Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Thank you Jon Stewart, I couldn’t have said it better myself

Reflections on the September 29, 2011 Rolling Stone Interview

“If we amplify everything, we hear nothing”.  Thank you Jon Stewart for summing up in one sentence the exact sentiment that has been bouncing around in my head for awhile now, but hadn’t jelled into such an articulate thought.  I am exhausted from being yelled at constantly.  In this interview, this thought was directed at the 24 hour news cycle, and I agree.   Yet, as a self identified liberal, it doesn’t matter to me if it is Chris Matthews or Glenn Beck, I don’t want to be yelled at.  This also goes for the vast majority of commercials as well.  I am so very weary of everything being EXTREME!
I think I am just old.  Frankly, everything gets on my nerves just a little bit.  I understand this, I suck it up, and I get on with my life.  I don’t expect everything to always go my way.  Had things gone my way I would be a ballerina right now - a big, big ballerina.  Things have not gone my way most of the time, and I would argue that it was usually for the best.  The beauty of my life is that I never imagined how many astonishing things were in store for me.  Had I just picked a path and forced my way down it without regard for anything else that was going on around me and pushing aside everything that didn’t fit in my vision, I’d have missed probably 90% of what makes my life good and would have alienated most everyone along the way.
Here is what I say to the people screaming for my attention.  “I don’t listen to people when they talk to me in that tone of voice.  If you want me to listen, talk to me like an adult”.  This is what I told my kids when they were three and is still applicable.  If I want to be treated with respect, I have to demand it and then refuse to settle for anything less.  I make a conscious effort to avoid all television news (local, national, and cable) and stick with NPR.  They talk in normal voices and sound respectful, much like the people I work with every day, the people I come home to at night, and the people I deal with in public.  Another bonus is that they stay on a topic for more than 45 seconds so I can think about what they say.  Also, I have yet to have them ask me, “Is something you do every day killing your kids?  Join us tonight to find out”. 
Another mom-ism that I would like to share is, “You worry about you”.  I would address this specifically to the One Million Moms and all other bossy people who feel the need to tell everyone else how to live.   Ladies, while I disagree with you on almost every count, I sympathize with wanting to keep your kids innocent for as long as possible.  I too wish the media acted more like a partner than a preditor, but they don’t.  Part of you job is always going to monitoring your kids’ media exposure, using your teachable moments where you find them, turning off things that are not within your values, and having uncomfortable discussions about all sorts of things. 
Chaz Bono is not on "Dancing with the Stars" to glorify transgender lifestyles.  Chaz Bono is on "Dancing with the Stars" because his mom is famous and might show up to draw viewers.  The fact that Chaz Bono is transgender is a bonus to them and really only an issue if you make it one.  Ben and Jerry’s sells “Schweddy Balls” ice cream based on a hilarious skit on Saturday Night Live and you want it banned?  Yes it is crude and childish and kind of gross, but harmful to kids?  I don’t really think so, but if you do, then it is up to you to explain to them why.  Just don’t be too surprised if you someday find out they are talking about balls a lot behind your back, especially if they are little boys.  I have four brothers, so I feel I have some expertise.
But enough about the bossy people, the yelling people, the extreme people and the fear mongers.  I hereby opt to ignore them all and go on with my boring, normal life.  I need to go to work, pay my bills, work in my yard, visit with my friends, and keep this country going just like every other person I know.  I will honor and cherish all the other unexciting, regular people I know and be grateful that almost every one of them adds value to my life no matter their political affiliation or opinion on the day’s events.  I thank them all for appreciating me for who I am and agreeing to disagree on almost everything almost all the time.
The Butcher

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Ghosts of Jobs Past - Part 6

Ten random things I learned as a full time stay at home mom:

  1. There are a lot of things I will do for love that I will not do for money.  Change diapers, wipe snot, and read the same book over and over all fall into this category.  People who make their living serving the very young, or the very old, or the very sick deserve far more money, respect and gratitude than they get.
  2. My mom is an amazing woman.  She was able to raise seven kids on my dad's single paycheck.  What is even more amazing is that we all still like each other.  I am pretty sure there were times she wanted to smother us in our sleep. 
  3. I don’t care how remarkable your kids are, if you don’t talk with adults you will go insane.  Even lame adults are better than nothing.
  4. Childhood is both endless and over before you know it.  I am not sure how this works, but do your best to enjoy it while you can.  This goes for a lot of other things in life.
  5. You need to notice what your kids are doing right and tell them when it is happening so they can maybe do it again sometimes. 
  6. If the topic of jobs comes up in conversation with other adults, and you tell someone you are a stay at home mom, and they ask you if you have a real job, don’t strangle them.  Don’t yell either.  Just walk away.  They are not worth your time, they wouldn't understand either.
  7. You’d think “Dumbo” would be a safe movie to show a kid, but it is not.  In the first ten minutes the baby and the mom are ripped apart and then the baby spends the rest of the movie yearning for mom.  This is hard to explain to a sobbing pre-schooler.  We opted out of “Bambi”.
  8. Opportunities arise at the strangest times.  One of my kids insisted on nursing at the same time every night.  Luckily, old reruns of “Twilight Zone” were on at the same time.  I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them all, and that is a good thing.
  9. Whatever irritates you the most about yourself will manifest in your kids.
  10. You should always be the house where the kids hang out and play.  Just stock up on macaroni and cheese and juice boxes.  It is easier to spy on them this way. 
The Butcher

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Ghosts of Jobs Past: Part 5

Obsolete skills

After I stalled as long as I could in Lansing, I finally ran out of money and had to move back home and find a job.  I had managed to get an associates degree in photography, and eventually ended up landing a job at a local commercial lab.  Its name was Kibby lab.  It was a small place that worked exclusively with commercial clients and ad agencies.  They did a lot of large format printing and finishing, but what they really did best was dye transfer printing.  Dye transfer was an extremely exacting and precise process that was popular because it tolerated a lot of manipulation and allowed for retouching.  For more information you can read about it here: Dye Transfer Process.  It could also, with the help of hand cut rubylith masks, be used to create elaborate composites. 
I worked here for almost two years, and while I was there, dye transfer was the only game in town for glossy commercial images.  During the run up to car catalog season, it was not unheard of to work 12 or 14 hours a day for 6 or 7 days a week.  It was tedious, time consuming, and exacting work, but of all the complaints I had about that job, the worst was the smell.  This process used gallon upon gallon of acetic acid (vinegar basically), so every night I’d come home smelling like a pickle.  You would forget how badly you reeked most of the time, but if you stopped anywhere between work and home, you were reminded of it. 
After photo school, working in a production environment really forced me to up my game and taught me a whole skill set I’d have never learned in any school.  Every morning we’d start the machines, clean them, run tests on the exposing lights and processors and then calibrate everything so we were producing our separation negatives as consistently as possible.  We had to clean small chromes meticulously and make sure every surface was dust and fingerprint free.  Everything needed to be in perfect registration.  Even a little deviation in one of these steps meant that someone was going to have to adjust their exposures and times, or someone else would have to touch up your dust spot, or someone would have to try to manipulate the way the mats went down to correct for your registration inconsistencies.  It was important to take the time to prepare well to save time further down the process. 
I also learned a wealth of information about color correction, building composite images, and the art of cutting out one image to drop into another.  What I didn’t realize was that I was participating in the end of an era.  Digital photography, personal computers, and photo editing software were all just around the corner.  I was down in the trenches and didn’t notice that the photographic world was changing.  What I did realize was that I really didn’t want to smell like a pickle for the rest of my life (or work crazy long hours either for that matter).  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I was pretty sure I would need a bachelor’s degree to do it. 
After I’d been working in the lab for about 2 ½ years, I quit and went back to school at Wayne State University.  Unfortunately, the real and practical world of commercial photography had no place in the art world.  Craftsmanship, technique, consistency, and quality were given a back seat to concepts and vision and far less tangible things.  When I asked an advisor about my employment options after graduation, he looked at me like I’d pooped on his desk and informed me that a degree was not for getting a job but to explore and fulfill my artistic impulse.  I knew that I really had no business in art school, but played the game as well as I could and earned my Bachelors of Fine Arts in Photography in about two years.  
During my first year, I ended up getting married to the guy I’d met way back before I went to school in Lansing, and at the time of my graduation I was five months pregnant with my first daughter.  All the skills I’d learned both in the lab and in college were about to take a back seat to a much more daunting task.  Luckily, they stuck around just waiting for the day that Photoshop and I were destined to meet…
The Butcher

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Ghosts of Jobs Past - Part 4

Part time college jobs

I am one of the few people I know who moved away to go to community college.  I wanted to study film production, and there were all the expensive schools on either coast, but being the thrifty girl that I am, when I realized that there was a community college in state (Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan) that offered an Associates Degree in Film Production, I decided that I would go there.  Credits were under $13 an hour at the time (not a typo), and rent was pretty cheap, so I saw a way to move out with the savings I had from my accounting job.
This was more than thirty years ago, so we were shooting 16mm stock, having it processed, and editing actual chunks of film.  It seemed impossibly high tech and exciting at the time, but I had not counted on how expensive even rinky-dink little films cost.  Even then I was spending about $100 a minute for a finished film, and that was using friends for actors and borrowing all the school’s camera and sound equipment.  As my seemingly vast savings dwindled quickly, I came to two conclusions.  The first was that if I wanted to make films for a living I would be spending as much of my time begging for money as I would filming, followed by the realization that I needed to get a job fast, or I’d be moving home soon.
Over the three years I went to school at LCC (I eventually ended up getting a degree in still photography because I was not well suited to begging for money) I had a wide range of part time jobs.  I babysat, photographed weddings, sat in pitch darkness and spliced together huge reels of film that became driver’s licenses (no matter how bad my photo is, I have seen much, much worse) and even cut together a training film one of my instructors made (he had done all the editing and I put the A and B rolls together from his work print).  The job that stands out in my mind though was the 6 months that I spent as a phone solicitor for a cemetery.
Monday thru Thursday from 5 pm until 9 pm, myself and four or five girls just like me would sit at folding tables and attempt to set up appointments for the sales staff who would then offer a two plots for the price of one deal.  Needless to say, since we were calling at dinner time to discuss dying, we were not exactly popular.  From this I learned to take rejection.  It has also made me more empathetic to people with crappy jobs since I was always grateful to talk with someone who was able to say “no thank you” pleasantly.
What made this job memorable (besides the fact that the crematorium was in the next room with a temporary body storage room next to that and it got really dark out at night), were the team of women I worked with.  They were all fun and interesting and ready to hang out after work.  We dubbed ourselves “The Cemetery Girls” and that was the absolute best opening line ever.  We would go to the bar or to parties and just own the place.  We used to compare bad opening lines, and wound up with a tie between "Are you a model?" and "You have the lips of a fawn."  It was the first time that I realized that the people you work with can make a crummy job better or even great.  I really enjoyed it then, but had I realized how long it would be before I’d work with such an exceptionally entertaining group again, I’d have savored it so much more.  
The Butcher

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Touching Base

This has been a week of juggling a few things online.  My daughter wanted to sell some textbooks (the ones the bookstore wouldn’t buy back) on Amazon, so I now have an account to do that.  Out of the three she wanted to sell, two have been shipped already, so I am pretty happy about that. Amazon has an amazingly organized system.  You list your books for free, and when something sells, Amazon takes their fee (a fairly complicated system they spell out on their site), plus they collect a shipping fee from the buyer that will go to you once the transaction is complete.  Basically, the two books I sold went for a total of $24.00.  The Amazon fee was $8.28 and they collected $7.98 ($3.99 x 2) for shipping from the customers.  Once I figure in my actual shipping cost (around $2.60 each), I expect to realize $18.50 from the sale of the two books.  I found the fees to be kind of high, but it is hard to beat the audience the site has, and with the text book season being limited, I don’t mind paying it.
I’ve also been in contact with a possible customer for some custom work on Etsy.  When I first offered to do custom work on my site, I really had no idea as to how the mechanics might work.  Luckily, the lady I am working with is patient and is really helping me figure out a viable system.  She is interested in some 20” x 20” knit throw pillows with button closures.  I’ve spent one week knitting a big batch of swatches (she’s been pretty specific on her colors, but to avoid misunderstandings, actual samples seem like the way to go).  Once I got the color samples in the mail, I spent another week on an actual pillow, to make sure the size is right and to have an idea of scale when choosing the big, mismatched vintage buttons she wants.  Speaking of big, mismatched buttons, my stash is a little less varied than I’d like, so I’ve also been working with a lady on Ebay to purchase of a variety of colors and shapes.  I seem to be spending an excessive amount of time on this one sale, but by nailing down all the details now, I will be extra sure of my abilities to come up with a repeatable product.

Oatmeal, Charcoal, Espresso, and Plum Swatches

Previews of a future photo essay on drying tomatoes

Of all the things I need to do better across all social media, perhaps the most obvious it to add more photos.  The more blogs I read, the more I realize how important a visually appealing page is to keeping interest and adding to the written content.  For someone with a background in photography and graphics, you would think that this would come more easily.  Just the opposite seems to be true.  I think that this might be payback for all the snarky comments I’ve made over the years about poor design in general as well as all the poorly photographed and poorly edited images throughout the years.  Now that I am the one responsible for the content, I have a new found respect for how much time and patience it takes to accomplish even the simplest task well.  Thank you to anyone who has taken the time to comment.  I really appreciate your efforts and insites. 
The Butcher