Friday, 28 November 2014

Who are You in Breaking Bad _

Unlike many other of the super-series, Breaking Bad comes to an end and I am prolonging the agony as the last series ricochets its way through the various end games post Fring departure stage centre.

I am as far as the unexpected (look away if you are not beyond the train heist) demise of Mike in series 5, the finale.

That episode is a kind of cruical crystalisation of the characterisation - their motivations are laid bare, their vulnerabilities all apparent and their fate's all driven by their personalities.

Who then do you identify with?

We are probably supposed to identify with one or other of the comic book characters we are presented with. The prissy Fring. The cool hand Mike. The young drop out with morals, Pinkman. The mother caught up in the mans ego.The Brother in law stuck with his obsessions and abrasive self defensive supersilious personality. Or of course the Heisenberg or the Walter Wimpy White duality.

The characters by in large are comic book and two dimensional.  Gus Fring has Tarrantino like overtures to being a little larger than life in his gentleman drug baron play. Mike and his neurotic social climbing wife. Skyler, the all american mom with absent love for her kids, on hold while the cameras roll. And Walter White, the guy who sold out for 5 grand and took the safe route to nothingness.

We middle aged men are supposed to either go then for one of the three = the protangonist Heisenberg and his two antagonists, Fring and his Brother in Law. Lets face it, the majority of folk our age are not successful, on a western basis even then. Hank and Fring are successful but both in their own stress missions , locked into lives which have risk, mundanity and inescapability. They have a plan to retire, but enjoy the game too much.

So we have Walter, who finally gets to be a big roller, like we all would want to be although we would not choose
to intoxicate the desert states with class A. He becomes Heisenberg, and that is clear from the first time he tells the amatuer cooks in the car lot to stay off his patch to when he takes over Mike's exit deal on the Methyl Amine.

A younger me may have had some time for Jesse, but the kid is too much of a paradox between his morals and ropues codes and his wild crystal meth days. He just does not have the credibility , middle class slackers turned drug addicts care no more than their next hit and the next party. You want to think you or anyone has a moral base. But not down crack alley bud'

Walter white is the only one who is in control of the next step, be that a series of blind critical path , tactical choices and everyone else dances to the tune he plays, not that he knows how they will dance, but he has a route to a quick win at every twist and turn of fortune or misadventure.

I started to identify most with Mike. He is a planner, and maticulous in his thinking., But he is also able to react to circumstances with a coolness and simple means of rationalising. It is called experience and maturity, both of which he has too much of. He should have been out of the game five years back, but like them all was banking on a bigger deal and a final pay off, a pension from his risky business.

Then I identified with Walt. He has played the nice family guy for what, 18 years of the best of his life. He has been a jerk for the voluptious embrace of Skyler, who is not near his intellectual equal. Then it all finally caves in on him, with the cancer. Nothing to lose, now play Mr Existentialist DeLuxe.

By 50 we truly have made it or not, ok you can say that 60 is the new 40 when Life Begins as a new cliche of realising one is not immortal. Smell the flowers, kick the asses. health issues. life's a bitch.

Hank then, is he more the you and the me of the day? his obsession which is the real deal, but he fails to keep everyone on board. He is a little of the round peg in the square DEA hole. He is probably the best actor with the performance of his life in this, he is perhaps least comic book and most believable all american asshole. He has success but it is always on the brink due to the risks of his job and his own neurosis and fear of being killed.

We are masters of our destiny and we rationalise away our failures and down size our ambitions, or realise our goals in life to find them to be hollow and we are not really where we want to be anyway, the journey was more interesting before we arrived at middle aged comfort zone..Are we like these characters? Just a mirror of us all, not quite reflecting the whole picture but catching a glimpse of ourselves from an uncomfortable angle.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Rectuitment Consultancy Industry

Rectuitment consultants have a bit of a hard old time of it, and I am often too harsh if the truth be told. To me they are like a man offering a luxury umbrella on a dry day, while they are someone who suddenly doesnt have an umbrella and no, sorry you cant come inside out of the rain when you are unemployed.

It began that my first two real career moves in the 1990s involved employers trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the consultants and admittedly hedging their bets a little. Both jobs took a while to hear back from and I was in. some time after being in both jobs I either happened to be looking for a new job with the original agency I believed had landed the job for me, or they just phoned up a year into the job out of the blue. Naughty naughty, the recruiiter had not been told I had been employed, and hey presto they could now send a bill to the employer because there is a nice little clause in the contract about candidates presented are embargoed wares if given other jobs.

When changing from the second of those jobs, I did not see the point in going through rectuiters having learned this, and applied directly to a big ad agency and landed a good job. From that job in 1999 I took the slightly dodgey move into the internet consultancy and programming company world, but you know we did not have hindsight of how much a bubble this was- everyone needed web sites, and the emporer's new clothes need a complete shift each year.  Two recruiters and two failed companies later I lost my taste for the economics of agency land and how miserable bosses were becoming in not giving out company cars any more, while expecting bags of free overtime off our backs.  Then of course recruiters were just not interested, the internet bubble was burst, traditional advertising was in a long hang over  and the rush to "client side" was palpable.

Finally I managed after a year of doing very little but part time for my mate's small company, to get then a move into a real job and it proved to be very good. I took three or even four attempts, I had also made maybe five attempts to get into said largish company before, European HQ of a US company. This time there were two jobs and two rectuiters making everything seem like double the opportunity. Howevver I did not fit the bill for either recruitment company. I went direct and the director was delighted with my open application and actually rebudgeted a job specifically for me, minister without portfolio as it may have been, but tantamount to doing a paid for MBA due to it being a wall street listed company and all the reporting of actual sales, forecasts, marketing spends, sector growth and so on.

I emmigrated after just over two years there and that is when my real issues with consultants started. In ten years of being in Norway I have had one temp job doing B2B telesales in my home town, and very, very few interviews infront of employers. Recently I was enticed into a two hour drive and city centre parking prices to an agency who had promised to take me to an employer for a real life job opp'. Instead they apoligised, and then gave me the spanish inquisition on why I left my last job or actually lost it.  I felt very deflated and since then, they have not been answering my calls or e-mails either which is insult to injury.

The trouble is now with the internet and low price volume advertising on the main national web sites, agencies work differently. You tend to get into a bemanning company, outsourcing or what have you via a first advertisement, and then if that is just a temp position but you are a worthy character then you are high on the list for the next as a proven nice little earner. These companies then like Manpower seem to have their books filled with worthies and get hundreds of applicants when they advertise attractive jobs.

. The finders fee and head hunter branch proport to the employers that they have extensive databases of candidates and a business network. This means in fact that they have cheap advertising to the great self selecting database of the public with internet access, or they use Linked in to annoy people sitting in jobs.

Now my language skills have got a little ahead of me unfortunetly, I am able to think and babble on a little too much in Norsk than my previously nicely stalled brain to mouth interview sililoquys used to go. I just need to slow down a bit, but I wonder if now finally I will be able to use the agencies to get something temp now that I no longer want to be a self employed consultant or be sitting in a very boring admin job like my last one, on a permanent contract with no real excuse for leaving. I made a scene and got kind of fired, by mutual agreement but more me telling them nope, this was no good and you cant complain about me.

The key according to my employment services (outsoruced) advisor is that I should now just hassle them on a regular weekly basis for work because so many employers here are hedging their bets on their being a change in the law to enable them to basically take on all new employees they see fit to, on indefinite temp' contracts. Also in the oil industry I would be damned lucky given the oil prices.

However the industry is just going to have a correction in fact, where they will be actually able to rectruit engineers and staff willing to work outside the Norsk sector to right-size finally after many years of not having enough staff and relying on either over time, or actually slowing down contracts of refusing them out right. For me now as a skilled administrator, hey presto in fact those punters in jobs or with Stavanger mortgages do not in the name of hell want to shift now with all the uncertainty. So every cloud has its silver lining and that cant be bad after my last supposed silver lining contained a nasty thunder cloud followed by a bloody tornado of crap, firefighting project failures, tedious unrelated admin dumped on me, poor systems I was not allowed to redevelop and a hum dinger of a bitch as a departmental boss who has gone through about ten employees in three years.

I have worked around recruiters here or been taken up by a dark horse recruiter having backed off from an initial one so unfrotunetly I am starting to meet recruiters who have moved agencies and remember me, and after a nice chat they never call me back. They have me down with hopefully just a mental note. I could still have dollars on my head, but more liklely I am risky to them as they have to land every contract they get so far with. So there is the straight approach to all the others, and there is then also finding out who the employer is and hearing directly with them.

In truth it looks like I will need to accept a bit of a mid paid admin job with a lot of boring stuff in it to keep my self going back into the real employment market, but it is ideal to go through an agency as I say in order to be more attractive to for employers with a good posiition for me, and eminently available. Finally at my grand old age I may have to make peace with the enemy and get on with ringing them incessently to get a foot in the door.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Economic Naivety

Several times  in my life I have exposed myself to absolute economic naivety, while also being occaisionally a bit coy and generally very conservative with 'leverage'.

First of all take school and the last refuge of social mobility. At school and university I followed what I was interested in, but that enthusiasm proved to be a little half hearted when compared to my competition- basically there is always someone with a PhD or an MBA ahead of me. Anyway, the bigger picture is that the three professions plus engineering and math driven chemistry are the only way to get a better lot for yourself, your head above water if you like, and have a better standard of lviing than your working class parents. If you are middle class, then you are on about evens to have as good a life as your rather well educated, well pensioned baby boomer parents.

Outside these proffessions really you are in the area of you-may-as-well have been a train driver or a plumber. You, like me, followed your vague interests and what you got A's in at school and ended up within some form of service industry such as business services or social services. I have by a little bit of design worked more  in industry and with technology so have had some pretty good pay and some really interesting jobs.

Naivety for me is that by in large, you cannot be really laid back about career and personal capital unless you have a base  of either being in one of the proffessions and fully qualified by age 32, or having rich parents. Career is about a risk-payoff investment of your time, and the truth is you have to grunt for a few years before you get your break to the career ladder propper. I have always jumped on short cuts and that means my CV is just anathematic to many recruiters and I need to go direct to decision makers to get decent contracts and now again jobs.

On the matter of risk, people take far higher financial risks on purchase-vanity and wander-lust than they actually do on building personal capital. In the UK the average age of first house purchase average age is 37, and likely rising. For me I just did not like the areas in which I could afford, and in fact if you do not let out the properties to multioccupancy getting over a grand a month for them, cheap and nasty areas are just that! But I did miss the boat of several areas, Aberdeen and Edinburgh where I could be standing on a pension fund of a hundred grand today! Same with my mother, could have used half her invesments on a flat for me at uni, covered half the mortgage renting the second room out and making on average over 20 years, 10% per year compound with a major capital gain in the late 90s which could have sprung me into my all time plan to 'get into property' as so many have.

Several pals have got on the subsidised gravy train of buying cheap for rental to basically housing benefit dependents. That is another story, but a typical advantage of capitalism being depedent on socialist policies and the tory reversal on council housing.

When getting then into your non big proffessions career,  the pay is mediocre and really has not kept pace with any form of middle class inflation since the mid 90s. The going rates for graduates and two year experienced are the same as they were in 1996. House prices and particularily rental prices have of course grown. Student debt has grown.

My naivety is then actually not taking enough risk in capital and leveraging my access to credit in order to get ahead, rather that my risk taking has been a lot to do with relationships to girl friends and to my home land, Scotland. Risk taking is as pointed out, as much emotional as it is black on white figures. Half of the loves of my life have been either poor or financial disaster areas. None have really shown any promise of improving my economic lot beyond what a usual DINKY mortgage set up could offer in the short term.

The other big change in the UK at least has been the perpetual move away from real wealth creation and into the realms of the mortgage, pension, life assurance and consumer credit driven business and the greater business of the financial markets in London and their satellites. So much has become funny money, with the high margin production goods being more and more tied into government spending or as in green energy, preferential taxation.

So you have to choose your education, your career route, your spending  vs investment and even your choice of partner carefully if you want to have even the same standard of living as your middle class/skilled blue collar parents and making the right choices if you do not make it in the professions is a matter of taking an acceptable level of risk and investing in your own ability to make money in jobs and return on investment.