Saturday, August 30, 2014

Checking in With the Labor Search This Labor Day Weekend


It isn't that often that I deviate from the retro-related observations to post personal stuff on Go Retro but it's been my experience that the few times I have that my readers kind of dig it. I know that I like to get the person behind some of my favorite sites.

So what's today's personal topic about? Well, some of you may know that I was laid off earlier this year from my full-time job...in February, to be exact. For those of you know don't know, I was laid off earlier this year from my full-time job...in February, to be exact (giggles.)

The good news is I've been staying really positive through this particular tussle with unemployment. This isn't my first rodeo...it's my fourth. Do you think maybe the universe is trying to send me a message about seeking employment in corporate America?

Anyways, being that it's Labor Day weekend, I thought I'd do a little self check and update everyone on what I've been up to for the past seven months.

In all this time, I've only had one in-person interview, with a staffing agency. The interview itself went very well but it was disappointing because I thought I was interviewing for a marketing manager position for a small but growing manufacturing company. The advertised job opening said the person filling the role would be managing their social media channels, helping to name new products and promote them, and write copy for their collateral. It turned out to be nothing more than a copywriter position, for a less-than-exciting company. And the position has been posted on their site pretty much since I've been laid off, and I doubt anyone's been hired for it yet.

But that's not to say that I haven't been staying productive during this time off:

*I continue to manage the social media channels for a small consumer wares company and try to make it fun for their followers (product giveaways, contests, etc.) I also write posts for the company blog and attract PR and good juju for them through Twitter. I don't want to name them because the last time I did, the managers saw it in a Google alert and while I said only good things, it was still a little embarrassing. If you want to know who they are, just send me a private email.

*I got a (non-paying) writing gig with REBEAT Magazine, which is a lot of fun.

*I managed to get a paying writing gig through Craiglist, for a company that populates content sites with those slideshows accompanied by descriptive captions. I compile the photos and write the captions. It pays a few dollars per gallery depending upon the length, and you can pick and choose the ones that interest you. Hey, I'll take it...I have already made a few extra bucks and plan on cranking them out once my unemployment runs out. 

*I was a background extra, playing a nurse in a German TV miniseries that's been filming in my state over the summer. Last year I was a background extra in the upcoming Denzel Washington film The Equalizer and that was a little more exciting and lucrative, but the German miniseries gig was closer to my home and fun, easy money for one day of work. Apparently the Germans are really big on corny romance novels by a British writer named Katie Fford whose books get turned into miniseries for the country. Who knew? 

*While I've exercised regularly since my 20s, I vowed when I got laid off that I'd lose the muffin top I had attracted during the past 7 years at my last job, finally tone my abs and would get into really good shape. I ran my first 5K in May in 32 minutes, 23 seconds (a nice symmetrical number) and have lost seven pounds since losing my job...I'm sure that not having nearly daily temptations in the office such as a vending machine, doughnuts, leftover meeting snacks and homemade cookies helped contribute to that loss!

Which brings me to my next point...

When I was younger, I thought from time to time about becoming a model. People told me on occasion that since I was tall and thin and had nice features, I should try. I actually did, signing on with a now-defunct agency in the Boston suburbs. The only job I was ever offered from them was for a hair show, which I actually couldn't participate in since it was short notice and I worked at a hotel at that time, and it would have been impossible to get the day off. I also did local fashion shows for a small bridal shop...for free. So, when too many shows went by without any compensation from the owner, I quit and forgot about the dream.

As I got older, I noticed that older models were starting to become a commodity. More magazine used to run an annual modeling contest for women over 40. I told myself that when I was 40, I would enter it. That never happened because they discontinued it. But after reading articles about women who were able to launch modeling careers after the age of 40, I got really interested in it again. Not every client is seeking 21 year-old women who are six feet tall, weight 120 pounds, and wear a D cup sized bra. There is commercial modeling work...and companies who are promoting products to 40-something and older women want age appropriate people in their ads and materials. 

Now please know that I'm being realistic about the goal. As much as I'd like to make a commercial where I'm driving my Jag through a car wash to shampoo my hair and meet and marry a British rock star, I know that I can't be the next Pattie Boyd. And I'm still job hunting and prepared to take on a part-time position to supplement whatever modeling gigs I can get...or a full-time one again if it doesn't pan out.  

I have no idea if there's any demand for someone like me in an already extremely competitive industry. But I've met women who are shorter than I am and not much younger who gave gotten lucrative modeling work, and some of the women on the site of an agency I really want to work for are a dress size higher than me, older than me, and shorter than me. So I feel like I have nothing to lose, other than the money I shelled out earlier this week for a professional photographer to take photos of me to submit to sites. I think it would be a good experience for me...a chance to meet some new people, a way to work on my confidence, and who knows, maybe some jobs will get me involved in charity events or involved in other ways to help others. 

You only get one time around on the planet (or so I believe, anyway) so I gotta at least try. Who knows, a year or two from now I may be thinking of venturing into something else. And rest assured, Go Retro isn't going anywhere! 

That's the scoop. I hope everyone, whether working or not, is enjoying the Labor Day weekend!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mother's Little Helper: Vintage Drug Ads Aimed at Women


Something I've discovered recently is how many prescription anti-anxiety drugs were marketed towards women or their husbands back in the day, to ensure that housekeeping duties would not fall by the wayside. I guess it makes sense...as women became desperate housewives they had to deal with the stresses of keeping the house clean, getting the kids off to school and shuttled to extracurricular activities, and making sure a hot meal was waiting for their husband when he got home. Then as woman entered the workforce, they had to deal with a job on top of all of that. No problem, just take the little lady to the doc's to get a prescription for Butisol, Thorazine, or that old standby, Valium, and your kitchen floor will be shining again in no time. We've come a long way, baby...I think? Let's have a look...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Suddenly, Everyone Today is An Artist


Over the weekend I watched a lovely indie film released in 2009 called Local Color. It was based on the true story in the early '70s of an aspiring teenage artist who develops a friendship with a reluctant and rather coarse Russian artist, Nikolai Serov, as played by Armin Mueller-Stahl. Let me say right now that anyone who is a painter--and by painter, I mean those who can actually create something meaningful with paint on canvas WITHOUT the assistant of a paint bar (more on those in a minute)--should make this film required viewing. Seriously, make a point of renting this one from your local library because you will probably relate to a lot of what Mueller-Stahl's character says in the movie about creating art. It's also a wonderful coming-of-age story. 

From the film Local Color. Now that's more like it.
Besides that, the movie is pretty funny at times and there were two scenes that I thought were absolutely hilarious. The first is when  Serov is invited to judge a local art exhibition by his flamboyant art gallery owner friend, as portrayed by Ron Perlman (Beauty and the Beast) like you've never seen him before. As Serov meanders through the never-ending examples of head-scratching pieces of garbage passing for modern works for art, he grows increasingly frustrated and (before letting out a slew of expletives) finally declares the fan the only thing in the room that makes sense, slapping the blue ribbon onto it before leaving. 

The second scene is when Serov is showing the same friend a series of paintings that were done by mentally challenged children that he mentors--and is more and more amused as his friend praises the blobs of blue and red paint for their "anger" and "pain" like they were recently discovered masterpieces.

Which brings me to this "paint bar" craze that has popped up all over the U.S. in the past 5 years or so. To be perfectly blunt, if the real-life Serov (whose real name was George Cherepov) have lived long enough to witness this fad, he would have labeled it the nasty word that means ca-ca. In case you don't know what a paint bar is, it's an art studio where you reserve a date and time (which usually costs about $40) and the instructor gives you a limited amount of paint colors, and step-by-step instructions over the course of an hour or so on how to recreate the painting. Oh, they usually tell you to bring your own bottle of wine, so you can get sloshed during the session--I assume to distract yourself from how terrible your painting is, or delude yourself into thinking that you are an artiste (said in a French accent.)

How is this any different than the paint-by-numbers kits that were popular in the '70s...depicting Elvis...on velvet?


I know, I sound like a snob. But I have every right to be. My mother is a very talented painter--having worked with oil paints her whole life, and other members of my family were artists. I took painting classes in high school and college, so I can tell you that one does not become a talented painter in an hour. It takes years of dedicated practice. 

To be fair, some paintings offered by these gimmicky paint bars are much better than others. You can scroll through a website and choose which image you wish to duplicate, and I have seen some that approach professionalism. More often than not, however, these are cartoonish paintings that look like a child created them. I wish I could show one but many are copyrighted and I don't want to link to any paint bar. But for example, I saw one featuring two jumbled faces in a variety of awful colors you could choose to make that was called Paint Like Picasso. You get my drift. 

I do think paint bars are a wonderful way for people with little aptitude for creativity to dip their toes into art. However, after a certain point, if one really loves it so much why not try the real thing? I've known people who got addicted to paint bars and kept going back...kept paying $40 a pop for yet another awful looking creation. Why would you want anyone to think your 6 year-old nephew did the wall art for your living space? If you're willing to spend that much money, why not use it to buy some paints, brushes, and canvases at the local Michael's store, and then invest in a good instructional book on painting to elevate your skills? Or just head on over to YouTube, where the instruction is plentiful and FREE?

I mainly see these places as another sign of our instant gratification-dependent society (and one that rejoices in giving a medal to every child, because everyone is talented.) I really can't see how you can gather any sense of accomplishment after a visit from a paint bar, because they're not challenging enough. Wouldn't you rather stretch your mind and problem solving abilities by trying to duplicate a painting without the basic instruction? That's how one learns. 

It's like comparing a fast food meal to a gourmet, home-cooked one. When you're hungry, you can quench your appetite pretty quickly with McDonald's, but you may not feel so good afterwards about the sub-par ingredients you put into your body. Or you can crack open a cookbook and learn to make a healthy meal using your own hands. Which is ultimately more satisfying? 


The only real benefit I see to paint bars are the social aspect, and I get that. But paint bars seem like an insult to real artists who invested in years of work and dedication to reach the level they are at. When you watch those instructional artists on PBS, they're demonstrating different techniques with their brushes--the kid of tips you'll never pick up from a paint bar. I bet Bob Ross and Bill Alexander are turning over in their graves from this darned craze. 

Well, I guess I've bashed paint bars enough. All of this talk has kind of inspired me to dig out my oils and an empty canvas...but I'll leave the bottle of Riesling in the fridge. 

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