Melissa Witt | A Tribute to the Gold Standard of Friends

[Now Playing: “That Place” by The Lion’s Daughter]

“Our earthly bodies will surely fall
But the love we share outlives us all”
– “Only Memories Remain” by My Morning Jacket

Yesterday I stood at the gravesite at Rest Haven Memorial Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky in the pouring rain and said goodbye to one of the dearest people that I’ve ever had the privilege of calling a friend.

Melissa Witt was smart as a whip, quick-witted, funny as hell, curious about the world and how it worked, a brilliant artist and designer and a kind and loving friend. She could pick up new languages and their accents at the drop of a hat. When we went to Tulum, Melissa’s accent was so impeccable that people thought she was a local.

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Art Review of Rene Magritte: Something’s Not Quite Right

I’ve always been fascinated by the strange and subversive, so when I began to learn about Surrealism in art school, I was hooked. I pored over Dali paintings, spent a semester studying Frida Kahlo and fell in love with the beautifully executed, yet off-kilter work of Rene Magritte.

Rene Magritte (1898-1967) was a Belgian surrealist painter who explored the concept of the untrustworthiness of images. His work constantly pushes you to think, what am I really looking at? “The Treachery of Images,” one of Magritte’s most famous pieces, depicts a pipe, with the words “This is not a pipe.” The point here is that it’s not a pipe, it’s the image of a pipe.

surrealist painting, magritte, rene magritte, this is not a pipe

“The Treachery of Images”

Magritte Exhibit at the SFMoMA (May 19 – October 28, 2018)

Recently, I was lucky enough to attend the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Rene Magritte exhibit, which contained 77 of the surrealist master’s original paintings and drawings. I also opted for the audio tour, which contained commentary from the museum’s curators, people who were close to Magritte, and even famous artists like Jeff Koons.

The following is an amalgam of direct quotes and paraphrasing from the exhibit and audio tour, along with my own thoughts, reflections and commentary.  Continue reading

Eurotrip: Barcelona & Athens

Last month I had the extreme privilege of attending an international user experience (UX) research trip with my team. The locations were Barcelona, Spain and Athens, Greece. Some from our team also attended a third leg of the trip in Casablanca, Morocco, but I wisely planned on only two countries for this trip.

As I wrote this on a plane over the Adriatic Sea from Athens to London, I was completely exhausted after averaging 3-5 hours of sleep per night, was braindead after days of intense focus, observations, note-taking and discussions, and I missed my bed and animals. The experiences of traveling abroad are beyond compare, but the idea of returning to the comfort of home is intoxicating.

So what is UX Research?

Many companies in virtually every vertical do market research. User research is a little different, so here’s my informal definition.

tech research, user research, UX research, UXR, in person research

Tech companies that design products like apps and websites should not design and build them in a vacuum. They should be making decisions around a number of factors, two of which include data (logging how people actually use the product and drawing conclusions from that data) and user experience research (UXR), which just means talking to regular non-techy people about how they use our app. UXR encompasses a vast arsenal of techniques such as focus groups, on-the-street intercepts, in-home interviews, lab studies, usability testing, A/B testing and much more. The general goals are to understand how people perceive and use our products, and to get feedback on what they like, dislike, would change about our concepts, and how their ideal products would look and function.

So we did this work! For two days each in both Barcelona and Athens. We worked hard and gained a ton of useful insights.

Now for the Fun Stuff

I should be upfront that this was (gasp!) my first trip to Europe, so a lot of things I observed may seem run-of-the-mill to seasoned travelers, but I found them interesting, hopefully you will too. The following is a collection of my thoughts, observations and experiences from the trip.

British Airways Wants You Good and Drunk

plane flying, british airways plane, british airways, drunk on british airways Continue reading

I Went On a Date With a Professional Pickup Artist

A cautionary tale about the payoff for Googling people you date.

Jeff SUX, Jeff Allen, Jeffrey SUX, Jeffrey San Fransisco, PUA

The man of the hour

Monday night I went on a date in San Francisco with a guy I met on OkCupid named Jeffrey. The date was pretty weird, but the guy was a physical specimen so I took the strangeness with a grain of salt. Yet later in the week I had this nagging suspicion that something was off. After some heavyweight Googling, oh holy shit, this result popped up. 

The woman in this article went on a date with Jeffrey Allen, who, as it turns out is a 42-year-old professional pickup artist (PUA). He’s been teaching live dating bootcamps for men since 2003, has released DVDs and books, is a founding member of Real Social Dynamics (with Tyler Durden) and was a key player in Neil Strauss’s book “The Game,” a bestselling expose on the world of PUAs. In 2013, Jezebel also posted an warning article about this same man. Given that he was reticent to tell me what he did for a living, saying “I’m self-employed” and “I sell stuff on the internet,” this makes sense. Apparently part of what he sells online are T-shirts that say “beast mode.” Super.

While this woman was at the restaurant with him, he invaded her personal space and she told him that she would not allow that. She left the restaurant and by the time she made it to her car, he had texted her “kill yourself n*****.” To another girl who had met him online and cancelled before their first date he told her she was fat.

So, what was my experience with SF’s douchebag PUA extraordinaire?

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Welcome Home to Seattle

I recently moved to Silicon Valley to work at Facebook which has been an incredible experience. One of the perks of my job is that I’ll get to travel all over the world on user research trips. I also support a team located at Facebook’s Seattle office, which I visited two weeks ago.

nostalgist, seattle

My face when I’m judging bearded douchebaggery on Instagram. Credit: Jennifer Hanson

Seattle has been on my travel bucket list ever since I first obsessively listened to Nirvana’s “Nevermind” in my room as a kid. I should also mention that I’ve been dressing like this for the better part of ten years, so it really did feel like, as one bartender put it, “Welcome home.”

(To make it even more meta, I’m wearing a Nostalgist shirt, which is an amazing Seattle-based noir shoegaze band).

In a nutshell, the trip was dope. I got to reconnect with an old roller derby teammate and met a bunch of cool people while I was out and about. According to several sources, making friends in Seattle is not a terribly easy thing to do; the struggle is so common it’s been dubbed the “Seattle Freeze.” My only explanation for this is that over the past few years, I’ve discovered that I’m at my best when I travel alone. I’m more interesting, I’m funnier and apparently better looking. There’s also a little bit of magic in knowing that you may never see the people you meet again. Who cares?  Continue reading

I Smoked Weed in an Uber

Yesterday I had plans to meet a friend for drinks at a German joint called Der Biergarten in downtown Atlanta. Not wanting to deal with downtown parking or driving after a few steinfuls, I booked an Uber to pick me up from my house in Cabbagetown. Immediately after hitting “Request UberX” the driver calls me.

“Hi! This is Jared, your Uber driver. How are you?”
“I’m good, and you?”
“I’m great. So how are you?”
Pause. “I’m fine,” I say hesitantly, having not the slightest clue what is happening.
“I wanted to ask if it’s OK if I have a friend riding with me.” No explanation as to why.
“Yeah that’s fine,” I reply. My first thought was that he’s simply giving his friend a ride somewhere and is doing double duty. My other thought was that it’s probably just two dudes riding around like we used to do when we were in high school and the only things to do were drive around, or hang out in the Walmart parking lot or in the woods. I found out immediately that it was the latter. Continue reading

The Paper Route

 

There was a point when I was in elementary school that my mom was pretty much my best friend. When I first started school and she still had her paper route she would sometimes let me stay home sick so we could play hooky. We’d get McDonald’s for lunch and rent movies like Splash from Blockbuster. We’d laugh and joke. Probably make fun of things as we were wont to do. There’s a scene from the movie “Say Anything” when Diane Court’s father is trying to figure out what’s going on with her and he implores her, “You know you can say anything to me.” That’s how it was with my parents, I could say anything to them. 

I remember once I got old enough to start going out with friends and start making big girl mistakes they sat me down and told me: No matter what you do, what happens in your life whether you kill someone, get pregnant, rob a bank, anything. We will help you. I never forgot that.

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Trailer Haven

When I was really little, before I started school, mom worked a paper route and many times I would go with her. She would wake me up at three in the morning, make us each a cherry Pop-Tart wrapped in a napkin and a little glass of milk for the road. We would drive out to a bank where all the paper deliverers met and rolled their papers for the morning. Then we would drive through the Trailer Haven trailer park while it was still pitch dark and mom would cruise through the lanes and whip the papers out the window of her Toyota while she played Fleetwood Mac. Continue reading

44 Homocide-Inducing Corporate Jargon Terms

quick-fix-movie-to-watch-office-space-image

In June of last year, I started working as a copywriter and content creator for a gargantuan national retailer, by far the largest corporation I’ve ever worked for. Along with learning the veritable alphabet soup of job position and department acronyms, I started to become keenly aware of the liberal, one might even say egregious, use of corporate jargon.

The jargon goes far beyond laughable terms like “synergy” and “paradigm shift,” and has weaseled its way into everyday, non-meeting conversations. Some are barely noticeable, like physical tics, and others are so horrifying they make you want to move to Iowa and become a beet farmer, leaving the board rooms far behind. Continue reading

There Goes the Neighborhood

After three and a half years of living in Atlanta, I finally made it out of suburgatory and moved to the city. Not to say that my time in Chambodia wasn’t great; where else in the South can you get a car wash, a lap dance, and an authentic bowl of pho at 3 a.m.?

That said, my life has improved infinitely in the short time that I’ve been in the city. I’ve ditched the cuntadactyl of a roommate I was living with, adopted Humphrey

orange tabby, orange kitten, lazy cat, lazy kitten, sleeping cat

and threw a bitchin’ house party.

Please note that during this time I was in the longest sustained amphetamine-free blackout in personal history: roughly six and a half hours. Therefore most of this recap is a combination of speculation, pieced-together secondhand accounts, and several eyewitness reports.

white trash, ricky trailer park boys, trailer park boys, kenny powers, mullet

There Goes the Neighborhood

Enter at your own risk. Continue reading

Mescaline & Diarrhea: A Fuck Valentine’s Day Rant

cheesy romantic photo, cheesy couple, 80s couple

I could say that this is a bullshit holiday invented by capitalist pig greeting card companies and manufacturers of waxy, mediocre chocolates. These same companies that undoubtedly have contracts with Weight Watchers and 100 Calorie Packs, which as we all know, if you mow down a box of six, does not equal 600 calories. It’s science.

None of this is untrue, but there’s another side to this ugly die. Let’s all keep this in mind as we approach this miserable holiday:

Even when you are head-over-heels, shit-eating grin, dance around the house, window-licking in love, Valentine’s Day still sucks.

It never won’t suck. Continue reading