Thursday, February 26, 2009

Home from the Job Fair

My dad called the other day to tell me the Dispatch was holding a job fair at the Zoo. Instead of telling him how all other job fairs I've ever been to have been disappointing wastes of time, I just said, "Sounds good, I'll check it out."

And I meant it. All a part of this new perspective I'm trying to cultivate in order to stay open to possibilities and feel a little more settled.

So I drove up to the zoo and joined the huddled (but finely dressed) masses. The line was abuzz with friendly banter, people comparing stories of the starled looks from families with strollers on their way in to the zoo for the day. A young-ish man in a nice tweed jacket and serious glasses stepped out of line. "Would you look at that line," he said, clearly agitated, making an upward arm-sweeping gesture for effect. We instinctually followed his pointing, but everybody just kind of shrugged as if to say, It's a long line; what of it? He stepped back in line.

A few moments later he stepped back out, squinted up ahead and then peered behind him. I stood there and watched him as he spun his head back and forth from the front to the growing back of the line. I watched him try to form words with his mouth that were expelled only as the brewing sounds of agitation. I watched him look at us, the dozen or so in his direct orbit, with contempt. "This," he said, taking his attention back to the front of the line, "is the longest line I've ever seen.!." Moments later he stepped out of line and left altogether. I couldn't resist the opportunity to be amusing: "Well, that's one person we don't have to compete with." Everyone laughed and the line started to move.

Despite my open-mindedness, there was still very little to get excited about. I'd go into detail, but it just sounds petty. Obviously, most companies are struggling and any opportunity is better than none, but still, it was a pretty sobering experience.

What was interesting was the walk back to my car. I began to notice the people in line carefully studying the faces of those who were exiting. Being aware, I tried to remain neutral, figuring no one needed me to stink up their day. Back at my car, a man, another young-ish man, was exiting his car as I approached. "What's it like in there?" he said.

"Crowded," I said, carefully considering my words. He smiled and started to go on.

Then I called after him, "You might want to avoid the Zoo table, it's a long line and they're just offering seasonal for the water park right now. A couple others are like that too. I would just try to sneak in and pick up info about website and stuff."

"Thanks," he said, smiling and securing his portfolio under his arm.

Later on the news I heard that 2600 people attended that job fair.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What a Lovely Rejection

Because I am a writer, perpetually single, and am frequently unemployed, I know a thing or two about rejection.

I do not say this to get people to feel sorry for me, just to say that not all rejections are equal.

One afternoon last week I went to the North Star Cafe, an excellent place to eat and be (I am frequently on their couch writing or reading.) On a whim, I filled out an application and had a conversation with an assitant manager. I'd talked myself into thinking this would be a good option for me, partially becuase they have offer insurance for anyone working over 25 hours and, well, the people there look pretty happy.

Yesterday I received a very nice rejection letter in the mail. Although it was a form letter, it was thoughtfully composed and reflected the feeling of passion I get whenever I eat there. Instead of staying in that weird limbo of did that woman even give my application to a manager... I am now able to move forward. I realize I have never had any real interest in working in food service, that my impulse was based on a frustration/desperation combo in my job search and an exhuberance for this organization.

My point is, even in their rejection, North Star continued to deepen my respect for what they are trying to do. And they included a coupon for a free meal. How classy is that?

I've had experiences like this as a writer as well. It is common for writers at the beginning of their careers, to submit to literary journals. These places publish unknown work and the credits earned at such a place are a legitimate stepping stone. These places are also notoriously flooded with submissions and understaffed. We all understand this. However, the magazines that make an effort to go beyond this fact, that at least attempt to remind a potential reader (ie, me) that they are enthusiastic about producing a quality publication, get my full-on support. A new, online magazine sent me, perhaps the most inspiring rejection letter ever. It's made me link to them and visit often (and really want to be included.)

What irks the hell out of me is getting a two-and-a-half inch by four-inch slip of paper that has been sloppily cut with a paper cutter that says nothing more than We cannot accept your work.
This is not to say that I do not accept the general nature of rejection. When boiled down, all levels of rejection are little more than a negotiation of want (predicated, of course, on an infinite number of variables...)

So what do I want? I don't expect a free meal with every submission, but a whole freaking piece of paper (especially when it comes in an envelope and postage I'm suppling) is not too much to ask.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Morning After...

"So what did you think of the Oscars?"

Well, it was a little difficult this year, or, I should say, more difficult than I would have anticipated. For those of you who don't know me all that well, I lost my brother just over two years ago. For our family, Oscar night is bigger than Christmas (emotionally, that is, in terms of being together.) The first year I bowed out and went bowling. Last year, I went over to my parents and, after flitting around the house and maybe avoiding sitting down together, we ended up settling in and really enjoying the show. This year, I was eager to watch the show.

And then, about forty-five minutes before I was to leave, I started feeling really sad. I called a friend whose eight-year old answered and we had an interesting discussion about movies and pie. That helped.

At my parents, I immediately laid down on the couch (it didn't help that I'd been traveling the day before and didn't get ito bed until 2:00AM) and was resigned to the fact that I might fall asleep and miss all of it Then, as always, I was drawn into it. I did close my eyes on and off throughout the telecast, but found myself wide awake by the end.

What I liked best was the former Academy Award winners for the acting categories introducing the nominees. While I missed seeing the clips of their work, it seemed the nominees were genuinely touched by being acknowledged by their predecessors.

I try not to read a lot of the prediction press. It generally irritates me, even if I agree. The idea is five people are nominated for excellence, why go to great lengths to explain to be why someone is not going to win. Still, I was aware of who was favored. No big surprises (except, maybe, Penelope Cruz) but even then, it has become no surprise to have a "surprise" in one of the supporting categories. It has also become a trend that the awards tend to be spread out so that all of the nominated films are represented. Slumdog got pic and director, Milk got actor, The Reader got actress, Benjamin Button got a lot of tech nods. There hasn't been a sweep for many years.

Personally, I thought Hugh Jackman and much of the writing for the evening was heavily cheesey. But my mother disagreed. "I loved all of it."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Oscar Comes to the Mall

So we're two days away from Oscar. I have seen all five films nominated for Best Pic. The last was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Since I had low expectations (and because I went with my mother who is still one of my favorite people to sit next to in the movies) I enjoyed it a fair amount. What I'm noticing is how the stucture of film has fundamentally changed. It seems to evolve every twenty years or so.

I'm not talking necessarily talking about "trends" in film, like the collapse of the studio system into the "birth" of mainstream Indy film of the 70's or the grand sweeping epics of the 80's. What I'm seeing is how the straight linear film (like Button, even though it is told in a flashback) seems really old fashioned. Perhaps it is the obvious result of the advances in technology, but it is no longer confusing for an audience to quickly adopt to a story told in fragmented, diversionary ways. For this reason, Slumdog Millionare has the edge over Button. Of course, while I say that I realize that The Reader was also linear, but the filmmaking was so inventive (or maybe just so accomplished) it did not seem old fashioned to me.

Oh, the mall thing... I was in Chicago last week for a conference and ended up in a food court mall. On our table was an advertisement urging all to "come get your picture taken with Oscar" (Clark Gable's Oscar in particular.) My first thought was, "How cute, someone with a lot of money bought this Oscar and sitting at a card table someone on the first floor of Nordstorms."

But no.

It was this massive traveling kiosk complete with red carpet, monitors with looping interviews and Oscar footage, and finally a podium with Clarkie's Oscar attached to a two foot leash. People stood in line and a guy took pictures that you later access on a website.

"Oh, you've got to do that," my friend Bridgett said as soon as she saw it. She was right, of course. My only regret was that my wardrobe was on the dumpy side. Not that I should have been expected to come upon such a thing wearing a cocktail dress, but still, it would have been nice to have on "better" jeans, maybe a scoop-neck black shirt instead of the patterned hooded zip-up top...

Needless to say, the pic did not turn out well. But I will admit I was pretty geeked about palming the golden guy. I knew it would be heavy (learned from years of watching various celebrities go "Whoa, this is heavy".) Still, I was able to transcend the cheesiness of standing in a mall having my picture taken by a guy in an oversized polo shirt pandering to my affinity for a lifelong love of movies.

Can't wait for Sunday. And yes, I am still rooting for the Reader.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blog Pressure...

So my friend Brian sent me an email earlier today.

"I’m curious as to why your name doesn’t appear on your blog... Care to share with me?"

Well, my answer to him (and hence, for any of you who care to know) is that I am still ambivalent about my feelings on blogging. Part of me wants to broaden a sort of "readership," to challenge myself with regular, fluid deadlines. Another part of me is resistant to too much unregulated exposure. The practical and smart side requires a buffer between my desire to write a funny antedote about, say, losing my virginity, without the intern from the place I've just sent my resume Googling me and reading it. And I'd like to reserve the right to scrap the whole damn thing and start fresh with a more professional blog in the distant future...

So I've been keeping it low key.

And then I saw my blog link to my friend's super awesome . He's officially outed me as a blogger. My first reaction was panic. And then exhilaration. Time to step it up, I suppose.

Thanks, Holy Juan...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Four Down, One to Go...

So I saw Slumdog Millionare Friday night.

For the first time in my personal history of watching the Academy Awards, I am honestly divided over which movie I will root for for Best Picture of the Year. For the past five years or so, I have stopped reading most of the pre-Oscar discussion in the media. I've found that ultimately no one really knows anything; after all is said and done, and all the hostile and ardent bidding complete, no one remembers who thought was going to win. Case in point, a few years back, before the Grammy's (and I probably rememeber this because I don't tend to follow the Grammy's) the only artists the publications would talk about were Bruce Springsteen and Eminem. Norah Jones won and it essentially launched her career.

All this to say, I honestly have no idea who is "favored" this year for the Oscar. But I imagine that Slumdog Millionare is near the top. I would also imagine that The Reader is probably not near the top, given it's leaning toward being a more intimate film.

But both films are stunning examples of what can be done with the medium. And both have left me thinking about them for more hours than I might want to admit. The Reader is impressive because it is visually stunning and ninety-percent of it is cobble-stone and crappy apartment and 1960's German courthouse. The dialogue is impressive because it is so sparce at the end, and yet my head was swiming with thought, filling in those silences. Slumdog Millionare moves quickly on all levels and yet maintains a gentle intimacy in the face of horrible circumstances.

Tomorrow I'm off to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I can't say I have great expectations - seems awfully cutesy to me - but I'm going with my mom, who sparked the whole thing years ago when she took my brother and I to see everything.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Word on this Blog's Title

I used to say that I have a long history of being a loser. But that got complicated because it always required the use of air quotes as well as a carefully timed pause to indicate I wasn't really calling my self a "loser" as much as a lose-er.

So I don't say that any more.

What I mean, is that I have a long history of a being a leaver (and lose-er) of things. As a child it was mostly accessories - hats, scarves, library cards, keys, books, piano music, magazines, important notes from school and, yes, gloves. I know that many children routinely leave things (there wouldn't be Lost and Found boxes under counters and special tables for items at schools if this weren't a tendency.) But even compared to my peers, I left things in record numbers. I was a connoisseur of the Lost and Found box, the corners worn soft from constant handling, the smell a unique blend of teenage bedroom and grandparent knick knacks. The finding of lost things never filled me with relief as much as it lessened my stress and shame of having left something again.

So why do I think I left so many things behind? While I've devised a few theories on this, I cannot say I have an accurate, clinical explanation. I can say that I was so interested in people around me that I abandoned any semblance of preparing to leave for staying "in the know." I also realize that this says little more than I was nosey and unorganized.

Which is not to say that I think I am now "reformed." It is true that I no longer lost keys or library cards, or ID's or books or work-related documents, but I will frequently get calls from people whose homes I visit informing me of left items - usually earrings, socks, sometimes shoes or coats if the temperature rises by the time I leave. The difference is that I no longer panic. Maybe this is because the items are not urgent or because I am an adult and I feel my things are my things to lose. But the lack of panic is a big deal.

Using the title "Lost Glove Found" is a way to keep me sensitive, I think, grounded, perhaps? Maybe I just feel the need to stay connected to that little nosey kid and the long car ride back to Ferrells in search of a stray glove...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Old School Ode #1 - Waiting on the Man

So I was riding with Frank on the way back from a fun afternoon of bowling this past Saturday and the song "Stone Cold" by Rainbow came on the radio. I proceeded to tell him the story of how my friend Kim (the very first friend I made on my own in Kindergarten) stayed up until 4:00 in the morning once waiting to see this video on MTV.

Now, "Stone Cold" was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a huge hit. It would certainly not appear on any one's retrospective "Top 100" music videos of the eighties. It was, however, one of the 250 videos in regular MTV rotation between 1981 and 1983. There seemed to be no particular "format agenda" to the network at that point beyond here are bands that made music videos. If you look at the videos from this time you see a lot of white sound-stage backgrounds, random stock footage, and mirrors. And manquins. "Stone Cold" has the latter two in spades.

Kim wasn't a super-kook obsessive fan. She was just aware of the limited number of videos and knew she could simply "wait it out." At some point on that evening of waiting up all night, I'm sure she considered walking away and going to bed. But then I imagine she considered her invested time and figured she might as well ride it out. 4:00AM ultimately gave her a sort of admirable badge of dubious honor among the cable-kids.

What amuses me about Kim's story is that today, the concept of waiting for anything has become something truly out-dated. Now, I'm certainly old enough to have amassed a decent number of these revelations (being one of the very last groups of students to have made it through all my years of college without using a computer; the introduction of CD's, VHS and the internet into mass culture...) But the idea of trying to explain to one of my friends' kids how it felt to wait around to see a video, or keeping a Radio Shack portable tape player on perpetual pause while listening to Casey Kasum's Top 40 Countdown to get that one song you don't have, reminds me of trying to imagine my parents going their entire childhoods without a television. I could never wrap my head around that.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to come off as one of those annoying agesters who believe pop culture can only be enjoyed by earning your listening/watching, etc. But I do know that I frequently pass up any number of "perfectly acceptable" songs on my iPod in favor of "what's next..."