Tips Memilih Lampu
Tipe lampu rumah Saat ini, hampir di setiap rumah pasti telah memiliki lampu. Lampu listrik yang umum digunakan sebagai penerang untuk rumah tinggal, dapat dibedakan menjadi 3 golongan besar, yaitu lampu pijar, lampu halogen dan lampu berpendar (fluorescent). Saat ini juga telah hadir lampu LED yang lebih hemat dan efisien.
Banyaknya jenis lampu yang beredar saat ini telah membuat Anda harus perlu memperhatikan faktor apa saja yang perlu Anda pertimbangkan saat memilih lampu. Berikut ini ada beberapa faktor yang dapat Anda pertimbangkan saat memilih lampu untuk rumah anda:
Penempatan lampu juga perlu disesuaikan dengan kondisi lingkungan. Misalnya, untuk lampu yang diletakkan di luar sebaiknya dengan menggunakan bahan stainless steel, alumunium atau besi yang sudah dicat antikarat karena mungkin kelembaban di luar ruangan lebih tinggi.
Menentukan titik-titik penempatan lampu biasanya adalah hal utama yang biasanya telah dilakukan. Anda mungkin akan mempertimbangkan juga lampu mana yang akan ditanam di dinding atau plafon. Hal ini telah dilakukan sebelum Anda membangun atau merenovasi rumah.
Sesuaikan model lampu dengan karakter rumah. Lampu dengan desain tradisional klasik tentu akan terlihat aneh bila ditempatkan pada rumah yang telah memiliki konsep modern minimalis atau sebaliknya.
Warna Cahaya Lampu
Menentukan warna cahaya lampu yang ingin digunakan. Lampu dengan karakter cahaya kuning disinyalir mampu untuk membangkitkan suasana yang hangat dan romantis, sehingga sangat cocok ditempatkan di ruang tidur atau ruang lain yang digunakan untuk bersantai. Sementara cahaya putih lebih cocok digunakan di tempat kerja. Penentuan warna cahaya ini dengan sendirinya akan dapat membimbing Anda menentukan pilihan antara lampu neon dan lampu pijar.
Sifat lampu yang memancarkan panas juga dapat dijadikan faktor penimbang saat Anda memilih rumah lampu (fitting). Sebagai satu kesatuan, rumah lampu yang Anda pilih sebaiknya tahan terhadap panas, tidak mudah leleh dan tidak mudah terbakar. Selain itu, anda juga dapat menggunakan sifat panas yang dipancarkan lampu di ruangan yang terkesan lembab untuk dapat mengeringkan dan mengurangi kelembaban ruangan.
Jika anda menginginkan tagihan listrik bulanan yang lebih murah, anda pastinya perlu memilih lampu LED sebagai sarana penerangan utama anda. Dengan lampu LED, anda akan mendapatkan cahaya yang terang dengan daya listrik yang relatif kecil. Selain itu juga, cahaya yang dihasilkan oleh lampu LED tidak panas.
TIPS MEMILIH LAMPU
Editor : Dian Sukmawati
Syaikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Baz
Diantara Asmaul Husna yang dimiliki Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala adalah Al-Hakim yang bermakna : “Yang menetapkan Hukum, atau Yang mempunyai sifat Hikmah, di mana Allah tidak berkata dan bertindak dengan sia-sia. Oleh karena itulah semua syari’at Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala mempunyai kebaikan yang besar dan manfaat yang banyak bagi hamba-Nya di dunia seperti kebagusan hati, ketenangan jiwa dan kebaikan keadaan. Juga akibat yang baik dan kemenangan yang besar di kampung kenikmatan (akhirat) dengan melihat wajah-Nya dan mendapatkan ridha-Nya.
Demikian pula haji, sebuah ibadah tahunan yang besar yang Allah syari’atkan bagi para hamba-Nya, mempunyai berbagai manfaat yang besar dan tujuan yang besar pula, yang membawa kebaikan di dunia dan akhirat. Dan diantara hikmah ibadah haji ini adalah.
. Mengikhlaskan Seluruh Ibadah
Beribadah semata-mata untuk Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala dan menghadapkan hati kepada-Nya dengan keyakinan bahwa tidak ada yang diibadahi dengan haq, kecuali Dia dan bahwa Dia adalah satu-satunya pemilik nama-nama yang indah dan sifat-sifat yang mulia. Tidak ada sekutu bagi-Nya, tidak ada yang menyerupai-Nya dan tidak ada tandingan-Nya.
Dan hal ini telah diisyaratkan dalam firman-Nya.
“Artinya : Dan ingatlah ketika Kami menempatkan tempat Baitullah untuk Ibrahim dengan menyatakan ; “Janganlah engkau menyekutukan Aku dengan apapun dan sucikan rumah-Ku ini bagi orang-orang yang thawaf, beribadah, ruku dan sujud” [Al-Hajj : 26]
Mensucikan rumah-Nya di dalam hal ini adalah dengan cara beribadah semata-mata kepada Allah di dekat rumah-Nya (Ka’bah) yang mulia, mebersihkan sekitar Ka’bah dari berhala-berhala, patung-patung, najis-najis yang Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala haramkan serta dari segala hal yang mengganggu orang-orang yang sedang menjalankan haji atau umrah atau hal-hal lain yang menyibukkan (melalaikan, -pent) dari tujuan mereka.
. Mendapat Ampunan Dosa-Dosa Dan Balasan Jannah
“Dari Abu Hurairah bahwa Nabi Shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam bersabda : “Satu umrah sampai umrah yang lain adalah sebagai penghapus dosa antara keduanya dan tidak ada balasan bagi haji mabrur kecuali jannah” [HR Bukhari dan Muslim, Bahjatun Nanzhirin no. 1275]
“Abu Hurairah Radhiyallahu ‘anhu berkata : “Aku mendengar Nabi Shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam bersabda bahwa barang siapa berhaji ke Baitullah ini karena Allah, tidak melakukan rafats dan fusuuq, niscaya ia kembali seperti hari ia dilahirkan oleh ibunya” [HR Bukhari]
Rafats : jima’ ; pendahuluannya dan ucapan kotor, Fusuuq : kemaksiatan
Sesungguhnya barangsiapa mendatangi Ka’bah, kemudian menunaikan haji atau umrah dengan baik, tanpa rafats dan fusuuq serta dengan ikhlas karena Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala semata, niscaya Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala mengampuni dosa-dosanya dan menuliskan jannah baginya. Dan hal inilah yang didambakan oleh setiap mu’min dan mu’minah yaitu meraih keberuntungan berupa jannah dan selamat dari neraka.
. Menyambut Seruan Nabi Ibrahima Alaihissalam
“Dan serulah manusia untuk berhaji, niscaya mereka akan datang kepadamu dengan berjalan kaki dan mengendarai unta yang kurus yang datang dari segenap penjuru yang jauh”[Al-Hajj : 27]
Nabi Ibrahim Alaihissalam telah menyerukan (agar berhaji) kepada manusia. Dan Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala menjadikan siapa saja yang Dia kehendaki (untuk bisa) mendengar seruan Nabi Ibrahim Alaihissalam tersebut dan menyambutnya. Hal itu berlangsung semenjak zaman Nabi Ibrahim hingga sekarang.
. Menyaksikan Berbagai Manfaat Bagi Kaum Muslimin
Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala berfirman : “Agar supaya mereka menyaksikan berbagai manfaat bagi mereka” [Al-Hajj : 28]
Alah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala menyebutkan manfaat-manfaat dengan muthlaq (secara umum tanpa ikatan) dan mubham (tanpa penjelasan) karena banyaknya dan besarnya menafaat-manfaat yang segera terjadi dan nanti akan terjadi baik duniawi maupun ukhrawi.
Dan diantara yang terbesar adalah menyaksikan tauhid-Nya, yakni mereka beribadah kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala semata-mata. Mereka datang dengan niat mencari wajah-Nya yang mulia bukan karena riya’ (dilihat orang lain) dan juga bukan karena sum’ah (dibicarakan orang lain). Bahkan mereka betauhid dan ikhlas kepada-Nya, serta mengikrarkan (tauhid) di antara hamba-hamba-Nya, dan saling menasehati di antara orang-orang yang datang (berhaji dan sebagainya,-pent) tentangnya (tauhid).
Mereka thawaaf mengelilingi Ka’bah, mengagungkan-Nya, menjalankan shalat di rumah-Nya, memohon karunia-Nya, berdo’a supaya ibadah haji mereka diterima, dosa-dosa mereka diampuni, dikembalikan dengan selamat ke nergara masing-masing dan diberi anugerah kembali lagi untuk berdo’a dan merendah diri kepda-Nya.
Mereka mengucapkan talbiyah dengan keras sehingga di dengar oleh orang yang dekat ataupun yang jauh, dan yang lain bisa mempelajarinya agar mengetahui maknanya, merasakannya, mewujudkan di dalam hati, lisan dan amalan mereka. Dan bahwa maknanya adalah : Mengikhlaskan ibadah semata-mata untuk Allah dan beriman bahwa Dia adalah ‘ilah mereka yang haq, Pencipta mereka, Pemberi rizki mereka, Yang diibadahi sewaktu haji dan lainnya.
. Saling Mengenal Dan Saling Menasehati
Dan diantara hikmah haji adalah bahwa kaum muslimin bisa saling mengenal dan saling berwasiat dan menasehati dengan al-haq. Mereka datang dari segala penjuru, dari barat, timur, selatan dan utara Makkah, berkumpul di rumah Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala yang tua, di Arafah, di Muzdalifah, di Mina dan di Makkah. Mereka saling mengenal, saling menasehati, sebagian mengajari yang lain, membimbing, menolong, membantu untuk maslahat-maslahat dunia akhirat, maslahat taklim tata cara haji, shalat, zakat, maslahat bimbingan, pengarahan dan dakwah ke jala Allah.
Mereka bisa mendengar dari para ulama, apa yang bermanfaat bagi mereka yang di sana terdapat petunjuk dan bimbingan menuju jalan yang lurus, jalan kebahagiaan menuju tauhidullah dan ikhlas kepada-Nya, menuju ketaatan yang diwajibkan oleh Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala dan mengetahui kemaksiatan untuk dijauhi, dan supaya mereka mengetahui batas-batas Allah dan mereka bisa saling menolong di dalam kebaikan dan taqwa.
. Mempelajari Agama Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala
Dan diantara manfaat haji yang besar adalah bahwa mereka bisa mempelajari agama Allah dilingkungan rumah Allah yang tua, dan di lingkungann masjid Nabawi dari para ulama dan pembimbing serta memberi peringatan tentang apa yang mereka tidak ketahui mengenai hukum-hukum agama, haji, umrah dan lainnya. Sehingga mereka bisa menunaikan kewajiban mereka dengan ilmu.
Dari Makkah inilah tertib ilmu itu, yaitu ilmu tauhid dan agama. Kemudian (berkembang) dari Madinah, dari seluruh jazirah ini dan dari seluruh negeri-negeri Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala yang ada ilmu dan ahli ilmu. Namun semua asalnya adalah dari sini, dari lingkungan rumah Allah yang tua.
Maka wajib bagi para ulama dan da’i, dimana saja mereka berada, terlebih lagi di lingkungan rumah Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala ini, untuk mengajari manusia, orang-orang yang menunaikan haji dan umrah, orang-orang asli dan pendatang serta para penziarah, tentang agama dan manasik haji mereka.
Seorang muslim diperintahkan untuk belajar, bagaimanapun (keadaannya) ia, dimana saja dan kapan saja ; tetapi di lingkungan rumah Allah yang tua, urusan ini (belajar agama) lebih penting dan mendesak.
Dan di antara tanda-tanda kebaikan dan kebahagian seseorang adalah belajar tentang agama Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala.
“Artinya : Nabi Shallallahu ‘alaihi bersabda : “Barangsiapa yang dikehendaki oleh Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala memperoleh kebaikan, niscaya Dia menjadikan faqih terhadap agama” [HR Bukhari, Kitab Al-Ilmi 3 bab : 14]
Di sini, di negeri Allah, di negerimu dan di negeri mana saja, jika engkau dapati seorang alim ahli syari’at Allah, maka pergunakanlah kesempatan. Janganlah engkau takabur dan malas. Karena ilmu itu tidak bisa diraih oleh orang-orang yang takabur, pemalas, lemah serta pemalu. Ilmu itu membutuhkan kesigapan dan kemauan yang tinggi.
Mundur dari menuntut ilmu, itu bukanlah sifat malu, tetapi suatu kelemahan. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala berfirman.
“Artinya : Dan Allah tidak malu dari kebenaran” [Al-Ahzab : 53]
Karenanya seorang mukmin dan mukminah yang berpandangan luas, tidak akan malu dalam bab ini ; bahkan ia maju, bertanya, menyelidiki dan menampakkan kemusykilan yang ia miliki, sehingga hilanglah kemusykilan tersebut.
. Menyebarkan Ilmu
Di antara manfaat haji adalah menyebarkan ilmu kepada saudara-saudaranya yang melaksanakan ibadah haji dan teman-temannya seperjalanan, yang di mobil, di pesawat terbang, di tenda, di Mekkah dan di segala tempat. Ini adalah kesempatan yang Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala anugerahkan. Engkau bisa menyebarkan ilmu-mu dan menjelaskan apa yang engkau miliki, akan tetapi haruslah dengan apa yang engkau ketahui berdasarkan Al-Kitab dan As-Sunnah dan istimbath ahli ilmu dari keduanya. Bukan dari kebodohan dan pemikiran-pemikiran yang menyimpang dari Al-Kitab dan As-Sunnah.
. Memperbanyak Ketaatan
Di antara manfaat haji adalah memperbanyak shalat dan thawaf, sebagaimana firman Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala.
“Artinya : Kemudian hendaklah mereka menghilangkan kotoran yang ada pada badan mereka ; hendaklah mereka menyempurnakan nadzar-nadzar mereka dan hendaklah mereka berthawaf sekeliling rumah yang tua itu (Ka’bah)” [Al-Hajj : 29]
Maka disyariatkan bagi orang yang menjalankan haji dan umrah untuk memperbanyak thawaf semampunya dan memperbanyak shalat di tanah haram. Oleh karena itu perbanyaklah shalat, qira’atul qur’an, tasbih, tahlil, dzikir. Juga perbanyaklah amar ma’ruf nahi mungkar dan da’wah kepada jalan Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala di mana banyak orang berkumpul dari Afrika, Eropa, Amerika, Asia dan lainnya. Maka wajib bagi mereka untuk mempergunakan kesempatan ini sebaik-baiknya.
. Menunaikan Nadzar
Walaupun nadzar itu sebaiknya tidak dilakukan, akan tetapi seandainya seseorang telah bernadzar untuk melakukan ketaatan, maka wajib baginya untuk memenuhinya.
Rasulullah Shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam bersabda.
“Artinya : Barangsiapa bernadzar untuk mentaati Allah, maka hendaklah dia mentaati-Nya” [HR Bukhari]
Maka apabila seseorang bernadzar di tanah haram ini berupa shalat, thawaf ataupun ibadah lainnya, maka wajib baginya untuk menunaikannya di tanah haram ini.
Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala berfirman.
“Artinya : Dan hendaklah mereka menunaikan nadzar” [Al-Hajj : 29]
. Menolong Dan Berbuat Baik Kepada Orang Miskin
Di antara manfaat haji adalah bisa menolong dan berbuat baik kepada orang miskin baik yang sedang menjalankan haji atau tidak di negeri yang aman ini.
Seseorang dapat mengobati orang sakit, menjenguknya, menunjukkan ke rumah sakit dan menolongnya dengan harta serta obat.
Ini semua termasuk manfaat-manfaat haji.
“Artinya : ….agar mereka menyaksikan berbagai manfaat bagi mereka” [Al-Hajj : 28]
. Memperbanyak Dzikir Kepada Allah
Di negeri yang aman ini hendaklah memperbanyak dzikir kepada Allah, baik dalam keadaan berdiri, duduk dan bebaring, dengan tasbih (ucapan Subhanallah), hamdalah (ucapan Alhamdulillah), tahlil (ucapan Laa ilaaha ilallah), takbir (ucapan Allahu Akbar) dan hauqallah (ucapan Laa haula wa laa quwata illa billah).
“Artinya : Dari Abu Musa Al-As’ari Radhiyallahu ‘anhu bahwa Nabi Shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam bersabda : “Perumpamaan orang yang mengingat Rabb-nya dan yang tidak mengingat-Nya adalah sebagai orang hidup dan yang mati”. [HR Bukhari, Bahjatun Nadzirin no. 1434]
. Berdo’a Kepada-Nya
Di antara manfaat haji, hendaknya bersungguh-sungguh merendahkan diri dan terus menerus berdo’a kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala, agar Dia menerima amal, membereskan hati dan perbuatan ; agar Dia menolong untuk mengingat-Nya, bersyukur kepada-Nya dan memperbagus ibadah kepada-Nya ; agar Dia menolong untuk menunaikan kewajiban dengan sifat yang Dia ridhai serta agar Dia menolong untuk berbuat baik kepada hamba-hamba-Nya.
. Menunaikan Manasik Dengan Sebaik-Baiknya
Di antara manfaat haji, hendaknya melaksanakannya dengan sesempurna mungkin, dengan sebaik-baiknya dan seikhlas mungkin baik sewaktu melakukan thawaf, sa’i, wukuf di Arafah, berada di Muzdalifah, melempar jumrah, maupun sewaktu shalat, qira’atul qur’an, berdzikir, berdo’a dan lainnya. Juga hendaknya mengupayakannya dengan kosentrasi dan ikhlas.
. Menyembelih Kurban
Di antara manfaat haji adalah menyembelih (binatang) kurban, baik yang wajib tatkala berihram tammatu dan qiran, maupun tidak wajib yaitu untuk taqarrub kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala.
Sewaktu haji wada’ Rasulullah Shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam telah berkurban 100 ekor binatang. Para sahabat juga menyembelih kurban. Kurban itu adalah suatu ibadah, karena daging kurban dibagikan kepada orang-orang miskin dan yang membutuhkan di hari-hari Mina dan lainnya.
Demikianlah sebagian hikmah dari ibadah haji (rukun Islam yang ke lima) mudah-mudahan kita bisa mengambil manfaatnya, dan senantiasa diberi petunjuk dari Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala serta diberi kemudahan untuk menunaikannya. Amin
[Disalin dari Majalah As-Sunnah Edisi 09/Tahun III/1419H/1999M, Disadur oleh Abu Shalihah dari Majalah Al-Furqon nomor 72 hal.18-21. Penebit Yayasan Lajnah Istiqomah Surakarta, Jl. Solo – Purwodadi Km 8 Selokaton Gondangrejo – Solo 57183 ]
Sumber : http://www.alquran-sunnah.com
Baca Artikel Lainnya : PANDUAN UNTUK MELAKSANAKAN IBADAH HAJIHIKMAH DARI IBADAH HAJI ATAU RUKUN ISLAM YANG KE LIMA
Saco-Indonesia.com - Sukses bekerja merupakan hak semua orang, termasuk perempuan. Mencapai puncak kesuksesan bukan hanya berarti status sosial lebih tinggi, tapi juga kemakmuran dan tingkat keterampilan lebih tinggi.
Orang yang sukses juga diidentikkan dengan hidup yang bahagia. Namun tak ada gading yang tak retak, semua manusia punya kelemahan. Ada beberapa kelemahan yang mengiringi kesuksesan.
1. Kurangnya empati
Orang yang berada dalam posisi yang tinggi cenderung akan melihat dan menilai semua hal dari sisinya saja. Secara tak langsung hal ini akan membuat Anda memiliki empati yang lebih sedikit dibandingkan dulu.
2. Kurangnya kemampuan sosialisasi
Seringkali kesuksesan diidentikan dengan perjuangan yang keras dan berat. Setelah mendapatkannya, banyak orang yang sifatnya berubah menjadi lebih individualis.
3. Tidak bisa menangani situasi sulit
Manisnya sukses seringkali membuai dan membuat Anda merasa dalam posisi nyaman. Ketika kita terlena oleh kenyamanan terkadang otak menjadi lebih lambat diajak bekerja saat menghadapi posisi yang sulit.
4. Mudah stres
Sukses di saat ini ternyata juga bisa membuat Anda merasa stres di masa depan. Perempuan seringkali mengasumsikan stres saat ini adalah sebuah paksaan untuk bisa sukses juga di masa depan. Rasanya tidak boleh ada celah untuk terjadinya kegagalan.
5. Susah memilih teman atau musuh
Sudah susah-susah mencapai kesuksesan, otomatis pikiran dan cara pandang Anda terhadap orang-orang pun akan berubah. Anda akan sedikit kesulitan untuk bisa membedakan mana teman mana musuh. Teman juga bisa jadi musuh dalam selimut.
Editor : Maulana LeeMencapai Puncak Kesuksesan, Ada Sisi Negatif
Tarik ulur keputusan kenaikan harga bahan bakar minyak (BBM) bersubsidi membuat pemerintah melewatkan waktu yang tepat untuk mengumumkan keputusan tersebut di Maret dan April. Pasalnya inflasi di kedua bulan tersebut termasuk rendah.
Deputi Bidang Statistik Distribusi dan Jasa Badan Pusat Statistik (BPS), Sasmito Hadi Wibowo mengatakan, jika realisasi kenaikan harga BBM terjadi di Maret dan April, dampak terhadap inflasi diperkirakan paling kecil.
"Sebenarnya paling bagus di Maret atau April pengumuman kenaikan harga BBM, karena inflasi rendah. Seperti di bulan ini deflasi 0,10%," terangnya seusai paparan inflasi bulanan di Gedung BPS, Jakarta, Rabu (1/5/2013).
Selain kedua bulan tersebut, BPS juga menganggap kenaikan harga BBM pada Mei merupakan salah satu waktu yang tepat bagi pemerintah mengambil kebijakan tersebut. Sebab laju inflasi diperkirakan masih bakal rendah. "Bulan Mei bisa saja harga BBM naik kalau disetujui DPR," ucapnya.
Namun dengan adanya proses pembahasan dana kompensasi sebagai syarat menaikkan harga BBM, pemerintah dimbau untuk menunggu keputusan kenaikan harga BBM subsidi setelah lebaran atau pada Agustus mendatang. Alasannya, pada Juni ini masyarakat sudah sibuk mempersiapkan kedatangan Bulan Puasa yang biasanya harga pangan atau kebutuhan pokok cenderung meningkat.
"Setelah lebaran itu bercampur dengan suasana Tahun Baru, suasana Ramadhan, dan suasana Lebaran. Kalau naik di situ (setelah lebaran) mudah-mudahan inflasi tidak besar," pungkas SasmitoKENAIKAN BBM DIAMANKAN USAI HABIS LEBARAN
IMPIAN YANG TERSIMPAN
aku ingin menjadi pribadi yang sukses
tapi bukan untuk mendapat kedudukan yang tinggi
aku ingin menjadi pribadi yang sukses
tapi bukan berarti tanpa harga diri
semangat dan mimpi
mungkin tak sejalan
tapi harapan sangat lah mungkin tuk didapatkan
dan meski langkah ku pelan
dengan perlahan insya Allah akan ku dapatkan satu impian yang dulu pernah tersimpan dalam
dengan doa penuh harap yang ku panjatkan
semoga Tuhan mendengar
dan mau mengabulkan
apa yang aku ingin kan
selama ini ...
With 12 tournament victories in his career, Mr. Peete was the most successful black professional golfer before Tiger Woods.Calvin Peete, 71, a Racial Pioneer on the PGA Tour, Is Dead
Hired in 1968, a year before their first season, Mr. Fanning spent 25 years with the team, managing them to their only playoff appearance in Canada.Jim Fanning, 87, Dies; Lifted Baseball in Canada With Expos
GREENWICH, Conn. — Mago is in the bedroom. You can go in.
The big man lies on a hospital bed with his bare feet scraping its bottom rail. His head is propped on a scarlet pillow, the left temple dented, the right side paralyzed. His dark hair is kept just long enough to conceal the scars.
The occasional sounds he makes are understood only by his wife, but he still has that punctuating left hand. In slow motion, the fingers curl and close. A thumbs-up greeting.
This is Magomed Abdusalamov, 34, also known as the Russian Tyson, also known as Mago. He is a former heavyweight boxer who scored four knockouts and 14 technical knockouts in his first 18 professional fights. He preferred to stand between rounds. Sitting conveyed weakness.
But Mago lost his 19th fight, his big chance, at the packed Theater at Madison Square Garden in November 2013. His 19th decision, and his last.
Now here he is, in a small bedroom in a working-class neighborhood in Greenwich, in a modest house his family rents cheap from a devoted friend. The air-pressure machine for his mattress hums like an expectant crowd.
Today is like any other day, except for those days when he is hurried in crisis to the hospital. Every three hours during the night, his slight wife, Bakanay, 28, has risen to turn his 6-foot-3 body — 210 pounds of dead weight. It has to be done. Infections of the gaping bedsore above his tailbone have nearly killed him.
Then, with the help of a young caretaker, Baka has gotten two of their daughters off to elementary school and settled down the toddler. Yes, Mago and Baka are blessed with all girls, but they had also hoped for a son someday.
They feed Mago as they clean him; it’s easier that way. For breakfast, which comes with a side of crushed antiseizure pills, he likes oatmeal with a squirt of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. But even oatmeal must be puréed and fed to him by spoon.
He opens his mouth to indicate more, the way a baby does. But his paralysis has made everything a choking hazard. His water needs a stirring of powdered food thickener, and still he chokes — eh-eh-eh — as he tries to cough up what will not go down.
Mago used to drink only water. No alcohol. Not even soda. A sip of juice would be as far as he dared. Now even water betrays him.
With the caretaker’s help, Baka uses a washcloth and soap to clean his body and shampoo his hair. How handsome still, she has thought. Sometimes, in the night, she leaves the bedroom to watch old videos, just to hear again his voice in the fullness of life. She cries, wipes her eyes and returns, feigning happiness. Mago must never see her sad.
When Baka finishes, Mago is cleanshaven and fresh down to his trimmed and filed toenails. “I want him to look good,” she says.
Theirs was an arranged Muslim marriage in Makhachkala, in the Russian republic of Dagestan. He was 23, she was 18 and their future hinged on boxing. Sometimes they would shadowbox in love, her David to his Goliath. You are so strong, he would tell her.
His father once told him he could either be a bandit or an athlete, but if he chose banditry, “I will kill you.” This paternal advice, Mago later told The Ventura County Reporter, “made it a very easy decision for me.”
Mago won against mediocre competition, in Moscow and Hollywood, Fla., in Las Vegas and Johnstown, Pa. He was knocked down only once, and even then, it surprised more than hurt. He scored a technical knockout in the next round.
It all led up to this: the undercard at the Garden, Mike Perez vs. Magomed Abdusalamov, 10 rounds, on HBO. A win, he believed, would improve his chances of taking on the heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, who sat in the crowd of 4,600 with his fiancée, the actress Hayden Panettiere, watching.
Wearing black-and-red trunks and a green mouth guard, Mago went to work. But in the first round, a hard forearm to his left cheek rocked him. At the bell, he returned to his corner, and this time, he sat down. “I think it’s broken,” he repeatedly said in Russian.
Maybe at that point, somebody — the referee, the ringside doctors, his handlers — should have stopped the fight, under a guiding principle: better one punch too early than one punch too late. But the bloody trade of blows continued into the seventh, eighth, ninth, a hand and orbital bone broken, his face transforming.
Meanwhile, in the family’s apartment in Miami, Baka forced herself to watch the broadcast. She could see it in his swollen eyes. Something was off.
After the final round, Perez raised his tattooed arms in victory, and Mago wandered off in a fog. He had taken 312 punches in about 40 minutes, for a purse of $40,000.
In the locker room, doctors sutured a cut above Mago’s left eye and tested his cognitive abilities. He did not do well. The ambulance that waits in expectation at every fight was not summoned by boxing officials.
Blood was pooling in Mago’s cranial cavity as he left the Garden. He vomited on the pavement while his handlers flagged a taxi to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital. There, doctors induced a coma and removed part of his skull to drain fluids and ease the swelling.
Then came the stroke.
It is lunchtime now, and the aroma of puréed beef and potatoes lingers. So do the questions.
How will Mago and Baka pay the $2 million in medical bills they owe? What if their friend can no longer offer them this home? Will they win their lawsuits against the five ringside doctors, the referee, and a New York State boxing inspector? What about Mago’s future care?
Most of all: Is this it?
A napkin rests on Mago’s chest. As another spoonful of mush approaches, he opens his mouth, half-swallows, chokes, and coughs until it clears. Eh-eh-eh. Sometimes he turns bluish, but Baka never shows fear. Always happy for Mago.
Some days he is wheeled out for physical therapy or speech therapy. Today, two massage therapists come to knead his half-limp body like a pair of skilled corner men.
Soon, Mago will doze. Then his three daughters, ages 2, 6 and 9, will descend upon him to talk of their day. Not long ago, the oldest lugged his championship belt to school for a proud show-and-tell moment. Her classmates were amazed at the weight of it.
Then, tonight, there will be more puréed food and pulverized medication, more coughing, and more tender care from his wife, before sleep comes.
He half-smiles, raises his one good hand, and forms a fist.Meet Mago, Former Heavyweight
A 2-minute-42-second demo recording captured in one take turned out to be a one-hit wonder for Mr. Ely, who was 19 when he sang the garage-band classic.Jack Ely, Who Sang the Kingsmenâ€™s â€˜Louie Louieâ€™, Dies at 71
Even as a high school student, Dave Goldberg was urging female classmates to speak up. As a young dot-com executive, he had one girlfriend after another, but fell hard for a driven friend named Sheryl Sandberg, pining after her for years. After they wed, Mr. Goldberg pushed her to negotiate hard for high compensation and arranged his schedule so that he could be home with their children when she was traveling for work.
Mr. Goldberg, who died unexpectedly on Friday, was a genial, 47-year-old Silicon Valley entrepreneur who built his latest company, SurveyMonkey, from a modest enterprise to one recently valued by investors at $2 billion. But he was also perhaps the signature male feminist of his era: the first major chief executive in memory to spur his wife to become as successful in business as he was, and an essential figure in “Lean In,” Ms. Sandberg’s blockbuster guide to female achievement.
Over the weekend, even strangers were shocked at his death, both because of his relatively young age and because they knew of him as the living, breathing, car-pooling center of a new philosophy of two-career marriage.
“They were very much the role models for what this next generation wants to grapple with,” said Debora L. Spar, the president of Barnard College. In a 2011 commencement speech there, Ms. Sandberg told the graduates that whom they married would be their most important career decision.
In the play “The Heidi Chronicles,” revived on Broadway this spring, a male character who is the founder of a media company says that “I don’t want to come home to an A-plus,” explaining that his ambitions require him to marry an unthreatening helpmeet. Mr. Goldberg grew up to hold the opposite view, starting with his upbringing in progressive Minneapolis circles where “there was woman power in every aspect of our lives,” Jeffrey Dachis, a childhood friend, said in an interview.
The Goldberg parents read “The Feminine Mystique” together — in fact, Mr. Goldberg’s father introduced it to his wife, according to Ms. Sandberg’s book. In 1976, Paula Goldberg helped found a nonprofit to aid children with disabilities. Her husband, Mel, a law professor who taught at night, made the family breakfast at home.
Later, when Dave Goldberg was in high school and his prom date, Jill Chessen, stayed silent in a politics class, he chastised her afterward. He said, “You need to speak up,” Ms. Chessen recalled in an interview. “They need to hear your voice.”
Years later, when Karin Gilford, an early employee at Launch Media, Mr. Goldberg’s digital music company, became a mother, he knew exactly what to do. He kept giving her challenging assignments, she recalled, but also let her work from home one day a week. After Yahoo acquired Launch, Mr. Goldberg became known for distributing roses to all the women in the office on Valentine’s Day.
Ms. Sandberg, who often describes herself as bossy-in-a-good-way, enchanted him when they became friendly in the mid-1990s. He “was smitten with her,” Ms. Chessen remembered. Ms. Sandberg was dating someone else, but Mr. Goldberg still hung around, even helping her and her then-boyfriend move, recalled Bob Roback, a friend and co-founder of Launch. When they finally married in 2004, friends remember thinking how similar the two were, and that the qualities that might have made Ms. Sandberg intimidating to some men drew Mr. Goldberg to her even more.
Over the next decade, Mr. Goldberg and Ms. Sandberg pioneered new ways of capturing information online, had a son and then a daughter, became immensely wealthy, and hashed out their who-does-what-in-this-marriage issues. Mr. Goldberg’s commute from the Bay Area to Los Angeles became a strain, so he relocated, later joking that he “lost the coin flip” of where they would live. He paid the bills, she planned the birthday parties, and both often left their offices at 5:30 so they could eat dinner with their children before resuming work afterward.
Friends in Silicon Valley say they were careful to conduct their careers separately, politely refusing when outsiders would ask one about the other’s work: Ms. Sandberg’s role building Facebook into an information and advertising powerhouse, and Mr. Goldberg at SurveyMonkey, which made polling faster and cheaper. But privately, their work was intertwined. He often began statements to his team with the phrase “Well, Sheryl said” sharing her business advice. He counseled her, too, starting with her salary negotiations with Mark Zuckerberg.
“I wanted Mark to really feel he stretched to get Sheryl, because she was worth it,” Mr. Goldberg explained in a 2013 “60 Minutes” interview, his Minnesota accent and his smile intact as he offered a rare peek of the intersection of marriage and money at the top of corporate life.
While his wife grew increasingly outspoken about women’s advancement, Mr. Goldberg quietly advised the men in the office on family and partnership matters, an associate said. Six out of 16 members of SurveyMonkey’s management team are female, an almost unheard-of ratio among Silicon Valley “unicorns,” or companies valued at over $1 billion.
When Mellody Hobson, a friend and finance executive, wrote a chapter of “Lean In” about women of color for the college edition of the book, Mr. Goldberg gave her feedback on the draft, a clue to his deep involvement. He joked with Ms. Hobson that she was too long-winded, like Ms. Sandberg, but aside from that, he said he loved the chapter, she said in an interview.
By then, Mr. Goldberg was a figure of fascination who inspired a “where can I get one of those?” reaction among many of the women who had read the best seller “Lean In.” Some lamented that Ms. Sandberg’s advice hinged too much on marrying a Dave Goldberg, who was humble enough to plan around his wife, attentive enough to worry about which shoes his young daughter would wear, and rich enough to help pay for the help that made the family’s balancing act manageable.
Now that he is gone, and Ms. Sandberg goes from being half of a celebrated partnership to perhaps the business world’s most prominent single mother, the pages of “Lean In” carry a new sting of loss.
“We are never at 50-50 at any given moment — perfect equality is hard to define or sustain — but we allow the pendulum to swing back and forth between us,” she wrote in 2013, adding that they were looking forward to raising teenagers together.
“Fortunately, I have Dave to figure it out with me,” she wrote.Dave Goldberg Was Lifelong Womenâ€™s Advocate
“It was really nice to play with other women and not have this underlying tone of being at each other’s throats.”ay 4, 2015 â€˜Game of Thronesâ€™ Q&A: Keisha Castle-Hughes on the Tao of the Sand Snakes
Mr. Miller, of the firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges, represented companies including Lehman Brothers, General Motors and American Airlines, and mentored many of the top Chapter 11 practitioners today.Harvey R. Miller, Renowned Bankruptcy Lawyer, Dies at 82
Mr. Pfaff was an international affairs columnist and author who found Washington’s intervention in world affairs often misguided.William Pfaff, Critic of American Foreign Policy, Dies at 86
Mr. Bartoszewski was given honorary Israeli citizenship for his work to save Jews during World War II and later surprised even himself by being instrumental in reconciling Poland and Germany.Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, 93, Dies; Polish Auschwitz Survivor Aided Jews
At the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Suzman’s signature accomplishment was the central role he played in creating a global network of surveys on aging.Richard Suzman, 72, Dies; Researcher Influenced Global Surveys on Aging
Imagine an elite professional services firm with a high-performing, workaholic culture. Everyone is expected to turn on a dime to serve a client, travel at a moment’s notice, and be available pretty much every evening and weekend. It can make for a grueling work life, but at the highest levels of accounting, law, investment banking and consulting firms, it is just the way things are.
Except for one dirty little secret: Some of the people ostensibly turning in those 80- or 90-hour workweeks, particularly men, may just be faking it.
Many of them were, at least, at one elite consulting firm studied by Erin Reid, a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. It’s impossible to know if what she learned at that unidentified consulting firm applies across the world of work more broadly. But her research, published in the academic journal Organization Science, offers a way to understand how the professional world differs between men and women, and some of the ways a hard-charging culture that emphasizes long hours above all can make some companies worse off.
Ms. Reid interviewed more than 100 people in the American offices of a global consulting firm and had access to performance reviews and internal human resources documents. At the firm there was a strong culture around long hours and responding to clients promptly.
“When the client needs me to be somewhere, I just have to be there,” said one of the consultants Ms. Reid interviewed. “And if you can’t be there, it’s probably because you’ve got another client meeting at the same time. You know it’s tough to say I can’t be there because my son had a Cub Scout meeting.”
Some people fully embraced this culture and put in the long hours, and they tended to be top performers. Others openly pushed back against it, insisting upon lighter and more flexible work hours, or less travel; they were punished in their performance reviews.
The third group is most interesting. Some 31 percent of the men and 11 percent of the women whose records Ms. Reid examined managed to achieve the benefits of a more moderate work schedule without explicitly asking for it.
They made an effort to line up clients who were local, reducing the need for travel. When they skipped work to spend time with their children or spouse, they didn’t call attention to it. One team on which several members had small children agreed among themselves to cover for one another so that everyone could have more flexible hours.
A male junior manager described working to have repeat consulting engagements with a company near enough to his home that he could take care of it with day trips. “I try to head out by 5, get home at 5:30, have dinner, play with my daughter,” he said, adding that he generally kept weekend work down to two hours of catching up on email.
Despite the limited hours, he said: “I know what clients are expecting. So I deliver above that.” He received a high performance review and a promotion.
What is fascinating about the firm Ms. Reid studied is that these people, who in her terminology were “passing” as workaholics, received performance reviews that were as strong as their hyper-ambitious colleagues. For people who were good at faking it, there was no real damage done by their lighter workloads.
It calls to mind the episode of “Seinfeld” in which George Costanza leaves his car in the parking lot at Yankee Stadium, where he works, and gets a promotion because his boss sees the car and thinks he is getting to work earlier and staying later than anyone else. (The strategy goes awry for him, and is not recommended for any aspiring partners in a consulting firm.)
A second finding is that women, particularly those with young children, were much more likely to request greater flexibility through more formal means, such as returning from maternity leave with an explicitly reduced schedule. Men who requested a paternity leave seemed to be punished come review time, and so may have felt more need to take time to spend with their families through those unofficial methods.
The result of this is easy to see: Those specifically requesting a lighter workload, who were disproportionately women, suffered in their performance reviews; those who took a lighter workload more discreetly didn’t suffer. The maxim of “ask forgiveness, not permission” seemed to apply.
It would be dangerous to extrapolate too much from a study at one firm, but Ms. Reid said in an interview that since publishing a summary of her research in Harvard Business Review she has heard from people in a variety of industries describing the same dynamic.
High-octane professional service firms are that way for a reason, and no one would doubt that insane hours and lots of travel can be necessary if you’re a lawyer on the verge of a big trial, an accountant right before tax day or an investment banker advising on a huge merger.
But the fact that the consultants who quietly lightened their workload did just as well in their performance reviews as those who were truly working 80 or more hours a week suggests that in normal times, heavy workloads may be more about signaling devotion to a firm than really being more productive. The person working 80 hours isn’t necessarily serving clients any better than the person working 50.
In other words, maybe the real problem isn’t men faking greater devotion to their jobs. Maybe it’s that too many companies reward the wrong things, favoring the illusion of extraordinary effort over actual productivity.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — When the dense pillar of smoke from cremations by the Bagmati River was thinning late last week, the bodies were all coming from Gongabu, a common stopover for Nepali migrant workers headed overseas, and they were all of young men.
Hindu custom dictates that funeral pyres should be lighted by the oldest son of the deceased, but these men were too young to have sons, so they were burned by their brothers or fathers. Sukla Lal, a maize farmer, made a 14-hour journey by bus to retrieve the body of his 19-year-old son, who had been on his way to the Persian Gulf to work as a laborer.
“He wanted to live in the countryside, but he was compelled to leave by poverty,” Mr. Lal said, gazing ahead steadily as his son’s remains smoldered. “He told me, ‘You can live on your land, and I will come up with money, and we will have a happy family.’ ”
Weeks will pass before the authorities can give a complete accounting of who died in the April 25 earthquake, but it is already clear that Nepal cannot afford the losses. The countryside was largely stripped of its healthy young men even before the quake, as they migrated in great waves — 1,500 a day by some estimates — to work as laborers in India, Malaysia or one of the gulf nations, leaving many small communities populated only by elderly parents, women and children. Economists say that at some times of the year, one-quarter of Nepal’s population is working outside the country.Nepalâ€™s Young Men, Lost to Migration, Then a Quake
THE WRITERS ASHLEY AND JAQUAVIS COLEMAN know the value of a good curtain-raiser. The couple have co-authored dozens of novels, and they like to start them with a bang: a headlong action sequence, a blast of violence or sex that rocks readers back on their heels. But the Colemans concede they would be hard-pressed to dream up anything more gripping than their own real-life opening scene.
In the summer of 2001, JaQuavis Coleman was a 16-year-old foster child in Flint, Mich., the former auto-manufacturing mecca that had devolved, in the wake of General Motors’ plant closures, into one of the country’s most dangerous cities, with a decimated economy and a violent crime rate more than three times the national average. When JaQuavis was 8, social services had removed him from his mother’s home. He spent years bouncing between foster families. At 16, JaQuavis was also a businessman: a crack dealer with a network of street-corner peddlers in his employ.
One day that summer, JaQuavis met a fellow dealer in a parking lot on Flint’s west side. He was there to make a bulk sale of a quarter-brick, or “nine-piece” — a nine-ounce parcel of cocaine, with a street value of about $11,000. In the middle of the transaction, JaQuavis heard the telltale chirp of a walkie-talkie. His customer, he now realized, was an undercover policeman. JaQuavis jumped into his car and spun out onto the road, with two unmarked police cars in pursuit. He didn’t want to get into a high-speed chase, so he whipped his car into a church parking lot and made a run for it, darting into an alleyway behind a row of small houses, where he tossed the quarter-brick into some bushes. When JaQuavis reached the small residential street on the other side of the houses, he was greeted by the police, who handcuffed him and went to search behind the houses where, they told him, they were certain he had ditched the drugs. JaQuavis had been dealing since he was 12, had amassed more than $100,000 and had never been arrested. Now, he thought: It’s over.
But when the police looked in the bushes, they couldn’t find any cocaine. They interrogated JaQuavis, who denied having ever possessed or sold drugs. They combed the backyard alley some more. After an hour of fruitless efforts, the police were forced to unlock the handcuffs and release their suspect.
JaQuavis was baffled by the turn of events until the next day, when he received a phone call. The previous afternoon, a 15-year-old girl had been sitting in her home on the west side of Flint when she heard sirens. She looked out of the window of her bedroom, and watched a young man throw a package in the bushes behind her house. She recognized him. He was a high school classmate — a handsome, charismatic boy whom she had admired from afar. The girl crept outside and grabbed the bundle, which she hid in her basement. “I have something that belongs to you,” Ashley Snell told JaQuavis Coleman when she reached him by phone. “You wanna come over here and pick it up?”
In the Colemans’ first novel, “Dirty Money” (2005), they told a version of this story. The outline was the same: the drug deal gone bad, the dope chucked in the bushes, the fateful phone call. To the extent that the authors took poetic license, it was to tone down the meet-cute improbability of the true-life events. In “Dirty Money,” the girl, Anari, and the crack dealer, Maurice, circle each other warily for a year or so before coupling up. But the facts of Ashley and JaQuavis’s romance outstripped pulp fiction. They fell in love more or less at first sight, moved into their own apartment while still in high school and were married in 2008. “We were together from the day we met,” Ashley says. “I don’t think we’ve spent more than a week apart in total over the past 14 years.”
That partnership turned out to be creative and entrepreneurial as well as romantic. Over the past decade, the Colemans have published nearly 50 books, sometimes as solo writers, sometimes under pseudonyms, but usually as collaborators with a byline that has become a trusted brand: “Ashley & JaQuavis.” They are marquee stars of urban fiction, or street lit, a genre whose inner-city settings and lurid mix of crime, sex and sensationalism have earned it comparisons to gangsta rap. The emergence of street lit is one of the big stories in recent American publishing, a juggernaut that has generated huge sales by catering to a readership — young, black and, for the most part, female — that historically has been ill-served by the book business. But the genre is also widely maligned. Street lit is subject to a kind of triple snobbery: scorned by literati who look down on genre fiction generally, ignored by a white publishing establishment that remains largely indifferent to black books and disparaged by African-American intellectuals for poor writing, coarse values and trafficking in racial stereotypes.
But if a certain kind of cultural prestige is shut off to the Colemans, they have reaped other rewards. They’ve built a large and loyal fan base, which gobbles up the new Ashley & JaQuavis titles that arrive every few months. Many of those books are sold at street-corner stands and other off-the-grid venues in African-American neighborhoods, a literary gray market that doesn’t register a blip on best-seller tallies. Yet the Colemans’ most popular series now regularly crack the trade fiction best-seller lists of The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. For years, the pair had no literary agent; they sold hundreds of thousands of books without banking a penny in royalties. Still, they have earned millions of dollars, almost exclusively from cash-for-manuscript deals negotiated directly with independent publishing houses. In short, though little known outside of the world of urban fiction, the Colemans are one of America’s most successful literary couples, a distinction they’ve achieved, they insist, because of their work’s gritty authenticity and their devotion to a primal literary virtue: the power of the ripping yarn.
“When you read our books, you’re gonna realize: ‘Ashley & JaQuavis are storytellers,’ ” says Ashley. “Our tales will get your heart pounding.”
THE COLEMANS’ HOME BASE — the cottage from which they operate their cottage industry — is a spacious four-bedroom house in a genteel suburb about 35 miles north of downtown Detroit. The house is plush, but when I visited this past winter, it was sparsely appointed. The couple had just recently moved in, and had only had time to fully furnish the bedroom of their 4-year-old son, Quaye.
In conversation, Ashley and JaQuavis exude both modesty and bravado: gratitude for their good fortune and bootstrappers’ pride in having made their own luck. They talk a lot about their time in the trenches, the years they spent as a drug dealer and “ride-or-die girl” tandem. In Flint they learned to “grind hard.” Writing, they say, is merely a more elevated kind of grind.
“Instead of hitting the block like we used to, we hit the laptops,” says Ashley. “I know what every word is worth. So while I’m writing, I’m like: ‘Okay, there’s a hundred dollars. There’s a thousand dollars. There’s five thousand dollars.’ ”
They maintain a rigorous regimen. They each try to write 5,000 words per day, five days a week. The writers stagger their shifts: JaQuavis goes to bed at 7 p.m. and wakes up early, around 3 or 4 in the morning, to work while his wife and child sleep. Ashley writes during the day, often in libraries or at Starbucks.
They divide the labor in other ways. Chapters are divvied up more or less equally, with tasks assigned according to individual strengths. (JaQuavis typically handles character development. Ashley loves writing murder scenes.) The results are stitched together, with no editorial interference from one author in the other’s text. The real work, they contend, is the brainstorming. The Colemans spend weeks mapping out their plot-driven books — long conversations that turn into elaborate diagrams on dry-erase boards. “JaQuavis and I are so close, it makes the process real easy,” says Ashley. “Sometimes when I’m thinking of something, a plot point, he’ll say it out loud, and I’m like: ‘Wait — did I say that?’ ”
Their collaboration developed by accident, and on the fly. Both were bookish teenagers. Ashley read lots of Judy Blume and John Grisham; JaQuavis liked Shakespeare, Richard Wright and “Atlas Shrugged.” (Their first official date was at a Borders bookstore, where Ashley bought “The Coldest Winter Ever,” the Sister Souljah novel often credited with kick-starting the contemporary street-lit movement.) In 2003, Ashley, then 17, was forced to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. She was bedridden for three weeks, and to provide distraction and boost her spirits, JaQuavis challenged his girlfriend to a writing contest. “She just wasn’t talking. She was laying in bed. I said, ‘You know what? I bet you I could write a better book than you.’ My wife is real competitive. So I said, ‘Yo, all right, $500 bet.’ And I saw her eyes spark, like, ‘What?! You can’t write no better book than me!’ So I wrote about three chapters. She wrote about three chapters. Two days later, we switched.”
The result, hammered out in a few days, would become “Dirty Money.” Two years later, when Ashley and JaQuavis were students at Ferris State University in Western Michigan, they sold the manuscript to Urban Books, a street-lit imprint founded by the best-selling author Carl Weber. At the time, JaQuavis was still making his living selling drugs. When Ashley got the phone call informing her that their book had been bought, she assumed they’d hit it big, and flushed more than $10,000 worth of cocaine down the toilet. Their advance was a mere $4,000.
Those advances would soon increase, eventually reaching five and six figures. The Colemans built their career, JaQuavis says, in a manner that made sense to him as a veteran dope peddler: by flooding the street with product. From the start, they were prolific, churning out books at a rate of four or five a year. Their novels made their way into stores; the now-defunct chain Waldenbooks, which had stores in urban areas typically bypassed by booksellers, was a major engine of the street-lit market. But Ashley and JaQuavis took advantage of distribution channels established by pioneering urban fiction authors such as Teri Woods and Vickie Stringer, and a network of street-corner tables, magazine stands, corner shops and bodegas. Like rappers who establish their bona fides with gray-market mixtapes, street-lit authors use this system to circumnavigate industry gatekeepers, bringing their work straight to the genre’s core readership. But urban fiction has other aficionados, in less likely places. “Our books are so popular in the prison system,” JaQuavis says. “We’re banned in certain penitentiaries. Inmates fight over the books — there are incidents, you know? I have loved ones in jail, and they’re like: ‘Yo, your books can’t come in here. It’s against the rules.’ ”
The appeal of the Colemans’ work is not hard to fathom. The books are formulaic and taut; they deliver the expected goods efficiently and exuberantly. The titles telegraph the contents: “Diary of a Street Diva,” “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” “Murderville.” The novels serve up a stream of explicit sex and violence in a slangy, tangy, profane voice. In Ashley & JaQuavis’s books people don’t get killed: they get “popped,” “laid out,” get their “cap twisted back.” The smut is constant, with emphasis on the earthy, sticky, olfactory particulars. Romance novel clichés — shuddering orgasms, heroic carnal feats, superlative sexual skill sets — are rendered in the Colemans’ punchy patois.
Subtlety, in other words, isn’t Ashley & JaQuavis’s forte. But their books do have a grainy specificity. In “The Cartel” (2008), the first novel in the Colemans’ best-selling saga of a Miami drug syndicate, they catch the sights and smells of a crack workshop in a housing project: the nostril-stinging scent of cocaine and baking soda bubbling on stovetops; the teams of women, stripped naked except for hospital masks so they can’t pilfer the merchandise, “cutting up the cooked coke on the round wood table.” The subject matter is dark, but the Colemans’ tone is not quite noir. Even in the grimmest scenes, the mood is high-spirited, with the writers palpably relishing the lewd and gory details: the bodies writhing in boudoirs and crumpling under volleys of bullets, the geysers of blood and other bodily fluids.
The luridness of street lit has made it a flashpoint, inciting controversy reminiscent of the hip-hop culture wars of the 1980s and ’90s. But the street-lit debate touches deeper historical roots, reviving decades-old arguments in black literary circles about the mandate to uplift the race and present wholesome images of African-Americans. In 1928, W. E. B. Du Bois slammed the “licentiousness” of “Home to Harlem,” Claude McKay’s rollicking novel of Harlem nightlife. McKay’s book, Du Bois wrote, “for the most part nauseates me, and after the dirtier parts of its filth I feel distinctly like taking a bath.” Similar sentiments have greeted 21st-century street lit. In a 2006 New York Times Op-Ed essay, the journalist and author Nick Chiles decried “the sexualization and degradation of black fiction.” African-American bookstores, Chiles complained, are “overrun with novels that . . . appeal exclusively to our most prurient natures — as if these nasty books were pairing off back in the stockrooms like little paperback rabbits and churning out even more graphic offspring that make Ralph Ellison books cringe into a dusty corner.”
Copulating paperbacks aside, it’s clear that the street-lit debate is about more than literature, touching on questions of paternalism versus populism, and on middle-class anxieties about the black underclass. “It’s part and parcel of black elites’ efforts to define not only a literary tradition, but a racial politics,” said Kinohi Nishikawa, an assistant professor of English and African-American Studies at Princeton University. “There has always been a sense that because African-Americans’ opportunities to represent themselves are so limited in the first place, any hint of criminality or salaciousness would necessarily be a knock on the entire racial politics. One of the pressing debates about African-American literature today is: If we can’t include writers like Ashley & JaQuavis, to what extent is the foundation of our thinking about black literature faulty? Is it just a literature for elites? Or can it be inclusive, bringing urban fiction under the purview of our umbrella term ‘African-American literature’?”
Defenders of street lit note that the genre has a pedigree: a tradition of black pulp fiction that stretches from Chester Himes, the midcentury author of hardboiled Harlem detective stories, to the 1960s and ’70s “ghetto fiction” of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines, to the current wave of urban fiction authors. Others argue for street lit as a social good, noting that it attracts a large audience that might otherwise never read at all. Scholars like Nishikawa link street lit to recent studies showing increased reading among African-Americans. A 2014 Pew Research Center report found that a greater percentage of black Americans are book readers than whites or Latinos.
For their part, the Colemans place their work in the broader black literary tradition. “You have Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, James Baldwin — all of these traditional black writers, who wrote about the struggles of racism, injustice, inequality,” says Ashley. “We’re writing about the struggle as it happens now. It’s just a different struggle. I’m telling my story. I’m telling the struggle of a black girl from Flint, Michigan, who grew up on welfare.”
Perhaps there is a high-minded case to be made for street lit. But the virtues of Ashley & JaQuavis’s work are more basic. Their novels do lack literary polish. The writing is not graceful; there are passages of clunky exposition and sex scenes that induce guffaws and eye rolls. But the pleasure quotient is high. The books flaunt a garish brand of feminism, with women characters cast not just as vixens, but also as gangsters — cold-blooded killers, “murder mamas.” The stories are exceptionally well-plotted. “The Cartel” opens by introducing its hero, the crime boss Carter Diamond; on page 9, a gunshot spatters Diamond’s brain across the interior of a police cruiser. The book then flashes back seven years and begins to hurtle forward again — a bullet train, whizzing readers through shifting alliances, romantic entanglements and betrayals, kidnappings, shootouts with Haitian and Dominican gangsters, and a cliffhanger closing scene that leaves the novel’s heroine tied to a chair in a basement, gruesomely tortured to the edge of death. Ashley & JaQuavis’s books are not Ralph Ellison, certainly, but they build up quite a head of steam. They move.
The Colemans are moving themselves these days. They recently signed a deal with St. Martin’s Press, which will bring out the next installment in the “Cartel” series as well as new solo series by both writers. The St. Martin’s deal is both lucrative and legitimizing — a validation of Ashley and JaQuavis’s work by one of publishing’s most venerable houses. The Colemans’ ambitions have grown, as well. A recent trilogy, “Murderville,” tackles human trafficking and the blood-diamond industry in West Africa, with storylines that sweep from Sierra Leone to Mexico to Los Angeles. Increasingly, Ashley & JaQuavis are leaning on research — traveling to far-flung settings and hitting the books in the libraries — and spending less time mining their own rough-and-tumble past.
But Flint remains a source of inspiration. One evening not long ago, JaQuavis led me on a tour of his hometown: a popular roadside bar; the parking lot where he met the undercover cop for the ill-fated drug deal; Ashley’s old house, the site of his almost-arrest. He took me to a ramshackle vehicle repair shop on Flint’s west side, where he worked as a kid, washing cars. He showed me a bathroom at the rear of the garage, where, at age 12, he sneaked away to inspect the first “boulder” of crack that he ever sold. A spray-painted sign on the garage wall, which JaQuavis remembered from his time at the car wash, offered words of warning:
WHAT EVERY YOUNG MAN SHOULD KNOW
ABOUT USING A GUN:
MURDER . . . 30 Years
ARMED ROBBERY . . . 15 Years
ASSAULT . . . 15 Years
RAPE . . . 20 Years
POSSESSION . . . 5 Years
JACKING . . . 20 YEARS
“We still love Flint, Michigan,” JaQuavis says. “It’s so seedy, so treacherous. But there’s some heart in this city. This is where it all started, selling books out the box. In the days when we would get those little $40,000 advances, they’d send us a couple boxes of books for free. We would hit the streets to sell our books, right out of the car trunk. It was a hustle. It still is.”
One old neighborhood asset that the Colemans have not shaken off is swagger. “My wife is the best female writer in the game,” JaQuavis told me. “I believe I’m the best male writer in the game. I’m sleeping next to the best writer in the world. And she’s doing the same.”From T Magazine: Street Litâ€™s Power Couple
Over the last five years or so, it seemed there was little that Dean G. Skelos, the majority leader of the New York Senate, would not do for his son.
He pressed a powerful real estate executive to provide commissions to his son, a 32-year-old title insurance salesman, according to a federal criminal complaint. He helped get him a job at an environmental company and employed his influence to help the company get government work. He used his office to push natural gas drilling regulations that would have increased his son’s commissions.
He even tried to direct part of a $5.4 billion state budget windfall to fund government contracts that the company was seeking. And when the company was close to securing a storm-water contract from Nassau County, the senator, through an intermediary, pressured the company to pay his son more — or risk having the senator subvert the bid.
The criminal complaint, unsealed on Monday, lays out corruption charges against Senator Skelos and his son, Adam B. Skelos, the latest scandal to seize Albany, and potentially alter its power structure.
The repeated and diverse efforts by Senator Skelos, a Long Island Republican, to use what prosecutors said was his political influence to find work, or at least income, for his son could send both men to federal prison. If they are convicted of all six charges against them, they face up to 20 years in prison for each of four of the six counts and up to 10 years for the remaining two.
Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, of Long Island, who serves as chairman of the Republican conference, emerged from a closed-door meeting Monday night to say that conference members agreed that Mr. Skelos should be benefited the “presumption of innocence,” and would stay in his leadership role.
“The leader has indicated he would like to remain as leader,” said Mr. LaValle, “and he has the support of the conference.” The case against Mr. Skelos and his son grew out of a broader inquiry into political corruption by the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, that has already changed the face of the state capital. It is based in part, according to the six-count complaint, on conversations secretly recorded by one of two cooperating witnesses, and wiretaps on the cellphones of the senator and his son. Those recordings revealed that both men were concerned about electronic surveillance, and illustrated the son’s unsuccessful efforts to thwart it.
Adam Skelos took to using a “burner” phone, the complaint says, and told his father he wanted them to speak through a FaceTime video call in an apparent effort to avoid detection. They also used coded language at times.
At one point, Adam Skelos was recorded telling a Senate staff member of his frustration in not being able to speak openly to his father on the phone, noting that he could not “just send smoke signals or a little pigeon” carrying a message.
The 43-page complaint, sworn out by Paul M. Takla, a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, outlines a five-year scheme to “monetize” the senator’s official position; it also lays bare the extent to which a father sought to use his position to help his son.
The charges accuse the two men of extorting payments through a real estate developer, Glenwood Management, based on Long Island, and the environmental company, AbTech Industries, in Scottsdale, Ariz., with the expectation that the money paid to Adam Skelos — nearly $220,000 in total — would influence his father’s actions.
Glenwood, one of the state’s most prolific campaign donors, had ties to AbTech through investments in the environmental firm’s parent company by Glenwood’s founding family and a senior executive.
The accusations in the complaint portray Senator Skelos as a man who, when it came to his son, was not shy about twisting arms, even in situations that might give other arm-twisters pause.
Seeking to help his son, Senator Skelos turned to the executive at Glenwood, which develops rental apartments in New York City and has much at stake when it comes to real estate legislation in Albany. The senator urged him to direct business to his son, who sold title insurance.
After much prodding, the executive, Charles C. Dorego, engineered a $20,000 payment to Adam Skelos from a title insurance company even though he did no work for the money. But far more lucrative was a consultant position that Mr. Dorego arranged for Adam Skelos at AbTech, which seeks government contracts to treat storm water. (Mr. Dorego is not identified by name in the complaint, but referred to only as CW-1, for Cooperating Witness 1.)
Senator Skelos appeared to take an active interest in his son’s new line of work. Adam Skelos sent him several drafts of his consulting agreement with AbTech, the complaint says, as well as the final deal that was struck.
“Mazel tov,” his father replied.
Senator Skelos sent relevant news articles to his son, including one about a sewage leak near Albany. When AbTech wanted to seek government contracts after Hurricane Sandy, the senator got on a conference call with his son and an AbTech executive, Bjornulf White, and offered advice. (Like Mr. Dorego, Mr. White is not named in the complaint, but referred to as CW-2.)
The assistance paid off: With the senator’s help, AbTech secured a contract worth up to $12 million from Nassau County, a big break for a struggling small business.
But the money was slow to materialize. The senator expressed impatience with county officials.
Adam Skelos, in a phone call with Mr. White in late December, suggested that his father would seek to punish the county. “I tell you this, the state is not going to do a [expletive] thing for the county,” he said.
Three days later, Senator Skelos pressed his case with the Nassau County executive, Edward P. Mangano, a fellow Republican. “Somebody feels like they’re just getting jerked around the last two years,” the senator said, referring to his son in what the complaint described as “coded language.”
The next day, the senator pursued the matter, as he and Mr. Mangano attended a wake for a slain New York City police officer. Senator Skelos then reassured his son, who called him while he was still at the wake. “All claims that are in will be taken care of,” the senator said.
AbTech’s fortunes appeared to weigh on his son. At one point in January, Adam Skelos told his father that if the company did not succeed, he would “lose the ability to pay for things.”
Making matters worse, in recent months, Senator Skelos and his son appeared to grow wary about who was watching them. In addition to making calls on the burner phone, Adam Skelos said he used the FaceTime video calling “because that doesn’t show up on the phone bill,” as he told Mr. White.
In late February, Adam Skelos arranged a pair of meetings between Mr. White and state senators; AbTech needed to win state legislation that would allow its contract to move beyond its initial stages. But Senator Skelos deemed the plan too risky and caused one of the meetings to be canceled.
In another recorded call, Adam Skelos, promising to be “very, very vague” on the phone, urged his father to allow the meeting. The senator offered a warning. “Right now we are in dangerous times, Adam,” he told him.
A month later, in another phone call that was recorded by the authorities, Adam Skelos complained that his father could not give him “real advice” about AbTech while the two men were speaking over the telephone.
“You can’t talk normally,” he told his father, “because it’s like [expletive] Preet Bharara is listening to every [expletive] phone call. It’s just [expletive] frustrating.”
“It is,” his father agreed.Dean Skelos, Albany Senate Leader, Aided Son at All Costs, U.S. Says
Ms. Plisetskaya, renowned for her fluidity of movement, expressive acting and willful personality, danced on the Bolshoi stage well into her 60s, but her life was shadowed by Stalinism.Maya Plisetskaya, Ballerina Who Embodied Bolshoi, Dies at 89