September 21, 2016

Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog

A story told from the POV of a dog? What a silly concept!
I would never read something like that. But then a friend whose opinion I trust recommended it, so I got the Kindle sample and immediately upon finishing the sample, I ordered the book and just kept on reading. I couldn't put it down and didn't want it to end.
It's a touching, sweet story with Enzo, the sensitive and perceptive dog, as a reliable and engaging narrator. What a creative device!
Beautifully written, characters you root for, and a dog you want to take home. Even if you're not a dog lover.
Read this book!

September 7, 2016

Facebook: When is Enough Enough?

I recently got an email from a friend, regarding my Facebook posts, saying, "...enough photos of your view!"
If you're a Facebook friend of mine you've undoubtedly seen them because, yes, I've moved to a new apartment that looks out on the lakefront and Michigan Avenue, and I'm enamored of the view, so I post early and often. (Just in case you're not a FB friend, here's a sampling.)
Facebook is an interesting phenomenon; it's a place where you can post most anything you want; pictures of your kids, your food, your pets, your new job, the house you're trying to sell, your vacation, your feet on vacation...
You can rant about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or taxes or the CTA; you can state your political leanings where the whole Facebook world can see; you can laud someone's accomplishment, or tell us how humbled you are to win a big award; you can insult someone you disagree with, you can give us daily updates on your dying pet's treatments, and on and on.
I have friends who make incendiary remarks about the President, calling for impeachment. I don't think that has any place on FB. I have others who post nothing but pictures of themselves. I admit, I don't understand the fascination with one's own image, but...whatever. And then there are the ones who post daily updates on their medical conditions.
I don't necessarily want to read/see these things but we are all the arbiters of what's appropriate on our own Facebook page.
Some years ago, when my first book was published, I posted a lot about that on FB; talking about book signings and other events I was doing, posting links to good reviews, telling people about radio or TV (local cable) interviews, letting them know when it was on sale on Amazon...
People may have thought it was too much back then; too much about the same thing. Being published was a very big deal to me, but even I thought all that posting was excessive. It embarrassed me to do that kind of self-promotion, but the thing is, if you're lucky enough to have a traditional publisher, they expect that of you (unless you're JK Rowling or Nicholas Sparks, and then they'll do it for you). And if you self-publish, you'd better do it, because no one else will.
Back then a friend of mine, someone I considered my best friend, someone I'd known for 50 years, thought it was too much about me and my book. Hubris, she called it. She could have unfriended me on FB, or just ignored my posts, but instead she unfriended me in real life; ended our relationship. Of 50 years. Over Facebook.
That was devastating to me, and unfathomable.
Yes, that's extreme, but it's a choice. There are others: you can "hide" those posts that you feel are redundant, you can "unfriend" those people, or you can simply scroll past the things you're tired of looking at or reading.
We all get to decide when enough is enough.
That said, when I wake up in the morning and see the view outside my window I'm enthralled. Every day I tell myself I'm not going to post another photo of my view, but then I see this miracle outside my window and every day it's another version of spectacular, and I can't help myself.
So, if you're tired of seeing my pictures, I get that. It's new for me so maybe at some point I'll stop. But if you get tired of it before I do, just scroll past.
Unfriend me, if it really bothers you, but don't break up with me in real life. Over Facebook.

July 12, 2016

Dear Job Applicant...

Dear job applicant,
Thank you for your resume that lists your stellar qualifications as a self-employed handyman for 37 years. It's a pleasure to see such a stable work history.
Perhaps you didn't realize that you applied for the position of inventory planner. I'm looking through your resume for the 8-10 years' experience in demand planning and ERP/SAP system knowledge that are listed as requirements on the job posting, and I'm not finding that anywhere.
Did I miss that?
Samantha Hoffman

July 10, 2016

Theatre Review: Between Riverside and Crazy *****

I saw Between Riverside and Crazy at Steppenwolf Theatre on Friday night, right after the events in Dallas, and it was such a powerful and timely show. It's the story of a black cop who was shot by a white rookie cop. I stayed for the discussion afterwards and so I know how emotional it was for the performers. This is an amazing production, on all levels; the writing, the direction, the stellar acting, the set. I loved the subtlety of the directing – these characters could have easily been over the top, but all of the performances were perfectly understated and believable, and drew me in.
This is an amazing production, on all levels; the set, the direction, the stellar acting. I loved the subtle
finesse of the directing – these characters could have easily been over the top, but all of the performances were perfectly understated and believable, and drew me in.
One scene, in particular, stands out in my mind; it’s in the first act where all the action is at the table at the left side of the stage. Only Junior sits off to the right, alone, not engaged in the conversation, checking his cell phone, but listening, and his reactions to what he’s hearing are beautiful to watch – his face says so much with so little, without a single word. It's a gorgeous piece of acting
James Vincent Meredith
by James Vincent Meredith; the kind of acting that’s so authentic and adds so much dimension to a production. Eamonn Walker (above, who plays the Chief on Chicago Fire) sets exactly the right tone as "Pops." 

Five stars out of five for Between Riverside and Crazy.

July 6, 2016

Dear Job Applicant...

Dear job applicant, 
If you're looking for a position outside of your field of expertise, I get that - I've been in that position myself (a hundred years ago). 
But you're going to need to sell me. If you send me a resume for a customer service position and your only job experience is the drive-thru at Burger King, write a kick-ass cover letter showing me how that experience translates to my position. I promise you'll get a phone call.

And here are my top 10 tips for job seekers:

  1. Create a resume that’s easy to read, concise (bullet points are always helpful) and professional-looking. Avoid large blocks of run-on text. I will not read them.
  2. Put your resume in a professional format. If you can’t use Word, have your eight-year-old do it for you. Do not put your picture and/or graphics on your resume.
  3. Don’t list photocopying as a skill on your resume.
  4. Do not put three phone numbers on your resume. Unless you are Barack Obama or George Clooney I’m not going to chase you down. Give me one number to call and make sure you check it for messages.
  5. If the ad says send a cover letter, send a friggin' cover letter.
  6. In your cover letter, omit the phrase, “I am excited about your position…,” particularly when you’re over 25. Your excitement is of no interest to me.
  7. Don't grill me about the company in the phone interview. There's an assumption you actually read the ad you applied to - don't burst my bubble.
  8. When you're going on an interview, be on time. Do I really have to say this? If you have a problem, call me to let me know you're going to be late. 
  9. When you go on an interview dress as if you care. Even if you’re interviewing for cashier at the Stop ‘n Go, wear business attire, meaning a jacket and tie for men and a suit or dress for women.
  10. If you’re looking for a job, clear your damn voice mailbox. If I call you and get a message that says your “mailbox is full, please call again later,” you can be assured I will not be calling again later.

June 22, 2016

Movie Review: A Bigger Splash ***1/2

The acting is amazing in this film and the scenery is beautiful but it's a very strange story. Tilda Swinton barely speaks (her rock star character, Marianne, has had throat surgery) but she really doesn't need words, her face says everything.
Ralph Fiennes is Harry, a former boyfriend who shows up and ends up staying with Marianne and boyfriend Paul, the hunky Matthias Schoenaerts (you might not know his name but you know his face), and with Harry is a young woman they think is his protege but who is his daughter - the very sexy Dakota Johnson.
You can imagine what might happen with these four under one roof, but you might not imagine the ending.
Check it out.
Three and a half stars out of five for A Bigger Splash.

May 29, 2016

Movie Review: The Lobster ***1/2

I can't decide if I love The Lobster or hate it; it's creepy and gruesome and bizarre, but it's beautifully acted and directed, funny and romantic, and it's like nothing you've seen before.
This is a world where it's illegal to be single (good thing I don't live there) and people check in to a hotel where you must find a mate in 45 days, or be turned into an animal. David (Colin Farrell), arrives at the hotel with his brother Bob, who didn't find a mate and is now a dog.
There are lots of rules in this place (masturbation is strictly forbidden and is punished with a combination of a toaster and the offending hand) and lots of angst; after all, you only have 45 days to find The One. Even can't guarantee that.
When David isn't successful, he escapes to join The Loners, a renegade group of single people in the forest. This is where he meets his match, but romance is not allowed and has dire consequences.
And then there's the ending, which is even creepier than what we've seen so far, and possibly more romantic.
Three and a half stars out of 5 for The Lobster.