January 19, 2023

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The new Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sculpture in Boston is being bashed with scorn, greeted with cheers and critiqued by seemingly everyone with a social media account.

We all process artistic work — from music to poetry, paintings to sculptures — through our own understandings and preferences. And sometimes sculptures that gain public scorn at their unveilings endear themselves to us while other sculptures become politically unpopular with time.

There are websites that list what somebody considers to be the world’s ugliest sculptures. Another website lists what critics call the ugliest sculpture in each state. (I disagree with some of these, by the way.)

Sometimes the critique of a sculpture has more to do with the person or event that it commemorates (think Joe McCarthy or John Mason) and naked sculptures often set off fireworks. Sometimes an artistic vision gets convoluted by the public’s description of the work. For example, the “Bean” in Chicago is actually named the Cloud Gate. Sometimes sculptures leave one scratching one’s head wondering “who thought this was a good idea?” And some of America’s most iconic sculptures honor people who have connections to America’s darkest times.

Consider the initial reaction to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, designed by Maya Lin. The Washington Post recounts:

Critics pounced on it as unpatriotic. It reminded some veterans of the disrespect they received coming home from the war. These critics attacked everything from the memorial’s design (to them, it looked like a gash or gaping wound) to its placement (sunk into the ground, suggesting shame) to its color (why was it black when other monuments in the city are white?). And why was no American flag or heroic sculpture included?

Eventually, a compromise was reached. In 1984, a U.S. flag and a statue of three servicemen were added near the wall. Nine years later, a sculpture of three women aiding a wounded soldier was added.

The changes helped soften the criticism, which faded over the years. Today the memorial is among the most-visited sites in Washington.

The bluster over the new MLK sculpture could be a great launchpad for journalists to tour communities and states to get the backstories of how these came to be. Who are the people or moments/events they memorialize? Here is a list of 462 unusual monuments around America.

Inflation may have peaked; the data behind the optimism

How long has it been since you read data that made you feel like inflation might be cooling and the days ahead might be less stormy? The new Producer Price Index, a measure of inflation at the wholesale level, is often a foreshadowing of inflation at the consumer level. And the PPI shows that inflation at the wholesale level dropped half of a percentage point. Many analysts expected only a .1% drop.

Normally, you might not see a drop in retail sales as encouraging news, but when inflation is running hot, data showing that people are buying less is good news. Inflation is fueled, in part by high demand.

(Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Read more:

What do massive layoffs at big companies like Microsoft mean?

Microsoft has joined the string of big companies announcing massive layoffs. Microsoft will lay off 10,000 workers, or 5% of its workforce, in the biggest reduction for that company in close to a decade.

Also this week, we are getting word that Amazon will lay off an additional 18,000 employees. That will be the biggest reduction in workers in the company’s 28-year history.

In the last year, Meta cut 11,000 workers, Amazon cut 10,000 jobs before this week, Cisco reduced by 4,100 positions, Carvana is down 4,000 jobs and Twitter cut 3,700 positions. Goldman Sachs is reportedly planning to cut 3,200 employees, or a 6.5% reduction in workers. DirecTV managers were told recently that the company would cut management jobs.

Look at this constantly updated list of 26,000 layoffs across 104 tech companies worldwide already this year.


USA Today adds:

“The number of actual layoffs is going to be much higher than what’s on the site just because most layoffs don’t get reported,” Layoffs.fyi creator Roger Lee told USA TODAY. “Unfortunately, I don’t see the layoffs going away anytime soon.”

Look at these headlines from AdAge this month:

Despite all these announcements, the U.S. unemployment rate remains extraordinarily low.


The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis calculates that there are 1.4 jobs open right now for each unemployed American. This chart gives you some historical perspective for that figure.

(Federal Reserve of St. Louis)

That may be a little misleading since not every unemployed person qualifies for the jobs that are open. And it might be especially difficult for tech workers, for example, to find a new comparable tech job.

TechCrunch explains why these are happening now:

Last year, over 107,000 jobs were slashed from public and private tech companies as they were forced to confront rising inflation rates and a tumultuous stock market. The economy has come to reckon with a culture of overzealous hiring and soaring valuations, and startups are now forced to carry themselves through a frosty market as venture funding becomes barren.

Tech companies as big as QualtricsCarta and Verily have slashed jobs this year, citing overhiring during periods of rapid growth. To keep tabs, we’ve compiled a list of U.S.-based tech companies that have laid off employees so far this year.

How your dog/cat can earn $10,000 testing toys

PetSmart has an open job for Chief Toy Tester. They want to sign up a dog and a cat to test toys and treats and will pay the four-legged employees $10,000 for their expertise and celebrity. The application deadline and audition video is due Feb. 17. I tried to encourage my dog to apply and pay her way by doing the old, “Hey, dog food does not grow on trees” dad speech. She informed me that she was busy “trying to find herself,” which explains why she is constantly turning in circles.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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