29 November 2007

Ayun's long resume (and bonus rant)

Before I launch into today's book review, I have to get a generalized Internet pet peeve off my chest, and I hope you'll forgive me: I HATE Flash! Okay, I don't actually hate the application responsible for wonderful things like YouTube and gorgeous galleries to shop from -- that would just be silly. But since when does every page have to be larded up with Flash bits here, there and everywhere? Like garlic, it should be used in moderation. I know my ancient laptop is part of the problem, but I shouldn't have to wait 30 seconds for a roll-over ad that will tell me how to refinance my mortgage in widescreen (I'm looking at you, NYTimes.com). I have Flashblock installed on my home computer, but I can still tell the whole page is covered with overlapping animations I have to click on and endure to get to the content I want. If you have more than two Flash objects on your page, you're obviously trying too hard.

Okay, enough of that. Last night I finished a book of essays called JOB HOPPER by Ayun Halliday, a zine writer, blogger and (according to the book) former aspiring actress. Each essay describes one past job Halliday had, mostly in the years when she was living in Chicago and trying to make it as an actress. She waitressed and temped, but she also modeled for an eccentric art teacher and his belligerent class, sold hippie clothing at a suburban boutique and conjured up cheap party spreads for an art gallery.

Each essay contains basically the same elements -- descriptions of her coworkers and boss, how she got the job, and typically one primary illustrative anecdote or turn that leads to her departure -- but there's nothing cookie-cutter about her approach. For one thing, Halliday was clearly paying attention to the idiosyncrasies of each workplace, from a secretary's sick fondness for Garfield to the hated number-one salesman at a telemarketing job. You may not have gotten to say "I told you so" after the boss's favorite passed out next to the empty cash register, or accidentally put Art Spiegelman on hold, but the situations Halliday encounters are universal, and she goes out of her way to point out that she was not the perfect employee for these irregular jobs.

If you're feeling bad about your career, read this book; if you've ever had a job you hated, read this book; if you liked Nickel and Dimed, you will like this book even though there's no real moral or overt socio-political drive to it. (Halliday eventually started a zine and became a full-time writer, aided, as she acknowledges in the opening, by the success of her husband's little musical called "Urinetown.") If you're not sold, read this chapter about Halliday's turn as a department-store Bert. (Hey, there's no Flash on that page... go figure.)

ETA: Coincidentally, there's an article in the Times today about a man who is doing one job a week for a year and recording his impressions on a blog. Of course the difference between Sean Aiken and Ms. Halliday is that the former set out to take lots of different jobs on purpose, instead of doing the jobs in the course of his life and later writing about them. Interesting project, though.

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