Friday, October 31, 2003

weblog!

I am having some personal conflicts right now, and so I decided to look over the old blogs and see what it was really like for me at the Times-Call. As I suspected, there was a honeymoon period, and a tapering-off-of -fanatical-love-for-old-media period, but it never seemed to get as cynical as I feel now.

As this is a reasonably anonymous channel, I feel like I can speak freely.

I am having trouble sorting out my feelings for my job. On the one hand, I feel that I am really getting along well with the people I work with, that we are all quirky and weird but hardworking individuals. I am well paid to hang out with interesting people. My boss is seeming to take a liking to me that echoes of "protege". Did I mention I was well-paid?

On the other hand, technical writing is not neccessarily what I want to do forever. The work is mostly confined to sitting in a little gray cube, cracking wise with my cube neighbors, surfing the web and dealing with angry, unintelligible clients who cannot convey why they are angry, much less the specs on their solutions.

I am young enough that I feel like I am free to make big, seemingly foolish career choices in the name of following the dream. Twenty years from now, perhaps someone seeing me taking a third pay cut to write articles about fireplaces would think I'd seriously gone off my java bean.

There are days like today when I like my job. But even on days like today the question lingers in my mind- what am I doing here? Why should I stay here when I want to move to New York and work at the Times or Lucky or InStyle?

I guess I really have nothing to lose but money if I go back to the paper. It's just money. It's tough to live without, but not so tough to live with less. I think I can do it . . . It is, after all, a risk everyone should take. Such decisions are tests of character. I am in the middle of two very powerful forces: the dream, and the money. In the end, it's probably easier to live without the money than without the dream.

After all, you only live once. And life is too short to follow the wrong path. Once you head down that path, life will quickly show you just how much it costs you to sell out.

I will send my application to Kristi, with the clause that I do not want to start until after my contract is finished with the agency. I am driven by a need to put words on paper, not to put paper in my pocket. And as romantic and, perhaps, foolish as this sounds, it is a chance I have to take. I once said that the reason I loved old media, despite the spin and filtering and sometimes candy-coating, is that it is an entire industry based on the principle of distributing the truth. Facts, events, or even opinions- it is a means of sending information to people who need it. Advertising is not about truth.

Advertising is all about money, which is why they can afford to pay me, a mere graduate basically doing a job a lobotomized ten-year-old could do, over 30k per year. It is about making money, about pleasing customers, and about saying things that are not necessarily true in order to accomplish the first two objectives.

I have to sing the praises of Lotus. Lotus is a software that is not only not user friendly, but borders on user-hostile. Lotus Notes, as my coworker once said, blows goats. Yet our messaging must say "Lotus Notes is being used by the customer for collaboration, a significant improvement over their last mailing solution . . ."

It is not pleasant to write such things. In fact, it makes me feel rather dirty. Especially when I get my paycheck.

So yes, I am going to pursue the job at the paper. And if I don't get it, I can remain at Leopard with the pleasant people and the interesting atmosphere and my boss's doting . . . all the while hoping that a year or so in technical marketing won't ruin my chances of getting into retail, fashion or catalog writing down the road.

What is it Homer said about working at the Nuclear power plant?
Mother:Do you still work for Nasa?
Homer: No, I work at the nuclear power plant.
Mother: Oh, Homer.
Homer: Well, you'll be happy to know I don't work very hard. Actually, I'm bringing the plant down from the inside!

I don't plan on bringing Leopard down if I have to stay there. But to turn a phrase, I'm not going to let it get me down, either.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003


"I'm not interested in money. I just want to be wonderful"
--Marilyn Monroe

I have come to the realization that this is true for me, too.
Money is nice. But it's not worth misery.
There really is this vicious cycle at work here. One gets money, one spends money. One makes commitments (mortgages, loans, etc) based on money. Before one knows it, one is a slave to it, requiring a constant money flow to fill the needy mouths named rent, bills, etc.

I'm trying really hard not to get into this cycle. I'm saving what I can, and my future? I don't want to climb any ladders. I don't want to be anybody's boss. I just want to write. Is that too much to ask?

At this point, I'd be happy writing for 11$ per hour as long as it had some kind of bearing on something that mattered. My work right now doesn't matter. I don't believe servers can save the world. When a reference from a nonprofit crosses my path, hooray. But what I really want to do is write something that changes things. Something that shows the world something true. Something honest. Advertising is neither true nor honest. It is thin, but opaque, disguising the truth and packaging it without its vital parts.

I am a journalist at heart, I think. I crave facts, things that are inarguably extant. Things without spin or evasive maneuvers.

So that's why I'm looking at Idealist.org. And why I feel that it is important to go as far as I can to be true not only to myself, but to the world. Honesty is, after all, the best policy. And if I am to be honest with myself, I can't stay in advertising.
My friend's wedding was lovely, but now I have Bon Jovi in my head. The groom was from Jersey. Stupid Bon Jovi. Stupid Jersey. Stupid Livin' on a Prayer.

But things here at work are moving along pretty well. Morale is still low but among some of us hopes are high, and I really think that I could be writing sometime before my time here is done . . . unless of course I pack up and head for the flats. Maybe Omaha. Hey, it might not be Paris, but it's a city, and one with used record stores and live music and interesting shopping.

And a million people. certainly a step up. And I can get an apartment for around 700 a month with about 700 square feet (a buck a foot. Not too shabby). You can't argue with that.

But in the meantime, I have no reason to be upset.
That's a good way to feel.


Monday, October 20, 2003

Sergio Leone movies are cool. But I have noticed that all Westerns require that the entire cast be doused in dark brown oils of some kind. Everyone is very brown and very, very shiny. This is pretty funny because in the West, you can't really sweat that much. The humidity holds steady at about .005% and as soon as your pores can squeeze it out, your sweat is as gone as Christina Aguilera's shame.

I was amused to learn that The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was filmed in Spain. And Leone's concept of American history is kind of funny- Where is the desert supposed to be where they are fighting the Civil War? As I recall from sixth grade, most of the actual fighting took place in the south or parts of the Mid-Atlantic states like Maryland and Pennsylvania . . . not the Mojave. But apparently there was a rather decisive battle in Santa Fe . . . maybe that's what Leone was going for. I think his understanding of the west was more allegorical . . . the senselessness of the bridge battle, the brutal POW camps, the anti-heroes . . . all of these are European reflections framed with a Western American context.

Phew. I almost got all Foucaultian there for a second . . .

When I first saw the movie, it was the European release, dubbed in French and when that screwy sixties font scrawled the title across the screen, it said "il brutto" "il bueno" and "il cattivo." It was more than a little confusing.

Well, I need to up productivity this week (woo. hoo.) so blogging will be light.
Until next time . . .

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I still kind of can't get used to it. Shoes-on-demand. No mental calculations of whether or not I'll still have enough to feed myself, no scrimping and saving just to go in when they go to 50% off and they don't have a 10 (hey, thirteen-year-olds these days wear tens . . . and they get pretty hefty allowances these days . . . tax free . . .). No waiting till the knockoffs appear at Target or Payless. If I want shoes, I can get shoes. Life is good.

Like yesterday. I actually (yes, actually) needed shoes for this wedding on Saturday, something sort of close-toed and autumny to go with the sweater-Rita-Hayworth ensemble I put together. My shoe-buying has mostly been confined to summer months for the past four years, as that's the only time I ever had any expendable income, so there are naught but strappy strappy stilettos and pointy mules in the shoe drawer in my closet. We went to the mall to pick up a ring my mom was having repaired, stopped by Dillard's to check out the options, and picked up a pair of Enzos on sale that look like something Lana Turner might have worn to her court date. Slight platform, peep toed (but not open toed), vintage, leather, perfect. On sale. For $49.99. Down from $79.99.

A year ago, this scenario would have ended in a sigh, a sheepish "not today" to the saleslady, and a trip to Target to find the Next Best Thing. But now, I just sidle up to the counter, slide the ol' debit card, and hey, shoes.

Someday this won't thrill me. But for now, it's nice.

But I do need to find a new hobby. Shopping is fun, but it gets old. And it seems that the weekends are really all I have anymore. It's hard to get used to- the pace of school is free time mucked up by the occasional class and homework assignment . . . now it seems it's work occasionally mucked up by free time where I am too exhausted to do anything.

I think one of the main things is that I'd like very much to have my own place. But this brings on the commitment issue. Flow chart:

Job Security= commitment
Job security= apartment
Commitment= apartment

Easy enough. But how about this:

Job Security= commitment to career path in marketing
Commitment to career path in marketing= specialization in a field I don't care about
Specialization = broken dreams, boredom, loss of will to live, etc.

By proxy:
Commitment=loss of will to live.

And on the other front:

Commitment= indefinite stay in the greater Longmont, CO area
Longmont, CO = very far from publication opportunities in NY, Chicago, LA, etc

to complicate matters further,

Longmont= family, friends, home, mountains, pets, favorite restaurants
but also, Longmont= career stagnation.

The dilemma comes down to the eternal question . . . Should I stay, or should I go, now?

At least I have some time to decide. And one more Christmas at home before life gets to be too serious.

In the meantime, the shoes-on-demand thing is pretty nice.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Yay! My sister's home? (Did I not mention?) Well, she is, and it's much nicer to have a partner in crime again. It'll be tough saying goodbye again.
This will be a random short blog to make up for the maudlin nostalgia of yesterday . . .
One of my colleagues just came in and have you ever noticed that short men look even shorter bundled up? All snuggled in their wooly jackets with scarves and mittens? I think that when their J-Crew bundled girth begins to compete with their height, they start to look like little boys. Kind of endearing and unsettling at the same time.
Bel Canto is a boring book. It's one of those where it borders on verisimillitude for time- it's taken me two weeks to get to the middle, and the hostages have been hostages for two weeks. But an author that can take a hostage situation and show it for what it really is- tedious, boring and uneventful, underpinned with tension (but not nearly enough to get you interested) has to be given her dues. She's pulled off the situation perfectly in every detail. It just so happens that hostage situations are, well, . . . dull.
It's one I'll see through to the end, but it's not one that I read well into the night. It's a rare book that I'll read when my eyes are trying to seal shut and my arm muscles are actually shaken by tiny, sleep-deprived tremors.
Crimson Petal came close, until I realized that there was no way the author could finish it in a way I wanted to see it end and there were only 12 pages to go. Bastard.
I think I need to find a new job. Well, I inevitably need to find a new job, probably after the first of the month because I don't really trust management here and when Ed went I knew we were all kind of dancing on a string here. I pull my weight, but that doesn't seem to matter sometimes. I have no idea where to take my career from here, but who knows. Maybe I'll go to CSU and get a degree in apparel marketing or something. The world's a big buffet and I just picked up my nice warm plate. But I'm thinking I need to move away from tech advertising. I know a lot about it but I'm not sure it's what I want. I guess, as Iggy Pop says, it's okay to be young and not know what you want. You just have to see where the tides take you at this point, because you're too young to steer.
Until next time . . .

Monday, October 13, 2003

Sometimes it's hard to believe, especially when one visits Cherry Creek, that malls do (and often will) die. They seem so solid and monumental, yet so changing, that they seem like the kind of thing that should last forever.
But last night, I had a dream (as those who were raised on mall weekends often do) about a mall that I hadn't given a thought to in a very long time- Crossroads mall, here in Boulder.
It used to be the destination mall- our family would pack up, head out, and shop for hours in that place, eat Shish Kabob at the food court, buy candy at Scoops, and I remember I saved my allowance to buy a bottle of Vamp at the Chanel counter in Foley's.
I remember being there, too, when we lived here the first time, the feeling of the cold metal rail of the mall stroller under my chin, watching the parquet flooring go by and blur into abstract woody patterns.
I worked at that mall as it was in the death throes- as vendors pulled out one by one, as the crowds dwindled to the occasional elderly or pre-teenage shopper. Why didn't this mall survive, like Cherry Creek, built in the fifties, or Burnsville in Minnesota, from at least the 1960s? Who can tell. But I do know that I disliked Boulder a lot more when that mall started to die.
There was, and this is going to sound exceedingly cheesy, something magical about shopping there. It was probably a combination of the age of the place, as it was built in 1960 or so, and the sheer size (almost a million square feet) and the experience of going there, during the Christmas season, with my parents and sister, double-bagging our presents so that nobody could see what we had gotten on our excursions (I'd go with dad to get stuff for Liz and mom, then vice versa).
It was almost like it wasn't a part of Boulder. It was sheer commercialism, unfettered by the guilt or panhandlers or restraint or dreadlocked white kids on bongos that are part and parcel of the downtown Boulder experience. Perhaps that's why it died- Boulder never really accepted it after about the late 1980s, and when they all got rich off of Internet companies, they were willing to shell out the cash for the "premium" downtown shops. Big Box and Chain became vulgarities, and so they slowly dropped away- the Gap, Contempo, Wards, Mervyn's, Penney's . . . all slowly pulled out and went away, leaving gaping black-windowed boxes where there used to be lights and potential and fluttering price tags.
I can still remember the layout of the whole place. I know it literally inside and out- the service elevators behind the stores where I worked, the blocked-off area where an abandoned "redevelopment" plan was begun (there used to be a cookie shop, a hair salon, a pet store, a clothing store, and a western-wear shop there, anchored by the Wards and Sears.) but never finished.
It used to smell like burnt pizza down at the Abos, like strong fragrances by the Garden Botanika store, like fresh coffee upstairs at the kiosk by the Gap, and like new shoes where I worked, right outside the Foleys (I remember it as May D&F). I trick-or-treated there, I worked there, I had great times there. And soon, it will be leveled. Vendor occupancy is less than 10% and the place is going to be mostly razed for an "outdoor, mixed-use retail, dining and entertainment plaza" as Westcor calls it.
Personally, it sounds like another Pearl Street to me, but maybe with an Ikea. In a town where "development" is a dirty word (in the same class as "grown-up," "progress" or "responsibility,") I imagine that's the most we can hope for.
It's been several years since I did any Christmas shopping at Crossroads. And it's very likely I'll never do it again. But whatever hippified, glorified ped mall they install there, I will never forget what it was like growing up going to the Crossroads mall. For whatever that's worth.
Until next time . . .

Friday, October 10, 2003

10/10/2003
When I head out to work on 287, between the last light that turns it from Main Street into an Interstate and the turnoff to get to the business park, I get to hear three songs from the best radio station in Denver. Or maybe it's in Pakistan. Because the damn thing only comes in for exactly that period of time, and then it vanishes into the static remnants of the Christian station before it and the Adult Contemporary crap after it.

How long has it been since I heard Beck on the radio? Probably a year or so. And b-Sides from the White Stripes? Forget it. Denver is mostly monopolized by Clear Channel of Crap, which spews forth indistinguishable rap-metal and ever-multiplying pop sensations with such volume that no amount of internet voting or request calls will ever cease the flow of unlistenable, ungroovable, soulless sludge.

I have issues with the RIAA. They run these ads that make it seem like file downloading is hurting artists, when really, the artists make about a penny a song. So even the folks who are running Kazaa SuperNodes to the tune of 1000- plus songs are only shorting the artists about 10 bucks. Ooh. Ouch. I bet Moby could have really used that ten bucks for, uh, TofuPups. And Li'l Kim really needed that new pastie adhesive.

The RIAA cannot win me over with any sob stories about struggling artists when their money-grubbing only leads to creating more pop princesses with the shelf life of unpasteurized brie who pollute the airwaves for about three months, crank out a platinum album, make millions for the record company, then dissolve into obscurity like the sugary lumps of nothing that they are. All they want is a profit. That's why they don't pick up the great, risky, wonderful artists that have to disseminate their music via (gasp) filesharing. That's why filesharing continues. As long as the RIAA chooses to make a few bucks off of some chick with flat abs rather than take a chance on anything with a voice and a brain to match, as long as they choose cash over talent, the good music will only be available for filesharing.

And the "struggling" artists who put their music on the web? Are we stealing from them? Are they hurting because we are not paying out the ass for their overpriced disks? No! Because their music gets out there, they develop a fan base. When they develop a fan base, people go and see them. When people go and see them, they pay ticket prices. And that's where the real money is.

So that's why the RIAA hates filesharing. It dupes them out of a. the money artists pay to record, b. the money people pay for the plastic versions of the songs they download or go hear live, and c. it defers attention from their sure-fire moneymaking bootyshaking flashes in the pan and creates an underground of people seeking out real music. Although they would have you believe that clearly, with the long-term dedication and attention they lavish (right) on their young and highly talented (uh huh) "artists" their concern lies 100 percent (NOT) with the rights and royalties rightfully owed to the people who create this fine musical art.

When Columbia signs the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for a 3-album contract, I'll stop downloading music. And if they charge 8.99 a disc. 12.99 if I get it with the Faint Danse Macabre. I've been meaning to buy that one . . .

Back to work. I've got a lot to get through before I take off (at around 3) so until next time . . .