Keeping the magic alive at the Quidditch World Cup

Quidditch World Cup V from Katie Chow on Vimeo.

On November 12th and 13th, Harry Potter fans flocked to Randall’s Island to celebrate the boy wizard’s favorite sport at the fifth annual Quidditch World Cup. The tournament was presented by the International Quidditch Association, which was founded in 2007 by Alex Benepe while he was a student at Middlebury College. Quidditch for Muggles, or non-magical people, was first developed at the Vermont school in 2005. In the Harry Potter series, Quidditch is a sport played by witches and wizards flying on brooms, competing to score points through hoops fixed high in the air. This is easy enough to adapt to the ground, but players are also in pursuit of the Golden Snitch. In the books, this is a winged ball that flies wherever it pleases. In Muggle Quidditch, the Snitch is a person who hides from the teams’ Seekers.

On that Saturday alone, 10,000 spectators visited the Quidditch World Cup. Additionally, there were about a thousand Quidditch players from close to 100 different teams, including one group that traveled from the University of Vaasa in Finland.

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Do college graduates feel equipped to enter the job market?

With the recent economic recession, it has become increasingly difficult for college graduates to find employment. However, these are overwhelmingly people who have been told that they should attend college for the purpose of being able to get a better job upon completing their educations. They come from a mindset that indicates that one should expect success from higher education–but in this economic environment, conventional success has been put on hold.

In this survey, 39 recent college graduates were asked about their current employment status, how prepared they felt to find full-time work, and how they were prepared to enter the job market by their respective schools. This included questions about whether or not they felt like their professors had negative attitudes about their future employment, as well as on how many internships were completed and how those internships were acquired.

“Extra-curriculars like working on the school paper helped more than regular classes,” wrote a graduate of Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. “My second internship (and primary source of freelance work) came purely from the connections I had made and the work I had to show for it.”

People who took the survey tended to say that their schools had not been particularly thorough in preparing them with practical job skills. Two-thirds of respondents said that their colleges did not help them get internships, and more than half gave their programs a dissatisfactory rating for how career development was handled.

“I think professors actually overestimated the job market for students,” wrote a graduate from the University of Maryland at College Park. “They liked to give out examples of graduates earning at least $50K out of school. The economy started tanking the year I graduated and all I was able to find were part time minimum wage jobs. I think colleges should be more realistic in telling students the job prospects in their field and/or steer bright students into STEM fields that do well in recessions.”

Of course, there is more to finding regular employment than simply income. Though it was not specifically asked about, two of the participants made additional comments about healthcare concerns.

“Myself and quite a few friends are employed full time but without benefits,” one person noted. It may be inferred that companies are forgoing benefit packages in order to still be able to hire personnel.

“I’d be so screwed if I had to find a job by myself without the security of the military health care system,” wrote another participant, who is currently a nurse working with the navy.

A day in the life of Ollie’s Place

Ollie’s Place, on E 14th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A, provides a home for about a dozen stray cats at a time. An offshoot of the dog shelter Mighty Mutts, the East Village location has been operating for the past several years after a former Midtown storefront caught fire. Ollie’s Place is a small non-profit entirely run by volunteers.

Kat Herskovits, who has been working at Ollie’s Place for nearly three years, talks about the shelter’s daily routine.

Diary Post: Preparing for the job market

In creating my survey, I ended up targeting a very specific group of people: those who have recently been faced with finding a job after graduating from college. This was something I was interested in after graduating myself and seeing the struggle of my friends who did not choose to continue their educations. As I attended a university that is known for specializing in a fairly obscure field (music business), I was also interested in learning about the experiences of people who went to other schools. Additionally, I decided to focus on recent graduates who have been most directly affected by the economic downturn, though satisfaction with colleges’ career services departments was my primary concern. In an environment where everyone is brought up to succeed but then knows they will likely fail, there are certain things to consider.

I made my survey on Google Docs for ease of organization. My questions focused on the responder’s relationship with his or her undergraduate institution and how prepared for the job market he or she felt. Unfortunately, there was one typo that I didn’t catch before initially sharing the survey, and I think I should have made sharing an email address optional for potential follow-up opportunities. Playing off of in-person interview techniques, I made sure to allow for an “Anything else?” box at the end, particularly because I thought people would have frustrations to vent.

Of course, I started with sharing the link to Facebook. I only have a personal page right now, as I do not think my current level of popularity as a journalist necessitates a professional fan page. Additionally, my intended field, music and entertainment journalism, is not as strict about potential biases as hard news is.

I tweeted about the poll twice. The first one was retweeted by four people, the second by one. In the former case, it was retweeted by users that I have not personally interacted with–fortunately, a friend encouraged her friends to take the survey, and they shared it with their followers. At the point of this writing, I have 350 followers, though this number was somewhat lower when I first started. Due to the fact that I do not block spam accounts in order to look more popular, I am not sure what percentage of these followers are actual humans.

I did utilize one particularly unconventional method to spread around the survey. I have been a longtime member of a popular celebrity news and gossip aggregate blog that does a free for all comments post every Friday in order to foster a sense of community with its users. One Friday, I shared the link to the survey on the week’s free for all post, asking other users to participate. I figured that this would get me good results, as an online community frequented by people in their early 20s. As anticipated, this was a success and significantly more responses were submitted after posting the link on this site.

So far, I have received 40 responses to my poll. I may try to share the link around some more, but I think I have acquired enough data at this point to draw some conclusions.

Extra work is, well, extra work

Like many other twentysomethings in New York, Pamela Zwaskis was struggling to make money when she moved to the city two years ago. After spending some time participating in medical experiments and working in retail, she stumbled across an advertisement on Craigslist looking for extras to portray goths on Law and Order. After getting the job, enjoying it, and finding it to be good money, she has turned extra work into a sort of professional hobby. Pamela has been given the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, from popular TV shows to web series to B-movies, and has enjoyed getting more and more experience. It is very spontaneous work, with most jobs being given on short notice, but Pamela gets plenty of stories to tell. Currently, she has an ongoing position as a core extra on a TV drama. Getting paid to play dress up is all in a day’s work.

Pamela1 by Katie Chow

Pamela talks about finding her first job on Law and Order.

Pamela2 by Katie Chow

Pamela talks about what makes the job fun.

Pamela3 by Katie Chow

Pamela talks about what being a core extra is like.

Ambient by Katie Chow

Ambient (had to be rerecorded on another occasion because of wind.)

Remembering Bob Arihood

After East Village blogger and photographer Bob Arihood passed away on Sept. 30, his life and work were celebrated with a candlelight vigil.  On Oct. 4, his friends gathered at Ray’s Candy Store, an ice cream shop and deli that Arihood frequented, to remember the unconventional historian.


Arihood dedicated decades of his life to capturing the grittier aspects of life in the East Village and Lower East Side.  Ray’s Candy Store, an Avenue A staple, was the kind of unglamorous, no-frills establishment that he championed.  Many people at the vigil remembered his campaign to save the shop and help owner Ray Alvarez when he couldn’t pay his rent.  Arihood’s friends young and old alike seemed to be kindred spirits, struggling to maintain an incarnation of the neighborhood that is rapidly disappearing; mentions of NYU and gentrification were met with boos.  On the other hand, Arihood was commemorated as an icon of community spirit, a friend who inspired and fostered loves of photography.

Arihood’s blog “Neither More Nor Less” was well-loved for its intimate portraits of everyday life.  Prior to his death, he had been covering the beginnings of Occupy Wall Street.


What does it mean to have a career in the current job market?

With the depressed state of the job market, many recent college grads have found themselves putting their careers on hold. Instead of honing long-lasting positions, they have ended up taking any available work that pays the bills.

American children still grow up with the engrained idea that success means getting a good job right out of college and keeping that job for as long as possible. Now, any job is a good job, and they’re difficult enought to maintain as it is. Fresh college grads don’t want to stay in more transitional work such as food service, but many have little choice but to hang on to any available source of income.

There’s a need to reconfigure the idea of success. This is a generation that has always been told that it cannot fail and will not fail, yet there is no opportunity to succeed in a conventional manner. The reality is that it will not be possible for many people to nurture a long relationship with a single company, or even a single profession. Current estimates say that these new workers can expect to change jobs ten times before the ago of 40. It’s a daunting number, but it also allows for people to try doing many different kinds of jobs. Versatility and flexibility are required. Recent college graduates also have to prove how resilient they are, considering that they must come to terms with their dream jobs being more inaccessible than they ever dreamed while growing up. Financial stability and independence has, by necessity, become a higher priority than personal satisfaction with one’s work. A recent New York Times article questioned “What if the secret to success is failure?”, and that seems like a mindset that is necessary to develop. Raising children to expect success has only created widespread disappointment.

The concept of a career is evolving, and job-hunting young Americans need to adapt to it. Longevity may be questionable, but it’s up to new workers to find out what they can do.

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Unemployment Continues to Plague Americans

At this point in the recession, we all know someone who has struggled to find a job. Many of the unemployed have struggled for months or even years, constantly submitting applications and constantly facing subsequent rejection. It’s a economic trend that shows no signs of stopping, and it’s something for everyone to consider, regardless of whether or not you’re working.

The portrait of the unemployed is multifaceted, with a wide variety of affected demographics. Few areas, if any, remain unscathed. The New York Times recently profiled members of what is referred to as “Generation Limbo.” Recent college graduates, even those with Ivy League degrees, have faced significant difficulty in pursuing careers in their intended fields. For those lacking in choices, any job has become the right job to have.

It’s been reported that men’s previously flagging employment numbers are up, but that doesn’t seem to mean much when overall unemployment rates have remained at the same pace. Indeed, a recent report showed that 9.1% of the population is still jobless, with as many jobs being created as have been lost. That number is only expected to rise.

The outlook is still grim, and frustrations continue to run high. On Thursday, President Barack Obama is to address Congress regarding the job market, which will reinvigorate the ongoing conversation.