Wednesday, February 26, 2014

This Week's Social Media Experiment

Employment seekers, Canadian National Exhibition, 1920s. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1360.
The experiment: use social media to seek out work opportunities, to uncover possibilities I'm unaware of, to put it out there that I'm really - REALLY - looking for work to keep myself solvent these days. Utilizing Twitter and Facebook, I would focus the day's postings on attracting attention to my work quest, and the skills I bring to potential employers. 

7:00 A.M. Ready and willing to work for living wage.

8:00 A.M. If you're hiring today, follow ABBA's advice and take a chance on me.

9:00 A.M. Looking for a writer/researcher/communications person? Check out my LinkedIn profile. Then, let's talk!

10:00 A.M. Some old dogs can't be taught new tricks. This one can. Let's talk work opportunities where I can use old and learn new skills.

11:00 A.M. Research and writing aren't easy. They require skill to clarify any subject. I can create accessible content for your audience.

12:00 P.M. Lunch break. Because job hunters need to catch their breath.

At this point, I figured my Facebook followers required an explanation.

In case you're confused by my sudden tidal wave of posts, I'm running an experiment today involving hourly updates on social media to see if they result in any job/freelance work leads. If they are annoying the heck out of you, I apologize - sometimes experiments do that. It looks like I may have driven off some Twitter followers, though those may have been spambot accounts.

Sometimes you just have to try every trick you can think of.

This has been spurred by one of the worst bouts of existential angst I have ever experienced - last night my brain explored really dark places. Call this an attempt at a positive countermeasure that, fingers crossed, results in something. After all, as pointed out at this weekend's Toronto Park Summit, a positive approach works better than pure complaining/whining.

Maybe. Possibly. Who knows?

1:00 P.M. (Twitter version) Looking for freelance or contract help for your next project? Here's an award-winning example of my work.

On Facebook, instead of posting the 1:00 P.M. noted,  I wrote a thank you note for the feedback on the explanation note. All the comments were really appreciated and did wonders for my psyche. I know a lot of wonderful people, and hope to repay them by helping out if they find themselves in the same boat someday.

2:00 P.M. You require a short, snappy column for your site. Let's say words and images from your archives to dazzle readers? I can help.

3:00 P.M. The news cycle never sleeps. Neither does the need for historical context for headline stories. I can help.

4:00 P.M. Pinched for time for that personal/work research trip to the archives or library? I can help.

5:00 P.M. End of business day. Thanks for reading (or putting up with, depending on perspective) today's work-hunting tweets.

The results? Several job postings were passed my way, which I'll work on the rest of this week. It doesn't look like I drove people away - my Twitter feed lost three followers, but those may have been commercial/spam accounts. If any work opportunities present themselves in the next week or so because of this experiment, I'll mark it down in the lab report as success.

It's a tough market out there, but I'll muddle my way through if only through grizzled persistence and getting over my occasional bouts of pitchophobia. Fingers crossed.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Retiring One Toronto Municipal Election Gauge, Launching Another

After weeks of murmurs regarding his candidacy and debates over his decisiveness (especially when it comes to buying milk), John Tory officially entered the 2014 Toronto mayoral race this morning. Still counting on a last-minute flip-flop, I set the unofficial “Tory-o-Meter” (introduced during the 2010 municipal election) to just short of running. I didn't believe an honest-to-God Tory campaign was alive until the filing was made. I may not be convinced until Tory turns up at a candidates debate as participant instead of moderator.

Now that Tory’s in, we’re still waiting for Olivia Chow to abandon her unofficial candidate status and jump into the fray. Which inspires a replacement for the Tory-o-Meter…

Any bets on how long the needle rests in this position?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Confessions

Whenever Vinyl Café drifts onto CBC Radio, I secretly wish Stuart McLean would tell the story of the day Dave had a heart-to-heart talk with the man who came into the record shop wielding a machete, and how they laughed after Dave was sliced in three.


I have never been inside Massey Hall, the McMichael Collection, or the Spadina Museum. I intend to cross at least two of those off my “places you’d think I’ve visited in the GTA but haven’t” list this year.


As a youngster, an occasional habit of accidentally scratching other cars while opening the back seat door usually coincided with hearing old Freddy Fender songs on Detroit country radio stations. To this day, an impending sense of doom descends upon me whenever I hear Freddy Fender in a car.


When I woke up around 9 this morning, I felt like the only person in the country who didn’t give a s**t about the Olympic hockey final. Several reasons: 
  • I haven’t followed any Olympics with deep interest since 1984, or whenever Anne Murray told viewers they could “count on the [Canadian Imperial Bank of]Commerce.”
  • I’ve never been a particularly jingoistic person. Patriotic rah-rahing has never been my style. 
  • The winning team was filled with NHLers. Players who make more in a season than I, or most of my peers, will see over our lifetimes. I’m not ashamed to admit the sport has lost me over time—I enjoy watching the odd game, and I cherish my youthful passion for pro sports, but now? Meh.

It’s nice we won the gold. But that’s as far as it goes here. Call me a traitor for not caring. I can take it. If this declaration comes back to haunt me during my run for mayor of Toronto against an antique Rob Ford bobblehead doll in 2042, so be it.


As a youngster, while shopping at K-Mart in Metro Detroit, I often noticed some kid before me had opened up packs of sports cards and left behind a mess of singles that were beneath their notice (or maybe it was an adult looking for "hot" rookie cards). Sometimes, if nobody else was around, I’d slip those stray singles into my pant pocket. Later in the day, I would mix them in with packs of cards I purchased legitimately.


Speaking of petty theft, I stole the cookie from the cookie jar.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ten Minute Tales from NYC

Time for another Take Ten For Writers exercise. This one's #57, chosen to honour Heinz's sauce. The challenge: creating the setting for a story. I picked option #10, "a major city." The tale has to start with "the weather.".

Given the time challenge, my brain zeroed in on one particular metropolis, one I always yearn to visit.!
The weather was the kind he liked for exploring the city by foot. Not too hot, not too cold, a touch of sun in the sky. The kind of weather ideal for a light jacket loaded with pockets to fill with notepads and wax-paper bags of freshly roasted almonds. 
The almonds. Every time he hit the sidewalks of Manhattan, he couldn't resist buying them from street vendors. It had become one of the many small rituals he took pleasure in whenever visiting the Big Apple. Grabbing an egg cream at a "spa" in the East Village. Browsing the Strand Bookstore in the morning, never learning he should leave it for last instead of hauling heavy tomes around all day. Builds muscles, he'd tell himself when soothing his aching body in the evening. 
Yet those aches were part of the experience. The feeling of having covered so much ground in a single day. OK, there was some cheating via the subway. But for the most part, he was satisfied if he could meander from Midtown to Harlem by foot. All the while, the music streaming in his brain created a soundtrack of songs about cities, generic or specific.
When we walked through Little Italy, I saw my reflection come right off your face...



True, PJ Harvey's "Good Fortune" could apply to any city with a Little Italy or Chinatown. Or any city where you're strolling at night through downtown neighbourhoods, preferably with somebody else. It frequently runs through my head during evening walks along Spadina Avenue or College Street late at night.

The rituals mentioned in my ten-minute tale are true:

  • Hot almonds from street vendors. There's something about the mix of the warmth of the little wax bag when they're handed to you and the soothingly sweet coating that greets your mouth. 
  • Egg creams in the East Village. Go to the southwest corner of 2nd Avenue and St. Mark's Place. Walk into the Gem Spa, which is a convenience store and not a place to pamper your body (though after a long walk, an egg cream will act as a restorative). Order at the cash. In a few minutes, you'll receive a paper cup filled with the goodness of milk, seltzer, and syrup. Walk back outside and enjoy. 
  • Strand Books. I should know by now, especially if I'm staying outside of Manhattan, that a trek to Strand should be saved before heading back to my hotel room to rest. It shouldn't be one of my first stops. Yet I can't resist heading there right off the bat. Good hauls mean achy muscles later on, but I could usually care less.

As for walking distances, I've never gone from Midtown to Harlem in one go, but I have strolled without the aid of buses or subways from Columbus Circle to Bowling Green.

Dammit, now I want to go to Manhattan. Hop in the car and decide which side of the Hudson I'll drive along on the way down. Book a room at the decent Super 8 I stayed at in Brooklyn on my last stopover. Spend enough time to finally stroll through Central Park, which I have only ventured into via bus to speed the trip over to the Museum of Natural History. Flip a coin over going to MOMA or the Met. Hope the waffle truck is still at Columbus Circle. Be the only person in the audience of a Fringe play who doesn't know anyone on stage. Try not to choke on my cheesecake while overhearing a Goodfella/Sopranos wannabe in the adjoining booth.

That's the problem when you write about settings. You want to go back to experience them before finishing the story, or uncover new tales.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

On The Grid

Source: The Grid, Feb 13-19, 2014. Click on image for larger version.
This week's print edition of The Grid has a nice shout-out to the photo essay I compiled last week on the dying days of Sears at the Eaton Centre, along with samples of reader feedback. Discovering this while flipping through the new issue on the bus over to Eglinton station provided a good start to the day.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Self-Promotional Department, Early February Edition

Click on image for larger version.
Relax everyone - this site isn't going to turn into the "Help Jamie Find Work" telethon (or would you call it a "webathon" if you trot out your best imitation of Jerry Lewis on Labour Day?). But it can't hurt to post a friendly reminder.

For more details on my resume, check it out on LinkedIn, or ask me to send you a PDF.

Art taken from "Pizza Pie," illustrated by Dave Berg, which appeared in Mad #40 (July 1958).