Who has time for sentences, or even whole paragraphs? Below I’ve charted my enjoyment of some recent albums over their running times.
Thor: The Dark World is another enjoyable film from Marvel, who by now has their comic book adaptations down to a science. There are a few weak points, of course, but for me the film’s biggest flaw by far is its treatment of Loki—and I’m not even a big Loki or Tom Hiddleston fan. Marvel may have shot themselves in the foot with Loki in T:TDW and despite their solid track record to date, I’m not sure how they can recover from it. (Spoilers ahead, obv.)
For starters, how did Loki become so wildly popular? Despite being an undeniable villain in Thor and The Avengers, Loki resonated with a huge number of fans partly due to Hiddleston’s empathetic portrayal of his flawed ambition and partly because Loki fills the rare role of a thinking-man’s villain, one whose intellect outweighs his firepower. With Iron Man 3's villain (who I won't name for anyone who hasn't seen it yet) come and gone, Loki shoulders this mantle alone in the Marvel movie universe. His unique approach adds extra dimension to the three films that have featured him.
With T:TDW, though, Marvel’s written themselves into a corner with their golden goose. They can’t make Loki the villain for a third time because the audience wants something new from him and they can’t make him a hero because it’s contrary to the character and story they’ve built so far. Marvel doesn’t know what to do with Loki, only that they need to show a lot of him: many of the film’s reshoots, happening right up to mere weeks before its release, were done to add even more Loki scenes.
Whatever you hope to see from Loki in the film, you’ll get. In T:TDW there are scenes of him being good. There are scenes of him being evil. There are scenes where he’s nice and scenes where he’s mean, scenes where he’s selfish and scenes where he’s generous. Marvel’s clumsy both-ways approach is most obvious in the climax of his arc, where we’re offered a noble hero’s death for the character that’s then taken back when we see he miraculously survived being stabbed through the heart. If this twist felt incongruous to you, that’s because it was: Marvel chief Kevin Feige admitted that the decision to reverse course and keep Loki alive wasn’t made until filming was already underway.
Compare the solidity of the flawed yet compelling Loki from Thor and The Avengers to the Loki from T:TDW, where he demonstrates such contradictory behavior and keeps his motives so close to his chest that it’s impossible for us to understand him. Marvel’s too scared to rock the boat: whether we love or hate him, it feels like they want us to walk away from the film with the same opinion of Loki we took into it. And at the end of T:TDW, is Loki a villain with a heart of gold or a ruthless schemer yet again seeking power? Did Marvel really handle an epic confrontation between Loki and Odin entirely off-camera to conveniently perpetuate his quest? That’s a massive cop-out on which to end an otherwise strong film.
The only thing Marvel knows for sure about Loki is that people love him, so expect them to drag him out yet again in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the inevitable third Thor film, or the teased Loki spin-off—or more likely, in all three. For as much as Loki’s given Marvel’s movies, he deserved far better treatment than this.
Anyone thinking about starting a freelance business should read Stephanie St.Claire’s essay on Medium about her own experience doing so—she shares some hard-won lessons that are valuable regardless of your industry. I agree with much of what she says here but her first and eighth points in particular struck a chord with me.
Running the business is your first priority. Your success (and financial stability) will come from expertly running your business — not teaching yoga, life coaching, writing copy, or making jewelry. In other words, you will spend 15% of the time doing what you love (your gift..in my case coaching and writing) and 85% of the time marketing, administrating, selling, strategizing your business, and answering a shitload of email. Survival will totally hinge on how quickly you adopt this role of Business Owner first, creator of pretty things, second.
This sucked for me because I wanted nothing to do with running a business. I just wanted to be a writer and a life coach who wrote and coached all day. I didn’t get it.
This was one of the most surprising lessons I learned, too. The majority of most of my working days was sucked up by project estimates and inquiries, client support, billing and accounting, meetings, a thousand phone calls and emails… Being able to actually sit down and code was a joyous reprieve. If you set out to start a business don’t underestimate the time and effort you’ll be dedicating simply to keeping that business going.
Only say yes to clients/collaborative projects that are HELL YESES. Scrutinize any joint project carefully and qualify the person you are doing the project with (even if they are your friend and you LOVE them). Get everything in writing before you embark on the project, with a clear division of labor and deadline dates.
Without fail, every time I didn’t listen to my intuition about a client or project I came to regret it. Even if you desperately need the money, even if it sounds like it could lead to greater things, it’s never worth it. Listen to your gut: if you get a bad feeling about the client or the project, walk away. I had to learn this the hard way, and if you ignore this rule you will too.
I disagree with St.Claire on her elaboration, though—I’d advise against ever working with friends or family, period. If and when they implode, projects undertaken with people you’re close to can inflict real, long-lasting damage that’s simply not worth the risk. Keep your personal and professional lives separate and save yourself a heap of stress.
St.Claire’s nine other points are on the money, too, so be sure to check out the rest of her article.
*NSYNC, *NSYNC (1998)
*NSYNC, Celebrity (2001)
Justin Timberlake, Justified (2002)
Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience (2013)
I’ve built a successful freelance business for myself thanks to hard work, following my instincts, and a lot of trial and error. I don’t possess a bunch of magic answers, but I’ve had several people ask me for freelancing advice recently, including a couple strangers, so I’d like to share what’s worked for me in the hopes it could help others.
To start off let’s talk about how to handle phone calls with current or potential clients, because you will probably be having quite a lot of them, even if you (like me) hate talking on the phone. I learned many of the following tips by doing them the wrong way first, so learn from horrible phone failures to keep your calls as painless and productive as possible.
- Some unspoken etiquette: if a potential client reaches out to you first and you arrange a time to chat, it’s generally appropriate to give them your number and have them call you. However, if you’re working with an existing client or making the first contact with a potential new client, you should generally offer to call them.
- If someone’s arranged to call you at a specified time and you receive a call at that time, do not answer with “Hello?” This ain’t amateur hour. Say “Hi, this is _____” and state your name—it lets the other party know you’re prepared and sets a professional tone for the conversation.
- If you are calling someone at a specified time, do not fucking be late for that call. Punctuality = reliability. That’s critical for all freelancers but especially web developers, as our industry has historically been plagued by missed deadlines, false promises and general unreliability. So if you have a scheduled call with someone at noon, let’s say, do not start getting your shit together at 11:58 a.m. and call them at 12:03. Get all of your notes and references ready with time to spare and dial their number at exactly 12:00. After all, if someone can’t trust you with a simple phone call, why should they trust you with their project?
- Conversations are organic, so plan accordingly. Even if there are specific things you intend to discuss it’s likely that other topics or questions will come up too and get things off track. Before the call, jot a list of all the points you need to cover. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just a few words to remind you about each thing. Don’t stress if something else comes up during the discussion, but focus on getting the items on your list addressed asap and cross them off as you do so. You’ve discussed everything? Congrats, you’ve had a productive call! Now you can just chat away. Or end the call and get some actual work done.
- Conversely, take notes during the call, not after—don’t hang up and then attempt to remember everything, because you will eventually miss something important and it will bite you in the ass. (Don’t ask how I know.) Write everything down as it comes up so you don’t have time to forget.
- Conduct your calls in a quiet, private place where you can give them your full attention. In other words, do not call someone from a damn coffee shop. It’s unsafe for discussing sensitive information, it’s distracting to the patrons around you, and it’s just gauche as hell. Need to refer to something online during your call and don’t have a home office? Take your laptop to your car in the coffee shop parking lot: it’s private, silent, and you can still pick up their wi-fi signal.
- Don’t just sit there, especially for longer calls. Try walking around, pacing your office, or even just standing up while you talk. Not only does this affect how your voice projects but the added motion will help keep you alert and focused. It sounds silly but makes a big difference.
- Do not ever enter the bathroom during a call, even for a moment—and especially not to, you know, do anything. You may think you’re clever enough to do this without anyone noticing but the acoustics in bathrooms are very different and people can tell. It’s not worth the risk.
- Try to keep the momentum going at the end of the call. After trading thank-yous, review your notes and say something like, “So I’ll keep an eye out for your email about _____ and get back to you about that,” or “So I’ll email you about _____ and look into _____ and we’ll touch base after that,” or something similar. Try to establish timelines for these things as well. This is a polite but effective way to help you both remember what you need to do to keep making progress.
- A great point mentioned by Cameron Childress: If you expect to have a lot of long calls invest in a decent headset. If you’re tired of holding the phone, don’t put a client on speakerphone—the sound quality is terrible and it’s extremely annoying for the person you’re speaking with (and anyone around you).
And in the immortal words of RuPaul: “Good luck, and don’t fuck it up.”
Sometimes I find gems on the Internet that deserve more commentary than a tweet but less than a dedicated tumblr post, so perhaps I can use this space periodically to share collections of them.
Mikael Cho looks at our relationship with clutter—including the physical, digital and emotional—and the effects it has on us. This is something I’ve struggled with my entire life, and though I’m better than I was I still have a long way to go toward a more uncluttered life. This read is a great refresher on how to keep your possessions in perspective.
Shawn Blanc goes into great detail on the process of producing his new book, from the planning and writing stages to the e-book production and even to the emotional impact it had on him. An excellent reference for others out there (like me) who plan to follow in his footsteps someday.
My initial impression of Pacific Rim, which I loved, was that it was a smart movie in a dumb blockbuster’s clothing. This long conversation between director Guillermo del Toro and Brendon Connelly of BC allows del Toro to expand upon the genesis of the story, some of the imagery and decisions that were easy to miss, and the huge amount of planning that went into almost every detail. I see the film in a different light now and appreciate it even more.
Citing numerous studies, Stephen Guise examples little things all of us can do to improve our lives and those of the people around us. It’s a win-win.
…Kouznetsov has let his thresher gobble up so much random internet text that now it is feeding on news articles and creative works about itself. In time, new creations will be derived from these snippets of the old creations, and left unchecked, @horse_ebooks will process these new creations, and so on, until all that is left from this recursion is a single beacon transmitting the simulacra of long-forgotten ebooks, signifying nothing: the pasture of the real.