Happy Anniversary!

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WordPress was nice enough to send me a notification of my registration one year ago. Thanks for the shout-out WP! In that year I have written, at most, 12 posts. Even in those 12, the tone, frustration and outright anger has subsided considerably. Is that what experts call progress?

But not to worry; there is no risk of having to change the title any time soon, as there is still much that annoys. No end of that, is there?

I’ve started blog star Mark Manson‘s ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.’ The cover of his book has the ‘u’ in Fuck replaced with an asterisk. There is no censorship here, so F*ck becomes fuck. There, doesn’t that look and feel better?

All three of the above paragraphs end with questions marks – mind blown! So I’ve started Mark’s book and I have added more virtual bookmarks to it than any other book I’ve ever read. It’s a quick read, there is little bullshit, and, for those who hate self-help books, it’s working. And he says ‘fuck’ a lot. So refreshing!

The past few weeks have brought a number of very good and exciting job opportunities that will be applied for collectively by thousands of people. Every out of work journalist, editor, public relations professional and marketing and communications person will be clamouring to snag one of these gigs like a moth to a light. That reminds of me Norm Macdonald’s awesome moth joke. Don’t know it, you say? Here’s the link.

Three of these jobs are postings for journalists; actual reporters for newspapers, an industry decimated by layoffs, closures and the fake online news stories. These three jobs all became available within one week of each other in three communities within a half-hour drive from my home. That has to be unprecedented given the sorry state of journalism. I applied for all three.

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I also applied for a job through a major temp agency for a proofreader. Now, I’ve been doing this writing/editing thing for a long time, and I sort of know what I am doing, you know? I’m guessing they are not looking for someone with a lot of skill or experience as the posting said the successful candidate only needed a high school diploma or GED. That’s it. Yeah, get me one of those and these documents will be pristine with perfect spelling, grammar and language, right? My proof that they aren’t looking for top notch work? This came right from the job posting. And I quote: “Proof reading skills needed to proofreacd the contacts to ensure that the items read properly. Accuracy is key.”

Not only is it a poorly worded sentence, it actually said that accuracy is key. Is key a cipher for the proper spelling? Maybe that ‘c’ is a code for the proper spelling and the actually job is not proofreading but deciphering the message like some World War II code breaker. So as a writer and editor with some mad skillz and also some shit disturber tendencies, I responded to the job. I applied for the position with the usual boring resume and LinkedIn profile, then I added a postscript at the end. I said, “I don’t know if this spelling error was placed here intentionally to get the applicant to find the error or not, but either way it’s sloppy writing.” That’s right, I called it sloppy. And I went on to say that, “It’s clear that this company does need help, and if I was in the position this would not have happened.”

With that response I more than likely reduced my chances of getting the job to less than zero. This is that I’m up against when the posting itself contains a spelling error. It’s OK though; I didn’t really want the job anyway.

 

Kids these days

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squirrelI’m either brave or . . .

I recently volunteered as a parental chaperone for The Kid’s field trip to a local farm. This is the second time I have done this, so apparently I did not how remember exhausting these things can be. Who am I exactly? The Kid is in grade 2 and there are just eight other student in the class. This is no normal class though; these students are “gifted.” This is also known as “too damn smart for their own good.” Or too smart for me, perhaps.

When taking a school bus as a kid the ride is a carnival. As an adult riding a school bus is an uncomfortable bone-shaking hell ride where every bump might as well be Mt. Everest on a bad day. Hitting a small crack in the road sent me bouncing off the seat like a superball off the pavement.

 

Once at the farm, the students looked at a bunch of goats and turkeys and chickens and admired the (bad descriptive writing alert) quiet serenity of soaring turkey vultures gliding gently overhead. The wagon ride was nice.

They took a tour through the fields, learned about growing pumpkins, apples, grapes, raspberries, corn and sunflowers. The lesson included a pleasant discussion about the sex lives of flowers, with discussion of “things that stick out” and “things that don’t stick out.” This new Ontario sex ed curriculum has no place in the classroom  because it takes place in the serene fields of Ontario. Damn, what an education system. I had no idea.

The kids were mostly well  behaved but there is always that one. You know what I am talking about, right? During feeding time at the trough the kids dive into their lunches like a panther going after an injured feral pig. My lunch included a Fibre 1 bar, because, you know, I take my fibre intake very seriously. So I start unwrapping the delicious chocolaty goodness and this kid looks over and says, “That didn’t come from a peanut-free facility.” I look at the packaging and sure enough it says so right on the wrapper! I’ll be damned.

In response, I wanted to say, “Shut your trap there, Poindexter,” but I am supposed to be a positive parental role model when really I wanted to put that four eyes in his place! This boy doesn’t wear glasses, but like Ryan Bingham in ‘Up in the Air’ it’s easier to stereotype and it works better for this story. Instead of being all rude and stuff, I got all passive aggressive, shrugged my shoulders, and said, “We’re sitting under a walnut tree, so if you have a peanut allergy you’re about to blow up like Violet Beauregarde in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ and proceeded to stuff that Fibre 1 bar down my pie hole.

Field trips sure are fun. When is the next one?

I’ve made the change

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change-bowie

David Bowie’s Changes. Change by Tears for Fears. Change by Blind Melon. Seasons Change by Expose. Don’t Change by INXS. There are lots of songs about change, changing, and not changing. Really, there are. Don’t believe me; Here’s a list.

My change today, other than being back on a rampaging hunt for a job, is changing from a free WordPress blog to a paid subscription. That’s right, chrisdoffandsarcastic.com is mine, all mine. The name might include the word ‘sarcastic’ but it is just a word. Sure I possess a healthy dose of sarcasm as a character trait, however it is just a word and a blog title because every page needs a title.

Blogging is an outlet for writing; it’s a voice in a time of millions of voices. It was Mark Zuckerberg himself who said that the success of Facebook is due to the ease at which everyone now has a means to publicly state their views and opinions (for better or worse; if you are deliberately provocative and anonymous hiding behind your Internet comments, definitely worse) to a widespread audience. This was not an option before, and now there is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and many others. Millions of voices, millions of words and millions of conversations. Social media is a conversation and people are talking, and these conversations are just as personal and important as face-to-face meetings over coffee with your best friend. How to make them relevant is the challenge.

Blogs, just like Internet comments, are meant to hopefully attract attention. There are millions of blogs, and millions are unread. Most are unread. Outside of a handful of friends and,  perhaps, a few people that follow this blog, no one will see this. I’m OK with that. Anyone writing a blog has to be OK with that as more likely than not, it will not get widespread attention.

So why do it? As Zuckerberg said, we do it for the outlet it provides. I’m in the business of writing words, for brochures, for websites, for media relations materials, of proofreading words, both mine and others. Is this blog shameless self-promotion?  Sure it is. Aren’t most blogs?  There are bloggers some that make good money off their blogs, and that is the hope, regardless of odds, for anyone that writes one. If you make even little money because of the presence of a blog then you are one of the lucky ones.

Among those blogs that do manage to bring in a little bit of money, is it the blog itself, or is it because of the ancillary benefit that comes with whatever attention it might bring to the author? That’s my reason, as the words itself are simply words, and opinion. I can help you with crafting and creating words. But, unlike angry, opinionated, generally negative commentators on news stories posted to Facebook, I am not anonymous. I am right here.

 

Who am I exactly?

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school bus

Here’s a story:

Last week I had the brilliant, or misguided, thought to offer my volunteer services to The Kid’s field trip to learn about nature and animals in the local area. We’re not talking about bears and lemurs or capybaras; we’re talking about birds and rabbits and raptors. Not the dinosaurs, no (!), rather the eagle-type bird, though a couple dinosaurs on the field trip would be cool. A field trip with dinosaurs…sign me up! Even better if those dinosaurs escape from the enclosures and go on a rampage eating lawyers cowering in the outhouse. That is field trip gold.

When I mentioned to a friend about proactively offering up my volunteer time to school to make some sort of difference to the community or something, she had this to say: “Don’t you think a field trip with a bunch of stranger’s kids would be the most annoying day ever lived?”

And she makes a valid argument. In case it’s not clear, I hate people. The annoyance and suckage factor is usually high and rarely is there an interaction with people that leaves me happy and encouraged by the experience. And children can be a proverbial hot mess. I have one, so I know. They smell, they talk back, they ignore and they are loud. And it’s true that parents only like their only children, and maybe not even that at all times. With that in mind I still decided to sign up for the trip.

Because we live in a predatory world it is necessary and appropriate to get a police check to prove that volunteers don’t have a criminal record, and something called a ‘vulnerable sector check’ to allow volunteers to be around children. I don’t mind children generally, until they start acting like little bratty shits and start talking loudly. Then it’s open season on my wrath.

So I go to the police station, hand over my $25, fill out some papers and sit back for the cops to find out that i have the most sparkling-clean record of anyone this side of Little House on the Prairie. Speaking of LHOTP, I hear a new movie about the Ingalls is in the works. Kind of a low-key and muted show to produce in an era where a movie needs 12.37 explosions per hour or Amy Schumer just to get noticed. I tell you this though. If Michael Landon isn’t in it I’m not fucking watching. I don’t care if he’s dead or been touched by an angel. Figure it out, Hollywood.

So back to the police check. A couple days later I get an email from the cops saying they can’t complete the process unless I come in to black up my hands (Thanks, Snow) with a fingerprinting. It seems there is some creepy perv in Canada that has either a similar name or birth date and fingerprints are necessary to prove I’m not a child molester. That privilege costs me an additional $25 unless I get a letter from the school telling the cops that I am getting the police check to volunteer, in which case the fee is waived. Well I still had not come to my senses and decided not to help out with the field trip and requested the letter. It didn’t instill me with a lot of confidence when the school secretary tell me that this situation had never happened before. That’s great, eh. This is the one time when you don’t want to be a trendsetter. Just my luck that I am leading the way in the child-molester-field trip volunteer race.

While I am clearly not this pervy person it’s still unnerving and I can’t stop thinking all Manitowoc, WI Sheriff’s Department. What if there is a clerical error and I end up in jail? I’m too dainty for prison.

The end result is I don’t get to go on this field trip. But before you get upset at my luck, I have another chance in May to be subjected to a busload of six and seven year old well-behaved darlings. I can’t let go the opportunity to leave this kids lost, cold and shivering in the woods so they be attacked by a bear. Or a raptor.

Alternating

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So it probably seems like I am really angry. I prefer to label it “passion.”

In an effort to at least come across a little bit as a bitter, spiteful prick, here are a list of things I like:

  • red licorice
  • warm summer days with the smell of nature in the air
  • chocolate
  • social media
  • the woods, the forest, trees (especially gnarled and old cedars, because of their innate survivability), and nature, in general
  • hiking
  • camping
  • road trips
  • my son
  • spoiling my son
  • Dar Williams
  • messy desks
  • downloading music
  • the business of radio
  • reading, but only non-fiction, with few exceptions
  • travelling, in short duration
  • Humble and Fred
  • mint chocolate chip ice cream
  • introspection
  • Alanis Morissette
  • artistry, or being artistic, except I have no skill in artistry, outside of writing

More to come…

I’m back, ladies and gents

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Bet you thought you’d seen the last of me. You’re not getting off that easy. But you would be right for thinking, “Here’s another thing he can’t follow through on.” You got me.

But is is now 2016 and Christmas is over. The times of eating all that chocolate and spending time with that creepy drunken uncle has faded with the memory of that time prior to the holidays when you were thin or you didn’t have stray tree needles all over the fucking carpet a week after taking the tree down AND vacuuming those fuckers up.

Anyway. What I want to talk about is guidance counselors. There is a reason why they do not exist under that name in high schools any longer. It’s because they are biggest pseudo-human waste of space assholes who are not talented enough to teach but still found a way to get two months off in summer and a killer pension plan, but without having to deal with a gaggle of  inattentive students that are probably jacked up on an unhealthy dose of Ritalin to treat their ADHD that is probably not ADHD at all. An aside: Ritalin is also used to treat narcolepsy. Yay, sleep!

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But back to guidance counselors. They are like Richard (Dick) Vernon, the teacher in The Breakfast Club that still harbours anger after all those years of teaching that the profession is “real work”, according to Carl, the janitor, who is not above some friendly neighbourhood blackmailing. Carl  should be the guidance counselor because I’d rather take advice from a straight shooter than from Dick Vernon, who has some long-standing delusion of grandeur despite making a whooping $34,000 a year.

Guidance counselors are incapably deficient when faced with trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. When faced with the prospect of trying to direct a student that has no clear idea of what they want to do with their lives, they are left clamouring for an answer like a Jeopardy contestant that knows the question but can’t retrieve it before the buzzer sounds. Bzzz, time is up guidance counselor. You lose.

Today, on the suggestion of The Bloggess, I did the Myers-Briggs personality test. I also did this same test back in high school on the suggestion of my friendly guidance counselor, who needed to pigeonhole me into some category. The Myers-Briggs test is a good one though, and just like in high school, I am INFP, which is high on the introversion scale (also known as ‘down with people’) and feeling, intuitive and turbulent personality scales. It actually rates personality as ‘turbulent’ or ‘assertive’, two interesting variables on the scale.

So my personality has not changed from high school. Does this mean I remain true to myself or does this mean I ceased evolving at age 17? Given that I have not changed personality-wise, does this mean the guidance counselor did his job and got it right?

Nah, that can’t be it.

Being scared

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Back to this blog after a one week break, or something.

Last week at this time I was in the midst of regrouting the master bathroom shower (I know, it’s as exciting as it sounds) when I got the call that I had a job interview. For a guy whose only source of income after being turfed is the occasional (very occasional; hire me) freelance work, this was good news. And better news because it is in my industry, with the chance to combine writing with social media. And it is local. So, as disappointed as I was, the grouting had to take a back seat.

I was told that the interview involved a presentation. Yup, an actual presentation where I had to speak. In front of people. I know, I’m scared, too. I don’t speak in front of people if I can find a way to get out of it. Or fake an illness. I spoke at my wedding reception, but believe me, I didn’t want to. Not really possible to fake an illness that day, or a heart attack either. Just my luck.

I’m a writer, not a speaker. So it was either decline the interview or, if I want to work in public relations again, it’s time to push the envelope. I’m nothing if not a pusher. I have to make money somehow. In the last week I felt like dealer as I’ve done two cash transactions for toys in the parking lot of a Starbucks. Reselling toys is a lucrative deal.

Back to the interview. It was time to step outside that comfort zone. It’s scary, but I recommend it. Now I know, I’m probably the last person that should be giving motivational advice, but you know, it’s my blog. So if you are presented with a chance to push yourself, to learn, to grow as a person, or other sappy crap, do it.

I worked my ass off preparing for the interview, making a presentation, rehearsing, rehearsing again, freaking out, preparing, freaking out again. Well I made it through the interview without passing out and wouldn’t you know it, I did really well, dammit. And I was told, “You’ve set the bar high.” Well shit. That’s a first.

You know the saying, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Fuck that. Do a thing once a year that scares me, maybe. That once a day thing can suck it. I’m all about the once a year timeframe. And that, do that. Once a year, yeah.

And I know you’re interested in this. The grouting worked out well as well. Never done that before either. So I’ve done two things in a year that are new or untested. That means that in 2016 I don’t have to do anything that scares me.

So there.