, silk hats, and conscious graces
In repetition that displaces
Your mental self-possession
By this unwarranted digression.

Evening, lights, and tea!
Children and cats in the alley;
Dejection unable to rally
Against this dull conspiracy.

And Life, a little bald and gray,
Languid, fastidious, and bland,
Waits, hat and gloves in hand,
Punctilious of tie and suit
(Somewhat impatient of delay)
On the doorstep of the Absolute.


For the hour that is left us Fair Harvard, with thee,
Ere we face the importunate years,
In thy shadow we wait, while thy presence dispels
Our vain hesitations and fears.
And we turn as thy sons ever turn, in the strength
Of the hopes that thy blessings bestow,
From the hopes and ambitions that sprang at thy feet
To the thoughts of the past as we go.

Yet for all of these years that to-morrow has lost
We are still the less able to grieve,
With so much that of Harvard we carry away
In the place of the life that we leave.
And only the years that efface and destroy
Give us also the vision to see
What we owe for the future, the present, and past,
Fair Harvard, to thine and to thee.

The Polls Show That Reaganism Is Not Dead

Barack Obama won the White House by campaigning against an unpopular incumbent in a time of economic anxiety and lingering foreign policy concerns. He offered voters an upbeat message, praised the nation as a land of opportunity, promised tax cuts to just about everyone, and overcame doubts about his experience with a strong performance in the presidential debates.

Does this sound familiar? It should. Mr. Obama followed the approach that worked for Ronald Reagan. His victory confirmed that voters still embrace the guiding beliefs of the Reagan era.

During Reagan's campaign, the nation suffered from high unemployment and high inflation. This time around, data from the Rasmussen Reports Daily Presidential Tracking Poll showed that Mr. Obama took command of the race during the 10 days following the collapse of Lehman Brothers -- when the Wall Street meltdown hit Main Street. Before that event John McCain was leading nationally by three percentage points. Ten days later Mr. Obama was up by five and never relinquished his lead.

Mr. Obama's tax-cutting message played a key role in this period of economic anxiety. Tax cuts are well-received at such times: 55% of voters believe they are good for the economy. Only 19% disagree and see them as bad policy.

Down the campaign homestretch, Mr. Obama's tax-cutting promise became his clearest policy position. Eventually he stole the tax issue from the Republicans. Heading into the election, 31% of voters thought that a President Obama would cut their taxes. Only 11% expected a tax cut from a McCain administration.

The last Democratic candidate to win the tax issue was also the last Democratic president -- Bill Clinton. In fact, the candidate who most credibly promises the lowest level of taxes has won every presidential election in at least the last 40 years.

But while Mr. Obama was promising to cut taxes, the Bush administration took the lead on a $700 billion, taxpayer-backed bailout bill -- with very little marketing finesse. Few Americans supported the bailout, and a majority of voters were more concerned that the government would do too much rather than too little. In terms of getting the economy going again, 58% said that more tax cuts would better stimulate the economy than new government spending.

A Rasmussen survey conducted Oct. 2 found that 59% agreed with the sentiment expressed by Reagan in his first inaugural address: "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Just 28% disagreed with this sentiment. That survey also found that 44% of Obama voters agreed with Reagan's assessment (40% did not). And McCain voters overwhelmingly supported the Gipper.

The real challenge for the new president will be attempting to govern with a message that resonates with most voters but divides his own party. Consider that 43% of voters view it as a positive to describe a candidate as being like Reagan, while just 26% consider it a negative. Being compared to Reagan rates higher among voters than being called "conservative," "moderate," "liberal" or "progressive." Except among Democrats, that is. Fifty-one percent of Democrats view that Reagan comparison as a negative. There's Mr. Obama's dilemma in a nutshell.

Mr. Obama won the White House promising tax cuts, but he will be governing with a Democratic Congress bursting with desire for a more activist government. As he faces this challenge, he might remember the fate of another man who made taxes the central part of his campaign: the first President Bush, whose most memorable campaign line -- "Read my lips, no new taxes" -- was as central to his victory as Mr. Obama's promise to cut taxes for 95% of Americans. George H.W. Bush famously reneged on that promise. Voters rejected his bid for a second term.

Mr. Obama ran like Reagan. Will he be able to govern that way, too?


Jennifer Hudson buries family

Jennifer Hudson welcomed her American Idol competitor Fantasia Barrino to sing at the funeral of her murdered family members this week.

The singer and actress' mother Darnell Donerson, brother Jason Hudson and nephew Julian King were laid to rest at Chicago's Apolistic Church Of God at the start of the week, according to the Chacago Tribune.

All three were murdered last month in Chicago. Barrino performed Your Grace and Mercy at the service, calling the Hudsons "my family". She then walked to the aisle and sang to the bereaved Hudson personally.

Hudson and Barrino competed in the finals of the 2004 series. While Barrino won the contest, Hudson went on to win an Oscar for her role in Dreamgirls alongside Beyonce Knowles.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley both spoke at the service.

According to the Associated Press, streets were shut down by police, and a plastic covering was used over a tall gated fence to protect the family's privacy. The murders have yet to be solved.