Sunday, October 3, 2010

General update

Ok, I have a bit more time in the lobby (they're cleaning my room right now) so I'll fill in the gaps since last time I posted (August 31st; not the one from an hour ago).

It's October now and I'm staying at a hotel in Helsinki, Finland. I got here on Thursday; before that I was back in Amsterdam (again!) for a few days. I wound up staying in Cologne until September 24th. I was going to stay through September but PJ's birthday party was the night of the 24th in Amsterdam so I came back a few days early.

Going back to Amsterdam is always nice; it still feels like home to me, which is a rare feeling for someone like me. Most of my friends there are busting ass on Guerrilla's next game and I understand how time flies when you do that. But after being away for two months, some people say "hey, welcome back!" but a few instead say "You're here *again*?" It's done playfully; they're friends of mine but still... I know I go back there enough that I don't expect or deserve special treatment (if they made a doll of me that talks when you pulled it's string, one of the phrases might be "It's my last night in Amsterdam! Let's go to the Waterhole!") but c'mon, it's a nice city and I like it there so stop acting so surprised that I like spending time with you jerks :P

As for Cologne, I got my demo reel pretty much done as I'd planned to, but the second month was definitely less focused and productive. I started getting contacted by places that were hiring and had to make some early cuts of my reel to send off, do some phone interviews and chase up a couple of contracts, one of which is still up in the air and the other of which fell through rather spectacularly and frustratingly. Mostly my fault because I let myself get excited over it before anything was signed but I'm finding companies to be a lot flakier about contract work than they are about finding full time people.

It's also starting to seem like game companies aren't really used to the freelance model of work and might not quite understand why we cost more than their full time staff (it's not unlike why hookers cost more per hour than girlfriends. If all you need is that one service with no commitment or long term relationship, the hooker is probably going to be cheaper in the end. And better at it.) Talking to some other contractors has reinforced that suspicion but I imagine it varies a lot by company.

Two months might've been too long to isolate myself anyway but it might be wise next time to better separate my work related and personal contact info, or at least be a bit more resolute about saying "no" til I was good and ready to start finding work. On the other hand, saying "no" to work that finds you when you're available but have other plans, probably isn't the most successful strategy for being a successful freelance animator.

So now I'm back in Helsinki and have got into the spirit of things by shopping for some warm clothes today. I've been out four nights in a row (1x Amsterdam, 3x Helsinki) so last night I practically sleepwalked home after just a few beers, then proceeded to sleep for over 10 hours, right through the hotel's breakfast buffet. Tonight I am staying dry, warm and cozy. Tomorrow I will hopefully know if I will be doing some freelance work here in Finland and staying for a few more weeks or if I'll be off to places unknown once again.

Work/animation-wise, the portfolio is done as of this week and I'm shifting my focus to finding my next gig. I'm considering a shift to a full-time job as there are some good ones at some cool places available right now. On the other hand, every freelance job I've had so far has found me and I've enjoyed the lifestyle a lot so far. I might find a lot more success with it if I actually start looking and promoting myself.

Travel advisory: watch out for brown people with machine guns in public places everywhere in Europe

From today's news: The US is likely to issue a travel warning for Americans in Europe to "avoid public places" for threat of an al-Queda attack.

I'm curious of the history of US travel advisories: if this is par for the course (it isn't in the the years that I've been paying attention) or if this one is extra stupid?

What really worries me is the people who take this stuff too seriously, like we saw with the recent case of the American backpackers detained as spies in Iran. It was pretty shocking and disgusting to me to see so many Americans saying "serves them right!" because everyone knows that they'll kill you just for being American in a Muslim country. Even though the US travel advisory for Iran doesn't actually say "don't go there"; it says "be careful and understand that things work different there," which is fair enough. And even though Iran is not a warzone and people from other countries DO go there for tourism. Americans should know as well as anyone that a loudmouth president doesn't make your entire country into xenophobic murderers.

That case pissed me off, because suddenly travel to an Islamic country because a punishable crime in the eyes of some Americans. Not poor judgment; poor judgment is dressing like a hooker in a biker bar or flashing a Rolex on the midnight subway. We sympathize with crime victims who exhibit poor judgment.

But when someone has the audacity to travel to a country that Americans are afraid of? Let 'em rot. Despite the fact that I've met plenty of Americans who think they'll kill you for being American *in France*. (and by the way; if you're one of those Americans who wears Canadian flags because you believe this, you are a chicken shit and you suck) Hell, I had people in Seattle warn me that I should never drive east of the 10 freeway in LA because I had an ex-police car and all the gangbangers would open fire on sight. The less people have traveled, the longer the list of places they're afraid of are.

So my roundabout point is that this travel advisory is less than useless; it's irresponsible and only fuels an already out of control xenophobia. It sounds like somebody really wants to say "I told you so!" when pretty much anything bad happens. "Watch out for armed brown people and stay away from crowds in 1/6th of the inhabitable world?" Yeah, thanks a lot guys. Huge help.