Atheist Scruples: how to get ahead in business

September 15, 2014

The question may be a bit out of date:

You are an illustrator struggling for recognition. You can’t get past a secretary to see an editor. Do you lie and say a prominent critic sent you?

These days it’s less about office secretaries and more about online presence and knowing how to network in a virtual environment. It goes for any creative endeavour. The Man’s noticed this with his music work and efforts to build connections and team up on projects. He’s not a schmoozer by nature so pimping his stuff everywhere every five minutes is not the approach he’d feel comfortable taking and he’s already told me about at least one guy he’s unfollowed on his Facebook feed due to to similar behaviour.

He’s starting an illustration course next week as part of his USCAD art certificate. He was hoping to do a printmaking course this semester as well but it didn’t work out, sadly. That would have been cool. He’s looking forward to the class, though. On both cabin trips this summer he worked on a couple pieces with pen and chalk pastels. I can’t show the art, but I’ll include the pictures I took of the inspirations.

Wine and Glasses

Wine and Glasses

The piece he did of this he’s planning to give to his folks as it’s their cabin we were using. We already drank the wine ourselves. Whatever it was, it was nice.

The trees have eyes...

The trees have eyes…

He began to regret his choice to do trees as they’re really bumpy and difficult. He opted for a simpler storybook look to it that still evoked the sense of forest surroundings and it turned out well, I think.

The Guardian had a piece a few years ago written by an illustrator detailing how she got into the business. It’s a good read. Emma Block credits starting a blog for her artwork but admits there’s more to it than that.

I got my first job as an illustrator for card printer Moo’s pre-designed packs in 2008 just before I started university. Moo contacted me after they saw my artwork on a pack of their cards I ordered for myself. My next job came when the greeting cards company Woodmansterne (a client I am still working with today) saw my work on Moo’s website.

As well as my university work, I was busy producing work for myself and for online publications such as Amelia’s Magazine and Cellar Door. Free work has some value when you are establishing your career, but be picky about what you do.

The Man had a bit of luck lately with a fellow he knows who wanted music to rap over and even I liked it. And I seem to recall the fellow who put out his cassette at I Had an Accident Records noted a while back that his album had been in a shop somewhere in Europe. That was pretty cool news.

He’d love to make solid money with his music so he wouldn’t have to work cruddy jobs with cruddy hours. I feel for him. I hate seeing him unhappy.


I expect there will be too much God at the Grammys

February 13, 2011

I wasn’t going to be watching anyway. In all honesty, I didn’t know they’d be on tonight until I came across a Wall Street Journal article about celebrity confidence and the god connection. Neil Strauss has been noticing the trend of thanking a god for successes in all kinds of award shows.

Until I began interviewing many of the winners of these awards two decades ago, I thought this was a sign of humility and gratitude (or at least an affectation of them). But the truth is more interesting than that.

Before they were famous, many of the biggest pop stars in the world believed that God wanted them to be famous, that this was his plan for them, just as it was his plan for the rest of us not to be famous. Conversely, many equally talented but slightly less famous musicians I’ve interviewed felt their success was accidental or undeserved—and soon after fell out of the limelight.

He’s written a book that covers this topic, among other things: Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead: Journeys Into Fame and Madness to be available in March. He’s discovered (probably unsurprisingly to readers) that an assumption about God specifically wanting someone to be famous is going to improve that person’s chances of being famous. I know God wants me to be a success, so I’m going to be a success. It’s all part of His plan… Recall what I wrote recently about Calvinism, predestination and God wanting people to be rich? Same kind of thing, apparently.

Let’s call it competitive theism, a self-styled spirituality that can be overlaid on any religion and has nothing to do with personal morality. This faith gap, I’ve noticed in the interviews I’ve done, is often what sets the merely famous apart from the ridiculously famous. It can make the difference between achieving what’s possible and accomplishing what seems impossible.

Though scientists, to the best of my knowledge, have yet to study the relationship of faith to superstardom, they have studied addicts, transplant patients and natural disaster victims, and they have found that actively seeking God’s intervention has improved people’s odds of survival.

Yes, but in much the same way as people can put faith in a placebo and improve. Even when they know it’s a placebo. Thinking God’s got some major plan for you winds up being a major confidence booster that will change the way you behave, and improve your chances. But confidence, no matter how you get it, will improve your chances. Confidence comes from hard work and training and ability. Perseverance. Dedication to becoming good at something. You can know you deserve it because you worked to achieve it. Confidence often leads to success and it doesn’t require a god’s intervention to make the difference. People just think it does. Confidence also helps people deal with the criticisms that go hand in hand with (sometimes undeserved) success, as well. And thinking God is on their side even if nobody else is winds up being the way many stars deal with gossip, controversies and general bad press. Things that would cripple a less confident performer will barely ruffle their feathers.

He ends the piece with this:

stars who are presumptuous enough to see themselves as God’s chosen ones are likely to dominate the pop charts, award shows and sports championships. Talent counts for a lot, but so too does the motivating power of divine conviction.

I’d say he’s right. No matter what we might want to succeed at, the idea that something outside ourselves will take an interest and help make that happen is probably one of the biggest reasons human beings continue to flourish. It could be argued that’s the reason we’ve succeeded as a species — not because a god actually exists, but because we, as a species, continue to believe one does. God-belief is a product of our evolution and, like it or not, we’re probably stuck with it because it works. If it didn’t, why would we have developed the idea in the first place?

I have to ask, will Linsday Lohan be Dad’s first patient?

September 6, 2010

Given all that makes Hollywood what(ever) it is, it should come as no surprise that Lindsay Lohan’s father wants to capitalize on his daughter’s bad behaviour by claiming she’s given him the ambition to open his own rehab clinic.

Her father has frequently spoken out about his daughter’s troubles, insisting receiving professional help is the only way to beat her demons.

Now he wants to help others in a similar situation – by launching a rehab clinic specialising in “spiritual” healing rather than medical treatment.

He tells, “After seeing what my daughter, myself and other people I know have been through, it has led me to realise this is my calling and purpose in life… We are rehab that focuses on mind, body and soul. It is a spiritual retreat… The basis of the rehab will be that there is a God; that good conquers evil; that the best way to live is to treat others like you want to be treated; and treat your body like a temple… We’ve got the team in place, and the financing is all there.”

How long has he been so religious? If the answer is “always and forever” then why didn’t this religious attitude stick to Lindsay as she grew up? Too much time spent around a mother just as eager for the spotlight (and other things) as she was? Or is it because that shit won’t work for everyone any more than a gun half loaded would?

And Lohan is adamant the retreat will not be solely for the use of celebrities: “I’m not going to close my doors on anyone. We may offer a scholarship. You don’t have to be Lindsay Lohan or Nicole Richie or Robert Downey Jr. or a celebrity to get rehab… All of the things that have happened to me in my life have led to this. I know this is what God wants me to do first and foremost.”

This leads me to assume (possibly rightly) that dear old Dad’s a “recent” convert and still deluded enough by the dream to think he’s really onto something.

Time will tell if his rehab schtick sticks to anyone for long…

Pop culture vultures

November 11, 2009

If the entertainment world was a billiards table and every pop culture reference were a stripe or solid sitting on it, I’d be the cue ball that careens around the table yet drops into the dark corner pocket of cluelessness without ever knowing what I missed.

That’s not an entirely accurate analogy, but it’s close enough. I see movies (eventually), I watch some television (albeit a season or seven behind everyone else), and I have the internet. I’m never totally unaware of what’s popular in any given moment, but it might require a very annoying internet meme to be passed around the interwebs like a plague before I find out why.

What I do notice is that notoriety has become more interesting to our culture than behaviour that would actually be deserving of praise. On the rare occasion when I flip through a gossip mag or check a site, they’re all reporting on who’s doing drugs, who’s the babydaddy, and who flashed the camera flash again. She looks fat, he looks homeless. She’s still trying to “collect the whole set” of World Children, and he slept with someone who’s only reknown by proxy. So how come we still have to get news about him and a reality TV “star” who fell from grace? Who really gives a damn about any of them?

Although Andy Warhol is credited with saying “In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” I’ve discovered he later refined the concept. He’s referring to Studio 54 (the actual club, not the movie based on it) here:

It’s the place where my prediction from the sixties finally came true: “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” I’m bored with that line. I never use it anymore. My new line is, “In fifteen minutes everybody will be famous.”


But will we be famous for any worthwhile reason? Will it be our choice, or random unexpected happenstance? What is the Star Wars kid doing these days? Did Ghyslain Raza’s parents have to sue the parents of the kids responsible for his unwanted infamy? Maybe, maybe not. But those asshole students did not ask Gaza’s permission to take something he made for fun at school nor did he know they’d post it online so the whole world could mock his high nerd factor. Those kids didn’t even know who Gaza was. Newsweek has a great article about Gaza’s experience (among others) and how the internet is proving Warhol right.

For people who use blogs and social-networking sites like diaries, putting their personal information out there for the world to see, this presents a serious risk. “I think young people are seduced by the citizen-media notion of the Internet: that everyone can have their minutes of fame,” says Barry Schuler, the former CEO of AOL who is now the coproducer of a new movie, “Look,” about public video surveillance. “But they’re also putting themselves out there—forever.”

Shaming victims, meanwhile, have little legal recourse. Identifying posters often means having to subpoena an anonymous IP address. But that could lead nowhere. Many people share IP addresses on college networks or Wi-Fi hotspots, and many Web sites hide individual addresses. Even if a victim identifies the defamer, bloggers aren’t usually rich enough to pay big damage awards. Legal action may only increase publicity—the last thing a shaming victim wants. “The law can only do so much,” warns Solove.

We are long past the point where people will forget what we’ve done. We may sink into blessed oblivion for a little while, but everyone, everywhere, may be only one click away from the world’s attention.

How do you want to be remembered?

When it comes to memes, I don’t wait to be tagged

October 29, 2009

I’ll admit where I found it first though – in a post by faithlessgod at so here goes: Tell readers something unusual they’d never guess about you.

Hmm. Considering how most readers know nothing about me save what I get around to sharing, there should be plenty of choices.

I’ll go with this one – I don’t think I’ve ever dreamed of fame. I’d like to publish a book but it can be a book of poetry nobody but my library, my friends, and my parents buy. That would be more than adequate. At least I could say I was published. Have I gotten around to hammering out the dents in what I have for poems? Not so far.

As to being a celebrity, I like to think that if I did somehow become famous, I’d stay humble and throw the money into charities and libraries and schools rather than into my shoe or car collection. There has to be a better use for money than what celebrities do with it.

Um, who to tag now… I’ll toss a note to tmso now.

And now I gladly return to obscurity. My normal stats are going to look depressingly small now after yesterday and this morning…

Does a reputation still matter?

September 16, 2009

I pity the fool who disagrees, but weren’t we a little better off when people (and by people I mean celebrities) worried about their reputations before they did anything that might affect them?

mr. t
see more Lol Celebs

That Kanye West/Taylor Swift speech fiasco comes to mind as a recent and totally obvious example. Jay Leno asked him how his recently deceased mother would feel about how be behaved. Will Kanye’s televised apologies change anything about how he’ll behave in the future? Although he claims he’ll re-evaluate his life a little, I have my doubts about his sincerity. Had he kept his trap shut in the first place, none of this would have happened. But then he probably wouldn’t have been invited onto Leno’s show, which proves once again that behaving like a jackass pays off. He has no real incentive to behave himself. People buy his albums no matter what he does or says.

I watched a few episodes of Ozzie and Harriet some time ago and found it to be pretty entertaining. I think my favourite one out of that batch involved a decision to clean out the garage and how all the neighbours helped turn it into a swap meet instead of a trip to the dump. Anyone who thought the doofus man stereotype was a new thing needs to watch some old TV.

Anyway, included with the episodes was some documentary footage about Ozzie Nelson and his famous family. Ozzie kept them all on a pretty tight leash, “family values” wise. Since they were in the public eye (Ricky was from birth, I think) Ozzie felt it was essential for everyone to be on their best behaviour at all times. I suppose he was something of a PR tyrant that way, but given how much of his own reputation as a writer and producer were tied into the successful family show, I can’t say I blame him. It ran on television for 15 years and Rick wound up with three decades worth of pop hits thanks to a start on Dad’s show, so he must have done something right. I’m just gonna quote the twist at the end of the story:

Shortly before his death, Ozzie Nelson published his autobiography, in which he shocked many of his Bible-belt fans by revealing that he was a lifelong atheist.


Now to tie it back to the beginning – Molly Lewis singing “I Pity the Fu.”

(Sing along with the lyrics)

Madonna is “a stain on humanity and offensive to God”

December 11, 2008

But please, Cardinal. Tell us what you really think.

Madonna performed in Santiago on the Latin American leg of her Sticky and Sweet Tour to promote her album “Hard Candy.”

“The atmosphere in our city is pretty agitated because this woman is visiting and with incredibly shameful behavior provokes a wild and lustful enthusiasm,” Cardinal Jorge Medina told the congregation.

“Thoughts of lust, impure thoughts, impure acts, are an offense to God and a dirty stain on our heart,”

Those poor Catholics. I’m sure Madonna puts on a very entertaining show for everyone else who won’t have to confess sins of the mind and penis later.

I don’t care for her overly hyper-sexed displays, myself. I think they’re tacky. Same goes for the Pussycat Dolls. When women have real talent, they shouldn’t be thinking they have to slut themselves on stage to get noticed and appreciated. Don’t assume I mean the Pussycat Dolls have talent. All they’ve got are tits, asses, and moronic lyrics nobody actually pays attention to because they’re just there to watch the girls gyrate and shake their shit. I wish women didn’t believe that was the only way to advertise themselves, that’s all.

At least Madonna puts semi-naked men to work on stage sometimes. Equal rights for sexism and all that. Way to go, girlfriend.

I get amused by rumours of how prudish she is with regards to her daughter, Lourdes. She banned her from dating, apparently, and doesn’t want her acting either.

I think I can actually commend her for that. I don’t think kids have to start dating when they’re fourteen either and if Madonna doesn’t want to see her child ruined by the stress of Hollywood fame, I don’t blame her. Lourdes has enough trouble dealing with the fallout from her mother’s life. She’s also embarrassed by mom’s sweatshirt collection, funnily enough, but as one commenter remarks,

Lourdes should be glad that she wasn’t her 11 or 12 yr old daughter back in the early 1990s, when Madonna would parade around at parties, awards shows, and performances in that John Galliano cone-shaped bra she made so famous…among her other leather creations from that era. (Now THAT is embarassing, imho, more so than designer yoga pants & tees.)

Maybe Madonna would like to see her daughter do something else with her life rather than spend it in front of an audience. It’s nice to see a parent put her foot down for a change, frankly. Look how damaged Lindsay Lohan wound up because Dina probably wanted the fame and flashing lights more than Lindsay did and now she’s riding the wave of her other daughter’s budding film career.

Anyway, back to Cardinal Stickypants and religious righteousness. I think overtly sexualized performances don’t add anything useful to advertising or entertainment but by no means am I going to applaud the Cardinal’s carnal sin angle. There’s nothing wrong with sex and sexuality. It’s all natural — except those people who want sex with children and horses. What the fuck is up with that?

It’s too bad the Church is so insistent on being pure of body and soul. Maybe if they let their priests get married and let them fuck like bunnies, there wouldn’t be so many secrets for church leaders to conceal. Or, do more screening for sexual predators before giving them cassocks loose enough to hide inappropriate erections. The Pope claims to be ashamed of what goes on, but who knows what he’d been doing before he got elected and how many priests he helped move to avoid scandals.

I think a lot of mental anguish comes out of misguided beliefs about what sex and sexuality are. Having people you respect telling you it’s sinful to even think about it, let alone do it? They encourage and support lies about masterbation and original sin and other fuckwittery about natural human urges to eat and hoard and brag. Why do they do that? So they can have more reasons to punish ordinary human beings for doing what ordinary human beings will naturally want to do? The standards of holy perfection are beyond humanity’s grasp and they know that. It’s set that high for a reason – because it can never be achieved. And the more people try and fail, the more they can blame themselves for inadequacy and sinful behaviours and beg for forgiveness. Let them hope for it but never allow them achieve it.

And people wonder why church attendance is down.