Monday, June 16, 2014

This tastes awful... try it. My review of "3 Days to Kill."

I was at a restaurant once with Neil, one of my best friends of all time. I used to drink cola, so I ordered one and when it came, I was surprised that not only did it not taste like good cola, it did not taste like cola. It did not taste like food/beverage substance. It tasted like something that shouldn't be in your mouth at all. Like when you're a kid and you suck on a battery or if you inadvertently pop a piece of chalk in your mouth thinking it's a mint (note: I once saw an MD/PhD do that, so it's not so far-fetched).

I basically retched a bit, made a really bad face and a noise of some kind. Neil asked if I was OK and I said that, yes, I was, but... "This is awful! Try it!" And I pushed the cola across the table to Neil.

Who looked at me and said, "I'm your friend. Why would you want me to try something awful?"

Which is an excellent point. And one that I conceded to him immediately. There is no earthly reason why I should want someone I like to do something that I already know is bad/wrong or taste something that has more in common with cleaning products than actual beverage.

And yet... and yet...

There's something there, right? When you see or hear or smell or taste something that isn't just bad... but out of the realm of normal for that thing. To make sure that you're not insane. To confirm with someone whose opinion you value that, yes, indeed, that cola tastes like the inside of a a shoe that's been used to house a hamster for a couple months.

There's something there. Right? Right. And that's why I want you to go, right now, and watch the movie "3 Days to Kill." To confirm for me that, yes... it's that strangely awful. That it's not just a kinda sad excuse for an old man's spy flick... but that it really, truly is differently bad.

If you need a bit more convincing, my wife agrees with me. This tastes awful. You should try it.

Our boy is out of the house for five nights at camp, so we got Chinese food and streamed the movie from Amazon. I figured... Kevin Costner. OK. He's easy to watch. I usually like him. Luc Besson was one of the writers. OK... he's done some fun stuff. But what started out as a kind of... disappointingly cookie-cutter old/ex spy flick turned into something very, very close to theater of the absurd. Please note: I am now going to spoil the movie. So if you want to watch it and be surprised, stop reading. I guarantee, however, that your enjoyment will not be diminished by knowing what's coming. Because, like finding a post-it note on your plate beneath the piece of key lime pie you just finished, knowing it's there only makes you more curious about... what the hell? Here are some thing that happen in this movie, in no particular order:
  • He is diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer that has metastasized to his lungs. I don't know if this is a real thing, and I'm not sure why it wasn't just lung cancer. There was no reason why it shouldn't just be lung cancer, except...
  • A sexy CIA agent (who seems to be 22 or so) offers him an expensive, experimental drug that might save him or give him more time than the 3-5 months the doctor predicts.
  • The experimental drug causes seizures that can be alleviated with vodka. 
  • I am not kidding.
  • The main bad guys are "The Albino" (who is an albino), and "The Wolf," (who is not a wolf). 
  • Still not kidding.
  • Elevator decapitation
  • A family of charming Jamaican (I think?) squatters living in his house. Whom he threatens, then allows to stay. Until the grown daughter has a baby. That is then named after him; Ethan.
  • Subway decapitation.
  • Going on a nice daddy/daughter date on carnival swings and for cocoa, followed directly by daughter going to a club where she's roofied and nearly gang raped. After which dad teachers her how to ride a bike.
  • After which, at some point, dad teaches her how to dance in preparation for her prom... to the song, "I'd like to make it with you."
  • Applying a car battery to a fellow's ears to torture information out of him, and later asking the same man for advice about how to raise a daughter. 
  • Threatening to torture another man and then asking him to describe, over the phone to his daughter, a recipe for Italian spaghetti sauce.
There's more. There's a very odd moment where the sexy CIA agent is telling him that, "You must not stop until you kill the Wolf," but the words, "the Wolf" are really, really badly dubbed in. Like, you can see her saying, "My koala bear," but the sounds that come out are, "The Wolf."

At some point, I began hoping that this whole film was an "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" thing. Or an art piece. That there'd be a bit at the end where we'd find out that it was all a fever dream while he's in the hospital waiting to die. Because he gets his wife back, of course. After killing 20 or so guys at his daughter's boyfriends father's partner's pre-prom party while she (daughter) blithely has romantic eye-contact with the boyfriend in a room two doors down from the killin'. Because, of course, his daughter's boyfriend's father's partner is... The Wolf!

But there's no twist. It just ends like so many other thrillers, with a kind of shrug/grin about all the killing, a promise to try harder, and a pull-away shot of the sexy CIA agent watching over the beach house and nodding knowingly. 

It's fantastically bad. Partly because the actors are really quite good. The cinematography is good. It's got budget. It's got well choreographed fight scenes. For fuck sake, it's got Kevin Costner. Who, while not 1982 Kevin Costner, is still not 2014 Mickey Rourke.

So... I honestly suggest that while this tastes awful... you should try it. I'm truly glad I watched it all the way through. It's like an outfit you see on a mannequin that you think must be a joke... but you need to spend 15 minutes finding a clerk to reassure you and... no. No joke. The ensemble is available for purchase.

On a scale of 1-5 stars, I'd rate this movie "Frosted Donkey."

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Poetry n' stuff

As part of my four-day weekend of actually doing some stuff that I've meant to for awhile (changing the CMS for my resume and old consulting sites, and switching this blog to Blogger from WordPress), I've moved my poetry from various writing/sharing sites on the web to here. See links in the sidebar. Since Blogger only allows 20 non-post blog pages, I've ganged poems together under some randomly named pages.

You can take a look at The Whole Dang List or Page Eggplant, Page Mighty Mouse, Page Humidor, Page Charlemagne and Page Mitosis.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Conversion experience

I started TinkerX in 2005. I'd been blogging for a couple years about legal marketing, and when I started working at OCLC, I wanted a place to do non-work writing, so this was it. I enjoyed doing the initial setup with WordPress, and liked playing around with the various templates and settings.

Then comment spam took over.

This is a modest blog. To say it is a modest blog is possibly even a great overstatement... or understatement. What I mean is that I don't have lots of readers. Maybe only a few. I had a couple posts with 10+ comments, but mostly none. That's OK. I chiefly do this for myself. I was deeply glad that one of my posts, on the game "My Team, Your Team," was turned into, "The Superest" book... but that was the height of its fame.

Not lots of readers. But lots of lots of comment spam.

In the last year, since the last time I did a comment purge, I had more than 32,000 spam comments waiting in the queue. And, at a point int he past, before WordPress anti-spam stuff caught up with the volume, about 20,000 had managed to sneak through and get posted to the blog without my consent.

About every six months, it gets so bad and the security issues with WordPress (and, to be fair, other self-publishing tools/services) so compromised, that my web host makes it mandatory to update to a newer version of WordPress or SQL (the database behind the scenes) or PHP (the code). That's a pain in the ass for a blog that's mostly supposed to be for me to just randomly spew about movies or poetry or the weather.

So I converted it to Blogger, which is what you're seeing now. To my great sorrow, however, in order to convert the posts, I had to drop ALL the comments, because the volume was so high that they made the export file from WordPress waaaaay to big to import into Blogger.

Meaning: the fake comments from spammers (may they rot in hell) killed the few comments from real people. Comments that made me happy, because it meant that someone was reading my junk and getting something out of it. Comments that had some thought and humor. Comments from friends, family and lovely strangers.

Perhaps this is a good reminder that everything is, after all, ephemeral.

Perhaps it's just another example of how a few shitheads tend to ruin it for the rest of us.

Perhaps I'm over thinking it.

Anyway... Perhaps having this blog hosted by Google -- who does a pretty damn good job keeping spam out of my email -- will mean I blog more often and get some new comments and make some new friends.


Monday, May 7, 2012


He does not love her.
He loves a volume of space
shaped just like her,
filled with [

shed dander clips cuts shredded gift voodoo
scented soap fetishes crink nipple eye lock
fashion skin scraps
pinched laughter traps
bone shadows
black hollows
fake numbers
lost tatts

] need.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The ABC's of job hunting for designers: D = Direction

[See previous post for intro and ABC. See here for the Google Doc version of the whole tham ding.]

"D" is for "Direction"

The most important quote for marketing, imho, and when looking for a job is from "Alice in Wonderland:"
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” [said Alice]

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Or as a VP of mine used to say: "If you succeed, and you don't know why, it's an accident and probably won't happen again. If you fail and don't know why, you've learned nothing... and that's just a waste of everybody's time."

I'm not saying you need to know what you want to be when you grow up before hunting for a job to keep the wolves at bay. I'm saying you need to have a plan for even the most random-ass job search or you won't get anywhere, except somewhere random ass and less interesting/profitable than you'd probably like.

So here are some very tangible, very measurable things you can do to help at least face in some direction when searching for a job:

  • Set written goals based on this list and any other activities you hear about. Lots of people know more than me. Write down what they say.

  • Get a friend to keep you honest. Tell him/her/them what your goals are. Ask them to beat you with a frisbee if you don't do what you said you'd do.

  • Write down all the possible different job titles for all the different jobs you might possibly accept. This will help you when doing job searches online. Keep the list updated with new titles you find during your search. This will help you learn what other people call what you want to do.

  • Write down the names of twenty (at least) companies that you think you might want to work for. This will help you check their websites every week for job openings (some of which you won't find on the Monsters of the world).

  • Contact the HR departments of each of those companies. Explain you're searching for a job and that you find the idea of working at their company something to aspire to. Ask for their advice on how to best present yourself for future jobs. Don't ask for a job at that point; you're making a new friend, not pimping (yet). Ask what you can do to make yourself more attractive as a candidate. Ask if you can stop by sometime and meet with them and/or get a brief tour. You are doing all this in order to have someone at the company besides the hiring manager of a future job as a contact there. HR people are good at this. They want you to like their company, and they want to help you get a job, even if it's somewhere else... because their stock-in-trade is referrals. They might send your resume to someone you've never considered, because they're better at thinking about jobs like that. Do this until you've got contacts at all 20 (or more) companies. Then make a point to re-contact each HR person you've heard from at least every 3 months. Or if you know of someone else who might fit a position they've got posted. Think about the relationship from their point of view.

  • Go back and do that last thing. Seriously. If there's one tip I have on this list that will bear fruit, it's the cultivating HR friends thing.

  • Set some stretch goals. If you find you're getting comfortable sending out 3 resumes a day, try doubling that.

  • Have both a "designer-y" resume and a "boring Word resume" available. Art directors and heads of agencies will want to see the pretty-pretty one. HR people want the Word one.

  • Think about the next job. Not the one you're going for, but the boss of that one. Look for those positions in the job listings, too. If they're hiring a new art director, odds are they'll be asking him/her to hire some designers. When you find those jobs, add them to your HR contact list from above.

Looking for a job is a job. Most jobs provide helpful people called "bosses" who set directions for you. While looking for work, you're your own boss... which basically sucks. I know. I've done it. I'm sorry... there's no help for it. Get together with a group of friends once a week and report what steps you've taken. Celebrate with each other, even if you don't have jobs, or don't have the one you want. Why? Because you're a designer... a creative person living in the Age of Content. You rock and your talent will be rewarded.

Sooner rather than later, if you set yourself some directions.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

ABC's of Job Hunting for Designers: Intro and ABC

I've now given a talk on job hunting for designers about... five times. I like the talk. It's smooth, goes down easy, and leaves a pleasant aftertaste (I'm told). So at this point, why not serialize it on the Web? It's all my wisdom on how designers can help themselves get into a new or better job faster, and prepare for a lifetime of doing work they'd rather be doing. And because we need to have info delivered to us in reasonably edible chunks, I broke my thoughts up into 17 groups and stacked 'em around the alphabet. So we'll put these up one at a time and see if folks find them helpful.

These tips are not meant to be exhaustive or fool-proof, obviously... but they also conform to the main rule of the Hypocratic Oath: first, do no harm. I don't think any of these ideas can hurt your job search. Many of them just make sense... but aren't regularly applied.

Anyway... good luck on your job search. The document version of all these tips is available as an open Google Doc here: So if you need something portable, give that a whirl.

ABC = Always Be Creating

Please note that I did not say, "Always be creative." Everyone is creative (that's another set of blog posts, I think). You need to always be creating things, though, if you want to earn a living as a designer. If your day gig doesn't let you (which may happen), you need to do it on your own time. If your day gig forces you to be minimally creative in ways that seem to deaden your soul while actively making your artistic spirit hurt... same thing. Go home and be one with your canvas, clay, charcoal, ukulele, dancing, etc. You need to keep doing stuff or your creativity will wither and die.

That's the real difference, I think, between people who say that they're not creative and those of us who believe we are: doing it.

When you're trying to sell yourself as a designer, you will invariably be interviewed by one of two types of people: another creative person, or a non-creative (business person, manager, etc.). Here's the thing -- in both cases, you need to be doing interesting creative things to impress them.

Why? Because if the other person is a creative, they get it. They understand how hard it is to remain inspired and purposeful in our arts. And they want to work with someone who can do that and who, maybe, might even rub off on them a bit. I have met very few truly creative people who are jealous of other creatives' talents and achievements: we tend to be impressed and supportive of them, since they are often unique.

[Note: that's a difference between some people who are very money-oriented and those who are more creative/art oriented. A buck is a buck is a buck. If your business activity made $2 and I made $4, I'm twice as good as you. Doesn't work that way with creativity. There is no zero sum: we can both be twice as creative and can use that to inspire each other, not take away.]

The other kind of people -- those who generally believe themselves to be non/less creative -- are always super impressed by our hobbies, our ongoing learning/dedication to craft, the outputs of that, how we externalize our muse. It's like magic to many people.

So... either way, you want to be able to talk about stuff you're working on, even if you're not working. Some of it should, obviously, be related to what you want to do for a living... but it doesn't all have to be. Lots of it can be only marginally related, but it shows that you are dedicated to improving the artistic center of yourself, which is really what you're selling when you're trying to get a gig: your ability to create.

Some specific thoughts on how to stay creative when you're not working (or when you are, but aren't being particularly challenged/stimulated):

  • If you've gone two weeks without learning something new about your craft(s), do something about it

  • Improve design around you

  • Do work for free; church, civic organizations, family, friends

  • Put yourself on a schedule for trying/creating new things: one new (whatever) per day, week, month. Set goals and stick to them (or do them ahead of time)

When I first developed this presentation, for example, and decided to organize it around the alphabet, I decided to learn new Photoshop tricks for each of the slides' main graphics. So even though all the slides are, essentially, just letters, I made myself do more than just illustrate the letters in ways I already understood. Do a search on "Photoshop tricks" and you'll find about a bzillion responses. I did that, found about 15 that I thought looked cool, and worked them into the slide graphics. They're not fantastic graphics or stunning pieces of art... but the process helped my learn Photoshop that much better.

Some resources that might help provide inspiration:

So your homework for today is: pick a project. Something you haven't done before. If you haven't written poetry, go do that. If you can design a logo for something weird in your life (your pet, lunchbox, pet's lunchbox), do that. But, today, figure out what the next thing you'll create should be. And then get to work.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

New poem: Alone or Dark

Alone or Dark

Heisenberg is not your friend.
Would you want, in the end, to know


No such luck. Bend
to see the object, hot and bright,
of your desire. Your movement
changes light. Your eye, warm metal,
glides like wind. Unseen but stiff enough
to stretch and send dry leaves against
the wooden fence. A scratch heard faintly
by the one you stalk.

slowly, softly past.
The warmth of want
will alter orbits, warp fine lines
and change the curve and comfort of her path.