February 21

Robservations | How To Sell Out

To paraphrase Patrice O’neal: “Jobs only give you enough so that you don’t lose your plantation hut.” That couldn’t be truer. So diving back into my beef with the accepted ideas on work/jobs/corporate culture. So my story was that of least resistance – low risk, a-to-b. I went to a college that was walking distance from both my high school and home. I was a scholarship student so if I pushed myself I would have went to a different school and been OK. I could coast and the funding situation was set so that I would only need to focus on grades. That worked for me. It was comfortable and of my planning. My first job out of college I secured as a ‘happy accident’ while in college. I worked for Verizon Communications and I met the recruiter a few times and she felt I was a ‘natural marketer’. I never really put much thought into it, much like choosing which high school I’d attend. Someone told me it would be a good idea and I didn’t have an idea for myself so “sure, that makes sense.” I didn’t have to stretch too far for a job’s benefit and with that I was allowed to succeed and stretch in ways I actually wanted to stretch.

Once the Verizon job ended, the bullshit began. I signed a non-competition agreement which essentially killed my professional ascension. I was promoted each year at Verizon and it was easy. No adversity. I couldn’t work in my field for years – it did allow me the opportunity to try other jobs, to try other types of jobs. It was a good experience. However, getting to that point was difficult – not having a job when “you should” is a red flag for employers. I’ve been told in interviews that I wasn’t “bubbly” enough or that “I must have a record.”  I had to bite my tongue and be at the mercy of these gatekeepers.

One day I was employed with a long-term contractual position, I had an interview. This interview was with a place where I would later work in a different position. The position in question was a marketing position with podcasting responsibilities. I felt very confident. I wanted to look the part so I made major league changes to my appearance – I cut my hair and shaved. I sold out. I felt miserable but told myself “it was only temporary.” I had to buy new suits as I lost so much weight during the time between leaving Verizon and this interview. I went to the interview and I took a picture of myself with my new suit and new banal yet austere demeanor. I hate the picture. I did well. But ultimately, I didn’t get the job, I was strung along for weeks when a decision had already been made. I was devastated. However, it was a lesson – understand what selling out is for me and don’t sell out.

To be continued.

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February 21

Robservations | Downtown Baltimore

Hey maaaaan. Rob Lee here and there’s something on my mind – downtown Baltimore. So I work, in reality land aka my day job, in downtown Baltimore. Downtown has always been a part of my life from weekly visits with my parent to Lexington Market to recently performing Mastermind Team’s Robcast at The Annex Theatre. It’s historic down there – but it’s also hollow. There are my condemned buildings and can feel like a ghost town at night. With those condemned building there are also condemned people. I’ll provide a quick list, a top 3 of condemned people you’ll see in downtown Baltimore.

Downtown Baltimore | Number 1 ~ Hustlers

These are the men, women and children you’ll see asking for money one way or another. From the fake-Muslims selling ill-begotten and knock-off goods on Howard Street or the drug dealers. Here’s the thing about drug dealers – they think they’re clever by calling weed “loud”. You’re selling trash, my guy. I smoke weed and calling something “loud” doesn’t impress me, call it something whimsical – like imagine a drug dealer – you can notice them by their dingy True Religion jeans, knockoff chains and new balances – saying “Yo, I got that magic.” I may be inclined to buy. I’m still sure it’s dirt weed. Also, you have the squeegee kids – ever in danger of getting hit by a car anywhere on Martin Luther King Boulevard. Lastly, you have panhandlers. We have a terrible homelessness problem in Baltimore but some of these fuckers are aggressive and entitled. You may say you don’t have any cash and they have a counteroffer- like “Aren’t you going to 7-11? Ask for cash back.” Da fuck?!!!

Downtown Baltimore | Number 2 ~ Addicts

There’s been talk about an opioid epidemic but strangely it only became a topic once the suburbs and middle America started becoming impacted. For years, in fact, decades, I’ve seen people in Lexington Market and surrounding streets in the grips of the junkie lean. People like drugs but Downtown is gnarly and the addicts need what they need – they’re sick. I won’t blame them for their sickness but I will blame them for being dogs. How are they dogs? You’re asking – here’s how – you know how a dog shits on the sidewalk – well these zombie-like addicts do the same – I can’t watch my every step with insane drivers out here downtown rushing to beat DC traffic to also avoid the mounds of what I can only accept as human feces. Surely there’s no pack of large dogs roaming and shitting downtown – there are addicts too. But honestly, I get it and again it’s not their fault at all – for their addiction – for shitting it’s totally their fault. There are many conditions from mental health to genes that contribute to their addition. Additionally, they can be a source for unexpected comedy and introspection. Addicts can say the darndest things and they can make you think of your own life decisions.

 

Downtown Baltimore | Number 3 ~ Wypipo (whi-te-peo-pl-e)

Lastly, the whites – always last but always around. The aforementioned groups aren’t segmented by race but this group certainly is. This group has a duality in my opinion – there are some who genuinely love downtown for its grim and grit while other fake love it and have a savior mentality. The lovers are the artsy, liberal types who may have a problem holding down a traditional job but are the shit – not addict shit – but theeeeeee shit. They’re genuinely good people. Conversely the others are horrible – they’re fake claiming to be a city dweller but secretly and even as microaggressions hate the city. They talk about how unsafe it is, which is a valid point, but they’re coloring that point. Like every addict or hustler happens to be a ‘non-white’ and they’re afraid. They have this savior complex like every racial, cultural or classist criticism is said to affect change. It’s not, you’re just complaining. They may work for a law firm and do a few things downtown but live in Manchester, MD or Odenton. You’re from the county so don’t speak on city problems. As we’ve seen, county folk don’t get the city nor do they care about it’s best interest – what’s cracking Larry Hogan?

 

So there you have it – my top three of people you’ll see in downtown Baltimore. Do you agree? Did I forget anyone? Let me know in the comments or via email at mtrthenetwork@gmail.com

February 20

Robservations | Office Nonsense

 

Hey maaaaaan. Rob Lee where and here’s something I’ve noticed: Why do jobs suck? Why are people always dreading work? Why is work considered a pain? We slog through that 8, 10 or 12-hour drudgery to maintain a lifestyle that cyclically fuels the stress of the job. Questions like “how will I pay for this?” pop up. It’s constant stress. Then on the backend of that long, arduous day we want to feel good and that impacts our diet – we’ll look for comfort foods and tv shows or vices to numb that pain. We’re in pain because we know that the employment beast needs you to sacrifice hours of your life to sustain it. These are questions that run in my mind all day.

I often ponder why. Why am I doing this? It runs so counter to who I’ve become. Sure, early on in life I wanted to get a job and make money. As I matured that goal changed a bit to “I want to get a job to make money to do creative shit” Then the creative shit started to cost more than I would expect but I was fulfilled there. With that increase I needed the job more than I would have liked. I was comfortable then it came crashing down. I lost the job – my creative shit – namely my podcast – was in limbo. Questions like “how will I redesign my website?” or “what if my computer or mic gets broken?”.  So that job stress latched on to my protected creative shit. I hated that.

Let’s take a step back and consider a scenario: what if you went to a job and made them an offer instead of this “hat in hand” approach we’re accustomed to? How do you think that would turn out? I think part of the job approach is considering that they have and opening that you’re interviewing – this is all before the “assimilation” period. They need you as much as you need them – they can be arrogant with your time – scheduling an interview that lasts hours and with multiple people that you’re working with. What if you brought your husband or wife since work is a relationship and they will impact you other relationships. I think it’s fair that your partner also knows what you’re getting into. That wouldn’t fly. We accept norms and appropriate way to conduct one’s self. I used to be mediocre at interviews. I would be nervous and it would peek through during interviews and I would come off as not a viable candidate. Nowadays, I am still nervous but I make a concerted effort to be arrogant, to match the energy I receive. I mean like mad reckless – I treat the interviewers like they are being interviewed because guess what – they are.  I fake it just enough that I come off as a type A personality in front of the interviewers. While in front of HR, I’m regular old me. That hat-in-hand shit is desperation only, some people call it hunger and they’re wrong.

Also, worth considering, your time is important – jobs play with it and are not respectful of it. You’re on a blind date essentially, why should it take two-hours when it’s purely convenient for they hiring manager. It’s rare in my experience for a hiring manager to accept a skype interview or Saturday interview. That doesn’t work for them but, if you want the job, it has to work for you. That’s not really a choice – most jobs don’t consider that you already have a job. You’re spending hours of personal time or vacation or working an extra hour to meet with them so they’re able to “kick your professional tires”. It’s all strange. Further, you never get a good understanding of the people you’re working with, your work or office culture until being embedded for months – not a few hours. It’s hard to tell, based on people “selling you on a job” of how the job, the office and the people actually are. Because, remember, they want to fill the position or, best case, they want to hire you.  So it’s pretty pointless in many cases. Like, sure, some people can read others quickly but many people cannot. So you’re locked into a bad contract with the terms of “your time, health and effort for a place that may not be a fit for you.” Often, you’re questioned , “Does it pay well”? That’s only half of the equation in my mind – and the other half is “what does it cost?”

This is just some food for thought and it’s on my mind. This is just a part of my views on working and office culture. If you like what you read, shoot me an email at mtrthenetwork@gmail.com

February 19

Spawn | Should’ve been better

Pre-Production issues ruined what should have been a classic. The most popular black comic book hero in the 90’s and 00’s did not reside in Wakanda, fought off vampires or swore an oath to the Green Lantern Corps,  he was a man who made a deal with the devil to be one of his solders as Spawn. Al Simmons was a pure badass a former Recon Marine who eventually went to the CIA and then to Black Ops. He eventually saw the corruption in his squad and called them out for it; leading to his eventual death. However, once making a deal with the devil to bring him back to life, Al returned as a disfigured man whose wife moved on after his “death.” Spawn eventually learned how to use his power for himself and took back the city he once loved.  Where Blade proved to be a hit and saved the Comic Book Movie genre, Spawn had some issues. Granted this film had a lot to live up to, but it suffered through its own issues.

No Spawn film should be PG13 ever, EVER. This film had the ingredients of an R rated film, and the after the success of Blade this would have been the perfect time to strike again. Another huge issue was the casting.  Michael Jai White was the right guy to play Spawn; I would say it was perfect casting. The rest of the cast, not so much.  John Leguizamo plays the Violator, the main villain of the film is a demon who guide hell spawns. Leguizamo was horrible in this role. He was overbearing in most of his scenes and I was ready to fast forward through them. The rest of the cast added nothing to the film; Martin Sheen, Theresa Randle and D.B. Sweeny all could’ve been replaced and the film would not miss a beat.  However, the biggest crime of the film was it’s CGI and good god it is awful.

The villain, Malebolgia (Basically the devil) looks horrible and is dubbed horribly. The DEVIL MOUTH IS WIDE OPEN EVERY SCENE HE IS IN…. yikes.  Spawn’s suit CGI is great but the devil and the violator has some of the worst I’ve ever seen in a film.   Re-watching this film, I know there would be problems like this but goodness this was bad.

What is sad is that I enjoyed this film growing up. This film did not age well and it had potential. Spawn is a property that is worth bringing to the big screen, but it needs the right team behind them.  If anything, watch the HBO series, it is a million times better and is one of the best animated Cartoon series to date.   I know there is plans for a possible reboot this year and I hope it gets done for the sake of Todd McFarlane and his series itself.

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February 14

Blade | the Love Letter to Black Comic Nerds

Marvel must’ve saw Steel and laughed their asses off. Marvel was in a tough state around this time. Marvel was in financial problems, and it was selling their properties to different (a move they would soon be a blessing and curse for them). Wesley Snipes was hellbent on making a Black Panther film but due to preproduction, he decided to take on Blade instead, and thank you lord for this choice.

Blade IS the film that proved Marvel can create a blockbuster and it set up the future for Comic Book films. Blade started it all and helped right the ship in Comic Book Movies after the Batman films went downhill.  This movie can be summed up by one scene, the intro. The introduction to this is the best 10 minutes to a comic book film to date.  Seriously, the introduction to Blade is one of the best introductions to a Comic book character ever.  Blade in a brief description about Blade killing vampires, Blade is a half breed human and vampire sharing their strengths and weaknesses but also have enhanced abilities like being able to withstand sunlight. Blade being able to walk during the daytime, granted him the nickname Daywalker by his foes. Wesley Snipes was perfect for this role not do you see how much fun he is having in this film but how much he enjoy this character. In addition, the actions scenes were a blast with him whether by sword, shotgun, or hand to hand, Snipes was just kicking ass throughout the film.  For every good hero there has to be a strong villain, but I feel this was a misfire not on the actor’s behalf. Stephen Dorff plays Deacon Frost, a Vampire who strives for power. He was not born a Vampire, which did not give him a seat at the table, but he felt deserved one. Frost’s main objective in this film was to become La Magra, the vampire blood god and rid the world of humans.

Dorff does a good job doing a Modern take on Frost; the comic book portrayal was an elder German scientist. However, the writing team mostly David s Goyer (a guy you will hear brought up a few times in the Blade reviews) failed to really claw on his character and do some really goofy things. Perfect example is wearing a Motorcycle Helmet and gear to avoid the sunlight but in a later scene, he’s able to walk freely in the daylight (did he have on mad sunscreen??). Stuff like that goes against writing not the actors.  Speaking of the rest of the cast all the major players did great.  Kris Kristofferson plays Abraham Whistler, Blade’s mentor and the person who raised him to fight for good.  Whistler is in all 3 films (which really hurts the impact of one scene in this film), and plays a major part in the Franchise.  I enjoy Whistler as the wise cracking asshole who is not afraid to fight anyone and Kris does a great job here playing him as he do for the rest of the franchise.  N’Bushe Wright, who was drop dead gorgeous in this film, plays Karen Jensen, a Doctor hell-bent on finding the cure to end Vampires after a Vampire bit her. The most surprising and most awesome part about her character is the fact she was not the love interest in this film but someone with the same objective as Blade to stopping Vampires (TAKE NOTES ON THIS).  Ms. Wright does well here and it is a shame this was the last big role for her. Sanaa Lathan plays a very important role in this, but I will not further into that. I will say her role was underutilized and it could had played a bigger role here.

As much as I love this film, there are some problems.  The writing sometimes lacks logic in this realm and loses sight of the narrative.  How many times do we have to see Blade allow a Vampire to escape and cause more harm, one Vampire in particular at that.  The CGI is god awful to downright disturbing but those flaws get a pass because of how well the actors did their roles with what they had.  Blade is a blast to watch and a fun time. This felt like a film that could have failed but had people behind it that refuse to see that happen. This film saved Marvel big time and was the 1st to spawn a trilogy. X-Men and Spiderman will get the accolades but Blade opened the door.  The best way to describe to this film, “some motherfuckers always try ice skate uphill” (seriously how can anyone hate that line?)

 

 

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