Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reality Bites Less

There are times when it becomes painfully obvious what a good thing it is that I don't have children. Take, for instance, this neglected blog. If I tended to a kid the way I tend to my blog, one of us would be in jail by now.

Speaking of raising kids and how I know nothing about it, have you seen all the lousy parenting going down on Too Fat For Fifteen: Fighting Back? Wait a minute, you've never heard of TFF15:FB? How is that possible given that it airs in what is commonly referred to as the "real primetime," 4:00 a.m. Mondays on the Style network? Are you already using all available tuners on your DVR at that hour to record Shark infomercials? Well, buy a Dyson and free one of those tuners up, because you should really watch this show, if only to give me someone to talk to about it.

But first, a few disclaimers. As the overwrought title might suggest, it is not a particularly well-produced program. It's technically an hour-long drama, but once you fast-forward through all the commercials and extensive Dateline-esque "Coming Up!" bumpers, it's only thirty minutes. And while it is a reality show that follows obese teenagers at fat-camp boarding school, none of those kids is actually fifteen. I'm also not sure what exactly they're fighting back at. Poverty? Injustice? The system? Probably not. If these kids are fighting anything, it is themselves.

But the show's low production value is what makes it so good and, seemingly, one of the more "realistic" reality shows I've ever seen. Sure, the editors took some creative liberties with timing in an effort to create a story line--which is most apparent when the length of one boy's hair changes from scene to scene. But it's nice that, compared to other reality programs, there are no convoluted competitions or teams or alliances or producer-encouraged binge drinking to up the dramatic ante. It is just fat kids at boarding school. Most of them do not want to be there, yet they admit that, at home, they were teased and bullied about their weight. All of them want to lose weight, but, like adults, most struggle with committing to the actions necessary to meet their goals. It's interesting that, as kids, they don't have a lot of the fat excuses you hear from adults on The Biggest Loser, like stress at work, never taking time for themselves, baby weight, etc. While these kids sometimes whine and cry about their new fitness "program," they all seem to accept the fact that they are heavy because they eat too much and exercise too little. For me at least, it was a lesson in taking responsibility for how you got where you are, weight-wise and otherwise.

And then there's the parents. The parents--who come from a variety of backgrounds--have suffered endless criticism. I'm willing to give them a little credit. For one, they are interested in the well-being of their children. The tuition for the boarding school is more expensive than that of most universities, and one family had to cash out the father's 401K to send their 510-lb. daughter to the school. But the more you get to know the highlighted kids, the more you realize how each of their problems stems from the way they were raised. First, all of the parents are also overweight. Second, it is clear the parents expect their kids to stick to the "program" but have no intention of eating healthier themselves or exercising with the kids. As a result, most of the kids thrive while away at school but regress when back in the home, and then the parents have the nerve to criticize them for gaining weight. Why should the kids be expected to resist temptations the parents are not willing to resist (or even remove from the home)?

There are other issues. Terrina's Seminole Tribe sent her to the school. We never meet her mom but by all accounts (and all accounts are Terrina's), she's a lousy drunk and Terrina has spent her life acting up in order to get a modicum of attention. Terrina is 17 and has tattoos up and down her arms. I've got nothing against tattoos (unless they are of Looney Tunes characters, that is) but I'm surprised one could have so many before reaching the age of majority. Terrina suposedly lost a lot of weight her first year at the school, but the show begins during her second year, where her commitment is nominal at best. Although she's definitely a driven person, we're not given a lot of hope at the end of the season that she'll apply that drive to anything worthwhile.

Scotty, 13, has NEVER been told no by his mother. As a result, he has the mentality of a toddler and literally throws an embarrassing crying tantrum every time he is asked to exert himself. He loses a lot of weight at school despite giving about 30% of the effort of the other kids, but then goes home for the summer, lets everything slide, and gains 20 lbs. within a week. Mom tells him the "cheap" scale must be wrong and takes him to the doctor where they weigh him again and tell him he's gained 22 lbs. Mom theorizes the doctor's scale is also wrong, then stresses out so much about how what should have been a "happy day" for Scotty has turned bad that she starts bawling herself.

Emily is only 11, yet her wealthy parents sent her away to the boarding school, making her the youngest student there. She's basically told she will be in a boarding school-summer camp-boarding school cycle until she reaches the magical weight of 120 lbs. As you can imagine, being separated from one's family at such a young age is very difficult, and Emily struggles with homesickness like crazy. The joke's on the parents, though, because, having sent their little girl away to live with sassy teenagers, they essentially get a sassy teenager back. On her trips home, she talks back to them, swears, gets her nails done and her hair highlighted, and otherwise behaves to my great entertainment. I don't think they ever found out that she essentially went to the boarding school's version of a prom with a boy--yes, at AGE ELEVEN. She was one of my favorites, though, and she really flourished, both socially and on the program, and she lost a lot of weight.

But as much as I love Emily, nothing compares to Miss Tanisha, age 17, the most inspiring person ever to grace reality television, and the real reason to watch the show. If you don't believe me, read all these gushing comments on a Facebook fan page for her. Do you think Snooki's fan page reads like that? Because it doesn't, it really doesn't. In the first episode, Tanisha is identified as the largest student they've ever had at the school. She can barely walk due to a disease she has, compounded by her weight, and has to be driven from her dorm to the cafeteria. All the kids track their progress by how fast they can walk/run a mile--her first time it took her something like an hour and forty-five minutes. But Tanisha arrived on campus fully committed to changing her life, and her commentary is always positive rather than preachy. By the end of the season/semester, she is 130 lbs. lighter [they emphasize slow and steady weight loss on the show, so don't expect to see Biggest Loser numbers], walks everywhere, busts dance moves with her classmates and sisters, swims all the time and is just such a lovely person. When she goes home for the summer, she continues losing weight and even resists temptation on her family's many trips through fast food drive thrus (subconscious sabotage, anyone?). I dare you to watch the episode where Tanisha asks to participate in a local 5K--one which the other kids are moaning about having to participate in--and is told she can't for health/liability reasons. And I dare you to watch it without crying. I DARE YOU!

Well, I wasn't intending to recap/spoil the whole season, but whatever. For all its imperfections, I really like the show and, as I'm participating in my own "program," sometimes referred to as a "diet," it has been good to realize that if those dorky misfit chubby kids can do it, so can I.

Also, my renewed legal career has caused me to resume judging all contributions towards anything on an hourly basis, and given the hours I've "billed" to this blog post tonight, I feel good about neglecting it for another month. Happy Halloween! And, just to be safe, Happy Thanksgiving!

Time to go bill some sleep.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


It's been a long time coming, but I FINALLY updated my website with a list of shops that are now carrying some of my screen prints, bags and cards (the selection varies according to shop). If you're in the neighborhood of one of these fine retailers, be sure to drop by and check out all their fabulous wares. Remember, only YOU can improve the economy through good old-fashioned American consumerism. (Heaven knows I'm doing my part.)

Edited to add: UGH. I slept in a bit today and then got up and redid the website, which always takes longer than expected, and then posted this and only after it was posted did I look at the date. Kind of a cheesy post given the occasion and I'm sorry for that.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eyes Alive

I apologize for the lack of recent posts. As some of you have already heard, I recently (and thankfully) landed a full-time job in my other profession (re: as a lawyer). Other than the fact that parts of my brain, dormant for the past nine months, are a little sore from being called to active duty, things are going just peachy at the new gig and I couldn't be more happy with how things are working out.

But as some of you also know, I don't blog about my day job, which leaves me nothing of late to blog about. Except for maybe...

My new Kat Von D eye primer. I know, I know, I'm not a product blogger, but bear with me for this one. I realize that some people like Kat Von D and some people really dislike her. It seems that most of the people who fall into the latter category base said dislike on the fact that Ms. Von D has stars on her face, while the general population has no stars upon thars. To those people, I will recommend Dr. Seuss's The Sneetches and leave it at that. But whether you like Kat Von D or dislike her or are indifferent or don't even know who she is, you have to admit that the woman takes her eye makeup very seriously.

Such was the logic running through my reignited brain when I recently wandered into my local Sephora (which is not too hard to do since it's one elevator ride and 34 steps from my front door). You see, I've been having a bit of a problem with my eye makeup starting out on my eyes but ending up on the rest of my face within a few hours. Friends and family have recommended various primers and so I went to Sephora to do a little comparison shopping. And that's when I ran into Kat--or, more specifically, a cardboard cutout of her likeness hawking her new makeup line for Sephora.

I couldn't help but notice that Cardboard Kat was wearing a LOT of eye makeup--artfully applied makeup, mind you (I mean, she's a famed tattoo artist after all, so I'm sure it follows that she's pretty handy with a liquid liner brush)--but just gobs of it. I'll bet Kat is making weekly trips to the MAC counter to trade in her empty eye shadow containers under their recycling program. If anyone ever needed an effective eye primer, it is Kat Von D. And so Cardboard Kat convinced me to purchase her product (namely, High Voltage Eye Primer in Skin; the one pictured above is in Smoky) instead of all the ones recommended to me by real, non-cardboard people that I know and trust.

And do you know what? Cardboard Kat was right. I tried it out today and it was uh-MAZ-ing. First, it made my eye makeup so much more vibrant than normal. In fact, my makeup was so vibrant and yet my job was still so new that I grabbed a cotton ball and tried to wipe off a bit. Guess what? It didn't budge. It's going to take some industrial paint thinner to get this eye makeup off before bed, but it's still worth it. Do you know why? Because it's almost bedtime and yet my too-vibrant eye makeup is still, for the most part, intact. It sure beats greasy raccoon eyes.

And so, I know I'm not a product blogger, but this was seriously one of those "How did I ever survive without this?" consumer moments.

And, admittedly, I had nothing else to report...

Friday, August 20, 2010

INTERVIEW: Megan Eckman of Studio MME

By far the smartest thing I did when moving to the Bay Area earlier this year was to join the SF Etsy Street Team immediately upon arrival. I've met a ton of local artists through various SF Etsy events and feel like I know even more through the team's happening email listserv. Our fearless yet friendly leader, Jen of Mama's Magic Studio, deserves serious props for all the time and energy she puts into the team.

A week or so ago, team member Katherine had the brilliant idea of organizing a blog interview exchange where, as you probably guessed, team members pair up and interview each other on their respective blogs. I was fortunate to be paired up with Megan Eckman of Studio MME, whom I had met at Renegade just a few weeks prior. As you will read, Megan's a real pro, and I feel so lucky to be able to spiff up my blog with some of her lovely work.

(Megan talks about painting this little Scottie on her own blog, and she uses it on
Etsy to illustrate a listing for a custom portrait of your pet.
I, however, would like a custom pet created from this portrait.
Is that possible?)

RN: Tell me a little about your background as an artist. MME: I grew up with an artsy father and a not-so-artsy mother who enrolled me in every art class our North Dakota city had to offer. I continued taking art classes all the way through college when I graduated with dual BA degrees in creative writing and drawing.

RN: What is your favorite medium? Have you tried any new techniques lately that you've just fallen in love with? MME: I've been in love with pen and ink for the last 3 years but am now being drawn over to the Wacom tablet and Photoshop side (no!!!). I hope to be able to merge the two to allow me to work more diversely for freelance work.

RN: What are your thoughts on the business-side of being an artist? MME: I truly believe that it's AS essential as the artist part. My mother is a business major and she made me a deal that she would fully support me getting two artsy degrees if I opened a business before I graduated. It was the best deal I ever made! The best thing about being a professional artist is sharing my work with other people and seeing it hung up either on their walls or the walls of an art gallery. The worst thing is the constant hair-pulling that comes from trying to think of new ways to get your work in front of the public. I'm just lucky I have fast-growing hair or else I'd be bald.

RN: Do you have any tips for people just getting started on an arts or craft business--things you wish you had done or known from the get-go? MME: I certainly wish I'd known about SEO and keywords when I started. I took all the time to build my own website and then had to write all the content over again because it wasn't being found by google search bots. So, spend a few weeks researching and writing BEFORE you jump into anything. Believe me, you'll save so much time later. [As someone with a copy of SEO for Dummies on her nightstand, I couldn't agree more.--RN]

RN: I saw on your blog that you recently moved to the Bay Area (me too!). Where did you come from and what brought you here? MME: I moved all the way from North Dakota with my boyfriend, who will be attending San Jose State University for their photography graduate program this fall. I think, in my heart, I will always be a Midwest girl, but I'm certainly already in love with the Bay Area.

RN: What's your opinion on this chilly summer weather? MME: Haha, what cold summer? It was sweltering for me! I've never had to wear so much sunscreen and giant hats. I think you all need to go up to North Dakota and experience our -40 F winter days. You'll think anything's sweltering after six months of that.

RN: And just for fun, what's your prediction for the next "it" animal on Etsy (i.e., in the grand tradition of owls, deer, octopi and foxes)? MME: Ooh, good question. I heard rumor it was going to be a sloth but I hope it's a giraffe. I think that animal could use some attention again.

As a reminder, you can learn more about Megan on her blog and through her website; her work is available at her Etsy shop:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


So, at the risk of boring people to tears with another Etsy-themed post, I think it's about time I talked about Treasuries. Do you know what an Etsy Treasury is? If not, Etsy's answer is that the "Treasury is Etsy's ever-changing, member-curated shopping gallery." Note that they diplomatically left out the part about it being the Etsy equivalent of crack.

All you need is an Etsy account (not a shop) to make a Treasury. You start by window-shopping through the entire Etsy site until you have collected the Listing Numbers (basically, Ety's version of a SKU) for sixteen items that work well together in color or theme--or, if you are a Treasury expert, in color AND theme. In doing so, bear in mind that the number one rule of Treasuries is that you never feature your own stuff in your own Treasury. The distant-second number two rule is that you should only feature one item from any given seller. The third rule is that you should have a variety of items (i.e., a mix of jewelry, fashion, bags, artwork and paper goods) unless the type of item is your theme. Once you've culled your Listings, you plug them into the proper blanks on the Treasury page, you move them around until everything is where you want it, you give it a clever name and, if you're a polite curator, you convo the sellers with the link to let them know they've been featured. In the event you're having a hard time visualizing this, here is a simple rainbow-themed Treasury I put together with a link so you can see it on Etsy:

Does this sound silly to you? Does it sound like a blatant marketing ploy by the powers that be at Etsy to get its own users to generate mini-promotional campaigns for other users and Etsy itself? You're probably right.

But have you tried it?

There are two things that make the Treasury a downright brilliant idea and they are two things that also contribute to the larger success of Etsy as a whole: (1) creativity, and (2) competition. As to the first item, there's no denying that people who lurk around Etsy are a crafty folk. Curating Treasuries gives them a break from working on their own projects and lets them create art from the art of others and obtain instant feedback via the comments section. It's also a lot cheaper than a regular craft project in that it is free.

As for the competitive aspect, Etsy is a capitalist marketplace at the end of the day, despite the feel-good communal vibes it is always generating. The Treasury used to be a lot more competitive and complicated than it is now. I will not go into all the old rules of waiting into the middle of the night for the Treasury to "open" and life spans and whatnot, but suffice it to say that Etsy got rid of them. And when they did, die-hard Treasury curators got MAD. Back in May, I went to a meet and greet for San Francisco sellers with Etsy Administrators right around the time that the Treasury rules changed. There was a Q&A session that I thought would be dominated by questions about SEO and marketing co-ops; instead, it was a bunch of angry crafters whining about the Treasury being less competitive. They apparently derived a high from the race aspect of it and were experiencing serious withdrawal. I hope the Administrators had the sense to use the buddy system in returning to their cars after the event lest they got shanked by a rug-latching hook in the parking lot.

However, two competitive elements remain. First, the Treasuries are ranked according to how "hot" or popular they are. Second, and more importantly, the best of the best Treasuries are rewarded by being placed on Etsy's famed Front Page for twenty minutes or so. It is the goal of most curators to have their Treasury make it to the elusive Front Page--which is a pretty awesome, feel-good communal goal given that they cannot include their own items.

So making Treasuries is fun and addictive, but being featured in Treasuries is also a great perk of selling on Etsy. I don't make Treasuries that often and I've never had one make the front page, but I have had three or four items of mine featured on the Front Page by virtue of being included in someone else's beautiful Treasury. I can attest that the Front Page's rewards, in terms of increased shop traffic, hearts and sales, are everything they're rumored to be. But more importantly, it just feels great everytime someone (usually someone I've never met from another part of the world) contacts me to let me know they liked my work enough to include it in their Treasury.

If you want to see some of the Treasuries featuring my work (well, at least since Etsy changed the Treasury rules and made them searchable), look here:


(Be sure not to miss the Royal Tenenbaums-themed Treasury. As a film geek, it's one of my favorites.)

And this is a Treasury I recently put together as a virtual Thank You note. It features the work of sellers who had recently included my stuff in a Treasury. It was a challenge to find notes of common ground in such a diverse collection of shops, but that's part of the fun of making Treasuries.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I FINALLY got all the new stuff I made before Renegade up and listed at my Etsy shop. I can't believe I thought this was going to be a minor "wrap it up" post-fair event. It took three days, during which I snapped over 400 photographs, retouched about 300 of them, and listed over 60 new items. That's right, I more than doubled the size of my Etsy shop. I nearly tripled it. Okay, I like 2.79-ed it.

Did I mention I made multiples of each item listed? I knew I had made a lot of stuff, but in the thick of it I didn't appreciate the numbers because I was so focused on all the things that time constraints forced me to cross off my list of things to make. In retrospect, it's no wonder I was so exhausted in July.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record...

New goal: Set fewer goals.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


One of the few places Wing and I managed to visit while she was here last weekend was The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse in the Temescal District of Oakland. I had always wanted to go there but was afraid to do so solo. It had been touted to me as "half art store, half thrift store." I think those numbers would be more accurately stated as 15% and 85%, respectively, but the idea is a good one. Despite my fear of using an already overused word, I guess you could call it a "curated" thrift store, one which stocks thrifty stuff (sometimes known as "trash") that is especially suited for repurposing in art projects. All of it is fascinating, but only some of it in a good way. However, after talking to a few people about it, I am realizing it is an acquired taste and have no doubt I'll find myself back there in the future.

One of the more brilliant things they sell are hundreds of tangible, processed photographs (remember those?) from random people who do not appear to be professional photographers. They even have a whole drawerful of negatives if that's your repurposing preference (and it would probably be mine as I once repurposed my own developed negatives into a cover for a report on women in film and now I'm sad I don't have those negatives anymore). Someone has also taken the time to sort some of the photos by subject, as pictured below.

Any takers?

*I just mentioned thread cats in the title to freak Kate out again.