Friday, October 17, 2014

The Top 5 Reasons Everyone's Quitting Reselling + My Indie Business Dilemmas

I have friends trying to sell all of their merchandise and move out of their antique mall booths and/or shutting down their online shops. I've received several e-mails from others doing the same, asking me for advice on what to do through this process, or asking me what I'm doing with my own reselling business. Am I quitting reselling for good? Yes and no.

My antique mall booth before: a quick shot before I got to worth and re-arranged the hell out of it. It currently holds nearly all of my stock, soon to hold all of it! My sign was sponsored by Build a Sign.

I have taken a long break from thrifting because my apartment was filled beyond a level I found comfortable and I couldn't do it anymore. It was starting to feel like I was obligated to continue to buybuybuy to keep up with my Monday thrift haul posts, which was definitely the wrong reason to keep stressing out my living situation. I had to be proactive, stop, step back and evaluate. I need a fresh start, once I've sold off a lot of my current merchandise I'll go back to thrifting with a fresh approach and I'm excited to add much more handmade/crafts/art to the mix! My antique mall booth and online shop are going to stay open, and I'm glad I finally put my foot down and stopped feeling bad about potentially not pleasing others to save my sanity!

1. You have to constantly acquire merchandise and it's torture for the minimalist-minded.

You cannot stop acquiring in retail. And like I wrote before, thrifting is not a substitute for materialism. It's just a cheaper way to fulfill the primitive reptile-like part of our brain that always craves more. Which leads to the next problem...

2. This is a difficult job to do without a dedicated, organized, detailed storage system.

I'm always going crazy trying to find the best way to organize my merchandise in my shared 2-bedroom apartment. I've filled my pantry, kitchen cabinet, part of my bedroom closet, and an expedit unit from IKEA all at once. It always gets better but the process is frustrating, it's just not something my brain likes for some reason. It's strange because I adore organizing, but organizing my reselling merchandise makes me angry and twitchy. Part of it is because...

3. Sometimes merchandise will sit for months and months.

Moving the same merchandise around for months is soul-crushing. You get tired of seeing the same-old all the time. It's very uninspiring for an artist. We need fresh stimulation to innovate.

4. It's just harder to resell now.

Don't get me wrong, I still believe with hard work you can sell anything for any amount of money. It's up to you as the business owner to create the need. That said, there was an ease that came with selling that just isn't here anymore. You really have to hustle, promote, and work hard because of reproductions, increase competition, and less buyers.

5. Reselling requires a lot of physical and mental labor. And time.

A big thing that wears me out with reselling was moving the same boxes of merchandise up-and-down my 34 steps and out the door to my car across the street and then to-and-fro from my antique mall and/or local sales over...and over...and over again! You're mentally exhausted from setting up the same things and physically exhausted from the car being stuffed to the brim with boxes. But the mental exhaustion of it all was much worse.

Let's not forget the hours of labor involved in finding items (driving, the actual hunting, lugging it upstairs), cleaning, photographing, editing photos, listing, taking inventory, storing, transporting to shops, packing, shipping! Hours upon hours of work.

But wait, there's more: So there's all of the facts above and that fact that for many of us, reselling IS a full time job but it's not our only job.

I've reduced enough of my merchandise to stuff my antique mall booth with all of merchandise. Having it all out of my home clears my mind enormously and the break will help me write/edit my content the way I want to. Blogging is my first love and I'm excited to work as hard as possible on it again and get my brain mess together for future fun, creative projects!

So Spill, Reseller and Indie Biz Buddies: Are you thinking of quitting? Taking a long break? Having problems with selling or writing? We all get there at one time or another. I was inspired to write this post because of the amount of e-mails I'm getting from fellow re-sellers quitting. It's harder now, but it's not impossible.
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

My Sedentary Artist-Person 3 Month Fitness Journey + Tips from Personal Trainers For my Fellow Creatives

A quote from the stunning, award-winning animated short The Cat Piano keeps popping in my mind. It reads: I ran my cursed writer's run. I think of it while I'm dying on the treadmill. I am a writer and I can't run. And until 3 months ago I'd never worked out consistently in my life. I love biking, gardening, hiking and exploring/walking at every instance, but it's not the same as deliberate consistent training. I switched to a diet of whole foods and lost thirty pounds along the way, gradually went from vegan to raw vegan and look/feel younger and healthier than I did in my early twenties, but I ignored the ample advice to start an exercise program for years. My excuses were the usual ones:
Excuse 1) No time.
Fact: We all have the same amount of time in the day. Schedule work-out time. Hit it. You can do it.

Excuse 2) Fear that I would have to "work out forever" or I would "gain any weight back."
Fact: You will have to work out "forever." And you can make it fun, it becomes addictive.

Excuse 3) I eat the healthiest diet alive so I don't "need" the gym. + can "diet" to lose weight.
Fact: It's about fat loss and muscle gain, not weight loss. Nutrition is 70% of health, but you must move your body (and rest, working on it!) for complete health.

Excuse 4) Gym culture hatred (narcissism/spray-tans/protein shakes), won't pay to enter one.
Fact: You don't need the gym or a trainer but it's a huge help for beginners. Focus on your own routine and doing it as hard as possible while you're there, then get out and get back to your creative hobbies. You won't magically morph into a "bro."

Excuse 5) I'm not fit. Never have been. It's too hard, I never will be fit so I give up.
Fact: You hear it and it's hard to believe, but it's surprising how quickly you can shape up and/or improve your fitness level!

A writer's diet. Alcohol, coffee, ciggs. Our exercise is typing at the typewriter. Healthy, right?

Excuses debunked, I interviewed three different personal trainers from the "I'm an artist and know lots of other ones and we're lazy and don't move and drink lots of coffee and eat-cigarettes" [stereotyping/hyperbole of course] perspective. These are tips for beginners getting into it, but it can be a fun review for the advance gym bunnies, too. The first set of questions were answered by Sean 'O Quinn at Bailey's Powerhouse Gym, an experience and dedicated trainer that runs his own fitness business and several bootcamps:

1) Why should everyone work out?
It benefits overall health, sound mind and body make for a happy life.

2) What are some exercises everyone should do?
Basic cardiovascular exercises. You can do these on treadmills and stair masters. You should also strength train all of your muscle groups. I don't believe in training specific areas (like abs) you must train as a whole to be successful and healthy.

3) What do you feel is THE most important thing to do for good health?
Nutrition is 70%, what you put in is what you'll get out. Good nutrition is like running your car on premium fuel.

4) What's a good way to get started with physical fitness/exercise after years of being sedentary?
1) Join a gym and meet with a trainer. 2) Set a goal. 3) Get in the mindset that you have to put in 110% to get 60% back. Think of it like a job, you have to do it.

5) What do your clients have the biggest problem with?
Nutriton. [Van's note: My favorite part, so easy! All I have to do is eat!? Sign me up.] Everything you do is dependent on the nutrition, it's surrounded by it. You must consume the right things to be successful.

6) What's a good ratio of proteins/carbs/fats to consume?
Think of your goals then do some research and experimentation to find what's right for you. ISSA, NGA, and have good guides to follow.

7) What types of exercises do you recommend if you're trying to get smaller?
Cardio and weight training. Weight training will make you smaller because it builds muscle, and muscle raises your metabolism and burns fat. More muscle increases you BMI- Basal Metabolic Rate. Raise this and you can burn calories while you're sleeping.

8) How long until people usually see results?
My clients see results in 2 weeks. (Van's Note: I've been training with my boyfriend but will say I felt improvements in my fitness in 2 weeks.)

9) What are good exercises people without a gym membership can do at home?
Lunges, squats, push-ups, jumping jacks, any plyometric exercises.

Artists like unique spaces like what's above, not the gym, with its utilitarian blandness! But you get over it.

10) How about recommendations for building a basic home gym?
Core Basics: hand weights and/or dumbbells, bench, punching bag, multi-purpose bar. Maybe a squat rack.

11) What are the biggest pitfalls beginners encounter at the start of their fitness journey?
Nutrition, motivation levels, and self-esteem. People feel like a small fish in a big pond when they're starting out at the gym.

12) What type of people succeed?
People who follow the directions: Eat right, do the program. Dedicated and disciplined people.

13) What excuses do you hear the most?
"Not enough time" is the big one. You have to make the gym a priority.

14) What must one do to become a personal trainer?
Have an Exercise Science Degree or get certified through an organization.

15) What type of exercise classes/group training do you recommend?
Spin classes, TRX, any type of boot camp.

16) Do you feel physical fitness helps with concentration, creativity, sleep and overall health?
All of it hands down!

17) Are there any supplements you recommend?
Protein shakes. Protein prevents catabolic activity- this is basically your body eating itsself.

18) How necessary is a trainer and/or the gym?
This depends on your experience, knowledge, motivational level and ability to get in and get shit done. I can use every machine in this gym 10 different ways and direct a fitness company and I still see a trainer twice a week. No one can push you like someone else can.  If you can go to the gym or work out on your own and get soaked to the bone with sweat, do it. Otherwise, work with someone.

19) I'm vegan. I'm going to assume you don't approve of the vegan lifestyle?
In all honesty, nope. Do not recommend it. Everyone has their set of conduct and rules and some don't want to take a life. For me, the plan I recommend includes lean, high protein [animal] sources. From my stand-point, you won't find these from plants. Chicken and fish is my staple but if a vegan diet works for you and you're happy with that I work with that, I'll put on a fucking vegan t-shirt! Trainers are here to help you get where you want to be.

[Van's Note: I am still vegan but I'm going to add hemp protein powder to my smoothies and experiment with other natural supplements. Honestly, I do feel low energy lately. It could be from diet but I don't get enough sleep, so...]

Stan Gorman, another trainer at Bailey's Powerhouse Gym also chimed in to give me loads of helpful advice to share with beginners. He's 66 with years of experience under his belt at this work:

Stan's Tip 1) Nutrition is #1!
Stan's Tip 2) Use perfect form with your exercises.
Stan's Tip 3) When training, train with intensity.
Stan's Tip 4) Take quality supplements. All of our food is now deprived of vitamins and nutrients. Give your body what it needs.
Stan's Tip 5) Rest well.
Stan's Tip 6) Physical activity has fundamental universal principles, diets will be different for everyone. There are different metabolic profiles that require different things. Some people can eat lots of carbs, others cannot.
Stan's Tip 7) Eat lots of natural anti-oxidants and anti-inflamatory foods. Tumeric, frankencense tablets, pumpkin/sunflower seeds, red year rice, basil, cilanto, parsely, acai, they're all incredible super foods and can lower blood pressure.
Stan's Tip 8) Be mindful of when you eat: no carbs before bed when you won't burn them off, for instance.
Tip 9) Get around people you can learn from. I did a year-long apprenticeship when I first started personal-training.
Tip 10) Dr. Axe has a great website, he's an athelte and medical doctor with lots of helpful nutritional information.

I thought I'd chime in and give me own advice as a beginner, too:

1) Get an exercise partner or work with a trainer: My boyfriend, AJ, is studying to be a trainer and I'm his willing ginea pig. I would not be where I am in my fitness journey if I didn't have him to motivate me to go and show me exactly how to use the machines or do different exercises. Got a gym-rat friend? Ask them for help. Find a partner, it makes you accountable.

2) It hurts like hell. Work through the pain. You CAN do it: I remember my first time on a treadmill. AJ said, "Just remember, whatever it feels like, your body can do this. It's going to feel like you can't, but it can." I knew this was gonna hurt. He had me start at level 3 for a minute then jump to level 7 for an minute, back and forth. Level 7 was an explosion of pain, my lungs hurt, I almost fell off the machine twice and it felt like my insides were on fire just seconds in. Now after a few weeks of doing this it doesn't start to really kill me 'til near the end of the exercise, and the pain is familiar yet addictive. It hurts, but it's a good hurt. Just focus and power through.

3) Make a Schedule. Guilt yourself if you miss it: Schedule your gym time and make it as imperative as getting to work on time. Don't make excuses, get in and do the work.

4) Keep track of your results: A fitness journal, before/after photos or monitoring how you look/how clothes fit will be incredibly morale boosting. Results really do come quickly and seeing is believing. Feeling/looking stronger will inspire you to work harder. You'll start to trust yourself and your training and/or trainer.

5) You'll Get Used to it: You can program this routine. I've never been active and have always been a physically weak person, but I'm getting stronger. I did a beginner fitness program and it was too easy, my training is working. When I first started the beginner program would have felt impossible. All you have to do is start, it gets better very quickly.

Watch The Cat Piano, it's brilliant. Sorry to illustrate this post with such a non-sequitor but I can't get that quote out of my head while I'm running!

It's still a little hard to believe I'm actually exercising consistently after years of inactivity. I can see and feel the difference and I'm going to keep at learning and moving about the best ways to do it for life!

Got any tips of your own on fitness to share? Questions? Let's discuss in the comments. I'm certainly not an authority and we can all learn from each other, there are so many perspectives to learn from.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My Ultimate 13 Unique and Scary Horror Flicks Recommendations for Halloween: Retro, Kitsch and More

As I've shared many times before, horror is my favorite movie genre. Horror is my comfort (and my tormentor) in the night, my security blanket, my love. I watch it throughout the year so you don't have to. What do I meant by that? Horror films are the endurance test of movie watching, they are easily made on a low budget and it's a genre in desperate need of more good directors and originality. I sludge through worst of it for the same reasons I'll dig through a grimy box at the flea market- to find the hidden treasures. The following 13 picks are more-recently watched flicks that I recommend for your Halloween viewing, listed in order of their quality and given a * to **** star rating. (* worst, **** best) I scored on watchability, originality, and of course, scariness!

1) Paranormal Activity

I spiked my heart rate looking for a photo to represent the film. So...traumatized. Didn't want to see stills from the movie. Ow, my eyes. My heart.

Rating: ***
Scariness: ****
Originality: ***

This is a polarizing film. People find it terrifying or tame. Whether the film will affect you will depend on what scares you; is it the in-your-face terror or the subtle and sinister ? Furthermore, it's all the more frightening if you have even an inkling of belief in the paranormal or have had a paranormal encounter of your own- which I have- dubious or not. The key to Paranormal Activity's success are the unknown, unpolished actors and cinematography that make it feel like you're watching a real snuff flick. The static camera scenes are uncomfortably tense and I love the old-fashioned way your imagination is left to fill in the rest, it's scarier than what they ever could put on screen. I was so stiff and terrified in bed the night I watched this movie movie that I worried my boyfriend. Fun fact: the director had a lifelong fear of ghosts and demons and used the film to work through it. Shows in the final product; it spoke to this fellow traumatized former-catholic (not-so) secretly still afraid of the same.

2) Sinister

Rating: ***
Scariness: ****
Originality: ****

It's rare for a modern horror film to make me turn away from the screen or cover my eyes, but sinister got me. This is a beautifully shot, original horror flick with an intriguingly "unlikeable" protagonist. My favorite element of this film, other than genuine scares and tension, is the originality of the score and gorgeous cinematography. The sound design is perfection, I would not feel secure listening to it on a long car ride through a deserted rode; a testament to its brilliance. A theme of old vs. new technology makes it a fun watch for the vintage lover, too. Sinister was also critically acclaimed, rare for a horror movie.

3) Trick 'R Treat

Rating: ****
Scariness: *
Originality: ****

This isn't a scary film, but it epitomizes Halloween. It's like a feature-length, moving, Hallmark Halloween greeting card. It is pure Halloween Americana, as beautiful as anything hanging in a fine art gallery. Every, single, shot is a masterpiece. Lovingly staged. It makes my heart ache, it's as wonderfully nostalgic as the Halloween Little Golden Books you used to read or the paper Halloween decorations and colored leaves you decorated your elementary school classroom with:

Take these movie stills in and there's no denying this is the most striking movie dedicated to Halloween ever made. Full. Stop. Magnificent! 

It's a rare, modern anthology horror flick with three clever interweaving tales. The moon is full, the costumes are classics, scattered leaves fill the landscape and hundreds of lit jack o lanterns fill the frame. It's outstanding, watch it for those fuzzy Halloween feelings. But don't watch it with the kiddies, you've been warned! Cute nostalgia for me is a slightly sex-tinged (a flash of boob) gore fest to others! (But as far as horror goes, honestly, somewhat PG/chaste. It's designed to look like a comic-book come to life, after all.)

4) Coraline

Rating: ****
Scariness: *
Originality: ****

The Nightmare Before Christmas is an obvious Halloween classic. It's one of my favorite movies of all time (Right now it might be a Transformers the Movie/Nightmare tie), I've read two books on it, its obvious beauty and genius needs little explanation from me. Coraline is another stop-motion film directed by Henry Selick. Henry Selick is the actual director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Tim Burton wrote the original story and designed the characters but was directing Batman Returns when the veteran stop motion director worked his magic on the detailed sets in Nightmare, likely the most ambitious stop-motion movie to date. Caroline is rendered in his trademark dark, quirky highly-detailed style. The imagery would definitely spook younger/fearful children. The animation, sets, and character design is outstanding, the plot unique. There are so many incredible details to catch with re-watches. For instance, all the gorgeous sweaters worn by the characters were hand-knit with crochet needles the size of sewing needles! An animator spent a year animating the basement scenes! The movie's just as gorgeous as Nightmare without any re-treading. Stunning! Watch it! Bonus: Strong female protagonist and sophisticated storytelling. Rare in any genre.

5) Wake Wood

Rating: ****
Scariness: ***
Originality: ***

This Irish movie owes a lot of the amazing Pet Semetary but still holds its own. It's strength, like its inspiration, is the gripping story telling. You're tense because the family bond feels so real. Beautifully shot and spooky, I was surprised by how enjoyable this offering was.

6) House Hunting

Rating: ***
Scariness: **
Originality: ****

This movie makes the list for its original premise. It's a psychological horror that's tense and mysterious. You're hooked trying 'til the end trying to solve the strange plot. For me, it captures the essence of horror; a genre rife with allegories for the real-life things that haunt us; our regrets, secrets, and the skeletons we all have in our closets.

7) The Innkeepers 

*You will notice all of Ti West's movie posters are as delightfully retro, artistic, and well-composed as his movies.

Rating: ****
Scariness: ***
Originality: ***

Director Ti West is a student of the classic horror film, where suspense and subtlety is king. A good scare is like a good joke; reliant on timing. And West's timing is perfection. It has expert build-up, a beautiful/creepy settling and excellent acting. More plot, substance, and character development could have elevated this one for me, and it's not a horror film that stuck with me long after watching like Paranormal Activity and Sinister, but it's solid entry in the genre from a creative director that clearly adores horror films as much as his fans do.

8) Grave Encounters

Rating: ***
Scariness: ***
Originality: ***

Paranormal Activity was a renaissance for the found-footage horror film genre, and the best entry I've seen in this new wave was Grave Encounters. It has a unique approach, plenty of twists, and great scares. Even some laughs. My roomie and I jumped and screamed a couple of times. It wasn't so scary that I couldn't sleep at night, but I certainly wouldn't watch it alone. Ever. But I dare you to do it!

9) American Mary

Rating: ***
Scariness: *
Originality: ****

Points for originality! American Mary is an artistic, weird, unique horror flick and a love letter to fans of rockabilly, vintage, Betty Page (the protagonist's cute bangs and pin-up style), and body modification. Worth a watch just for how unique it is. Double rare: it's directed by twin sisters the Soska twins. Warning: with the surgery/body mod theme this one's gorier than I usually recommend.

10) You're Next

Rating: ***
Scariness: *
Originality: ***

Yet another throw-back horror flick by Ti West, this is an intriguing slasher. Freddy Cougar meets The Strangers meets...Home Alone. Yes. A fun watch with some gorey goodness and a tribute to retro horror that doesn't take itself too seriously. Boasts a groovy soundtrack to boot. Bonus points for re-invigorating the "survival girl" trope and giving it steroids, movie. I see what you did, there.

11) House of the Devil

Rating: ***
Scariness: **
Originality: ****

Ti West, you've done it again! When I first watched this I was completely convinced I was watching a b-horror film from the 1980s, an oddly good one. Which was strange because I was sure I'd seen all of them. Turns out this is not an 80s film at all but a modern one filmed with an old camera and staged to early 1980s perfect. The affect is uncanny. It's a classic spooky-house film with the same slow, brilliant build-up of The Innkeepers. Again, not too scary to watch alone. This isn't a bad thing, sometimes you need a break from deeply traumatizing yourself!

12) Never Sleep Again

Rating: ***
Scariness: *
Originality: ****

This is a special Valentine for the hardcore Nightmare of Elm Street Fans. Every, single Freddy Cougar movie is reviewed in great detail. Even the short-lived television show is featured. You're treated to interviews with nearly every cast member, the directors and behind-the-scenes crew and of course, Freddy Cougar himself, Robert England. (It is so fun to see the articulate, erudite, almost Mr. Rogers persona behind free-swearing, blood-thirsty Freddy.) Bonus, the gorgeous stop-motion bits to illustrate each film. It's over twice the length of the average movie to capture many details. I've watched it twice. Freddy movies were my bedtime stories, I adore this horror icon and the haunting score of the flicks. A treat for the non-Freddy fans too, the behind-the-scenes on these films are fascinating and inspirational.

13) Splice

Splice has major flaws. The characters fall into a trope often called "because-the-plot-says-so" where otherwise rational people do unforgivable, stupid things for no reason other than advancing the story. I watched it with three people and there were lots of "whats!" and "whys!" shouted at the TV. Yet viewed as a symbolic movie it had several interesting messages to ponder and I would have been remiss not to include such a unique thought-provoker on this list. I love the protagonists staged as ultra-millennial trendy-tv scientists and the design of the monster they create is beautiful. They are lots of practical special affects (real puppets and such versus all computer generated imagery) that made this delightfully Old School to watch. Nostalgic, even. Splice has its issues, but it left an impression.

Bonus) Lights Out Award Winning Horror Short

Do you hate feeling secure? Do you want to lose sleep tonight? Watch Lights Out alone at night in your living room and see how safe you feel going back to your bedroom in the dark. Like the Innkeepers this short exemplifies the power of good timing in horror. It's brilliant, I get tense with every viewing. Watch it...I dare you!

Horror Flick Recommendations: October 2012 // Vintage Picks/Amazing Set Design | October 2013 // Classics on Netflix

I have many more Halloween picks to time! Got any favorites to recommend me? I've heard the Oculus is a good recent one to investigate. I'm always excited to get more horror flicks under my belt!
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