Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Challenge in "Creative Economy" Jobs

So the current description for today's American work era is "The Creative Economy". We are a country that is no longer broadly based on industrial or agricultural output, or at least not in the sense that we need as much manpower doing these types of jobs as we once did, now that we have machinery doing much of the work instead.

The Creative Economy moniker suggests that more people are spending their time creating, thinking, designing, and performing other abstract tasks rather than hammering, cutting, soddering, and the like. As an example, I'm in the field of marketing which falls very squarely in the boundaries of the Creative Economy description. Most of my day revolves around planning, creating new marketing campaigns, writing, etc. You won't see me plowing a field or building a car... and that's probably a good thing if you want to eat good food or drive a reliable car! Those types of things just are not my strength, so I naturally strayed away from doing them.

One tough challenge that I find when working in this Creative Economy, however, is the lack of structured hours. It's not necessarily a bad thing (though it can be), but when your job as a marketer is to complete a task as abstract as "to get more customers", then there really is no end to your day. You can always do a little more to bring in that next customer. It's not like working in a factory where you have to finish X number of units in Y number of hours and you're free to go home. In jobs where your primary resource is your brainpower and not your physical stamina, you can, in theory just go on and on and on with trying to do something a little bit better.

For example, part of my job is to update our organization's website and potentially overhaul it altogether. This might sound easy, but the reality is that once you start tweaking or rebuilding a web site, your job is NEVER done. Every day there are more things that can be added or taken down or edited or moved around, until your eyes pop out of your head looking at the computer monitor. Trying to think of and create the perfect website is a never-ending task, and inevitably somebody down the road or somebody looking for a job at home can do it better than you can, putting all that much more pressure on you to be the best.

True, this encourages you to give it "110%", as they say, but the question it all boils down to is... "What exactly is 110%?" If it's in my job description that I can clock out at 5:00, well, should I... even if I can keep working on the website to make it a little bit better? Maybe I should stay another hour and keep going on it. Or how about two hours.... I think you get the idea here.

Ultimately you have to get creative with how you manage your time and get your work done. Which can be a whole job in and of itself. And don't get me started on "thinking outside of the box"...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Star Wars Observation, Episode I

I just watched the last half of "The Empire Strikes Back" on HBO. Loved that movie. Well all three of the original Stars Wars episodes. (I couldn't bear to watch the more recent prequels with their CG heavy nonsense scenes, but that's a different topic for a different day.)

I realize that this is all fictional and that there are countless ways that George Lucas could have incorporated unknown technologies into these classics, but there's one thing in particular that bugs me that he missed out on.

Throughout "Empire" and undoubtedly throughout the other episodes, there are countless chase scenes where the TIE Fighters are chasing after the Millenium Falcon. Inevitably they miss a thousand times more than they hit, but okay, we'll let that slide. My real issue here is: how hard would it have been for the builders of the Falcon (fictional as they may be) to install laser guns IN THE BACK of the ship so it could shoot at any other ships that were in its wake?

I reckon that this would have taken a lot of suspense out of the movie, since the Falcon would certainly have been able to fend off any chasers quite easily, but it's just one of those things that make you smack yourself on the forehead and say, "D'oh!"

So let that be a lesson to all of you future spaceship engineers out there: install guns facing behind the ship to fend off any evil followers.

Just thought I'd throw that out there for ya.

(By the way, the picture comes from this site, which provides a wealth of knowledge about technology used in Star Wars... now if only I had time to read the whole thing!)

Friday, January 11, 2008

I Like Urban Outfitters, But This Annoyed Me!

I'll get straight to the point here. My wife ordered a mirror online from Urban Outfitters. The mirror is framed by recycled tin labels, a novel idea for both looks and for environmental purposes. Good stuff.

The mirror arrived on our doorstep and we opened up the box. This mirror made from recycled parts was squeezed in between (drum roll, please).... two sheets of foam.

Isn't this defeataing the purpose? And isn't there any other material in the known universe that is both affordable and environmentally friendly? Something crazy like cardboard? Shredded paper? Cotton balls? I don't know, I'm not in the purchasing department, but there's gotta be something out there that can do the job.

To add aggravation to annoyance, I sent a brief e-mail to Urban Outfitters addressing this very issue. That was a week ago. Still no reply.

I've said it before, I'll say it again... what is the point of these contact forms on business websites IF NOBODY IS EVER GOING TO RESPOND TO A CUSTOMER'S E-MAIL?!?!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Rodin Museum, Philadelphia

My wife and I took a trip into "town" today to get some fresh city air (oxymoron?) and get a bit of culture. Decided to swing by the Rodin Museum because it's one of those subtle yet prominent (another oxymoron?) places that make Philadelphia interesting. It sits right on Philly's showcase avenue, the Ben Franklin Parkway, but gets lost in the shuffle as it sits within a few blocks of the Philadelphia Art Museum, the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and the rest that downtown Philly has to offer. So why not go out and support the little guy?

As you walk up to the small though impressive museum, you immediately are faced with "The Gates of Hell" sculpture. It must be at least 20 feet high and 10 feet wide and has intricate carvings of people, objects and other fodder. (Sorry, I'm not very conversant when it comes to describing art!) The photo at right gives you an idea of its size (thanks to for the photo!). According to the booklet that's provided inside, it took Rodin about 40 years to make this sculpture. Now THAT'S some project! Simply amazing. Gotta love the dedication.

Inside you are greeted by friendly security guards, who give you a wink-wink, nudge-nudge towards the donation box (it's free to enter but I'd say it's worth the $3 suggested donation). Then you proceed right into the main hall of the museum and are greeted by six life-sized men in a sculpture entitled "The Burghers of Calais". It is an eye-opening and powerful piece, and is definitely the most amazing piece inside the museum.

Strolling around the museum, there are dozens of other sculptures large and small, that range from busts of famous figures (such as Victor Hugo and Balzac... there's even a "Naked Balzac"... I kid you not), to experiments in studying the human form, to mythological scenes. Let's just say that if I could create just one of these sculptures, I'd be thrilled, let alone the entire collection that is on hand.

And that's really what it's all about. I gained an appreciation for the creativity, talent, and energy of Rodin's work, and it reminded me that we're all put on this Earth to do SOMETHING extremely well. Rodin could chisel marble like few others. Whereas I can... well I'm still looking for my special skill!

Anyway, I always find it refreshing to view works of art up close and personal to really feel what the artist created and gain a better understanding of what it must feel like to produce such amazing work. Unfortunately I don't go out and do this enough! It's really a good feeling when you see art at its best.

So if you're looking for a nice little excursion while in Center City Philadelphia, make a rendezvous with Rodin. You'll be glad you did.