Thursday, March 31, 2011

Olson

Avant garde, post-modernist poetry can be either brilliant, unintelligible crap, or pretentious slop. Unfortunately, most of it is pretentious slop ... but then again, most poetry written is pretentious slop, to take Theordore Sturgeon's law into a new age. However, questions of poetry always comes down to one rule: message is irrelevant--first and foremost, it is always about the sound of the language. It's true for a great work if trochaic meter, like Poe's "The Raven," or something as sprawling as the work of Charles Olson:



Why Haughty Established Freelancers Can Be Annoying

I periodically stuff the terms "freelance writing" and "content mill" into Google and Bing, partly because I am constantly looking for new streams of revenue. As mentioned before, I need to constantly diversify my income. However, there is an annoying tendency that usually occurs high in a lot of search results. It involves the usually vitriol and mudslinging between established freelancers and the people who write for content mills.

To the professional freelancers, SEO-based internet content providing is a source of information pollution. Many internet content providers, on the other hand, make the same mistake self-published novelists make. Since they do it, the believe it is new, revolutionary, and they are out to upend the old guard. Meanwhile, they can be a little tone deaf and egotistical, believing that their content mill writing is of much more cultural significance that it actually is. I have long since grown tired of this debate, so I usually skip it altogether. (Although, it does make for good point-and-laugh material once the mud and insults start flying).

As in any argument, there are valid points on both sides. Typically, the older freelancers try to point out how compensated SEO content cheapens the written labor pool. This is true. Content providers retort with, "that's just the way the professional world is changing." Unfortunately, this is also true. However, there is one thing that really annoys me about the older professionals.

Due to cloudsourcing and technological advances, there is now a glut of writers online. You cannot argue that these people need to live and work by outdated views of what freelancing actually is. Some seasoned professional can make $800 an article writing magazine features. Unfortunately, because they do it, tapping into a decade or more of professional contacts, many mistakenly that other people can do the same. Only, it doesn't work that way anymore, especially if you are entering the freelance market right now, in the middle of a cultural paradigm shift.

It is a lot like a newspaper reporter from the Woodward and Bernstein era getting bitchy about the current state of journalism jobs, while complaining that new writers need to do exactly what they did in the 1970s. Only, print journalism, and print media as a whole, is dying an agonizingly slow death, and it has been hemmoraging full time positions every year. (I know, because I can't find a job).

This is not a simply reduced argument of "SEO writing is great!" It is not -- try writing twenty 200 word articles that uses the word "Botox happy" four times each. It's enough to make you want to ram your face into a wall, repeatedly. Yet, it pays -- and in this shitty economy, many newer freelancers have no choice but to accept it, smile, write it, and then take the money to go buy groceries. That reality, however, is what a lot of older, established freelance writers fail to realize.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Incorrect Approaches To Freelancing

So, as one feels their way through this brave new world of microtasking and cloudsourcing jobs, there is one way to approach work that is counter productive. This is something I have discussed with my wife, at length.

Basically, with the rise of the Internet and more legitimate freelancing opportunities, one often has to gauge their time and whether or not that time is being monetized correctly. However, I do not believe in gauging everything by an hourly rate of pay.

Wage-rates are the domain of traditional work, and when you set at home most of the day, drinking coffee and writing $4 articles about the function of a urethra (for medical websites!), punching in and out of a time clock is an inadequate metaphor. You're a freelancer, after all -- technically every hour can be "on the clock." Plus, not all tasks pay the same. I have written a $15 article in five minutes, once, and a more complex $5 anatomy article in 45 minutes.

So, converting to a variable hourly rate, just for gauging one's level of productivity, is not really helpful. So, I have chosen to look at the day as a whole. How much did I make today? Versus How much did I make yesterday?

Thankfully, those daily totals are starting to improve again --- after a really shitty past two months.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Home Healthcare

I just spent all day with my mother. It reminds me of how frustrating it is to want to kick cancer's ass, but really, there is nothing you can do... except tell the person you love them.

Bat For Lashes.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Stuck On Covers


One Possible Design (Grayscale is on purpose)
.

Another Possible design, but with the text needing centering away from the edges.

Concentration Camps, Excluding Germany

As an outsider, living in Europe can sometimes feel like living in a haunted house. This could be, perhaps, said for any landscape with a brutal history -- only sometimes, the people living in that landscape seem a little numb to the ghosts around them. And by ghosts, I don't mean whispy boo-monsters. I mean "ghosts" in a kind-of metaphorical sense.

Sometimes, when a person has lived in a location long enough, they become numb to their history. This is especially evident in the American southeast, in places like The Carolinas, Georgia, and so on. However, to an outsider, these "ghosts" become painfully evident.

This is something I know rather well, having grown up as an ex-patriot. Every place is new to me, and I have no "home" in a traditional sense. Still, this role of history is something I have been seriously considering as of late. For both nostalgia and research-for-writing, I have often looked back at my life in Europe. Specifically, at everything I missed while being a beer drinking and punk rock loving teenager. Sometimes, you find out things that you well didn't know.

Case in point: I was accutely aware of the history of Holocaust in Europe. When I was very young, my parents took me to Dachau as a "tourist." What I saw there has long since stayed in my mind. I had since returned to Dachau much later, with the same horrifying response to the imagery.

Still, even visiting Dachau will never give a person a full understanding of Nazi atrocities or to the extent those war crimes were spread across Europe. In the years since, comfortable in my home in New Jersey, I was shocked to find out how much so. Concentration camps were never just locations within Germany. There were others located closer to the countries I lived in, like Breendonk in Belgium, as well as one in Amersfoort, The Netherlands.

History can never be reduced to gross generalities. True, one should never forget, but also, one should never make the mistake of understanding the pervasiveness with which it touches everything.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Adventures In Freelancing

So, as has been noted elsewhere (typically, my Facebook and my old wordpress blog), I used to work at Walmart. Actually, two years of my life were spent in a New Jersey store that was in the process of becoming a super center. Working for this retail giant was particular complicated for me. I am a extremely left of center, and I hated the times the made everybody sit through their anti-union propaganda. Yet, even more, I felt like I was in a holding pattern most of anything. I was routinely getting passed over for promotion, even though for both years, I had "Exceeds expectations" evaluations. I seriously had no future there; in fact, the only reason why I ever took a job there was simple: it was stable, and trying to string together part-time college teach work was not. After all, that was roughly 10 years of my life.

So, I left Walmart the first real chance I could get. A lot of my writer friends told me specifically how I could set myself up as a freelance writer. It involved starting with low-pay micro-tasking and cloudsourcing jobs, and then slowly building a list of independent clients. That list was supposed to ween me off internet content providing. So, I sent some writing resumes out, and I get into a number of these companies. Money was good. Very good. I was managing to nail down $100 to $150 a day. I quit Walmart with a smile, and I have worked at home ever since.

Only, it's not a happy ending. Self-employment comes with a lot of risks, ones I seriously didn't take into account. In a way, working for yourself can be compared to investing in the stock market. You hit a good stock, and everything is just great -- great returns on investment and so on. Then, one day, that stock goes to shit. If its all that you've invested in, you are SCREWED. This same dynamic works for self-employment. If you sources of income are not diversified, you are essentially setting yourself up for whole lot trouble later.

In my case, I was writing for a well known and much-derided (by clueless, snobby professionals with their career long since set up and stabilized) content farm. Since I don't want to trigger an email alert, lets just call them Dee-Ess. Everything was fine; I was too busy cranking out how-to articles to really spend time diversifying my work load -- then, over the course of a few months, their content pool dewindled severely. They recently went public with an IPO, and so they decided to take the opportunity restructure. That's their right; after all, they are a business, not a social services agency. However, for me, that has made the last few months extremely hard. The financial security my wife and I were returning to was completely ripped away. No money for groceries, and bank account balances in the negative. I was actively thinking of returning to Walmart, defeated; only thing is, they claim to be hurting in this economy, and they have slashed hours. That likely also means a hiring freeze has been put into place.

I bare no ill will towards Dee-Ess. I plan to still write for them from time to time; however, I have since moved on. Yet, I am now in the position of trying climb out of yet another financial hole. This means a number of publishing related ventures I was trying to set up have gone on hold. As for my sources of income--they are diversified. Yet, it takes a few months to get all of those pipelines primed and flowing.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Two Belgian Flags





The Flag of Wallonia (Top). The Flag of Flanders (Bottom):

(I'm wondering if the yellow fields are similar on purpose. I think the Wallonian flag is a more recent invention)



Flemish First Name Resource

Can be found here.

One Big-Ass Cat

I Shall Call You A Dog With Scabies! (In Flemish!)

Here is an interesting resource: a list of insults in Flemish.

My favorite thus far:

als mijn gat er uit zag als uw gezicht, dan zou ik me schame om te kakke

Which means:

If my ass looked like your face, I'd be ashamed of taking a shit.

Raein: Tigersuit

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Gina Ranalli's Wall of Kiss


Charlotte Perkins Gilman's seminal "The Yellow Wallpaper" is psychological horror. It's a story about a woman losing her sanity, and in the process, she projects hallucinations onto the gaudy yellow wall paper in her bedroom. While the themes of madness and patriarchy are nearly timeless, the story does not age well -- the medical antiquation dates the story fiercely.

In that regard, there's always Gina Ranalli's novella Wall Of Kiss. It reads like a 21st century updating of Gilman's story. The author may or have may not have known this when she wrote this, but that is almost immaterial. The resemblance is striking. Ranalli's book is a about a woman who falls in love with a wall. And no, it's not fetish porn, even though there is a sex scene involved. It's obvious that the leading character has become unhinged, to an extent. Still, the dynamic is the same Gilman's. A woman's twisted psyche is projected onto a wall.

Ranalli's novel was either the second or third work of bizarro fiction I've ever read. I have to say, it's still the most resonant work I've seen that genre offer. Of course, I'm still reading, still catching up.

Well, Did It Again

It seems that every few years, I abandon the blog I'm keeping and start a new one. My current old one is at richristow.wordpress.com. There are a few reasons why I'm switching back to Blogspot. I won't get into why, but half of it is just convenience. I have my Gmail open quite a bit, and there is slightly quicker access to a blogging dashboard that way.