The Layering of LIFE

Hiking on the Matanuska Glacier in Alaska a few weeks ago, I was trying to capture the iridescent blue/green light coming through the ice below my feet with my Canon Digital SLR. I took a few shots, with different apertures, from different p.o.v.s, but knew when I put them on the computer the picture would flatten. The spectacular translucence would be lost—look like a blue/green patch on dirty white ice.

At a photography store in Anchorage a few days later, I asked the guy behind the counter how one could pick up that exquisite depth of field of the light coming through the glacial ice on camera. Can’t, he said. But you can create it in Photoshop. Layering the image multiple times should bring back some of the depth the camera can’t pick up.

Layering…

It was like a light bulb went on in my head. He was right, of course. The camera can’t pick up the photons moving through ice, only the ones reflecting off the surface. But the word LAYERING reverberated in my head, as I’d been thinking about layering for quite some time.

When I’m not writing fiction [or blogs], I’m developing and designing marketing and advertising campaigns. I recently created an illustration of sound waves using an image off Google. Simply adding filers to the image made it brighter, or weirder, but still left it rather…flat. I lifted another image of radio waves, and layered it over the sound wave, filtering it to 50% opacity. Then I went back to Google Images and got another light wave, and another, and layered them with effects too. As I built out the image, layer upon layer, the picture became richer, deeper, more 3D, almost in motion.

A while back my father took a painting class where students replicated a favorite work of a Great Master. Dad picked Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. It took him five months to paint, which upon completion looked virtually identical to the real one.

How did you do that? I inquired upon seeing his work. Did you know your could paint like that? My dad had been a weekend painter most of his adult life. This class, a first since college, was his attempt in retirement to reinvent himself as an artist.

No! He practically giggled with delight. Honestly, this teacher was fantastic. She taught us all about Layering, from when the Romans began using it, to the Masters to the Impressionists. I’ve been painting for 40 plus years layering two, maybe three colors or tones. But in some areas on this canvas I must have used fiftyHe proudly showed me highlights on the girl’s face that nearly glowed, bringing her right off the canvas, as in Vermeer’s original. It’s all in the layering, my dear, he’d said back then with a grin.

Layering…hmm…

I’ve always been scared of old age. The prospect of getting old is so terrifying, at times not getting there seems the better option—hasten the end than drag it out with modern medicine. Watching my mother die of cancer and my father age hasn’t been pretty. It’s pretty scary. And I’m right behind them. Other than senior discounts, the upside of aging seems rather illusive.

Driving my daughter and her teammate to soccer last Friday, they chatted in the back seat about science class, both amazed by the video of Neil Armstrong on the moon, each trying to quote his words upon stepping on the lunar surface for their test on Monday. They didn’t know he said it grammatically wrong. They hadn’t been there to see the grainy black and white image turn upside down on TV. They hadn’t held their breaths, or felt the collective sigh of a nation, and of the world, when our astronauts returned safely home. They hadn’t experience the layers of that moment, that day, all the days of the moon mission, or the ones leading up to it, or since, for the most part.

Mankind’s first steps on anything but our home planet is a mere footnote to the two 5thgraders. The video image they watched in Science was a flat view of a definitive leap in human history. I’ve learned an undeniable gift of adulthood is understanding the significance of a given moment because of the layers of experience proceeding it. At 10, kids images are still just forming, their depth of field still limited to what reflects them, like the photons on the glacial ice.

Living through the moon landing created a page, a layer, a memorable slice of my time. Aging’s saving grace may be these collection of moments of living, layered upon each other, giving, if not wisdom, at least a broader range of knowledge and experience for a vibrant life picture.

jcafesin.com

Facebook and Ageism

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I applied for a Marketing Copywriter position at Facebook about a year ago, 20 years after my first Creative Director position out of college. Facebook rejected me. Bewildered, as I had every qualification, through experience, creating and implementing hundreds of successful campaigns, I asked the HR woman why I was rejected.

“We are looking for someone less qualified.” Her response.

Hmm…Less qualified. Why would that be? We’d discussed no salary expectations. In fact, FB’s job app didn’t ask me for any. Someone at FB had looked extensively at my online portfolio, as I had a huge spike in page views, from one source, in Menlo Park, according to Google Analytics. The HR woman began her personal rejection email with “Your portfolio is amazing! However…”

What she meant was, “We’re looking for someone younger.”

It probably shouldn’t have hurt as much as it did, since I wasn’t actively job hunting when I answered the FB ad. That particular day, I’d had an argument with my DH about finances. He didn’t want me to quit writing fiction for a full time job. I didn’t want to quit fine writing either, but selling fiction isn’t likely to get our kids through college, especially our daughter, who plans to become a cancer researcher, which requires a doctorate.

What stung so much, was their acknowledgment that it wasn’t my skill set they were rejection, but my age. Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, who is now over 30 years old, which, according to his own words, makes him stupid, addled, and a bad employment investment.

Hmm…why would anyone with half a brain say such things? Oh, I know, at 22, he only had half a brain to work with. OK. I’ll give him ¾. No. ⅔. His parents were wealthy before Mark, and provided him with every opportunity for success. (Hardship generally stimulates faster brain maturity, requiring creative survival – thrive solutions.)

The problem with 20-something brains— their neural connections aren’t fully established yet. Until our 30s, decision making skills, complex reasoning that only comes with life experience, as well as regulating impulse control are just a few of the skills young people generally lack. Additionally, different areas of our brain peak (and degrade) throughout our lives. Even by Zuckerburg’s simplistic view that youth is smarter, thinks faster (his level of cognitive complexity in accordance with his age), at 22, he’d already passed his prime. His brain’s raw speed data processor peaked at 19. And he was still 20-30 years away from the ability to evaluate other people’s emotional statepsychology being the cornerstone of marketing.

Well, our omniscient Zuckerberg built a global company, his converts proclaim. And that he did. He started FB in 2004, at Harvard, copying the site Hot or Not, which put up pics of students, female students at the time, next to each other for other students to vote which was hot, and not. As a woman, and mother to a daughter, WTF, Mark! But as a purveyor of human behavior, I get that, like teens, young adults are often still motivate by appearance, not substance. (The debate over the intrinsic value of Facebook is ongoing. It’s contribution to humanity seems rather nominal, and it’s social platform a proven productivity sinkhole in business.)

Mark was verging on 30* when FB became profitable through PPC advertising revenue. And Zuckerberg didn’t make that happen alone. Almost 40 yr old, Peter Thiel, invested half a mill in 2005, and helped The Facebook 20-something founders get $13 million in Accel Partners financing a year later. And you can bet, Accel didn’t leave it solely up to Mark and his young crew to make them billions.

Mark doesn’t proselytize this truth. He’s now old/smart enough to know that if you stroke the ego of the young, which is still fragile and forming, you’ll get them to work 24/7 (though studies show working long hours does not improve productivity, and hurts a companies bottom line), for a 5th of the salary he’d have to pay experienced pros. Young people aren’t particularly gifted, talented, or brilliant, for the most part, as Zuckerberg professes, even today. They’re cheap to employ.

Facebook is among the top 100 H1B visa filing employers of foreign workers. Not because Chinese and Indians know more, as tech is an emerging market we are all learning dynamically, but, again, because they are cheap labor, a 10th of a U.S. Worker’s salary and benefits. (Specific H1B visa numbers are extremely hard to obtain, as corporations are legally allowed to withhold this information from public scrutiny.)

Mark is growing up, though like most boys, his mindset seems stuck somewhere between his teens and 20s, his arrogance no doubt compounded by his early success. Limiting FB hires to young (and immigrant) workers is immature at best. Study after study show older employee’s productivity, creativity and reliability is equal to or higher than that of their younger colleagues.

*Reid Hoffman was in his late 30s when he started LinkedIn in 2003. Even with 4.7 mill in Series A funding, it wasn’t until Hoffman was in his early-40s that LinkedIn became profitable.