Archive for March, 2007

WG Flies the Coop

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Planet traversed, jetlag dealt with (almost), ISP woes conquered, and Working Girl is now ensconced in a cozy Paris apartment, (at last) updating her blog.

Missed you.

So, are you expecting an update on the working girls of Paris?  Patience, mes petites.  To date, WG & consort have enjoyed one cab ride, two restaurant meals, and three stops for coffee.  Said services supplied entirely by MEN.  It’s nice to be waited upon by les hommes!  Oh, sure, women are hard at work here.  We just haven’t had the pleasure of dealing with them firsthand. 

Gotta go.  Hogan’s Heroes, dubbed into French, is à la télé! 


Working Girl of (Last, and Maybe This) Week

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

No Working Girl of the Week feature last Friday, but making up for lost time with an extra special interview with Anne Lindsay, photographer extraordinaire!  You can see some of Anne’s wonderful work at  Her motto is “I capture a moment in time,” and she really does.

WG – What does it mean to be photogenic?

Anne – It’s not necessarily how good-looking you are, although that can be helpful.  I’ve had the geekiest-looking kids or adults who had these huge personalities, and they were beautiful on film.  The biggest thing is attitude.  To be photogenic you have to want to be photographed.

WG – I never thought of it that way.  Can you do anything to improve someone’s photogenic-ness?

Anne – I have people move around while shooting them.  In that joy of moving we often find the person.  I do a lot of children and I’ve had parents say, You’re the only one who’s been able to capture my child.  It’s because I let them jump around and be themselves.

WG – It’s true we often have a certain “face” we put on for photos.  At least adults do.  “Say cheese for the camera!”

Anne – Ha.  Cheese is the worst thing to say.  It’s best to have people say “Ah.”  It opens up your mouth. 

WG – If I want to shoot better photos, what should I do?  I mean, what makes for a good photo?

Anne – Lighting is the number one thing.  You can do tons with lighting.  For a woman with wrinkles you shoot her from the front with the light directly behind the photographer.  To make a guy look better you light from the side—the shadows make him look more manly.

WG – I thought you were going to say the number one thing is that the subject be relaxed!

Anne – That is the number one thing!  I’m always telling people, relax your shoulders, relax your eyes.  Being photographed is sometimes a little like going to the dentist—you are in a strange environment with a lot of equipment.

WG – So being relaxed, and then lighting…..what else?

Anne – Now that I think of it again, lighting is really super important.  Maybe it’s fifty-fifty–lighting with being relaxed.

WG – Anything else?

Anne – Where the photographer places himself is important.  The angle.  With an older person, you shoot them from above because it makes them bring up their eyes, which brings the chin up, so you no longer see a double chin.  For a child, you need to be down at their level. 

WG – What about Photoshop?  Do you use it?

Anne – Absolutely.

WG – It’s not considered “wrong”?

Anne – People expect it!  To a large degree it’s taken the place of make-up, which used to be super important for certain kinds of photos.  No—actually make-up is still important.  Photoshop augments make-up and lighting.  It’s not just for wrinkles but is an amazing photographic tool to organize images and modify images.

WG – I can see this for magazine shots, but what about for photos of “real” people?

Anne – I have a lot of real people clients who don’t want their wrinkles to show, or want a mole removed.

WG – You actually have those conversations?

Anne – All the time.  People ask, Can you take five pounds off me?  Can you take this mole off my face?  For family photos, I’m always moving heads around to get the perfect family photograph where everyone is smiling. 

WG – Amazing.  I guess photography has really changed.

Anne – Photoshop is just an extension of what photography has always been.  Before you had photo finishers.  You sent your neg to a finisher.  They took the wrinkles out or whatever.  It was a big business, a whole business of photo retouching.

WG – Is that industry dead now?

Anne – No, it’s called Photoshop!

WG – But you don’t send it out, you do it all yourself.

Anne – I do a lot of it myself but there are also companies that will do this for you.  You’re actually giving more of a service than you used to.

WG – It’s a digital world.  Has digital photography changed the way you take photos?

Anne – No, I always overspent.  I like to shoot a lot.  Used to spend a ton of money on film.  One of the nice things about digital is that I don’t have to pay two dollars for every Polaroid.  Of course now I have to sort through a lot more shots.  So I’m not paying for film, but I am paying in time and a great assistant to help with the back end of today’s photography.  The camera is only the tip of the iceberg in today’s professional photography world.  Photographers have their expensive camera, computers, lighting, studios, and the list goes on.  It’s an amazing ever-changing and expensive business.

WG – I agree about the expensive part!  Can you tell by looking if a photo was shot with film or digitally?

Anne – Pretty much.  But it’s getting harder and harder.

WG – I’ve often thought that anyone who took enough pictures would eventually take a good one.  That if you gave a chimp a camera and enough film he would eventually take a good photo.

Anne – No, not really.  It’s a matter of eye, talent, and a lot of hard work.  One of the most renowned photographs Ansel Adams ever took was a grab shot.  He was driving along through a tiny town, there was this amazing moon.  He jumped out, threw his camera together, and grabbed the shot.  He had the eye to spot a good photo when he saw one.  He had amazing skill and enormous talent.  You bring all that together and the grab shot can be one of the best.  That’s the difference between an artist and the person on the street.

Power Hour

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

Must.  Get.  Power.

The good kind, of course.

Agreed?  To that end, here are some ideas for (nonviolent) ways to acquire power vis a vis your job:

  1. Only do work you really truly enjoy.  You may be downtrodden, overworked, and put-upon, but you won’t care!  (Much.)
  2. Feel able to do the work.  Avoids that icky helplessness feeling in the pit of your stomach.
  3. Failing that, feel able to learn to do the work.
  4. Work with people you like and/or respect.  Is this too much to ask?
  5. Be given the resources you need (like, say, time!).  Again, doesn’t sound like too much to ask.
  6. Be able to see results (a tough one–lots of work is, to the naked eye, results-free).
  7. Be recognized for those results.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  It sometimes happens (not often enough).

What do you think?  Too Pollyanna-ish?

Certainly it’s all, yes, much easier said than done.  But there’s good news!  Note what’s not mentioned:  lots of money; job security; ability to set your own schedule.  Those things, while very nice, are not essential to a stress-free, powerful work life. 

A good thing, too, as they are in scarce commodity nowadays.

Is It Morning Already?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

This is just plain wrong.  Unfair.  Cruelly ironic. 

What is?  Lying awake at night thinking about napping, that’s what!  Specifically, wondering which is worse:  needing to nap in the first place, or needing to nap and not being able to. 

We need to nap for one reason:  we don’t get enough sleep, either at night or during the day.  We aren’t able to nap for three reasons, that come to mind:  it’s socially unacceptable, we don’t have time, or we are just not nappers.  Sadly, Working Girl falls into the third category.

What does this have to do with work?  Let’s admit it, it’s mostly work that (a) stresses us out so much that we can’t sleep or (b) prevents us from napping, for reasons of time or above-mentioned social unacceptibility.  Either way, the result is stress.  And, either way, the ultimate question is How To Deal.

Here’s a thought.  Consider the root cause of stress.  Which is, as scientists have proven over and over again (have they? sure they have), a feeling of powerlessness.  We can have tons to do, huge challenges, large objects flying through the air, people panicking and gibbering and weeping all around us, but if we feel able to deal with it and do deal with it we are not stressed, we are challenged.

Stress bad.  Challenge good.  Sleep better.  It’s going to be a long day.

Snuggle Up A Little Closer

Monday, March 19th, 2007

Naps in the news.

So, okay, naps are good.  They ward off heart attacks, obesity, wrinkles, dandruff, athlete’s foot, and post-nasal drip.

Yet, as this New York Times story admits, we here in the U. S. of A. need to lie about taking them.  Call them meetings, call them conference calls, call them “stepping out of the office,” people call a nap anything but a nap. 

So why do those who want to benefit from a snooze between lunch and dinner have to be so secretive?

‘Cause Americans take pride in number-of-hours-worked (lots) and number-of-hours-slept (four or fewer wins you the most respect).  Something in our psyche disapproves of pleasure.  So much so that even though naps have been scientifically proven to be Good For You, they are still viewed with suspicion.

Bottom Line:  You can nap.  You just can’t admit to it.    

Working Girl of the Week

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

Our working girl this week is Cindy, a yoga instructor.  Cindy teaches the “Iyengar” style of yoga, which has a strong focus on alignment.  Iyengar teachers are known for being well trained and very knowledgeable about anatomy.

WG – What is the one thing that everyone finds difficult about yoga?

Cindy – I think it’s focusing.  The ability to concentrate on what you’re doing.  A lot of people aren’t aware of or in tune with their bodies or their minds. 

WG – I  thought you were going to say lack of flexibility!

Cindy – Well, some people come in the first day and can actually do the poses easily, but if there’s no focus to it, no awareness, they really aren’t doing yoga.  I know what you mean though—a lot of people, when they think of yoga, picture yogis in these weird contorted poses and just think of it in those terms. 

WG – In fact people hesitate to try it because they say, Oh, I’m not limber enough.

Cindy – Exactly.  They say, I can’t do yoga because I can’t touch my toes.  They think we’re going to ask them to put their heel behind their head on the first day.  But how “well” you do the pose is not the point.  It’s in the effort that you gain something.  We are a very goal-oriented society, we always feel we have to achieve something, but with yoga, it’s the process that’s important.

WG – So limberness isn’t the goal?

Cindy – The goal is awareness.  I had a student who once said, Yoga connects me from the top of my head to the tip of my toes.  I think this is it, that integration and awareness of the whole physical body and the whole energy body.  You’re really in tune.

WG – Some people think yoga is a religion.

Cindy – I think part of that is that all religions are rooted in a recognition of spirituality and common universal truths.  There’s also a spirituality connection in yoga.  In fact, doing yoga connects you in a spiritual way to your body and mind.

WG – You don’t have to get into the spirituality part if you don’t want to, right?

Cindy – You can take from it what you want or need.  I had a woman in class who was bothered by putting her hands in namaste, because it’s a prayer-like position.  When I explained what namaste means, and that in India it’s used as a greeting, and she was a little more relaxed about it.      

WG – I wonder why she came to yoga class in the first place?

Cindy – That’s a great question.  As a teacher you don’t really know why people come.  You don’t know what their expectations are.  It could be simply that their doctor said they need to relax and should try yoga.  You just don’t know.

WG – It’s funny that people equate yoga with relaxing because it can be really very hard and you can be exhausted afterwards.

Cindy – Ha.  I have this saying:  Yoga, it feels so good when you stop!  You always leave feeling good physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically—but you can also be pretty exhausted.  You’re accessing tiny little muscles you don’t normally use and asking them to work really hard.  Your big muscles that you use every day are more readily recruited.

WG – When someone comes to yoga class for the first time, can you tell if they’re going to come back?

Cindy – Usually by the end of the class I have a good inkling of whether or not they’ll come back.  You can sense their reaction if they didn’t like it.  But sometimes I’ll have someone who seems really gung ho and enthusiastic who’ll come for a short period of time and then, poof, they’re gone.  I always wonder why.

WG – Some people are just butterfly types.

Cindy – That takes us back to the first thing—the ability to focus and to concentrate.  It spills over into the long-term commitment, the long-term journey of yoga.

WG – It seems that with yoga you never really “get there.”

Cindy – No, you never do!  When I first started I thought I would have this licked in six months!  Here I am 16 years later, still going. 

WG – Can you hurt yourself doing yoga?

Cindy – Yes, you can.  Often, it’s because you weren’t focusing, you weren’t paying attention.  Sometimes, just because of some imbalance in the body or an “unevenness of opening,” one muscle group will be stretched and open, and another will be resisting.  Ideally, with careful attention, yoga can bring the balance back into the body.

WG – You say you teach mostly beginners.  Is that hard?

Cindy – In a way.  I think it’s actually easier to teach the more advanced students because they already have a connection to their body, a certain level of awareness.  Teaching beginners can be more difficult and challenging, yet it can also be more rewarding.  If I can inspire one person to follow the path of yoga then I will feel I’ve succeeded.

Note to Chicken Little

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

So here’s the deal with economic news:  Read all of it or none of it.

We started the week with a report that job growth has dipped in February.  Check out “Job Growth Dips” two posts down.  The sky is falling!

But wait, a few days later the Wall St. Journal mentioned, in passing, as if it were a given, that we have a strong labor economy (see post just below, Barista Wanted).  Maybe the sky is right where it always was?

But wait again, that same day, the Seattle Times ran a lovely optimistic piece about how good job prospects are for college grads.  Not only is the sky not falling, it’s positively blue.

If you had just read the first piece you would be feeling pretty gloomy right now.  If you had just read the third, you would have thought, Hey, I can do anything.

QED: Either read it all or read not at all.  And if you do read it all, still take that with a big grain of salt.  (And then go do what you want/need to do anyway!) 

Barista Wanted. Ph.D. Required.

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

The job market is good, despite the so-called “dip” (see yesterday’s post).  But if you still have doubts, you’ll be convinced by this tidbit in the current Career Journal of the Wall St. Journal.

According to our Republican friends at the WSJ, a strong labor market is forcing employers to write more enticing job descriptions.  Now there’s a definite sign that life is getting better for people who are looking for work!

Reading further:  The article’s main point is that employers are figuring out that poor job descriptions contribute to high turnover.  I.e., people are quitting a job once they find out what it really involves.

Their example is hilarious.  An employer was insisting that the people they hire to be apartment managers have a college degree.  Huh?  You need a bachelor’s degree to collect rent from delinquent tenants, round up a plumber, and make sure the lawn’s mowed?  Okay, okay, there may be more to apartment management than that.  You have to be a bit of a diplomat and know how to handle money.  You should be a good judge of character.  You must be able to supervise and train people.  Common sense and a healthy skepticism of human nature are also helpful.

But a college degree?  This manages to be insulting to both college graduates and people with “only” life experience. 

Sure, some cab drivers, house cleaners, and baristas are Ph.D.s, but it should be only a coincidence.

Job Growth Dips. Why You Don't Care.

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

U.S. job growth weakest in two years,” cries the Seattle Times

U.S. Job Growth Drops to a Two-Year Low,” grumbles the Wall St. Journal (March 10th, page A-3).

At the same time, we’re told that the unemployment rate is down to only 4.5%, that average hourly earnings are up to $17.16, and that 97,000 jobs were created in February, traditionally a slow month.

Fun with numbers.  Do working girls care?  Not really.

Sure, it’s good to keep up with what economists are saying but we need not truly take such “news” to our hearts.  In fact, it’s a danger to dwell on this kind of stuff for long (unless it’s your job, of course) because it’s too easy to use gloomy—or, in this case, inconclusive—news reports as an excuse for our own failures.

“The economy’s slow, it says so in the papers, that’s why I’m not finding a job” is a tempting thing to say when we are supposed to be job-hunting but we’d rather cuddle up with the cat than make phone calls, write letters, and go out on interviews. 

So ignore the news.  Remember, people got jobs and started businesses during the Great Depression!  You can do whatever you have to do, now.

(Or read the New York Times instead.  Saturday’s headline: “More Finding Work in U.S.”)

Working Girl of the Week

Friday, March 9th, 2007

Our Working Girl of the Week is Donnette, a hair stylist.  She answers your questions about why your hair never looks like the picture and why hair stylists’ hair is always sort of a mess. 

WG – When I go to a new hairdresser the first thing I do is look at her hair.  And you’d be amazed how often it’s a mess.  Why is this?  You’d think hairdressers would always have great-looking hair.

Donnette – That’s funny, I was just thinking about this very thing.  I watch a show on the Style Channel called Split Ends.  It’s a reality show, sort of like Wife Swap, where a hair stylist from a strip mall shop trades places with a stylist from a high-end shop.  I love it.  Anyway, I’ve noticed that a lot of the stylists don’t seem to really keep themselves up, hairwise.  And I’ve decided it’s because we as stylists are so focused on other people.  We are nurturers.  I know I take much better care of my clients’ hair than I do of my own.

WG – Your hair looks really good, by the way.

Donnette – Thank you!

WG – You know, what you say about hairdressers being nurturers is interesting.  It goes with the idea of the beauty parlor as community, like in Steel Magnolias, a place where women go to be accepted and nurtured and loved. 

Donnette – I like that thought.  Actually I love all my clients.  Most of them become my friends.  It is like a community.

WG – At the same time, hair can be a very touchy subject.  Most people, at least most women, are paranoid about their hair.  If it doesn’t look good, we are miserable.

Donnette – Yup.  And once you’ve had a bad hair cut experience it sets the tone for every hair cut you have in the future.

WG – But everybody has had a bad hair cut experience.

Donnette – You’re probably right.  Even stylists!

WG – What about when people ask for a look that is clearly not suitable for them or their hair type?  Does this happen?

Donnette – All the time.  People will bring in a photo of a style they like.  But the model will have, say, really thick curly hair and the person’s hair is thin and straight.  I try to tell them, You know, yours won’t look exactly like the picture.  I also try to show them other pictures of styles good for their hair type.

WG – That works both ways, too.  Some hair stylists will actually tell you what style you have to have, whether you want it or not.  You don’t do that, do you?

Donnette – No, I try to give people what they want.

WG – Even if what they want is something awful, like a mullet?

Donnette – Ha.  I don’t know.  It’s actually never come up.  I might say, Are you sure?  Or, Have you thought about updating your look?  But if the customer insists, I just think, Well, if it makes them happy.

WG – Once I went to a very fancy hair stylist in a very chic part of town and she actually cut my hair in a mullet.  I couldn’t believe it.

Donnette – Oh no! 

WG – Do you have any idea why anyone would do such a thing?

Donnette – You know, I wonder if she hadn’t just been to a style show and had learned something new.  She might have thought, Well, this isn’t a regular client, I can experiment.

WG – Evil.  It reminds me of another bad hair experience—I was one of those models you see at style shows.  They did something crazy to my hair.  

Donnette – That’s one thing that really bugs me about style shows.  They exhibit all these wild runway looks, never something that real people would want.  I spent 70 or 80 bucks to go to one of these shows and then not get any usable ideas.  They forget that most hair stylists are real people with real clients.

WG – Have you ever done something really awful to someone’s hair?

Donnette – Oh yeah.  Thank God it was my mother.

WG – Yikes.  What happened?

Donnette – It was when I was in beauty school.  We were having the perm exam—it was a very big deal, you’d think it was a heart transplant.  I was so nervous.  My mom had graciously consented to be my perm model.  It was supposedly a controlled thing, so it was the instructor who mixed up the perm solution.  My mom told her that her hair takes a perm very easily.  Well, I guess the instructor wasn’t listening because she mixed up a really strong solution.  The next day my mom’s hair was so curly tight she couldn’t get a brush through it.  I had to go over to her house and style her hair for her for a year.

WG – That wasn’t even really your fault.  Has your mother forgiven you?

Donnette – Oh yes.  We can laugh about it now!