Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Value of an Online Portfolio

Have you ever thought about creating an online portfolio of your work? Well, don't think twice, because this could be a valuable asset during your recession (or any time) job hunt. While I have yet to land a job, I'm playing the waiting game with some potential employers where I've interviewed as I write this, and getting to the interview stage is a pretty big accomplishment in my book.

If you work in an industry such as public relations where you create visual and/or textual products, then having an online portfolio of work samples is a must. I wasn't sure if this would help me impress potential employers, but I did want to have my work readily available somewhere other than on my own hard drive. As it turns out, every employer that has contacted me so far has asked if I can show them work samples. And, they have seemed to like that I give them a quick dot-com ( where they can check out samples just by clicking on thumbnails of news releases, graphic design projects and more.

We'll see if this all becomes part of something that leads to finally getting work in the field, but it's definitely nice to have this resource to set you apart from others who might not have samples readily available. In the current job market, anything you can do to prove your work ethic and value to potential employers must be done, so stop waiting! Go create that online portfolio now!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Joss vs. J.J.

There are a few Joss Whedon vs. J.J. Abrams articles out there on the Web, but most of them seem quite hastily done and just don't seem to live up to my expectations. Therefore, I decided to look at the body of work of these two cultural icons (for us geeks anyway) to determine just which one has the edge as being the coolest creator of nerdy needs in the galaxy. Who is the true geek? Let the ultimate battle begin!

Round One — Television

Joss Whedon
Roseanne — we'll forgive him for taking part in the writing of one of the most-annoying shows in history starring one of the most-annoying women in history (she ties with Rosie O'Donnell).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer — one of the greatest shows of all time with one of the largest followings of all time.

Angel — a spinoff that met mixed reviews, but it spun off from previously mentioned great show.

Firefly — judging by DVD sales of the one-season-long series and the success of the movie that resulted from this series, the cancellation of this amazing space show with a Wild West feel might have been one of FOX's biggest mistakes ever.

Dollhouse — Whedon's new show on FOX had an exciting, amazing first season that generated a lot of buzz among action and science fiction fans, though its similarities to the first season of Abram's Alias are a bit eerie. (AND ELIZA DUSHKU!)

The Office — yeah, Joss directed some episodes of what might be the funniest comedy ever to grace NBC.

J.J. Abrams
Felicity — a girl struggles to become a woman. Yeah, not so nerd-pleasing, for the most part.

Alias — Jennifer Garner stars as the ultrahot Sydney Bristow in this double-agent thriller. However, the series completed a sort of U-turn around the fourth season that continued until the end of the final fifth season and become less of an action-oriented spy show and more of a science fiction mishap worthy of ridicule on Mystery Science Theater.

Lost — a brilliantly engaging show that leaves viewers with 10 new questions for every answer an episode provides. The characters are deep, interesting and interact in believable, engaging ways. This is the ultimate show for people who love twists and turns at every corner, mixed with plenty of action, emotion and science ficiton.

Fringe — basically The X-Files redone in Abrams' own style. The show is relatively new, so there is still time for it to develop into something better.

The Office — yep, J.J. has guest directed Michael Scott and company as well.

What About Brian, Six Degrees and Anatomy of Hope — failure, failure and what will likely be a failure.

Round One winner: Joss Whedon. Basically every TV show he touches is delicious. Abrams, on the other hand, creates decent stuff, but only Lost can truly be considered a masterpiece while plenty of his other work can be deemed garbage. It should be noted, of course, that Abrams actually doesn't do a whole lot of the writing for Lost.

Round Two — Movies

Joss Whedon
Buffy the Vampire Slayer — a movie based on a highly entertaining and largely successful show.

Toy Story — before CG cartoons became the norm, the originality and hilarity of Toy Story put it in the history books as a classic tale.

Alien Resurrection — we could probably have done without the sequels generated from this franchise.

Speed, Waterworld, Twister, X-Men — all great movies in their genre (say what you will about Waterworld, but it is a fun watch), though Whedon is not credited as the writer of these films and denies that he wrote them. The writer of Speed claims Whedon wrote the dialogue for that film, and Whedon says only a couple of his original lines for X-Men made the final cut. Just for being mentioned around these films, though, Whedon has to get some points, right?

Serenity — the film version of the Firefly TV series. This one is good as a standalone or for the die-hard fans of the show. The quirky characters and story that isn't so run-of-the-mill space battle as it might seem at first glance all make this film a must-see.

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog — this one is available on Hulu right now if you haven't seen it! This neat little humorous musical starring Neil Patrick Harris will leave your sides hurting, your heart warmed and your face smiling.

Note: Whedon has been involved with a couple of smaller movie projects and upcoming titles, which we'll go ahead and skip over here for the sake of time.

J.J. Abrams
Forever Young — the all-star cast in this flick probably make it better than the cryogenic screenplay should have.

Armageddon — this is a film almost everyone has seen and loved. Made-for-TV rip-offs and even movie execs have tried to recreate the feel and basic storyline of Armageddon without ever making anything a tenth as good. Bruce Willis and Aerosmith's hit single "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" didn't hurt either.

Mission: Impossible III — like all M:I movies before it (and probably after it), it wasn't anything to write home about, but it was entertaining and action-packed. Here's to hoping Tom Cruise gets abducted by the aliens before he has a chance to star in the next one, though.

Cloverfield — for all the hype generated preceding this movie, it was highly disappointing. The overall concept had been done before a thousand times (Godzilla, anyone?), and it had been done better.

Star Trek — if taking the original Star Wars trilogy and cramming it into one movie is considered genius, then Abrams had it right here. If it's considered cheap, boring to sci-fi fans and — well, that's mostly what it was. This film was critically acclaimed and loved by many — many people who probably weren't realizing they liked the film so much because they loved Star Wars almost as much as J.J. Abrams does.

Note: Abrams has been involved with some lesser-known films and has several projects in the works.

Round Two winner: Joss Whedon, barely. Both Joss and J.J. seem to have done their best work early on in their careers when it comes to movies. However, overall, Whedon's work is more varied, original and creative.

Round Three — Other Important Work

Joss Whedon
Astonishing X-Men — this new comic series in the Marvel universe was created specifically for Whedon to begin as the writer, and it won several awards and became the best-selling X-Men title during Whedon's 24-issue reign. Among other important story arcs, Whedon brought back fan-favorite X-Man, Colossus.

J.J. Abrams
Music — Abrams worked on the theme for Alias, Lost, Felicity and Fringe. He has written music for films since age 16.

Round Three winner: Joss Whedon. Being a comic book writer is a heckuva lot cooler than being able to write music. If you don't agree, I know some mutants who would love to meet you....

Round Four — Fake Advertisements

Joss Whedon
Fruity Oaty Bar — Firefly/Serenity fans will remember this one.

J.J. Abrams
Slusho — the best thing to come out of Cloverfield?

Round Four winner: Joss Whedon. His fake commercial is just cuter and catchier, and we all know we like it when River breaks bad.

Round Five — Dorkiest Look

Joss Whedon
Balding Irish creeptastic pedophile look.

J.J. Abrams
Horn-rimmed glasses mixed with a goofy face and haircut.

Round Five winner: This one is really a tough call. Do you go for the Conan O'Brien wannabe or the guy who looks about -1/10th as cool as he looks like he thinks he does? I think we have to rule out creepy looking dorky and go with the guy who has more confidence than actual good looks (just like all of us true dorks out there). J.J. Abrams finally wins one.

Overall Winner: Joss Whedon, 4-1.

Agree? Disagree? State your claim in the comments.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

10 RSS Feeds You Need

For some, the whole idea of using really simple syndication feeds has yet to catch on. However, these feeds are a great way for you to quickly browse what new information a source has put out since the last time you visited its Web site without actually ever having to visit the site. A quick search will reveal plenty of ways for you to collect the feeds, and some people use feed readers that collect hundreds of RSS feeds. However, to avoid getting to bogged down, I get some news via Twittter, Facebook, e-mail updates, and I use RSS feeds only to check about 10 sources. This way, I diversify the ways I get information in hopes of not missing something that I might not get if I used only RSS feeds.

Now, when you are following only 10 RSS feeds as I am, I have found that the perfect way to do this is to use the "View Feed XML" link that you normally see when you click the RSS button on a Web site. Here, you can get an option to add the feed to Firefox's toolbar, which leaves me with 10 feeds in my Web browser's tool bar that I can quickly and easily drop down to check for new content. In case you are unfamiliar with RSS feeds, basically what I see when I drop down is a listing of the most recent posts on that site in headline format. Then, if I decided I actually want to read one of those stories, I can click the link and open up the actual page. Otherwise, I'm caught up on what that source has to say for now, and I know I haven't missed out on a story that might have interested me.

So if I had to narrow down to only 10 feeds to recommend you start out with in terms of RSS? I would provide the following list:
  1. Relatively Journalizing
  2. Your local newspaper. For me, it's The Roanoke Times.
  3. A friend's blog. This will help you stay updated on their life and keep in touch.
  4. A second friend's blog. You do have another friend, right? If you don't you could follow No Use For a Headline.
  5. Your favorite sports team or conference. I keep updated on the ACC and my Virginia Tech Hokies via ESPN's ACC blog's own RSS feed. Virtually everything on their site has a separate feed you can follow.
  6. If you're in college, recently graduated or just like the perspective of young creativity, I recommend Student Bloggers. Otherwise, your favorite nonprofit, political cause or professional organization is sure to have a feed.
  8. The Quad (NY Times' blog), especially for college sports fans. And who isn't?
  9. 10,000 Words, where journalism and technology meet.
  10. Be flexible here. If you don't follow CNN on Twitter, maybe you want to get their RSS updates. You can even get Facebook updates via RSS. Perhaps your profession has some blogs you want to add here or put in place of the journalism ones I mentioned above. The point is, be diverse in your media intake and don't be afraid to try out something that might sound scary at first such as RSS feeds!