I saw Heaven today.
Average rent for a 1-Bedroom in San Francisco by neighborhood (hint: $2,700).
An addendum to my San Francisco advice post: get roommates. Or, try
Oakland / Berkeley/ Dayton, Ohio, Memphis, Tennessee, Wilmington, Delaware, anywhere that isn’t San Francisco proper.
I may have edited the above text. Also, that Excelsior average has to include Daly City & Salinas in its average or something.
Whoa, Bayview & Dogpatch are higher than WA/NOPA? Still, feeling pret-ty good about rent control right about now.
I probably should have thought twice about moving out here without a proper job lined up.
This random person who doesn’t even follow me has outstanding taste in completely inexplicable four-year-old retweets.
I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and — gosh darn it — people like me.
Unemployment: Day 179
It was about six months ago that I quit my job. The work was fine, the people were nice and the pay was adequate, but my decision to walk away had nothing to do with all that. At some point, at least in my head, the benefits of sticking around were overshadowed by the opportunity costs.
"I have more to offer the world than this," I thought. "I can do better." This was my mantra. It was my inspiration. It may also have been my hubris.
I’ve applied for roughly four dozen jobs since then. The net result? One interview and two rejection letters, which leaves about 45 who couldn’t even be bothered to say, “Fuck you.”
I’m not alone, of course. Unemployment the last few years has been at its highest point since the Reagan era. In the human capital market, supply is up and demand is down. That means even if I find work, it won’t likely be rewarding, either personally or financially. But I try, anyway.
How could I not? I grew up in a country that glorifies work. Only in recent decades, the Puritan work ethic has given way to a new value system, where work is judged on the basis of whether or not it’s paid. In today’s America, if you’re, say, a mortgage underwriter who’s systematically flirting with economic ruin, you’re a productive citizen. But if you’re a mother who busts her ass all day keeping a household running, you’re just an entitled deadbeat.
Trouble is, the more signals people get that they’re useless wastes, the harder it gets for them to ignore it. Being sequestered on the margins of society and having your repeated attempts to reconnect ignored feels a lot like not getting invited to the cool kid’s party in high school. Only this party — the labor force — is supposed to be a meritocracy, not a popularity contest. So if you’re not invited, what’s the logical conclusion?
Save your sympathy; I’m not depressed. No, I’m pissed off. Not because I think I’m entitled to a job or even to an interview, but because of the not-so-faint whiff of self-importance I’m getting off the job creators. Every single job description I read is rife with smug asides about how goddamn special the company is, and (often explicit) warnings for potential applicants that if they even think about sending something as pedestrian as a resume and a cover letter outlining why they’re a good fit, the company will devote all of its resources to developing time-travel technology for the sole purpose of going back to the very moment your parents first met and punching them both in the face.
The good news is those threats are idle. The bad news is that what really happens is worse: Basically, you spend a whole day of your life (sometimes more) jumping through a ridiculous series of hoops to tailor your pitch and craft it just so, taking things like design, language, overall tone and choice of medium (or media) into consideration. In other words, you work.
And sometimes you’re not going to be right for the job. Or they’re going to find someone better. And that’s fair.
But you’re telling me they can’t even find time to e-mail a polite, “Fuck you”?
Because while you might think you’re part of the solution (creating jobs, innovating, smashing old-school inside-the-box conventions), you’re wrong. For every person you hire, you’re initiating or sustaining the shame spirals of dozens of others.
See, the more times I get ignored, the less I even bother to try. So let’s just cut to the chase. Here’s the cover letter you deserve, and may eventually get:
Dear obliviously undifferentiated company,
I’m writing about the job opening for an Assistant Deputy Manager for Mundane Activities. As you describe it, the work sounds dreadful, tedious, degrading and quite frankly beneath me. However, I have bills to pay. I’m sure you understand.
I’m a smart guy with a lot of experience in a variety of fields. While it’s difficult for me to translate the industry jargon you used to describe the role’s responsibilities into anything remotely meaningful, I’m confident that I can learn whatever routine tasks are involved and master whatever banal “strategy” you apply to them in order to make yourselves feel less hopelessly ordinary.
While the tone of this letter may seem brusque, I assure you I get along splendidly with people who are not assholes.
When you’re prepared to have an honest discussion about what you need and how I can help, you may contact me at the number below or through any of the zillion other Internet-based methods you’ve no doubt heard about from your socially maladjusted nephew.
Go fuck yourself,
That’s me on the right, explaining the merits of a butternut squash tostada to an obnoxious looking but surprisingly swell television host who stopped by my favorite restaurant in February of last year. The image is from an episode of “Diners Drive-Ins & Dives” (Season 12, “Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner”), which eventually appeared on the Food Network on Oct. 31, 2011.
So much changed in the eight months that came between the taping and the airing, and so much more has changed in the nine months since. But nearly all of it has revolved in some way around this restaurant.
Thanks, Taco Bus. You’ve been good to me.
Less is more, more or less
An angry virtual mob of Batman fanboys took to their torches and pitchforks (or, at least, keyboards and mice) this week and unleashed their impotent rage on Film critic Marshall Fine, who had the audacity to not like the new movie about their favorite masked sociopath.
was amused was disgusted experienced emotions when I heard about this incident not only because it reminded me of how surprisingly shitty it can be to be a professional critic, but also because it reminded me of how much more people used to appreciate their voice when they barely had one. I’m sure there’s an overly literal, no-duh psychological theory that captures this scarcity-creates-value phenomenon, but I can’t remember which dead guy it’s named after right now.
Internet comments are like graffiti. Every now and then you accidentally turn down an alley and stumble on a masterful artwork, but mostly it’s just bored kids with destructive urges splattering the equivalent of neolithic grunts on whatever canvas is made available to them.
You know what technology has killed? Technology has killed the art of outrage. When I first started out in the newspaper biz, readers had to actually make an effort to have their voices heard. They had to sit down and write a letter to the editor. Most of them even had to do it with a pen and a piece of paper. Then they had to affix a stamp to an envelope, wait for the mail carrier and check the paper day after day on the off chance their missive was selected for publication. You see, not just any old rant was good enough for mass consumption. It had to be cogent, concise, perhaps even clever.
Hell, I actually miss the hate mail I used to get.
But now? Now all you need is a caps-lock key and a string of obscenities to reach the whole wide world in an instant. (And if you bothered to try any harder you’d probably just exceed most people’s attention spans, anyway.)
Anyway, I digress. Point is, I think I kind of like this Fine guy. I might even start checking his site on the rare occasion I actually give a shit about whatever value-added deliverable has most recently sputtered forth from the day-glo plastic asshole of Hollywood. I saw an endless litany of crap pictures during my years as an entertainment journalist, and just as the psychologists would predict, the more you see the harder you are to impress.
Which is why I think there’s a decent chance Fine is wrong about “The Dark Knight Rises.” Just in case, though, this fanboy is avoiding reviews and saving his impotent rage for Christopher Nolan. I imagine he probably appreciates good hate mail, too.
The advent of reality television marks the approximate point when I started believing that popular culture was the sole casualty of Y2K.
To be sure, the state of popular culture today is loathsome. Television, music, movies and books have become commodities, mere commercial goods intended to satisfy some momentary yen for instant gratification, only then to be tossed aside in pursuit of the next quick fix.
This should not surprise us. It is, at least to some extent, the very logical and probably inevitable result of the evolution of our distribution networks. In the time it takes to read this sentence, you could instantly listen to the new Rihanna song on Spotify, get the latest John Grisham pulp thriller on your Kindle, start watching the latest episode of “So You Think You Can Dance” on iTunes or cue up (or, more likely, queue up) any one of thousands of movies on Netflix instant streaming.
When we can almost instantaneously satisfy nearly any cultural craving with the press of a button or the click of a mouse, we are never left to want for something more substantial. To put it another way: When you can have dessert now, why bother with dinner?
That said, there seems to be a growing perception that disposable culture and its attendant pack of fame-whores are entirely new phenomena that sprang up virtually overnight, and this line of thinking — while seductively self-affirming — is wrong.
Not only did we have throwaway culture in the 20th century (anyone remember the Guilty Pleasures column in Film Comment in the late 1970s and early ’80s?), we had throwaway celebrities, too. In fact, we had them in droves.
Just before Y2K, I wrote an article (itself, ironically, a throwaway piece of journalism) for a local newspaper that was originally intended as arch commentary on the then-ubiquitous end-of-the-millennium listmania that had overtaken mainstream media. Looking back at it now offers plenty of reminders that all our celebrities were not brilliant performers, theoretical physicists or astronauts.
They were people like Rip Taylor and Jaye P. Morgan, who basically made their entire careers out of being game show panelists. (Game shows were to the 1970s as reality shows were to the naughts.) They were people like Charo, who was on “The Love Boat” 21 times. (Incidentally, Friday nights on ABC — “Love Boat” followed by “Fantasy Island” — were basically a cottage industry to prop up Hollywood has-beens and milk every last dime from their fading celebrity.) They were MTV veejays, and “Dance Fever” judges, and “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” VHS peddlers, and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
Look, I’m not saying popular culture in the 20th century wasn’t superior. But let’s at least try to argue for its eminence from a position we can defend with facts.
After all, when it comes to being famous for being famous, Zsa Zsa Gabor was a motherfuckin’ trailblazer.
The last night of the fair …
Looking up from his keyboard, he wondered to himself, “What’s another word for ‘improve’?” Sitting at a desk in a long row of identical desks, he was busy writing his umpteenth newspaper article about a local event, one he’d covered annually for nearly 10 years end-on-end. “Boost? Enhance? Augment?” He’d written this story a thousand times. Or nearly 10. Whatever. “Maybe ‘facelift’? No.” The only challenge left was to write it better. OK, differently.
And, of course, for fewer readers.
That’s when their thousand-yard stares met. Across the aisle, a colleague was similarly lost in thought. They’d begun their careers here within a few weeks of one another, when the future seemed as bright as the newsroom did electric. But today was as quiet and grey as the pages of their product, and as dull as their senses.
They shook their heads and laughed, sharing a thought without speaking. It didn’t need to be said, because it already had been — at least a thousand times. “We are wasting our lives.” So they didn’t say anything. He just nodded in resignation, and his counterpart responded in kind.
And with the unique sort of nonchalance and simpatico that only develops from 18 years of mutual suffering, his co-worker slowly closed his eyes, and softly affected his finest Morrissey falsetto:
I can feel
the soil falling over my head
He didn’t realize it then, but he would come to miss that.