Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Future of Our Society, autocorrected

During my job search today I came across this on craigslist:

"graphic tudor wanted"

I wanted to ask of the requirements: do i need to suffer from gout? have had several wives beheaded?

But here's the thing:

The person who posted this ad up probably doesn't care about spelling - it's next to grammar as an antiquated function in our society. During the reign of "i know there's spellcheck somewhere but I always forget to use it" I thought we were on the road to more pristine communication. Then texting brought in the great devolution of communication; however, while in school, I noticed few of my fellow students could arrange a complete sentence. So, now, in our technological nanny state, we put in the hands of these same people, software that "autocorrects" bad spelling, usually with hilarious and unpredictable results.

But the biggest result: people no longer have to feel the social stigma of being a bad speller - they just have to add the disclaimer ("stupid autocorrect") to the bottom of every post, every text, every email and they are automagically saved by the very technology that mocked them to begin with.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Advice, virtually

I noticed in the last round of 2013 predictions that this would be the year there will be no more "guessing". Have a question, look it up. Speculation is unnecessary; you have the capability to find any answer at your fingertips (unless you're on wifi, like me). 

Throw Google a juicy question and many search results will turn out to be forums: other people worrying about the same thing I am. Advice, like anything on the web, is ubiquitous - and you have to be vigilante about whose to take. Posting on forums is a good practice, but like any conversation in which you try to engage strangers (or know-it-alls), prepare to be trashed or ignored.

Apple's forums are a good example. The unspoken rule is never to ask anything without laying out the exact specifications of your computer or device, its OS, its RAM, maybe even its color. It saves a lot of time and stupid quips; however, more often than not, most of my questions on Apple's forums go mysteriously unanswered. Understandably, the database is huge, possibly hundreds of questions are posted every hour and the chances that mine will snag an expert's attention can be dim. Still, it's an epic fail if I'm in dire need of some virtual I.T.

It's also prudent to be wary of multi-paged discussions. Usually these are filled with folks raking back and forth over the same territory, throwing in their $.03, contradicting each other. I spent an entire evening this week reading through an Apple forum about why Netflix doesn't stream well with AppleTV. Hours later, I still had no good answer, and streaming Netflix over my AppleTV still sucks. 

Perhaps the only thing more satisfying than posing personal needy questions online is to incite fervent opinion. I use one of LinkedIn's graphic design forums to get other professionals' takes on current working conditions. This is one of the best functions of a social network like LinkedIn - introducing yourself to your community by delving into current issues, and in the course, revealing bits of yourself as well. Opinions seem to flow easier than answers in the virtual world.

iPod resetting instructions, how best to clean my saltwater aquarium, what's the latest rumor coming out of Walt Disney World, how to treat shoulder bursitis naturally, how many times has T'Pau shown up on Star Trek…my google search inquiries are all being filed somewhere in order to directly market to me. A blessing? A curse? Privacy invasion? It's still a flawed system. A few months ago I searched for natural answers to sciatica relief. Now every banner ad on mostly every website is about, yes, sciatica relief. Good thing I didn't search for reasons why genital parasites are on the verge of extinction because of all this excessive manscaping.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Apologizing, digitally

The fact that this apology does not exist anywhere on paper, that it was created in TextEdit on my MacMini, then copy-and-pasted onto Blogspot, is in a major way the reason why I need to say how sorry I am it has gotten to this.

I apologize to Borders and many small, independent bookstores (except the tiny B Dalton's that used to be in all the malls, which were - let's be honest - more of an irritation for serious booklovers) for purchasing my books on True, most of them were used, and the inventory impeccable. I grew up trolling the literally dust-filled bins of used paperback palaces, some maddeningly unorganized, most with 100 copies of crap romance novels and nothing close to what I was looking for. But now they're mostly gone because of me. The fact that Barnes & Noble might not survive 2013 is my fault as well.

I apologize to now-defunct record stores - large and small. Tower Records was closing its doors in New Orleans soon after Katrina recovery was in full swing, and I was there, scouring the shelves for deep, deep, discounts, fingering the bullet holes in the corpse. I often stopped by the Virgin Megastore in Downtown Disney before it went away, more to see what new chill compilations were out, but never to buy. In hometown Tampa Bay, after following Vinyl Fever through three locations, I even stopped trolling the 99 cent used disc bins. And all of this because iTunes allows me to purchase just one beautiful track out of an entire cd that might contain utter shite.

I apologize to all of those amazing independent cinemas that have had to close their doors. The real historic movie houses, like Tampa Theatre, only hang on due to intense corporate funding. Less glamourous palaces, like the just-shuttered Beach Theatre in St. Petersburg, were snuffed out by me, cacooned at home thanks to Netflix, who slide luscious indie and foreign film into my post office box every week.

I am deeply sorry for all the many businesses that I have abandoned in my quest for efficiency, low prices, high tech and customer satisfaction. And for my sins I now live in an area where every where I look is an Amscot, a Dollar Store, a place that will pay cash for my gold (if I had any). This is the barren landscape I deserve.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Music outlook, cloudy

This week, emailed me to let me know that they uploaded music I'd purchased from 3 years of cd purchases onto my cloud player. For the 3 people in the world who don't use iTunes, this is probably a good thing.

I've bought a handful of mp3s from amazon over the past few years - mostly as lagniappe after spreading my cashflow around their hallways with large payloads like my Criterion Collection fetish. There once was a myth that amazon sold mp3s unavailable on itunes, but I haven't had any luck tracking down anything rare and beautiful; if it's not with one music service, it probably isn't on any other.

Since mp3s have become widely available, my cd purchasing has lived a rare and fragile existence, left to the odd deluxe repackaging (REM has been releasing 25th anniversary editions, as if I weren't old enough) so I only have about 925 songs in my cloud player.

Will amazon give me digital kindle versions of all the books I've purchased from them? Not in time for any of this year's apocalypses, apparently. Ditto for all those Criterion Collections that line my crypt, so I will remain cautiously grateful of having another way to hear my music in case the cd players fail, my ipods (all 3) crap out and Pandora gets dangerously dull and repetitious (and not very intuitive, but that's another post).

I won't advocate my fogey whine. I can look forward to a day (as some have already realized) where I will not be crowding my space with books, cds or dvds. Some modern folk don't seem to need anything more than a tablet because all their files and their software are in the cloud. As long as the solar flare/electromagnetic bomb doesn't ruin things and we'll be wishing we'd kept that ragged old paperback of On the Road to wile away the hours by candlelight, we'll all be fine and sublime.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Award season, diminishing

I'm not an award show devotee and you might not be either for several good reasons:

1.  Are these awards being voted on by industry leaders, peers, old fogies, corporations? And if it is a people's choice award, does the middle-ground rabble average really interest me, a (film/theatre/music/literature/et al) dilettante?

2. Many in the audience use award nominations and winners as an after-the-fact list of "proven" pieces of art to view or to purchase. Box office sometimes works the same way: if it's #1, it's gotta be good, right? If it wins an Oscar or Emmy, does that immediately mean it's a must-see?

3. Genre projects are the redheaded stepchildren (sci fi/horror/fantasy mostly) who rarely get recognized (unless it stays in its own backyard, like the Saturn or Hugo). As a result, many of my film and television favorites have never been nominated for major awards. Crowd pleasers are more often spotlighted, not cult favorites.

4. The Palme d'Or is all that matters.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bowie, the next day

I'm sure there will be a lot of "Bowie on social security" jokes this year (except that he's a Brit and a millionaire). 2013 marks the first new David Bowie album since 2003. (although, he did become a dad again that year, so I'm sure he's been keeping busy). Put in perspective, he's still a baby compared to Willie Nelson, Leonard Cohen, Ringo & McCartney, Jagger & Richards.

It's a interesting phenomenon to have an artist consistently create work throughout most of my lifetime. Although I'm too young to remember psychedelic hippie Bowie or even glam Bowie, I was exposed to – and influenced by –  Berlin Bowie, New Wave Bowie and Techno Bowie. I imagine Bing Crosby (still spinning in his grave after conceding to duet with young Bowie back in an '70s xmas special that actually aired 2 weeks after his death) would be nonplussed to behold Bowie the 21st century crooner.

Appreciate Bowie the actor in any decade - whether The Man Who Fell to Earth, Absolute Beginners, The Hunger or Basquiat, The Prestige (as Nikola Tesla!) and his cameo in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.  Even try to appreciate the vague sense of film bio that Velvet Goldmine tried so hard to be. (It grates worse on the Iggy Pop character, another legend who hits retirement age this year.) Let's hope Bowie writes his memoirs soon, because biographers can't seem to articulate his complete kaleidoscopic saga.

The new single, "Where Are We Now?", popped up today – and Bowie sounds a bit sad and gravelly – but he still lends a certain gravitas to a lush, somewhat bleak, sonic landscape. It seems right that 2013 will have a Bowie soundtrack filtering through its days, a Virgil leading me through every hellish circle.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Elementary, in the details

I had the chance to catch a few episodes of Elementary, the U.S. take on BBC's Sherlock, itself a 21st century update of detection, deduction and the art of fine, sometimes crazy tiny, detail. I am all for fine detail, a skill that is sadly neglected in our education system, but what makes both new versions of Sherlock Holmes' adventures palatable for the mainstream viewer is that the lead character is presented as a "high-functioning sociopath" to quote one of the shows. In other words, the only way an ordered mind can excel in our society is by acting out in the most disorderly ways: no social skills, no guile, no vanity, no use for authority - the many habits of highly deductive people.

As chance would have it, I also watched a brief video talk today on the subject of "should designers learn to code". I won't bore you with the outcome, as it is fundamentally self-evident, but I did perk up at the lecturer's spritely comment that it is somewhat fashionable to hire brilliant coder/developers who "verge on Asperger's" syndrome, to paraphrase out of context. As if that thin line between autism and ADHD can produce brilliant, if not cleverly hip,  individuals who may be useless in the real world but whose focused brain can mean a goldmine for any commercial enterprise. (In other words, they are good hires, just don't expect them to dress well or be up to date on Buck Wild.)

Both Sherlock versions have shown the detective describe himself as only having so much room in his brain (comparing it  to a hard drive) and all vacuous, useless, trivial information needs to be excised so that the brilliance of deduction can have the space it needs. And I think there's an interesting lesson here, as most of the viewing audience - myself included - has to ingest so much information in a day, the fine details of life can easily be lost, or worse: the big picture fades because the everyday minutiae of social networking, tweeting, texting, rss,  - and, sure, blogging -  distort, confuse and shroud sometimes both the forest AND the trees.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cameras, always ready

It's been a surprising week for photography in my life; not because I'm producing quality art, but because the camera world is changing so quickly. I am witnessing a world still unable to cope with the fact that everyone has a camera with them at all times.

I don't have many decent shots of myself. I've asked companions to take interesting photos over the past few years and I have quickly trashed most of them, harsh self-critic as I am. But since my iPod takes self-portraits so easily, I find myself glancing at myself in mirrors hoping for just the perfect combo of lighting and background. Worse than self-portraits of people standing in front of their bathroom mirrors with toilet seat undoubtedly up, there are tons of headshots taken behind the wheel. Forget texting and driving, narcissism and driving are far more dangerous.

I was recently given a cache of old family photos from my dad, who, perhaps sensing his imminent departure from this world, doesn't want to be held responsible for the family archives. Since my childhood straddled most of the 1970s, there is, as you'd expect, a pile of little "Olan Mills" logos on the bottom of most shots. And Olan Mills is still around, along with Sears Portraits and all their ilk. How is this business model still relevant in 2013? Even more troubling, as I am jobhunting, I find more than a few portrait studios looking for staff. Besides my intense abhorrence for infants, clowns and standing for long periods of time, I still have to wonder aloud and seriously if this might be a good career move for me.

As my family was leaving my mother's house after xmas dinner last month, getting into their cars and saying their goodbyes, I mentioned quietly that, gee, we had everyone together and no one thought to take a family shot. After I received a swift slap on the back of my head from my mother, I began to wonder if those huge widescreen televisions in everyone's living rooms (except mine) could be rigged to continuously take group photos. It's bad enough that 95% of the family photos I have collected throughout my life invariably have xmas trees in the background, but it seems that no one can really be trusted to have the social fortitude to wrangle family shots, even if everyone is packing their own cameras.

I didn't grow up in a photography family. Although there are ancient 8mm xmas morning movies rotting in a box somewhere, I do not believe I saw my first "professional" camera set-up until I peeked into my high school a/v locker.  I regret many events in my life where there are no visual records existing. This brought me to a tech news item today about "memoto", a tiny camera you can clip to the front of your shirt that will take a couple of thousand photos throughout your day and even sort it all out for you later on.  Besides the chance to make you viciously unpopular in your home or work situation, is this really a good idea? We are already on camera and under surveillance in so many places in our lives, is complete saturation the answer? (and is it really just a government ploy to document every moment for our future FEMA-camp lives?)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Ginsberg, gone again

Something had to give. 2013 is the year for voluntarily scaling down and simplification. Whether this is because a major relocation is in my future (spoilers?), or just the sweet release of getting out from under the weight of all those books, I have to make it so. Only 5 major bookcases exist in my house, which means a lot of crates under the bed and in various closets. Am I getting all pro-Kindle? That's for another discussion…

I've had a rather sizable tumescence for what is nicely termed "The Beat Literary Experience". Pride or deride the proto-hippies if you must, I find mid-20th century American literature as interesting as the lives of those who participated in it. Art is usually always a reaction to the world the artist lives in; these post-WWII cats were just as broadsided by their civilization as we are with ours. But life was aesthetically simpler for the Beats and their groupies since the underground had not been commoditized: there was no Hot Topic or Junkman's Daughter to get the left-of-center to part with their money. Whether it was sex, drugs or revolutionary ideas that banded them together, they got their decade or so in the spotlight.

The three with the most literary merit (or output, if you're being kind. A prolific artist has his/her own brand of merit, I am certain) were close friends - at least in their early lives. Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs occupied a lot of space on my bookshelves. Not so much their work (although I seem to have an old, almost original Grove Press edition of Naked Lunch gathering dust), but bios, autobios, letters, mantras, sutras and interviews. There are sidetrips to Tangiers, one-offs by lesser known colleagues and the ever present muse/sex object (usually both).

But I am afraid, in the great literary diaspora of 2013, someone had to go and I'm afraid it's Allen's turn.

It's not that he wasn't likable. Gawky kid with a crazy parent, hallucinogenic visions complete with famous poet cameo, Columbia, San Francisco, India, Beat Hotel in Paris, then the long-haired hippie godfather and underground elder statesman. I heard him speak once before he died, I think. It was the early '90s and I had pilgrimaged to Manhattan with a companion to pray at our forefathers at CBGB and the Chelsea Hotel. Ginsberg was speaking at St. John the Divine on the upper westside and we wound up sitting so far in the back that your mom could've been giving the presentation and we'd scarcely had known. No, that's not right, of course. Ginsberg's voice did nothing less than carry like a clarion call - cathedral or no cathedral.

So, why does he get the boot and not Bill or Jack? I admit Jack was a hot, sloppy mess - most of his biographers went out of their way to highlight just how much he could bring down a party with all of his pitiful, liquored-up grousing. His literary output, for the most part, tread the same streets, just another decade older and less sober (one of the reasons I stopped writing; I didn't want to fall into the Kerouac Syndrome, telling the same story ad nauseum). When I read about artists' lives (and I do read a lot of them), Kerouac's song of great-heights-to-crashing-lows is the one I hear over and over. Allen had his moments, sure, but for the most part, he rose above them - and what's exciting there?

And Bill - well, if you don't know about Bill, I can't help you here.

So, farewell, Allen. I certainly understood when you pined for both Jack and Neal; I can genuflect at your equal rights example by having such a long term relationship with Peter. I admire the ground breaking against censorship, the group 'om's and willingness to be an example, for leaving your middle class American comfort zone to go to India and dig the poverty, the maddening crowds, the burning ghats. Yours was a life we all need to know more about and hopefully Spielberg will give you the Lincoln treatment someday soon.


Friday, January 4, 2013

First Person, on the Prairie

Like most people under 50, I didn't grow up reading first-person accounts of orphans in Dickensian London. Whether this was once a practice to make spoiled American children feel better about themselves is open to debate, but the concept that some people were compelled to share what made them evolve into the person they eventually became was a fascinating concept, especially those memoirs rich in detail about another time, another place.

I got on this kick thanks to a grade school teacher who would calm our class, drained from a lunchtime in the tropical heat, by reading aloud the exploits of that frontier rebel, Laura Ingalls, and her constantly on-the-move clan. I discovered through her books innumerable life lessons: how homes could have lawns for roofs (how sustainable!); how you could make dessert by draining a maple tree's syrup onto a bowl of fresh snow; and how - suddenly - your sister could go blind. Life was tough for Laura, but she spared no detail about her little houses, and eventually, little towns.

This was the reason I began my first series of memoirs, using my own family's frequent moving to bracket my 1970s exploits ("Little House by the Orange Grove"?) But, of course, I hadn't done any actual growing up during my growing up, so there wasn't much material to draw upon. Maybe I didn't actually create anything more than design the book covers for each volume - less a writer-in-hoping than a marketer-in-waiting.

Caveat about the TV series: it appeared just as I was old enough to grow a bullshit meter concerning Hollywood's attempts at audience manipulation, so I was not a viewer, preferring the more Eastern philosophies, of, say, Bosom Buddies and Soap.

I wound up spending the remainder of my growing-up years stumbling upon other guys growing up and writing it all down, even if there was little factual about it: Holden Caulfield, Sal Paradise, the fabulously freaked-out Berrys and Louis de Lioncourt all entranced me with palpable first-person narratives until I reached the end of my education in 1985 with the minimalist percussion of Clay's trip home from Bennington. Only then was I ready to begin recording and reshaping my own recollections of what I'd learned (or clearly hadn't) in my young life.

As an adult, I have rarely gone back to fiction for escape, instead continuing to seek out that rare glimpse of wide-eyed, sober detail that only someone who has been there to tell the tale can give me. (I remember girls in college carrying around Anais Nin's diaries when they should have been perusing Frida Kahlo's) I defy anyone to get through either Chris Rose or Joshua Clark's blow-by-blow of life both during and right after Hurricane Katrina without burning their own diaries and journals in envious disgust. Published letters are a particular vice as well, reviving both an archaic means of communication while mining the daily decisions of artists like William Burroughs and Tennessee Williams

So, what happened to my own cautionary tale? Like many young writers, I first attempted to disguise fact as fiction in order to protect the innocent while adding flourish to what was usually mundane. By the time I got back to memoir, it had became more of a self-analytic exercise, not something for others to read. (When I transitioned from the written word to the image, I wondered if I would compose self-portraits or vistas of my favorite "thinking spots". I did not.) I await, I suppose, a decidedly meaningful event to occur and hope I'm in the right place, time and state of mind to make sense of it, render its painfully scented details and be prepared to present myself in the process of growing up.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Music, Now Rentable

The solution for any avid music collector like me (old enough to be referred to as a record collector, but, still) is to no longer purchase music at all - simply rent it. No storage, no risk of loss, no loss of quality. It goes against every fiber in my being - and I eat a lot of fiber.

This isn't a vinyl diatribe; I'm not that old. I did, briefly, purchase 45's for that jukebox I always swore I'd buy. Considering how many times I have moved, it's a good thing I didn't. I do miss combing the bins, make no mistake, as well as some of the best radio stations (WLIR/DRE on Long Island in the '80s, along with Rhode Island's WBRU; Atlanta's 99X and WRAS in the '90s, amazing shows like Tampa's Dark Horizons on WMNF (now podcasting) and WOXY online in the 2000s). And I have suffered the indignities of re-purchasing my music from cassette to cd to digital. Sometimes there are different bonus tracks hiding on the vinyl, the cassette or the cd and you'd have to shell out bucks for all of it if you wanted to be a completist (I'm looking at you, Robert Smith: I paid your mortgage through most of 1989 and 2004).

Pre-recorded music takes up a hell of a lot of room. I scrounged successfully throughout the '80s for strange pieces of furniture to house my cassettes: a wooden three-tiered wine display (slightly tilted forward) was my favorite score. CDs quickly required their own bedroom at the peak of my collector years, to the chagrin of many a roommate/relationship. And my bitterness was always the same, my loathing for the record companies never abated, because they made me purchase entire albums of crap for one good song. 

Towards the end of the '80s, mixtapes became my main vehicle of introduction, identity, affection and art (as well as an effective backup system) well into my compact disc days. Fancying myself a clever deejay, I had endless themes and moods. I also taped off of radio shows (the BBC top 20 countdown on Sunday night were a treasure of tracks I'd never be able to find right away in the U.S.) and bought every "sampler" known to man in the '90s, famished for that one obscure track that would transport my soul to nirvana.

The pops and hisses of vinyl don't send me back as much as the horrible crackling of my walkman eating a cassette tape, or a scratched compact disc skipping into infinity. Seriously, this is what passes for nostalgia.

But that's all dust in my wind here in the 21st century. For the sake of simplicity, space and peace of mind, I have digitized 90% of my music collection, sold what I could get something for, and chucked the rest. The 81.65gb (or, more happily, 43.3 days) of music on my Mac mini (backed up to an external hard drive because the iTunes "cloud" only accepts tracks bought from them, not anything imported) is a testament to both my mania and eclecticism as well as most of my salary for the past 25 years. Will I ever get to the point that I can trust an online jukebox like Spotify to have exactly the tracks I want, when I want? Doubtful.

I am the deejay of my own story and I must maintain some illusion of control. It is an outdated concept, of course, but I believe everyone should own, never rent, their life's story.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Jobseeker, perpetual

When I tell people I have literally been looking for a job since 2003, I don't expect surprise. Our society has been taught (and this is very different from my parents' generation) to always keep looking for the next best thing: a job, a partner, a house, a car - satisfaction is a sacrilege. Depending on your prevailing philosophy, I have either enough high self-esteem or way too much self-delusion to proclaim I have the skills, talent and experience to make a great addition to any company (we won't go into freelancing/open-my-own business here, promise). Add to my plus column: online jobhunting. Been doing it for ten years, and despite only landing mediocrity, I now consider this experience marketable as well.

Note that I am a graphic/web designer. Everyone has their own niche and each is being overflowed by job marketers. Making this even more hell-on-earth: consider many job boards are aggregates of other job boards; positions that have been filled months ago have not been deleted from the long lists; and some companies insist on keeping their job postings running in perpetuity so they can continue hoarding a steady stream of resumes. Adding to that deep mire the employment agencies that each seem to copy from each other's job lists and you have a minefield of time-consuming drudgery to wade through. But when you are out of work, your new job is looking for work, so treat it as such.

This may not work well for everyone, but here's my twice weekly routine for jobhunting, whether I am currently employed or not:

I don't use LinkedIn for all that it promises, as I am not a social animal. Much like Facebook, it seems suspiciously like an exercise for an individual to have as many connections as possible, quality be damned. In fact, most of my LinkedIn connections are folks who work for employment agencies and you can see how well that's worked out. I do advise every professional to have a robust and well-updated LinkedIn profile. It is something others will search for and view. I also like the fact that I can post references ("recommendations", as if I am a Mac App) from former employers and clients.  As far as finding work, LinkedIn has a capable search engine that can be customized - it is no better or different than most. The plus here is all of your resume info is stored in LinkedIn, so applying can be a one-button affair.

Used to be great. Used to be the only kid on the block. These days: not so much. I can store my resume(s) here as well as search parameters, but I still feel I am getting incomplete results. Here's a good place to remind jobhunters that having more than one version of a resume is not a bad idea, especially if you have many avenues of experience. For instance, I have one resume that highlights my print design life, another that brings my web design to the forefront. It makes life much easier to be able to send out a resume with all the relevant "keywords".

Getting better all the time. Again, I can store resumes and search parameters. I have noticed that many companies still want jobseekers to apply on their own websites, especially if they are big enough to have their own human resources, so all the one-button apply fun for Careerbuilder often gets lost. I definitely like how this search engine "learns" from its bad results, saving the jobseeker time during repeated visits.

if you are used to going to your local newspaper's website to find work, save yourself a couple of steps. Most newspapers in the Florida area, for example, hook up to either or Careerbuilder. And why shouldn't they? Search engines are search engines, why reinvent the wheel for your own newspaper when you can buy someone else's.

4. (mixed with
I don't know if companies actually post here (or pay to post here, as is the case for and Careerbuilder). SimplyHired scours the internet for jobs posted on, in my opinion, minor, sometimes, insignificant job boards. Good news here is SimplyHired saves you from going to a thousand minor, insignificant job boards. Also a plus: you can search since the last time you've been on the website, saving you from seeing the same jobs every week. If you're going to visit only one aggregate, this is one of the best.

5. Craig's List
Yes, I shudder as well. But, logically, why would any company pay and Careerbuilder rates when they can post on Craig's list for free. I can say that I have responded to job ads for companies huge and companies tiny. If you are in desperate straits, replying to all is understandable; however, if you can afford to be picky, use some caution and commonsense. A lot of job posts sound rude, arrogant, can't spell or construct a decent sentence. What do they care - they own their own business and you need a job! But, really - show yourself some respect and read through job posts on Craig's list carefully and listen to that little alarm that goes off in your head. Best part about Craig's list ads: jobs are more likely to list how much they are paying (it should be mandatory on every ad, but it is not, so a jobseeker is often in the dark).

6. The rest is career-specific.
Oddly enough, I also visit at least 25 other job boards, and they are all specific to graphic and web design. Headhunters, tech boards, portfolio boards - there are many. I cannot imagine that each profession does not have their own group of specific job boards. It just makes sense to dial down search results to a precise audience. I encourage any jobseeker to spend time online searching for keywords that include each job title and position they have ever held (or want to find).

7. Don't forget local companies
A jobseeker may be convinced to mass mail their resumes (and I'm talking through your national post office) to local businesses. I've done it. Sometimes a company receiving one or two resumes by snailmail is better than the avalanche of emails they receive each day. But, in the long run, the web is the way to go. I have bookmark folders for each city in my area and links to any and every company that might hire a designer. The links are not to their homepage, but to their a) career page, if they have one, or b) contact page if they don't. Many big companies do not need to advertise a job opening on because they have their own websites that works just fine for them. Bookmark them and visit often - you will be amazed how many positions you will find that never show up anywhere else. Some, like Walt Disney World's employment website, will let you bookmark search results so you will always find the latest specific positions tailored for you when you visit.

And now you know what I do every Sunday morning (with a lot of coffee and latin jazz on Pandora) and Wednesday evening.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Paradox, maddening

More than maddening - it's a pain in the ass, really. Logically, the best way to focus on getting one's own story together is to focus small and not be distracted by Bigger Things. Taoism has always told me that one of the joys of enlightenment is knowing what is and what is not in our control. Or as my friend Tomasz always used to tell me: "the universe takes care of itself". (and I think the universe is doing a pretty crap job right now and needs to go sit in a corner, but that's me.)

I spend time, for instance, amazed by the stars - keeping up on news from, from the Cassini mission and any up-to-date documentary I can find. Not only are the fx amazing, but it's one of the reasons I am a sci fi fan in general and a Star Trek fan in particular - sometimes things and events bigger than human existence should not be ignored.

But does space, beyond the annual will-the-meteor-hit-us-this-time, really matter in my life? Is it worth focusing on when there's so much more closer to home? The same question goes for world politics vs. local politics: the world is, for the most part, a heinous, out-of-control place. Western civilization seems to be an experiment gone bad quickly. If a meteor did finally succeed in wiping out most of the world, I am convinced any remaining humans would make pretty much the same decisions.

Again, should I focus on these matters? Should I keep a wary eye on all the signs and portents that appear to convince me in what direction my country is heading? Or should I be more regional: a staunch Southerner with all the folderol that contains, or a Floridian? (my ecologic and sustainable life certainly has concerns here) Maybe I should concentrate on being a citizen of Tampa Bay buried in its struggles from a lack of urban planning? Shall I just focus on the suburban streets that surround me or the neighbors I do not know?

Again, it's maddening. And how does any of this outside focus leave me time to deal with a myriad of dancing, whirling personal issues? Naval-gazing has always, to me, seemed the very limit of hubris. There's too much to do, too many ways to be of use. Besides, I have money to make, music to download, books to read, film to watch, dogs to feed, old parents to check up on, friends to have coffee or bourbon with, and the small matter of maintaining some manner of human touch.

Everything from John Irving novels to Mad Men's Don Draper has taught me to keep moving forward. As soon as you stop to analyze the wreckage of today, you'll be cheated out of tomorrow. The storyboard of my life needs to flow like a river: not too fast so that I can barely do more than wave at the folks standing on the shore watching; not too slow as to keep catches glimpses of my own reflection in the water.