Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"A Visit to the Hairdresser's"

My usual barber isn’t exactly a master of his craft. A typical experience at my barber involves me holding my breath for ten minutes as he struggles to manipulate his stout frame into position to cut my hair, all the while expelling a disgusting odour of stale cigarettes and salty fried meats with every wheeze that accompanies each waggle of the razor. Last time I wrote about him, he had left my sideburns woefully imbalanced – just two weeks ago, I left his shop before realising that he had neglected to cut a considerable amount off the top of my head, making my hairstyle look like an aborted prototype faux-hawk.

I’ve long been aware of his incompetence, but he has two crucial qualities that keep me going back:

  1. Proximity: His shop is no more than a five-minute walk away.
  2. Taciturnity: He makes no effort at insipid chitchat.

Since a visit to the ladyfriend was looming, and my features would no longer be transmitted through a forgiving 320 x 240 resolution at 8 frames per second, I thought it prudent to exercise my oft-neglected sense of vanity and consult a coiffeur who would not succumb to their cigarette-craving midway through cutting my hair and abort the mission.

I found myself at my brother’s barber, and predictably enough, I was fending off wave after wave of attempted conversations, taking care to be as thrifty with the syllables as possible lest I provide a hook for cross examination.

So, are you working today?



Isn’t the weather just dire?



Looking forward to the holidays?


Are you spending it with your family?


Are you doing anything special?



Amazingly enough, my responses were enough to prompt stories that went nowhere, as she regaled me about driving a car on a windy road, or her sister’s plans for the New Year, or her mother’s affinity for Christmas music. Listening to her inane nattering was made all the more arduous due to the effort spent trying to control my facial muscles from revealing my revulsion to the entire undertaking.

“Lipstick on a pig” was the thought that prevailed as this creature with heavy make-up and absurdly coloured hair hovered over me in the mirror, her many undulating protuberances wobbling up against me as the razor droned and rattled in her hand.

I became desolate. Is this all necessary? Must these hairdressers fill their days with the exchange of banal pleasantries and the transmission of dull tales featuring vapid cretins and their esoteric undertakings? Just because the process of removing a man’s hair isn’t particularly stimulating doesn’t mean that I should shoulder the burden through your painful attempts at affability.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m as sociable as the next person (some may even consider me gregarious), but shouldn’t it be a staple of good manners to minimise the boring exposition as much as possible when dealing with people who aren’t your friends? Why must the ritual of a visit to the hairdresser’s involve an empty conversation between begrudging participants?

There’s a dignity in cutting a man’s hair that the superficial simplicity of the task belies. Enjoy it quietly.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jobseeker Beware

I've settled into an old ritual over the past two weeks or so - every day I come home from work and go onto Monster.com and attempt to find a job that's some way related to marketing or writing (whether it's technical writing, copy editor, internal communications assistant), and located within 400 miles of my US-dwelling girlfriend (400 miles away would still work out at least 4,000 miles closer).

I'm dubious as to how worthwhile a process it is send résumés to whatever companies on the job search engine tick the right boxes - particularly when I'm admitting to them that I require sponsorship to work in the States, but it feels like I'm doing something, and 'something' feels like progress, so I'll bark up that tree for as long as is necessary.

Since 'marketing' is such a bullshitty word, my job search results feature copious amounts of specious companies that engage in 'direct' marketing - a process that involves harassing people on the street, or at their front door with your wares.

It's the same every time, the company has a crummy name, throws around a bunch of vague superlatives talking about how great they are and what a fantastic opportunity working for them is, and features an inappropriately fancy Flash-based website that seems to be an off-the-shelf template lazily adapted for their use. Just have a look at this snippet from the website for Marketing FX:

It's lorem ipsum - placeholder text! They can spend hundreds of words ducking and dodging mentioning what the company actually does, but miss out on these crucial details.

Here are the dodgy businesses with names awful enough for me to remember:

Global Advertising
ID Promotionz
World Class Advertising
Davis Direct Marketing
Difference Defined Milwaukee

Those six businesses I just listed comprise two different companies - which is pretty effin' dodgy.

Last year, when I was just out of college, and before I was any way discerning about which companies I applied to spammed with résumés, I got in touch with World Class Advertising, and even though the secretary got the name of her own company wrong when writing back to me (she called it "World Class Adverting"), I was excited by the response:

Your resume has been selected as a potential match for one or more of our job openings. You have been selected for a personal interview with one of our managers.

We have recently signed new marketing contracts with an international cosmetics company and 2 major national retailers. As a result, we are currently seeking professionals interested in learning Event Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, Promotions and Team Leadership.
What timing, eh? They're after getting some big contracts and need to expand quickly! Since I was invited for an interview, I decided to pay a little more attention to what the company was all about, and that's when the scamminess of the whole affair made itself clear. I Googled 'World Class Advertising Scam' and read a few testimonials from people who were almost duped or were insulted by what an obvious dupe it was.

Unsurprisingly, one year later, worldclassadvertising.net is now offline, but there's no shortage of nonsense to take its place.

After being left a little cold by the description on Monster for Moxy Marketing, I decided to let Google fill in the details, and sure enough what I found was a very legitimate sounding business:

They even had a decent catchphrase! I went back to Monster to apply for work with them when I realised that the company advertised was Moxy - with a 'y'. You dirty homonym-exploiting bastards!

Nowadays, to get the most out of my job-searching time, I've made a habit of googling every company I've even a vague interest in, and if something smells fishy, I throw the word 'scam' in there and see what happens - if you're applying for work online, I recommend you do the same.

Useful websites (in case Google hasn't indexed them when you need the info!):
Rip Off Report
Complaints Board

Monday, November 09, 2009

Facebook Frustration

A popular meme on Facebook at the moment is the 'dislike button' - the oft wished for counterpoint to the 'like' button that has accompanied every status update for the past few months.

Like most things that are popular for no good reason - I'm strongly opposed to the idea of the dislike button, as to me, as it would serve to provide yet another outlet for people to bitch online.

When Facebook introduced the News Feed feature, the entire experience changed - rather than the tried-and-true system in which you're only presented with information you pulled down about the people you care to look up, you're now accosted at login with every twitch and snort from each of the many acquaintances you've acquired over your Facebooking career. Since most people tend to have more acquaintances than close friends, it means that a lot of the information onscreen is of little interest.

Thanks to Facebook, I now know that people I know:

... enjoy pleasant weather

... like eating pizza

... are fans of smiling

... enjoy the beach
... don't like cigarette. Just one. Unsure as to how they feel about multiple cigarettes though
... love their MOM. It might be an anagram for something cool that the kids are into
... are fans of summer (which dovetails nicely with the warm weather, I suppose)

... don't feel at all ashamed to share with the world that a quiz that confuses simple homonyms considers them a genius
... appreciate hugs
... are patriotic

... will happily take quizzes with the absurd premise of "What female superstar mom / wife are you?" and not hastily take the results down when the utterly insipid fruits of their fifteen minutes of box ticking steps forward onto the friend feed for scrutiny. "You are beautiful but not flamboyant or glamorous"? How the #@¢$ would any quiz on Facebook be able to tell you that? Shame on every party involved in bringing this quiz into the world and propagating its use.

Those are just a few of the dumb entries that pertain to apps and the 'fan' feature - I've decided not to go copying and pasting the status entries that consist of people bitching about work, bitching about friends, bitching about school, bitching about big dirty bitches, or worse, exposing their cretinous misunderstanding of politics / economics / the world in general.

Granted, the only thing worse than people engaging in such mindless tomfoolery is the guy who catalogues it and whinges about it later, but when I haven't talked to a person in months and these are the snippets of their personality that I'm being bombarded with, it makes me think less of that person. The appearance of some brain-pain-inducingly banal update on the friend feed lends it a sense of urgency that it doesn't deserve, and it only makes it more difficult to find the updates that are worthwhile.

This whole thing could be resolved in a few ways. For one, I could learn to ignore the nonsense (which isn't very likely). Secondly - I could set up parameters for my friend feed so that it ignores certain apps / people - I'm grateful to the Facebook people for providing these small mercies, and have used it to dispose of the more cognitively deficient people on my friend-list.

Third - and this is the one I like best - people could subscribe to the same etiquette I do:
Sign up for a dumb app? Don't let it post to your feed!
Want to update people to your status every four minutes? Get on twitter and let people follow you instead!
Feel like bitching about your day? Shut the fuck up!

Remember folks - chances are that you're an idiot, and the more often you pop up in someone's news feed, the more regularly you'll present an opportunity for them to reaffirm that opinion of you.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ich bin der verdammte Ubersully!

Here's a true story. I had an annoying girlfriend once. She nagged me to sign up for MSN so I could join a group chat with her annoying friends, so to annoy her back, I signed up with the handle "ubersully". Chagrin abounded. Words were had. Unhealthy relationship limped on with the same dynamic of lazy abuse and general lack of mutual respect for far longer than it ought to have.

Anyhow - six (Really? Only six?) years later, I've embraced the Ubersully.

Playstation Network, Xbox Live, Twitter, random dodgy forums around the internet - I am ubersully. I own ubersully. The only time that a website has refused me signing up as ubersully is when I've already signed up to that website as ubersully.

See that? It's all me.

Sadly friends, my six-year hot-streak came to an end today. Whilst signing up for my second YouTube account (gluttonous bastard!), I entered ubersully, and believing it to be a mere formality, hit 'Check Availability'.

Hmmm... That's weird, I don't remember signing up to YouTube as 'ubersully' - let's investigate that profile...

You damn dirty Mexians! Is nothing sacred?

In times like this, I turn to my dear readers, and even dearer commenters for solace - I ask you fine people: do you have a 'go-to' moniker online that you feel attached to? Or are you going to lecture me on changing up my online handles so employers / stalkers / Big Brother can't see what fetish category I gravitate towards online?