Wednesday, May 26, 2010

World of Workcraft

About a month ago, our boss tells us that we will be getting a few new team members to help with the increased workload of this project phase.

"A couple names I don't remember, but, some of you will be pleased to know that Brody Fabinelli will be back."

"That's great!"
"He's awesome!"
Whoops of joy from my analyst team fill the air. I glance at Jane, who is grinning, and I mouth, "Who is this guy?"
"Oh," she whispers, "He is SO. Cool."

I get a little excited. Someone cool? Working here? He sounds like he could be almost good-looking, young... surely witty or worldly.

Then I reign myself in - okay, if they all know him... he probably isn't YOUNG. But I am still sure he is hot. Maybe silver-fox kind of hot. A little office eye-candy after almost two years in this wasteland? I'll take it.

Cut to two weeks ago.

I am working out of our other office for the day, so I plunk my stuff down at an open cubicle. There is a man I don't recognize at the desk behind me, muttering about his computer, and clicking his mouse methodically. He gets frustrated, and stalks down the aisle of cubicles, his long salt-and-pepper ponytail flicking from side to side with his gait.

My computer boots up and I sip at my coffee absentmindedly when I hear a familiar voice say, "Hi there - staying out of trouble?"
I spin around in my chair to Kyle, our IT support guy. He is standing with my new cube mate, a visiting IT assistant, I presume.

"Oh, hi Kyle."
"Hey, have you met Brody?"

Ah. I should have known.

"Hi Brody, it's nice to meet you," I say, extending my hand.

"Hello." He shakes my hand brusquely. He is middle aged, with the beginnings of an impressive set of jowls.
His hair is parted down the middle, smoothed behind his ears. He has broad stooped shoulders, and can't stand more than about 5'6".
He kind of looks like... a... hobbit? I think. No. Maybe it's his build, he's kind of cave-troll esque. Or, actually, it's the hair! Yes, his hair makes him look like an elf.
My brain is a slot machine full of JRR Tolkien creatures, spinning and slowing, but failing to rest on any one item.
Orc! No no... wait, it's gotta be...a... Gollum? Hold it, no, it's the hair, definitely elf....he kind of looks like the Liv Tyler elf, actually... but, well... no no it's totally troll. I wonder if he's better with an axe, or a bow?

I also notice that he is waiting next to his computer sheepishly, which I now see has an image taking up the whole 15 inch monitor. It looked like this:

No, of course. It couldn't be any other way. Of course he plays World of Warcraft. Of course the only new team member we get in my time here who isn't directly flown in from Bangalore, India on the hunt for a wife plays Warcraft. Why wouldn't he? This makes perfect sense, Universe. I appreciate your consistency. It at least explains why he looks like he belongs in the game.

I purse my lips and crinkle my eyes in a smile, and turn back to my own computer, which might have had my Gmail window up, but come on, at least I didn't DOWNLOAD WoW on my WORK LAPTOP the SECOND I got to my new job. And then try to PLAY it on my client's network, which, by the way, is a state agency, and therefore paid for by tax dollars.

Minutes later, my boss, Allen walks up. "Hey Jessica- Kyle, Brod- oh." He catches sight of Brody's monitor, featuring the sword-wielding, busty digital nymph. So that's why your computer isn't working," he says brightly. "I will.. just.. let you take care of that," he says, backing out of the cube, smirking.

This would have all been more okay with me, had someone actually reprimanded him or, I don't know, fired him maybe?

But no. Kyle proceeds to talk about his Level 80 Paladin and his sick new Divine Shield, and how he had a Horde character for a while, but really prefers to play Alliance... and ON.



Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Lady

I think that's a bastardization of more than one Henry James title, but I will stand by it for this post.

I think I've mentioned this before, but, when I was five, I sat at the kitchen counter of my grandparents' house furiously coloring away with crayons. I expressed my intent to be an artist "when I grow up" and was met with scoffs from both my Uncle and Papa who told me I'd "never make any money at that." That scared me, even then.

In high school I had the privilege of attending a high school with a very intense arts program: Art Seminar was a two year program for Juniors and Seniors only, covering all manner of visual arts instruction, and culminated in a senior art show. I shared the space with my friend Drew, and together, we filled the place with our friends and family who came to see what we'd been working on.

Drew's piece de resistance was this really cool installation that consisted of a series of skulls painted on glass in old window frames.
I was asked to take down a sexually suggestive charcoal drawing of a mostly naked woman wearing lace gloves by school administration.
We also each sold quite a bit of work, which was really exhilarating and humbling.

So Freshman year of college, while I tried to figure out what I wanted to major in, saw me dabble as an Art major. I got accepted to the program Winter Term and then by Spring, had started my basic design classes.

And I hated it.
I got to produce some interesting work and it stretched the way I thought about materials and inspiration and design, and I loved the excuse my fall of sophomore year to take a drawing course that met for 3 hours at a time in a really relaxing, secluded studio space nestled in the trees on the edge of campus. I was getting better, technically, but I felt like I was wasting everyone's time because I wasn't particularly inspired by my fellow students or instructors, and more than anything, was learning I don't *think* like an artist. I could produce a craft with little or no emotional investment, and was very visually judgmental. So I switched to Political Science and never looked back.

Since graduation, I haven't completed a single painting, but I think my need for creative expression is desperately apparent (see: this blog, gusto with which I plan bridal showers, impulsive jewelry design hobby) and maybe more important to my identity than I'd previously given credit.

Much of my prior creations are framed around my parents' house or housed nearby with relatives, but, ever since my laptop crashed, I realized I'd lost a lot of work. Thinking about this loss made me a little panicky, so I analyzed my options and realized there was one last place I could maybe look...

Without getting into a big long story (not like I like those, or anything), once upon a time, a bunch of my favorite media pieces were submitted for me by Someone to an online arts community website, which happens to have been started by Benj Gershman from the band O.A.R. The site, and my relationship to Someone, are no longer functional in the way either once was, but I wondered if digital images of my work were stored somewhere in the depths of someone's, or Someone's, hard drives.

So I emailed Someone who told me, or rather, promised me, he didn't have them, but would do everything he could to track them down for me.

He kept me updated every couple weeks, letting me know he'd emailed Benj (who was on tour) and no luck yet, but, would keep looking into it for me.
I appreciated the effort, but, counted everything as lost.

But wow, did Someone ever deliver.

Last night, I got an email from him with about ten images of my old creations, forwarded to me from Benj, bless his heart. I was seriously choked up, and told my dad, who (sorry, Dad) got similarly emotional.

I replied today, and rather than summarize what I said, here it is, verbatim, because I think I really said what I meant:

"It hit me almost immediately WHY this recovery of lost things is so important to me, so I will try to articulate that to you.
As years pass, we all grow. We learn, we find new interests, we encounter new people who affect or influence us, and everything we interact with has the potential to change us as people. And change doesn't have to necessarily mean transform, but, it's like an addition of layers on top of what we have at our core. Our core can even shift sometimes, I imagine, but, what I am getting at is that we still carry those inner layers with us as part of our identity as we get older. Anyone who has met me in the last few years would have no idea that I am an artist. I wouldn't even use "am" anymore, due to the simple fact that I haven't regularly or passionately pursued visual art for years. But the fact that I was? That at a time in my life it wasn't only something I did, but really helped define me as who I was, that is enough to be a part of my "is", currently. Does that make sense?

And I guess I felt I'd lost a part of myself because, since I am not currently expressing as an artist (at least, not a visual one - writing is different), I have no proof - no record, really, of that history of my identity. I suppose there are still quite a few pieces at my parents' house, but, some of the ones you recovered for me I might never have seen again - effectively forever lost from myself, which was actually a scary prospect.

I don't know why I am so emotionally attached to that cut-out piece with the dogs and the train. It could be that I am still emotionally attached to the song of which it's representative ("The Trapeze Swinger" - Iron & Wine) or remembering the process of creating it: really learning to love and explore my independence, sitting alone at my dorm room desk freshman year of college, windows wide to the afternoon rain, enjoying my own company, cutting and gluing and processing and humming along to the aural art that had inspired the project in the first place. I wish I was better about getting myself back to that place, now, and maybe having this image around will remind me of that.

As far as the kiss painting, that image is so burned into me as a part of who I am, I could never forget it. I had separation anxiety from the actual canvas though, and I'm not sure if I told you this or not, but I actually went so far to track it down that I created a MySpace account a year-and-a-half ago for the express purpose of searching for the girl from my high school who bought it at my senior show. I found her (there's a lot of Sarah Browns in the world, let me tell you) and wrote her a clumy message that basically said, "Hi, You probably don't remember me, but, I think you bought a painting of mine for someone in your family at my senior art show back in high school. I am just writing to say that if it is in a basement somewhere, or hidden in a closet, or it has lost its appeal, I will buy it back from you for twice what you paid for it. But, if anyone at all is still enjoying it, please, by all means, feel no obligation to let me buy it back. I just wanted to know it has a safe place in the world."
And she wrote back a few days later saying, basically, thanks, but, it is now a permanent fixture in their home and there's pretty much no way her mother would part with it. That was totally enough for me.

Anyway, what I am getting at is that these images are not just images. They represent a whole lot more to me and are, in some cases, part of me and my history, and so, part of who I am now - but a part I thought I'd lost. Thank you for helping me reclaim it.
Please pass on my utmost gratitude to Benj (you can forward this even, if you want) for taking the time out of his day to actually sort through Lord only knows how much stuff to get to these, and then email them to you, who took the time out of YOUR days to contact him, and follow up with him, and follow up with me. It's just a truly lovely gesture on both of your parts - him, because he doesn't even know me. And you, because, well, you DO know me, and how I haven't been exactly generous (with grace or patience) in the last few years, so knowing our history, this was just something you really really really didn't have to do. But I'm terribly grateful that you did.

I think that more aptly explains why this hit me in the way that it did.


Sharpie sketches for a design piece
Assignment: using only black and white paper cutouts, create a visual representation of your favorite song.
Oil on canvas - inspired by my cousins; bought by my uncle
Oil on canvas; wedding present for friends.
Oil on canvas: purchased by my 1st grade teacher, who now has it framed in her stairwell, which brings me such joy.

My first oil on canvas, and the only one I ever regret selling.

I feel so much relief, and at peace, like after a reunion with estranged friends.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bills Shoes Booze

Introducing Crystal Bee, shoe snob and snark-master. From her (hilarious, honest, shoe-centric) site, Bills Shoes Booze:

"crystal bee has worked in the shoe industry for 5 years. she used to blog for a shoe company she once worked for in beautiful portland, oregon. they promptly fired her for being “mean spirited”, “too negative” and having a general lack of respect for grammar and punctuation. (who pays any attention to the syntax of things?) so she started her own blog and named it after her wells fargo checking account, hence the name, “bills shoes booze.” "

Youuuu're welcome.

IDEA: AccountTable

I have decided I need a hotline from my house to a Hollywood studio exec's office.
I keep coming up with television show ideas and I don't know how or where to pitch them. Here's my latest one, though:

There is a large segment in the consumer market that is insulted by poorly executed media. You wouldn't know it by numbers, necessarily, since Transformers II: Revenge of Megan Fox's Freak Thumbs still blew up at the box office, but there are a lot of smart people in this country who are basically insulted by pandering advertisements, ridiculously unintelligent filmmaking, and jaw-droppingly stupid tv.

My solution would be a television show that functions as an accountability check for these abominations of entertainment. The Soup, Chelsea Lately, SNL's Weekend Update and various other snarky commentary shows do a decent job of getting in jabs where they can at poor executive decison making and worthless media trashdumps, but my show would focus on it exclusively.

The set up would be similar to much British television, wherein you have a quick-witted and knowledgeable host, backed by a panel that changes with each episode. The panel can be celebrity studded or composed of industry experts or executives, or more likely a mix, and each week 3-4 media events would be selected for discussion.

The show would then play the advertisement in question, or a clip of a television series that debuted that week, or whatever the media item is, and then the panel would have a chance to dissect and discuss the merits, or more likely, flaws, in the item. At this point, and here's where the show gets good, the writer or producer (or whomever was responsible for the media item in question) would be a guest on the show, where they'd have a chance to publicly defend their piece. I imagine some good-natured banter, an executive eventually hanging his head in shame with a sheepish smile of defeat, and promising to do better next time.

The writer or producer or director or whomever in the hot seat would get publicity (no such thing as bad press, right?) and a chance to articulate their creative process in arriving at the final crappy product, maybe even showing us that due to budget limitations or this and that, their options were limited, so we might be more understanding that they tried to shove such junk down our tubes.

The show would end each week by spotlighting a delightfully smart or appropriate ad campagin that debuted that week, or a film that came out that was well done, or a creatively clever marketing strategy that launched.

The purpose of all this would be to hold people accountable for the material they produce. It would also continue the trend of transparency, especially in corporate settings, and increase accessibility to the public. It would hopefully start a new era in which we expect more from this country's creatives, and are delivered content that challenges, inspires, and connects with us.

AccountTable is a working title, alluding to accounts in advertising and media, and the sort of round-table discussions that hopefully ensue.

SO who has a rich uncle in LA I can talk to?
What would your suggestions be to make this a functioning and entertaining program?
Would you watch it?

Friday, May 21, 2010

They're called DOnuts, not DONTnuts

I hope I have your full attention, because I'm about to drop some knowledge:

When someone brings food to something, EAT IT.

This wisdom was first imparted to me by one of the best high school teachers the world has ever known.

He opened class one day, sitting on his wooden stool, by thoughtfully remarking that he wasn't a big advice giver, but if we were to take away anything from him at all that year, the one thing he wanted us to remember was,
"If someone has gone to the trouble to make your day better by
bringing donuts, the least you can do is eat one. Always eat a donut if someone has brought them."

And I think that's an excellent axiom by which we should all live.

On the rainy drive to work this Friday in May, after a long week of meetings and a fair amount of actual hard work on my part, I decided my coworkers deserved a little sugar and cholesterol for their efforts.

I stopped by Donut Land, which is right across the street from Donut King.

Donut Land used to be Winchell's, and we would stop there every Sunday on the way home from church, where my brother would procure two donuts: one rainbow-sprinkle, one cinnamon-twist. I waffled and went through phases- buttermilk bars were my go-to for a while... but then I found apple fritter pull aparts. And then I got really into glazed crullers - or, as "into" a type of donut as you can be, I guess. Basically, I have an affinity for the place.

Donut King, on the other hand, was owned by our Chinese neighbors. One time, my best friend and next-door-neighbor told me, as we rode by the place sitting in the back seat of her parents' Aerostar van, "Oh, I love going there. I always get free donuts because they're our neighbors!"

Um, I had been in there plenty and no one ever gave me any free anything.
So now, some fifteen years later, I still resent them and instead am very loyal to my amigos at Donut Land.

I arrived at work with the dozen, hand-picked selections (maple old fashioned, chocolate glazed, raspberry filled, crullers, blueberry cake, rainbow-sprinkle, plain glazed, plain cake with chocolate glaze and nuts, powdered sugar, etc) and would you believe it if I said the first 3 people to which the donuts were offered REFUSED?

In the immortal words of Stephanie Tanner... (say it with me, now), "How RUDE!"

So now I've eaten two and am feeling a little nauseous.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Just Drove Across The Country

I was trying to think of something witty for the title of this post, but, I think the facts speak for themselves, here.

E=MC is done with graduate school for the year at Duke, so this little lady bought a one-way ticket to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and then drove all the way back with him to the Pacific Northwest, home to us both.

Given my limited vacation schedule, we did this in 6 days.

Raleigh -> Birmingham -> New Orleans -> Dallas -> Santa Fe -> Provo -> Portland

Here are some things we saw:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Meeting Minutes

The following idiomatic expressions were all used today, by one man, in a meeting I attended:

"Low-hanging fruit"

"Hit the ground"

"Bang out"


"full blown solution"

"blue-sky thinking"

"wherever that functionality fell out at"

I took detailed minutes and drew a picture of a jowly client with googly eyes who was sitting across the table from me.

Yes. This is what I am doing with the best years of my life.

We use Microsoft Office Communicator at my office. It is basically a secure Instant Messenging feature for professionals, although, the only person who ever uses it to talk to me is Jane, and our topics of conversation typically involve calculating the best permutations of the emoticons that come with it.
This one is our favorite:

It is an employee, actually sprinting in animation, towards a beer.


Since my experiences on my city league softball team and my days at work didn't provide me with *quite* enough uncomfortable or awkward moments in my life, I decided to ahead and join another team... on which one of my clients plays.

It was her idea, and though I'm pretty sure there's nothing explicit in either of our company policies about playing on a beer-league athletic team together, I am fairly suspicious it would be frowned upon. So we're keeping it hush-hush, which is only too bad because I completely dominated at our game on Sunday and wanted to TELL EVERYONE about it.

I think it would be a glorious way to leave this place - for the "secret" to get out and everyone to turn to me with wounded expressions of betrayal and concern around a conference table, my manager asking me, "So then, is it true?"
And I, in an Oscar worthy monologue would ask, "Is what true? That I have had enough of this ridiculous politik? That [client name] and I have been seeing each other outside of work? Well, guess what. It is true- it's all true! And I'm not sorry! In fact, I loved every dirty minute of the game. Loved it, I tell you! And you know what else? I was damn good at it, too. You shoulda seen me out there - in the lights, proud as hell, always goin down' swinging. It was a beautiful thing!"

And my boss would rise to his feet, slam a hand on the table and shout around his cigar (because now, in my head, he has a cigar... and is inexplicably in a 3-piece tweed suit with a pocket-watch, his shirt-sleeves rolled to the forearm, the smoke swirling between us), "Goin' down swingin', eh? Well, swing at this: You're fired!" And I'd say, "You can't fire me, I quit. I quit all of ya, ya yellow-bellied cowards! I'm not afraid to live. I'll see ya in the funnies!" and I'd grab my hat (?), and my briefcase (?), turn on a heel and stomp out without looking back, all the way to the train station.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Official Summer 2010 Cut

It's official- this is all I will be listening to this summer:

"You Could Be The One" - Late Night Alumni