Saturday, August 27, 2011

merciless mania

mania as it relates to daily life

i've come to realize that i'm a maniac. a friend of mine used to tell me all the time that i'm manic. as with most ugly truths, i chose to shrug it off and assume i was misunderstood. but as the days wear on and i observe my own behaviour objectively i've begun to see the truth behind her statement. i may not be manic on a daily basis, but i am definitely a rollercoaster. luckily i did not get the depressive side of this typical and unrecognized disorder. as i consider how many interests i have and how fast i swing between them, never really accomplishing anything and never really getting anywhere, i have to admit that mania is the most accurate way to describe my overall attitude. i'm obsessed with something for about two weeks to a month, at which point something will get in the way and slow me down. during this slowdown i'll question what i was doing in the first place, i'll become disappointed that it's not going anywhere as quickly as i would like and find myself forgetting almost completely about it as i obsess over something new. time ceases to have meaning. i'll research something for what feels like 20 minutes only to discover that hours have passed. i'll work on something for as little as a week and become disenchanted because progress is so slow. ultimately i've been working on so many things for so long that it feels hopeless, feels like i never get anywhere.

but the progress is undeniable. i'm in a better situation right now than i've ever been in before. for all my steps back i feel like i'm finally getting somewhere with my interests, my life here, and my destiny as it relates to this time and place. i dont hate my job, i finally have the confidence and foundation in both my career and my studies to really begin moving forward with the things i've decided to focus on.

i dread the idea that my nature will hold me back again, that i'll find myself wondering why i'm not getting anywhere with anything. but i can now look forward to shorter upward climbs. i can look forward to hope, and to actual conclusions. for the first time, there is a definite plan taking shape in my head. things arent nearly as vague as they used to be, and thats a really good feeling.

the long road to hair

its really no wonder that 80% or so of people who decide to get into the beauty industry drop out either while still in school or within the first two years of their career. this is a rough business. school teaches you nothing while claiming to teach you the basics. basics? as defined by who? to me the basics of this profession are much more vast than what is taught in school. the stuff i learned in school could have been taught in 90 days or less. the rest of my education could have been spent teaching the actual methods of succeeding in this business such as how to build a client base, how to market yourself, and how to make clients happy and keep them coming back.

there are many facts omitted at the beginning of beauty school. you go in with your head filled up with ideas about how you are going to do fashion shoots and plays and movie stars and shit. the sad fact is that you will be lucky, lucky, to earn minimum wage for the first two years of your career while you break your back over a shampoo bowl, shave screaming kid's heads, and deal with asshole customers and lazy coworkers, all while having no fucking idea what you are doing. i had never heard the phrase "fake it til you make it" until i started working in this industry. what about the $10,000+ dollars i spent on my education? any chance i could have learned at least some of what i needed to know for that price? nope, the ten grand is the fee to start faking it. if i had known at the beginning that i would be expected to build up a clientele and hock products on people with no training in promotion or sales, i may have reconsidered my career choice. i'm friendly and charismatic, but i'm not a salesman. i have no interest in selling myself or retail products which do basically the same thing every other retail product does.

however, today i realized something. i've been selling myself to employers ever since i started working. i play up my resume, inflate my job skills and experience to sound more knowledgeable and important than i may or may not really be, and do the HR double talk slingo dance better than the next asshole. so if my new boss is my client, selling myself to them should be no different, with one exception.

looking for a position with a company is totally different than looking for a spot in an individual's life. businesses have set protocols for obtaining employment. individuals do not. how do you apply for a job with a client? how do you figure out who your client is, where they are, how to approach them, how to close the deal, and how to get their coveted referrals? there are a ton of ideas out there as to how to do this. i'm about to start throwing shit at the wall, because i need to know what sticks.

i realized that just having something to offer isnt enough. just having knowledge and skills does not bring people into your business, whether it be a salon, a software company, a dildo store or whatever else. if i am to ultimately own my own time and business, which is my goal, i have to develop a portable set of tried and true practices which quickly and effectively build and retain clientele. this is going to be one of the most challenging things i've ever done. i'm very friendly and outgoing, but i've never been a promoter or salesman before. i may already be a competent hairstylist (fucking finally), but if no one knows who i am then how do i make money with my skills?

i finally got a job at an upscale salon that does great work. i'm being trained on how to do refined, added value services that can be charged at a higher price than the chop shops i worked at before. the atmosphere, staff, and clientele are much nicer than i'm used to, which is a great blessing. our salon is also team based and paid hourly, which is unusual for a small independent salon. i dont have to worry about starving and being evicted as i train and build clientele, and clients are freely swapped between stylists. there is no cutthroat catty bullshit going on here. the client and the product are the focus, whereas in a commission (or hrly plus "commission bonus") salon, clients and techniques tend to be guarded like the golden fucking fleece.

however, today i found out that one of the stylists there only makes .50 an hr more than i do. she's been there two years. the girl who told me this was using this as a reason to look elsewhere for employment, and the aforementioned stylist is currently looking for a second job. at first this gave me pause, and i began to reconsider my intent to stay at this salon for a while. but then i realized why she still gets paid what she does.

its not that her skills are lacking or that she's lazy. its that she isnt bringing in money! if my quarterly review came up and i got denied a raise, i would understand if my sales had not gone up. if you're leveled off at a certain rate, the salon cant afford to pay you more unless you're bringing in the kind of money that justifies it. the worst part is, she doesnt know this, and doesnt know how to fix it. i consider myself lucky to have realized these things early in my career. i plan on moving around a lot. i dont want to be stuck in the same salon for years on end building clientele and then be unable to leave because i'm afraid to start over. i'm going to learn how to build and grow a steady client base so that i'm fully booked no matter where i am. whether you're renting a chair, getting commission or riding the clock at great clips, you're never going to get anywhere if you dont figure out how to do this.

now i just have to wade through all the bullshit and find out what works.

degree or not degree?

i've been toying with the idea of finishing my BA in computer science. one of the myriad reasons i got into the beauty industry is so that i could have a trade that i would enjoy doing while i put myself through school. there is nothing worse than slogging through a (shitty) full time job and a full course load while racking up debt and being so desperate for it all to end that you will take anything and do anything just to make it stop. i wanted to be in a position to say no to service sector and labor jobs. to be able to say, "no, i dont need to do that to get by. i'll pass" is an incredibly freeing thing. to have something i can do to sustain myself while i muddle my way into my dreams is something i'm glad i worked for.

but with this freedom to say no comes the freedom to question the validity of a degree. i see higher education as it stands right now as a total fucking scam. from what i understand, it used to be that a degree showed that you had a well rounded knowledge base, possibly with some specialization, that would make you more valuable to society and ultimately to an employer. over the course of four years, you would become intimately acquainted with selected texts on various subjects. you would learn how to study, do research, write meaningful documents and solve problems. this would come at a high monetary cost, but it would be reasonable when consideration was taken of how well placed you would be in the job market after your education was complete.

as it stands now, higher education has become an outmoded, bloated, bureaucratic endeavor that treats students like meaningless piles of shit. every semester, students are required to purchase $500-$1000+ worth of textbooks, most of which will not be read even halfway through. they are told that they will be able to sell them back at the end of the semester, only to find out that the courses have changed texts and that they are now left with a very expensive, verbose, and uninteresting paperweight. counselors and advisors will happily help you sign up for classes that may not even be required for your degree, and you will find out in your sophomore year that the course catalog and degree requirements have changed, which means you are now in it for another semester or two at the very least. no one is grandfathered in, everyone has to suffer through the same arbitrary requirements for their particular degree. if you are considering a two year degree at a junior college, forget about it taking two years. if you stop to consider the fact that the recommended course load for two year completion requires 15-20 credit hours per semester, when the recommended max course load is 12 credit hours, it quickly becomes clear that your two year degree just turned into a 3 or 4 year undertaking. if you need to work for a living during this time, i would be very impressed if you could take on even 8 credit hours without your grades dropping and your life becoming a living hell. considering the fact that most US high school students need remedial english and math classes by the time they graduate and you just added more to your course load and your debt.

lets not forget that degree completion does not necessarily make you upwardly mobile in and of itself. how many of our college grads are coming out of school with no local jobs to look forward to?

things have changed and our education system is keeping up about as well as a ford windstar racing a ferrari. that said, i dont know if i'll be rushing off to sign up at my local university for a few semesters of meaningless torture. as it stands right now, it's better to bone up on core subjects at your own pace so you can test out of them and keep your money and your time. you need to develop good study habits to make it through college anyway, so why not pick up a textbook and see if you can do it on your own before you sign up for a course you're unprepared for?

image, societal expectations, wearing down of the individual, loss and regaining of confidence

another reason i thought the beauty industry would be a good fit for me is that i wouldnt be expected to change the way i look just to get some work. i could have my hair down, paint my nails, pierce my face, dress stylishly yet professionally, etc.

i've come to realize this is only partially true. in a client based business, you have to make your customers comfortable with you. so much of people's perception of you is based on your appearance. if my client base is middle aged upper crust women, then unless i'm already famous for what i do, i have to present myself in a way that doesnt make them uncomfortable. you cant walk into a typical salon looking like takashi or robert cromeans in a matrix trenchcoat and a guy fawkes beard and expect to build up a client base.

realizing this sent me into a bit of a funk. all these years i've been retooling the way i look during the day, putting on this fake fucking costume just to make a buck. since we spend most of our waking hours at work, my appearance has suffered. i look in the mirror and i dont see myself looking back. i dont even wear makeup on the weekend anymore and i'm so out of shape that i dont wear the sexy clothes i used to. i feel like the world keeps hammering me back in, and every time i pop back out i get knocked back into place. i wasnt even allowed to wear cosmetics at my fucking beauty school. i've never been to the point of giving up completely, but i realized that i had given up to some degree and i hated myself for it.

but even after all that, i realized that i'm slowly but surely getting there. i cant let societal expectations place artificial boundaries on me. once i take this career where it needs to go i'll be able to look the way i want, and i dont have to worry about being "young enough" to pull it off. as long as i look in the mirror after work and feel like its me looking back, i'll be happy. pretty soon i'll even be able to do that while i'm working. that is going to feel absolutely monumental. there are always going to be people who look at me and wonder what the fuck i'm doing. i'm open to answering questions based on curiosity. but i'm done explaining myself when people vomit up their confusion in the form of derogatory accusations.

"whatchoo paintcho nail fo?"

"go fuck yourself."

new way of living diet

after trying a low cal, low fat diet recommended by my lovely girlfriend and getting no results, i'm about to try out the primal lifestyle. i'm confident that this is going to change my appearance and my self confidence for the better, and i cant wait to see some results. i'll be posting my results here so i can look back in wonder.

another new beginning

hopefully by the time i write here again, progress will have been made and i'll be a happier person, mania and all.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

digital rape management

when i download music, i tend to do so legally. this is usually pretty easy considering that most of the stuff i listen to is available for free under a creative commons license and distributed through simple websites and hosting services.

but occasionally i stumble across a band i like that is actually selling its music. when this happens, i normally dont mind shelling out a few bucks for a digital ep. i like supporting musicians i dig. when this can be done through a netlabel or a simple hosting site like beatport or soundcloud, its pretty painless. but if its done through a huge conglomo such as amazon, itunes, or a shitty site like bandcamp, the enjoyment of the music and the happy feeling of supporting underground musicians is quickly overshadowed by the FUCKING LUNACY involved with downloading from these types of services.

yesterday i decided to spend about 25 bucks on 4 different eps from three different bands, all of which were hosted on one of the aforementioned sites. it is now over 24 hours later and despite the fact that i paid for the music, i still do not posess it. lets start at the beginning, shall we?

i start off by going to and attempting to download the black mass ep for five bucks. bandcamp uses paypal for its transactions, which is a huge mistake. not only is paypal notorious for stealing people's money, it is also incredibly annoying to use. i havent used paypal since the great ebay moving sale of 2006, and i've changed bank accounts several times since then. so when i try to pay for the album i get redirected about sixteen different times because paypal keeps trying to get me to log into my account to pay for this ep, instead of just allowing me to pay with the card i'm currently using. it expects me to give up all my new bank information as well as my phone number in order to "pay more securely", which would entail a bunch of typing, many redirects through "secure" connections and about 20 minutes of my time, all for a FIVE FUCKING DOLLAR PURCHASE. i finally manage to wade through all of that and bandcamp then gives me the slowest possible download speed after "preparing" my download for so long that i thought my browser had frozen. two hours and five hard earned dollars later i finally had my THREE SONG ep.

then i head over to amazon to get "the cold world melts" by soft metals. instead of just allowing me to pay for the goddamn thing and download it, amazon now expects me to download another ridiculous and useless program called "amazon mp3 downloader" so that i can "download songs straight into itunes and windows media player", which i absolutely DO NOT WANT TO DO because itunes is the most useless piece of music library software ever written, closely followed by windows media player. i want a zip folder to put on my desktop and i'll organize my own music folders thank you very much. so since i didnt want to download their stupid fucking program, i had to download the songs one at a time, requiring about 30 clicks of the mouse and 15 minutes of my time. then i had to manually download the cover art. another hour and five more hard earned dollars later i finally have the ep i wanted.

now, lets talk about why itunes sucks so fucking bad. not only is it one of the least user friendly products i have ever interacted with, it is slow as hell and suffers from the same problem all macintosh products have: you cant do what YOU want to do with it, only what THEY want you to do with it. once you get the music from itunes, you have to jump through all kinds of hoops to use the songs with any other program and you have to practically sacrifice an infant to some dark and obscure god to listen to them outside of itunes. there's also the fact that you have to have an itunes account to buy music from itunes. all of this is related somehow to their idea of digital rights management, more properly termed as digital restrictions management, ostensibly so that you cant share the shit with anyone else who wants to hear it. well, i didnt want an itunes account, so i used my girlfriends account and a gift card she had in order to download three eps: introducing: tense, another ep by tense that i forgot the name of, and an album by darktown strutters. i got through enough of itunes' bullshit so that i thought i had the three eps downloading. i kept getting the error message "the itunes store is unavailable. please try again later." then itunes promptly crashed. the next problem with itunes and with many appications these days is that there is a new version every week or so and if you're perfectly happy with the old version well thats too fucking bad because it just wont work anymore when you try to actually use it for something.

so tonight i waited for two hours for the new version to download and install so that i can start torturing myself again. after all this bullshit, it's no wonder people pirate the shit out of all forms of media. its not just because they dont want to pay for it, although that is a big reason, it's because there is so much bullshit involved in doing things the right way that it is just not worth 30 hours of my time and a bunch of my hard earned money for a couple five dollar eps. if i could have pirated these things, i would have by now. but i'm cursed by the fact that the bands i listen to tend to be so fucking obscure that no one is out there sharing their shit for free.

somebody bring steve jobs over here so i can pull his head out of his ass and replace it with molten iron while i enjoy his screams of pain. this is what i feel like when i use itunes, steve. like molten iron in my colon.



Saturday, January 01, 2011

rag time to riches

i thought that my post about the tdlr licensing exam would be long and detailed, but it's not going to be. take heart, ye beauty school wenches, for the test is not so severe. i wouldnt recommend taking an energy drink beforehand if you arent accustomed to caffeine, because that shit made me tremble like an old lady with ms.

in fact, during the first segment, the manicure on a model, i was trembling so hard after drinking a "hydrive" that i almost could not polish my model's nails. a combination of nerves, caffeine, guarana, and whatever else they put in those things made me shake like a quake in cali. it was at this point when i looked at one of the proctors and asked, "so, do we clean up now, or what?" to which she responded, "do what you were taught in school."

seriously? thats it? do what i was taught in school? in school i was taught to gossip and watch movies, to evade my work and do nothing at all costs. in school i was taught that you should never work for visible changes, and that you can shoplift from the nail supply stores. in school i learned that women in packs love to have pot luck lunches for any and all reasons, and that even if its your birthday and you want vietnamese then we're still going to panchos because by god honey "my stomach cant handle that chinese food."

in school i learned that most people drop out. in school, i learned that going to beauty school and working full time do not mix. i learned that it's incredibly difficult to keep up your clock hours while paying rent, taking care of babies, supporting your $100+ a week pot/drug habit (this was someone i met, not me, honest) or dealing with your parental or roomate drama, all of which could be taking place at once and still be non specific to one another.

i saw more people drop out than i care to even think about. but a few of us pulled through. having already botched an attempt at an AA degree in computer science, i wasnt about to let anything stop me from getting my cosmetology license. but so many people i met just werent ready to shoulder the boring, lengthy burden and get through it all.

anyway, i'm done now. i took my test. i was going to write a lengthy essay on the tdlr practical exam, its ins and outs and what you should and shouldnt do. but in the end it turned out to be a very simple thing. i'm pretty sure everyone passed, even with our various instructors from different parts of the state telling us myriad ways to do things. even if you didnt pay attention in school, if you at least paid attention to the testing criteria laid out in the candidate information bulletin from psi, you will pass. my instructor and school director had it right when they said that the written exam is the hardest part. it wasnt the toughest for me, as i can pass a multiple choice exam after glancing over the material. but for most peple, even the ones who had traveled to the test site from such far flung places as arlington, waco, and paris (tx), the easy part was the practical. we all packed our kits differently, did our practicals differently, and we were all nervous as hell. no one could even look anyone in the eye we were so damn skittish. but i'm pretty sure that everyone passed, even the girl who left a big wad of hair in the shampoo bowl.

i can sum my practical exam advice up to this:

dont talk to anyone for any reason.
work as fast as you can.
keep everything as clean as possible, and dont worry if something such as the floor is uncleanable (there was mad hair on the floor from the morning test [i took mine in the afterlunch] and they didnt give us any shit about it)
do everything as you were taught in school, and if you werent taught something, wing it and clean up as best you can.
pull the hair out of the drain when you shampoo your mona.

really, that is about it. i was so nervous i was ready to puke, and just by going through the motions and doing what i learned in school, i passed. with flying motherfucking colors. all of us did. i dont think anyone walked out of there without permission to apply for their license.

so roll in there knowing you will pass. if you made it through beauty school, you will make it through your practical. dont be any mnore nervous that you have to be. its super fucking easy. i mean, i did it, and i'm a listless drunk who will never amount to anything according to current statistics.

the hard part is finding the right spot to work once you have your license. i was really lucky in landing a chair at a cool local spot within bike distance of my house. the problem is, beauty school did not prepare me for the industry. i now have to work at a chain joint for a bit and settle for hanging out and answering phones at the cool shop til i'm ready to hit the floor. this is one of the things that damn near soured me on the whole beauty school situation. if you have to work while you're in school, you wont have the time to learn to do hair on your own, to practice the techniques of the sages and become good at your craft.

you see, the point of beauty school is not to learn how to be a cosmetologist. the point is to learn how to pass the stupid test. the whole fucking thing is one long, extended, incredibly boring, slightly brutal and very expensive hazing process. and the worst part is, once its over, unless you were blessed with the time and money to practice your craft while slaving away for free 30+ hrs a week, you graduate with ZERO idea of how to cut and color some fucking hair.

i landed a spot at a top local salon on my personality alone. thankfully, my sex worked in my favor FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER IN MY LIFE EVER because they really wanted another guy in the shop. problem is, i'm not ready to take on full price clients. i'm stuck working burger world like i have been my entire life until i can get my chops up and put highlights away in thirty minutes. dont even get me started on haircuts because i was never taught anything but the 90.

luckily the owner of the shop is willing to give me some time before i stand behind the chair theyre holding for me. even better, i managed to find a job at a franchise (fantastic slams) so that i can get the actual experience and make the mistakes i need to make before i start at the high end salon. i've studied a lot of message boards and talked to a lot of people and many will tell you to never work for a chain salon, that you should only work for the top-est notch place where you can apprentice and work you way up.

the brutal truth is that the people who do that DO NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT PAYING THEIR FUCKING RENT EVERY MONTH. i would absolutely love to work for practically nothing at a place that would teach me everything, but the simple fact is that i got my license so that i could pay my bills in a way that i enjoyed. i love the industry and the art and craft involved, but at the end of the day i am not going to sleep under a bridge for hair.

get through school, get your tests done, get your license, and take the first job you can get. learn everything you can and get the flying fuck out of there because you will probably hate great clips or fantastic sams as much as you hated waiting tables. but that first job is where you really start learning your craft, and no matter how low brow some people will say certain salons are, all of us start somewhere. john paul dejoria and vidal sassoon once had to work hard for their money. so it starts with us.

dont be afraid to take that first job, but never stop looking for the place that feels right for you. i'm lucky enough to have found mine, and they're working with me until im ready to tackle the floor. in the meantime i'm going to chop up some kids and old lady heads at fantastic slams. i can only hope that anyone who reads this finds their sweet spot and lands that job that they feel comfortable in.

the penis, mightier than the sword.



never start for a salon such as visible changes, which makes you sign a contract which says you will pay for their education and/or work for them for several years, unless you know you want to be there. i had quite a few friends from school start at VC and quit within a week because of its stifling atmosphere and codgy management. the best education is always free, and any salon who expects you to pay for it after you already shelled out 5-10,000 for beauty school is just a fucking scam. find your education where you find your niche, and/or find it in a place where there is a ton of business no matter what, and your mistakes wont matter.