Thursday, June 27, 2013

Castle Rock Cash In - Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe's War

Did you think it was never going to show up?  Sometimes sequels get delayed, but Hollywood can't resist the chance to make a quick buck, and Noel can't resist the chance to defend an often maligned film!

The method will be changing a little - Noel will be doing purely written reviews on these, and the full review will be hosted over at his own blog.  I will be providing you with a teaser in the hopes that you will head on over and check them out.  You really should.

In case you never watched Noel and I review the first film, you can find that here.

Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (1996) Poster 

 "I like this movie. No, seriously, I do. I know it's an easy movie for people to dump on, and many have without even watching it just because it looks silly, but I think it holds up as one of the better cyberpunk films about social decay and virtual reality to come out of the 90s..."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Finding passion

We had the full blown seminar yesterday for those strengths I posted about last month.  Obviously the main focus was about thinking about those things you're good at and being proud of them and also putting them to the best use.  It's also supposed to be helpful for managers because it shows them how you work and how to relate to you, as well as how to group people together to make sure you've got all the bases covered, so to speak.

He mentioned near the beginning that a lot of us go about trying to be someone else, or trying to be what other people want us to be.  While I've never tried to explicitly copy others, the latter is definitely true for me.  When I was really little I wanted to be a teacher, and by the time I hit 13 I really wanted to be a writer.  Everyone in my family tried to discourage me from both of those things as often as they possibly could.  Teachers' salaries are abysmal and fiction writers don't make anything unless you're really lucky.

"You can do whatever you want, but it's really a good idea to go for a major that will guarantee you a job out of college" is what my dad said to me over and over again.  I love my dad and I respect him and I wanted to make him proud of me.  While there was a point where I considered going for psychology, I was once again told that the only way to make money from that was to be a psychiatrist, and the fact of the matter is that I hated school.  I was always good at it, but I hated it.  Learning has always been fun to me, but testing not so much.  The thought of going through that many years of school was not appealing to me at all.

So I went with business, because business was the easiest way to get a job out of college.  Nearly everyone in my family did something business related, so surely I must be good at it.  I took BA 1000 and the only topic amongst management, marketing, finance, and accounting that made sense was accounting.  Plain and simple numbers and reporting.  I was always good at math.  So I focused on that, and sure enough I was good at it.

I got to my senior year of college and found I truly hated it.  I looked around me, baffled at the people who seemed to actually be energized about this stuff.  It's just numbers, I thought.  How can they truly give a damn about it?  With the typical ignorance of a 21 year old who thinks they know everything, it never struck me that maybe I was the one with the problem.

When you combine my social anxiety with the fact that I didn't truly give a damn about the subject, it's no surprise that I couldn't get hired at any of the accounting firms I interviewed with.  I signed up for an accounting temp agency, but of course everyone wanted someone with previous experience, so they passed me off to their general office temp staff instead.  After a couple quick data entry jobs I got a temp to hire clerical job which landed me at this company.  I've since been promoted to a job that combines both clerical and accounting work, so I'm at least using my degree in some form.

There's also no denying I'm good at it.  I get glowing performance reviews every year.  My boss, a bit of a perfectionist, trusts me implicitly to do my job right.  He jokes that I have all 500 of our property IDs memorized, but that's not true.  I only know the ones for the leased properties since I make the payments for them every month.  Much like school, I know my job inside and out, but that doesn't mean I enjoy it.

This strength finder exercise has shed a lot of light on that fact.  Input means I like to learn, and after 7 years in this position, there isn't anything new to pick up on.  Intellection means I like to think things through, debate them, discuss them.. but there's not a whole lot to discuss.  Consistency means I want fairness, but I deal with landlords who are trying to cheat you out of money and tenants who can't be bothered to pay their rent on time.  Restorative means I want to solve problems, and while that does occasionally come up, most of the time it's pretty smooth sailing around here.  We have our processes and we stick to them.

Meanwhile, I see a lot of my strengths related to the reviews I work on in my free time.  I don't just read a book, watch a movie, play a game, whatever.  I head to Wikipedia, imdb, etc. to research it, find out what's going on behind the scenes, what went into making it.  I think about what the work is trying to convey.  I try to explain why others should also appreciate it, why even things with a bad reputation deserve attention, what we can learn from things that go wrong and sometimes even suggest ways in which faulty works could be fixed.  I love storytelling in all its forms, and my reviews allow me a way to work through them.  Doing the podcast with Bethany or the MMME  with Noel and Jak adds another great layer, because I get to hear the opinions of others and interact with them about these things that I feel so passionate about.  Sometimes people comment and it continues like that.  I love it, I get a charge from it, and it truly makes me happy.

The problem is that today's technology allows anyone with a computer and internet to write blogs, anyone with a microphone and recording software to make a podcast, and anyone with a camera and editing software to make videos.  So a lot of people do.  Supply is much greater than demand and so the pay for such things is minimal.  People who have amassed a following I would kill to have are complaining about how the average person uses ad block software to cut through their means of income.  I can't entirely blame them, because no one likes ads.  We only tolerate them when we have to, and it's natural that only a small portion of your customer base is going to be the type willing to sit through them so you can make money off them.

I've been doing reviews in one form or another since 2009, and I've yet to earn anything off of them.  I have ads running on my blog and through both my youtube and blip accounts, and the earnings are so tiny that at this point I don't expect to ever get a pay out from any of them.  To do otherwise would be madness.

Another part of the session yesterday was telling us not to quit and not give up hope, that you can follow your dreams at any age.  He gave us a lot of examples of people who failed when they first started, but went on to be extremely successful.  I have no intention of quitting.  Working on my reviews, analyzing and discussing and writing about fiction is basically the only thing that keeps me sane at this point.

But I find it hard to see how I'm ever going to make a living off it, and as long as I still have to work this job, I'm still going to be dissatisfied with it and be one of those disengaged employees they don't want to have.  Switching jobs seems like a huge gamble, as it basically means losing the benefits I've earned after being here so long and possibly still being dissatisfied.  I also think it would basically be impossible for me to go back to school now.  I certainly couldn't do it while I was working here without imploding from stress, and I don't have the luxury some people do of having a spouse support them while they stop working to go back.  And what would I go back for?

I do still have an interest in psychology, but I'm not sure it's enough to work in the field.  It seems like it has the potential to be a really stressful job, and I have to admit that any time I try to give friends or loved ones advice I feel like I don't sound confident enough to help them.  Or worse yet I get impatient with them.  I would imagine they help you with those things, but once again, that's a lot of school that I currently don't have the time to go back for.

I don't really have the interest in teaching that I used to have.  I think it was something I thought about when I was little because that was what I was surrounded with.  When I got a little older I still thought it possible because that's what Stephen King did until he got big, but seeing as how I've lost the drive to write fiction anymore I can't see that happening.

That loss is another huge part of it.  For a really long time I had this dream in the back of my mind, but then I actually sat down and started writing it and I found it tedious.  Perhaps the biggest problem was that I made an open ended story, something designed to go on indefinitely, and the weight of that started to get me down.  But I also haven't had any new ideas for stories in a long time, and my focus shifted to doing the reviews because I was getting more enjoyment out of it.  But I can't say I have a dream to be known as a famous critic like Roger Ebert or someone like that.  So I kind of feel like I have no dream at all.

Perhaps I am just in between dreams, but this has been ongoing for six months to a year now.  How long am I supposed to wait until I find that new thing?

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Beatles - Abbey Road

The recording of Let It Be was miserable, to the point that the Beatles came very close to calling it quits right then and there.  But they decided to do one more album, and I for one appreciate their attempt to go out on a happier note.
  1. "Come Together" - Like a lot of others of John's from this period, it's bluesy and it has nonsense lyrics.  But it's probably the best of them.
  2. "Something" - George once again shows us that he knows how to write a good song now.  It's a simple love song, but his guitar sound just adds that extra bit to make it special.
  3. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" - In what almost seems like a direct response to all my comments about him writing sweet love songs, Paul writes a song about a serial killer.  The actual hammer hits on the chorus make this one even more irreverent.  It's poppy and bouncy and yet with such wonderfully twisted subject matter.
  4. "Oh! Darling" -  Would you call this a bluesy ballad?  Regardless I think it really shows off Paul's vocals well and I like it a lot.
  5. "Octopus's Garden" - Poor Ringo.  He was kind of setting himself up for this one, wasn't he?  All I can think of is that moment in Walk Hard where they have him say "I wrote a song about an octopus."  But despite it's rather light hearted and silly subject matter, I think this is a good song for Ringo, definitely the best of his we've heard so far.  If nothing else, it's a strong hint for what his solo career would be like.  I like the song, though I'll admit I don't listen to it regularly.
  6. "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" - I like the slow build of this song.  It's  one of their better blues songs.
  7. "Here Comes the Sun" - Another strong one from George that really shows off his strengths in both guitar and singing at this point.
  8. "Because" - Another hippie song.  Between the subject matter and how little music there is here, I don't care for this one.
  9. "You Never Give Me Your Money" - This starts the medley of short songs that finish up this album.  I like this one.
  10. "Sun King" - This song is barely enough of a song to comment on.  It's a little too simple.
  11. "Mean Mr. Mustard" - The brevity of this one just makes it more fun though.  It paints a great picture of the old man (who is stingy, not necessarily cruel).
  12. "Polythene Pam" - Another fun quick portrait of a person, and once again a great beat to accompany it.
  13. "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window"  - Another strong one from Paul that I wish was a little bit longer.
  14. "Golden Slumbers" - Probably the most interesting thing about this song is that it was written because Paul couldn't read sheet music.  It's good but there's not much to it.
  15. "Carry That Weight" - There's not much to this one either.  It makes it hard to talk about songs when they're often not much more than snippets.
  16. "The End" - What I like the most about this song is the fact that each Beatle gets a solo on it, and maybe it's just because of how often I listen to their music, but I can easily tell which one is which (granted, Ringo's is a given!).  It's a great climax to the album and their career as a whole.
  17. "Her Majesty" - Though we technically have this simple little hidden track right at the end that is such  fun to sing along to.
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