Thursday, August 27, 2015

Lights, Cell-Phone, Action!

Writing has been OK. I got some additional work doing a little magazine piece, writing blurbs for my newspaper’s upcoming special section, plus a real estate cover story. The homes' stories are always nice because of the extra money, but end up with me coveting the house, which I think may break a commandment, and involves at least three of the seven deadly sins.

Worse, the house is around the corner from mine. It’d be so easy to move my stuff over there, little by little. All I need is a couple of million dollars. Yep. Easy!

Anyway, decided to try something new for The Vintage Purse Gallery, since I’m attempting to focus on that as a primary source of income. It’s not a lot of money right now—just a few pennies here and there from Google ad clicks, but I’m hoping to grow that aspect of it while keeping the online museum free to visitors.

Someone suggested YouTube, so I checked out what’s already on there by doing a search of vintage purses. Below is my honest opinion. Would you expect anything less?

Some of the women who do these videos are GORGEOUS. Like, supermodel gorgeous. Flawless makeup, fabulous hair. I envy their looks and their ability to perfectly apply whatever indie cosmetics they are indulging in. Me, I go to CVS for my makeup. With coupons. Also, I am not twenty. Nope, haven’t seen twenty for a good long time. Thirty, too, is a distant memory. So, you get what I’m saying, right? I’m old. Too old to show my face on a video. It’s OK. I accept it.

That said, at least a few of these young women have no… uh… charisma whatsoever. Flat, monotone voices. Some, however, are indeed perky and not hard on the ears, but have no knowledge of purses. One YouTube young, beautiful woman misused an adjective so horribly in describing a purse—not going to tell you what the word was because Internet fans can be extremely retaliatory—that her gorgeousness was completely ruined for me.

So I did a video, showing only my cute l’il tiny ol’ hands, with the purses, with my not-too-awful voice and captions. Here’s the first video.



If you have any comments (please be nice), put them in the box below. Things I already know:

  1. I can’t put in as many captions in the next video. This one had a lot because we received information about the first purse that had to be included. I didn’t want to shoot the whole thing over again. An 8-minute video is about eight hours of work, with filming, uploading, editing, captioning, etc.
  2. I have to fix that camera angle. It’s a little cockeyed. I used my Android cell phone and a selfie stick/tripod I got for twenty bucks on Amazon.
  3. Maybe a different backdrop instead of the folding poster board, although it’ll still be plain to show the purses. Nothing fancy. And no background music. Too distracting.
  4. I’ll try not to be so breathless next time. This was done completely off the cuff, plus I wanted to speed through it so people wouldn’t lose interest, as I did with some of the videos I saw. My dad suggested I script the next videos, but it’s easier to add captions later than read a script and hold and show the purses. If I lost my place in the script, you’d hear a lot of “ums” and “uhs,” which I was trying to avoid.
  5. Nope, not gonna show my face. This is not self-deprecation. This is realism. I look fair-to-middlin’ (as my grandma used to say) for a woman of a certain age, but I’m definitely no supermodel. Never was. Unless CVS wants to offer a paid endorsement.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Enewetak Cleanup Vets Still Seeking Acknowledgment

This is a column I wrote for the Ventura County Star, where I was an opinion columnist for sixteen years, until early 2015, when it was discontinued due to lack of funding. This column ran May 25, 2006. After you read it, scroll down for updates.

ATOMIC VETERANS SEEK ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
by Wendy Dager
Ventura County Star
Original Run Date: May 25, 2006


The kid is graduating from high school. She settled on a culinary career.

We want to send her to a good vocational college, but were a little worried about finances. Some trade schools rival universities in tuition costs and we don’t qualify for assistance or scholarships. Since we’d never used my husband’s disabled veteran’s benefits, we thought we’d check it out.

In addition to suffering hearing loss and tinnitus from shooting weapons without ear protection, he is a second-generation Atomic Veteran.

Most of us have seen the old films of vets in the 1950s, sitting cross-legged on the ground as bombs are set off. The soldiers smile, not knowing they have been exposed to radiation; just doing what they have been ordered to do. They and others who participated in similar experiments are known as Atomic Veterans.

My husband also had orders when he joined the army in the late 1970s. He was one of the guys stationed in the Marshall Islands, cleaning up radiation left by atomic testing that took place from 1946 to 1958.

Approximately 4,000 workers were in the Enewetak Atoll from 1977-1980, filling a hole known as the “Cactus crater” with tons of radioactive dirt and debris that was eventually covered by cement and the now-famous Runit dome. My husband, who spent six months there, was told that one side of Runit was “hot,” but the side he worked on, with little or no protective gear, was not. He was directly next to the fence dividing the two sides. He never had a physical examination prior to leaving the atoll in 1979, but he provided a urine sample, for which he never received test results.

When we got married, we joked that our kids would glow in the dark. As time went on and my husband developed mystery ailments, we decided it wasn’t such a joke.

Several years ago, we tried to find out if there were any documented medical problems with other veterans who participated in the Marshall Islands’ cleanup, but Internet information was sketchy.

Today, it’s still unclear, so I contacted several sources to get clarification. I wrote to the woman who, during the Clinton administration, was in charge of examining and declassifying 1950s atomic-testing documents. These documents proved that some of the ‘50s vets were purposely exposed to radiation by the government. The woman never contacted me.

I called and wrote to the editor of a newsletter for atomic scientists, but I didn’t hear from him, either. I also called the Marshall Islands’ embassy in Washington, D.C., and, at the time of this writing, had not received a reply. I e-mailed a nuclear activist and author, who said he’d forward my e-mail to colleagues.

I did spend an hour on the phone with Pat Broudy, the widow of a Marine aviator who was exposed to radiation three times in the 1950s and died in 1977 of lymphoma. Pat is an Atomic Veterans advisor who tries to help vets who have illnesses they believe are related to radiation exposure. Often, she ends up assisting their widows. It’s a long story, and I have limited space here, but the upshot is that some of the previously declassified documents have been reclassified; military medical histories are buried; and the U.S. government only admits to causing certain cancers.

Vets who suffer from the effects of Agent Orange and Gulf War Syndrome have finally been recognized. Even the natives of the Marshall Islands, many of whom became sick, received what amounts to an admission of responsibility by the U.S. Government.

The Atomic Veterans, however, are barely acknowledged. The 1950s vets, like Pat Broudy’s husband, are dying off. The 1970s vets, like my husband, believe it is long-term exposure to radiation that is making many of them ill, but are told to “prove it,” while being denied access to information.

This has become more than just an issue of veterans’ benefits. This is about the shameful disregard of the health and dignity of those who’ve served our country after their service is done. –Wendy Dager, of Simi Valley, writes a biweekly column for the Star.

Photo of my husband (standing, center) in Enewetak, attired in what the
U.S. Army considered to be adequate radioactive-protective gear.

Below are some updates, personal and public. Some highlighted in red and italicized for emphasis.

1. The kid graduated from culinary school in 2007. Her tuition was not covered by the VA because it was a private college. Our other kid graduated from University of California, Santa Barbara in 2014. When she graduated from high school in 2010 and started going to junior college prior to attending UCSB, my husband had received his VA rating, so her tuition was paid for by the VA.

2. His (minimal) rating was based on injuries he'd received while serving in the U.S. Army. While this qualifies him for free medical care at the VA, he has still been denied for his hearing loss, which has been tested multiple times and is due to shooting weapons with no ear protection, plus having a Ramset nail gun shot next to his ear by a coworker while doing army construction work. Multiple independent audiologists have noted scarring inside his ears.

3. The hearing loss is but one problem. This year, my husband was granted, then denied treatment for a serious medical problem, because the VA ran out of money

4. There was never any acknowledgment of radiation exposure being the cause of his numerous medical issues. Currently, however, a group of Enewetak veterans has organized and is trying to get more attention for their service and its effects. A lot of these men and women have cancer and other serious medical conditions. Here is the link to the Facebook pages: Cleanup vets - closed group - https://www.facebook.com/groups/120395714769077/  - Enewetak Atoll Atomic Debris Cleanup Veterans - community group - https://www.facebook.com/AtomicCleanupVeterans 

5. In November, 2014, Alice "Pat" Broudy, with whom it was my pleasure to speak, donated to UNLV the papers detailing her work on behalf of 1950s Atomic Veterans. Here's the link: https://www.library.unlv.edu/2014/11/honoring-atomic-veterans-alice-p-broudy-papers.html

6. The National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada is hosting an event for Atomic Veterans, October 24-26, 2015. For more info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1422003321455515/



In addition to being exposed to radioactive debris, cesium, iodine, selenium and other chemicals from bomb testing, there are reports (unverified by the U.S. Government) that the 1977-1980 servicepeople who were "voluntold" to take on the duties of cleanup on the Enewetak Atoll were also ordered to mix discarded drums of Agent Orange with the radioactive dirt and concrete. 

The Runit dome is leaking and the island where all these servicepeople spent so much time has been deemed uninhabitable

December 3, 2014 NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/04/opinion/a-pacific-isle-radioactive-and-forgotten.html

If you would like to share information, or can be of assistance, please contact me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The End is Nigh, Whatever Nigh Means


I know what nigh means. I just thought it sounded cooler than “near.”


nigh

[nahy]
1.
near in space, time, or relation:
The time draws nigh.
2.
nearly; almost; (often followed by on or onto):
nigh onto twenty years.
adjective, nigher, nighest.
3.
near; approaching:
Evening is nigh.
4.
short or direct:
to take the nighest route.
5.
(of an animal or vehicle) being on the left side:
to be astride the nigh horse.
6.
Archaic. parsimonious; stingy.
preposition
7.
verb (used without object), verb (used with object)
8.
Archaic. to approach.

Thanks, dictionary.reference.com!

So, why is it nigh? Or near, if you really care that much?

Here is a conversation I had with my daughter, who has a BA in English. Not verbatim, but the gist.

Daughter: “So, mom, I was on (that forum she’s always on) and someone said, ‘hey, I have a new publication and I pay freelancers!' I looked at it and found out she pays one cent a word for 600-word articles. That’s SIX DOLLARS AN ARTICLE.”

Me: UH… WHA… (Has minor heart attack. Luckily, it is only minor, so I can finish this blog post.)

I Googled the phrase “$6 for a 600-word article” and a lot came up. Meaning people do this. Write 600 word articles... for $6. Meaning this is the end of freelancing as we know it. Forget this nigh business. It’s here.

See, I get paid $75-100 for a 600-word article. That is, I used to. I’m not sure anymore.

That's when I decided to look into opening a retail store, selling vintage clothes. With, possibly, a food element, like a café.

I have plenty of inventory. I’ve got another kid who has a culinary degree. WHAT IS STOPPING ME?

I will tell you. When I checked out store rents in my town—a bedroom community just outside of Los Angeles—I was SHOCKED.

For a 1,000 square-foot storefront in a decent strip mall, it’s about $2,000 per month rental. And forget adding a cute little café to keep people there longer/make more revenue. It’s $1,800 just to submit plans for a food facility to the health department. I have no idea what an actual permit would cost because I was afraid to ask.

It should be noted that many of these stores have been empty for years, and the landlords are still asking a metric crapton for rent because I guess they figure someone will pay it eventually. And, oh yeah, you also have to carry $2-5 million in liability insurance, plus fork over something called “triple net,” which is an additional per-month, per square-foot cost of maintaining the exterior—some of which aren’t very well-maintained. (I'm talking to you, rental lady who wanted $2 per square foot, plus triple net, for a store that has a parking lot with a Cadillac-sized sinkhole in it.)

So you’re looking at $2,500-$3,000 per month in expenses, just to maintain a store.

No wonder so many business fail. And no wonder people say California isn’t business-friendly.

Between this exhaustive/exhausting research and the fact that my freelance writing days are nearly over, I’m kind of at a loss.

That is, I’m still trying to come up with something brilliant to do. Meanwhile, I’m going to rent a space in a local antique mall to unload my vintage clothes, tchotchkes and some furniture so I can continue to work on my Rolling Vintage Purse Museum.

But there’s always something to cheer me up. Here’s my cheer-up for today. If a 1960s Paul Newman change purse doesn’t make you happy, then something’s wrong with you.






Thursday, June 4, 2015

Wendy’s List of People You Should Not Make Mad

In case you missed the title of my post, here is my list of people you should not make mad. It is not a complete list.
 
Hair stylist. The good part is it’ll grow back. Possibly unevenly, but you can always go to another stylist, who I am sure you will remember to not make mad.

Waiter or chef. Seriously, I do not understand why people are nasty to a server or cook. I mean, sending back food nicely is one thing (“So sorry to trouble you, but I believe this salmon may be off”), but if you are a jerk about it, you are risking the possibility of something yucky happening behind the scenes. My daughter is a chef. In her ten-year experience in kitchens she’s seen some… things.

Neighbor. Oh my goodness, have you seen those Investigation Discovery shows? Have you read the headlines? It just happened here in my own little city/town. It all starts with one tire innocently resting on someone else’s property line and BAM! You know what “BAM!” means. I don’t have to explain it to you.

Phlebotomist.

Yes. Please. Do not make your phlebotomist mad. Here is my story, which happened a couple of years ago.

I wait in the sitting area of the lab of my HMO for routine bloodwork, which always takes forever, even if I am the only person there, but usually the room is packed. I do not know why this is. I try not to make the reception people mad by asking, because I fear that they will “lose” my paperwork, which has happened before without my saying or doing anything.

Phlebotomist dude calls my name. He is pleasant. He’s drawn my blood before.

We go inside. I sit down. He puts the tourniquet around my arm.

“I like your hair,” he says.

I get this a lot. People like my hair because it is usually a shade of Highly Unnatural. Lately I’ve been favoring retina-burning fuchsia because just because. 

“Thanks,” I say. “I figure I get some creative license with my hair because I am a writer.”

Just making conversation so I can stop woozily thinking about getting stabbed with a needle and having blood drained from my body when I haven’t eaten anything all morning. Note: Yes, I have tattoos. No, people-without-tattoos, getting your blood drawn does not feel the same way. Getting a tattoo is much worse, but at least you can eat beforehand.

“My wife has had hair that color before,” he says. “She’s a writer, too.”

“Oh, really?” I say. “What does she write?”

WAIT FOR IT.

“She keeps a journal.”

PAUSE. FEEL HEAT RUSH TO CHEEKS. 

I search for a response.

“Well, I’m a paid writer.”

He laughs. He’s still being pleasant. No apparent offense taken, even though I am being a bit of a dick. We talk some more about writing. I tell him what I get paid for. I get a bruise on my arm where he sticks me, which is no big deal. I’m Casper the freakin’ Ghost, so pretty much every form of contact causes bruises to my pasty self.

I find out about a week later that he “forgot” to take one vial of blood for another test that my doctor had ordered. I have to go back to the lab and do the whole thing over: fasting, wooziness, waiting, waiting more, sticking (not by him), then bruising.

I would like to think he did not forget on purpose.

Do not make your phlebotomist mad.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pursing My Lips


I’ve been driving myself crazy trying to come up with purse puns/slogans/twists-on-cliches, hence the terrible title of this post, which isn't any of those things. Although with "pursing" I do tend to picture a young woman making a duck face and taking a "selfie," a word I am learning to hate.

But I am crazy-in-a-good-way. In addition to selling off a bunch of my vintage clothes and jewelry in my official museum store, Thrift Asylum (to raise money for the construction of our RV Purse Museum), I’m trying to earn some bucks in my Zazzle store, My Favorite Purse.

I’ve had the store since 2009, but it’s been mostly dormant. Five years ago, I uploaded a pretty bad photo collage of my vintage purses and applied them to items for purchase in the store, but I recently deleted all the old products. You’re welcome. I’m not so egotistical that I don’t know when my skill set sucks.

Or when it’s good.



Yeah. I’m all that. I can write an awesome advertorial. And, occasionally, I can come up with a pretty good slogan. 

Yes, I’ve bitched here about slogan theft many a time. I probably will again. Fair warning.

I came up with a few purse-themed slogans—which I double-checked for authenticity and which I expect to see in numerous other online stores in no time—and added them to my Zazzle shop.

I kind of gave up on photos/art and decided to do text-only shirts, which are simple and to the point. Like me. Very, very simple, yet oh so pointy.

And, despite my cynical realism about them getting pilfered, this was actually a fun experiment for me. Expect to see more. 


Monday, May 18, 2015

Sometimes Something Nice Happens


I really miss doing interviews with interesting people, like I used to when I was writing feature articles for a newspaper. Oh, man, I have some stories, like the Academy Award-winning composer (I was actually interviewing his wife, famous for something completely different and equally awesome) who was startled when he opened the door and saw me, then later confessed it was because I looked just like the one that got away. Meaning a girl he was once in love with and not anything nefarious.

You're not used to me talking about nice things, right?

That's why I'm very excited to have scored an email interview with Dr. Lori, star antiques appraiser for the Discovery Channel’s show Auction Kings. You can check it out by going to my vintage purse blog. Or by copying and pasting this link into your browser: http://www.vintagepursegallery.blogspot.com/

I’d love to do more of these for The Vintage Purse Gallery website and its blogs, so if you are someone—or know someone—who is in the vintage fashion business and has a unique perspective, especially when it comes to purses or purse accessories, please shoot me an email.

And if you’d like to meet me in person, I’ll be at the Tiara Garden Party at Strathearn Park & Museum, Sunday, May 31, 2015. The money raised by the Tiara Garden Party will benefit the Simi Valley Historical Society. I did my internships for my CSU, East Bay certificate in Art Museum and Gallery Studies at Strathearn Park, which was both fun and educational, plus I met some super nice people who work very hard to keep the place going. Last year, I went to the Tiara Garden Party as an attendee, but this year I’ll be exhibiting some of my vintage purses and answering questions about them, and wearing something fabulous.


Like this. Only not quite as animated.

For ticket information, check out the flier below, or visit www.simihistory.com.


I promise to be characteristically grumpier on my next post.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Diary of a Slightly Annoyed Writer


I found my 2009 diary, which documents my year of sending out something writing-related every day. I tried to market this diary to agents and publishers with no luck. I called it “A Discouraging Word” (too vague, I think), “My Bloody Typewriter” (too esoteric; homage to a quote by Hemingway), and “365 Days of Rejection” (not true; I actually sold some stuff and won a few contests that year.)


Whatever the title, the idea never clicked. Maybe because nobody wants the truth to get out there, keeping us writers all hopeful and dreamy-eyed.

Right.

So, I’ve been putting some of my moments from that year on this blog as “stories from the freelance writing trenches” (not succinct enough; but who cares, it’s not as if you’re paying for it).

Here’s the diary entry, in blue, from April 8, 2009. In red are my comments of today, May 6, 2015.

It’s April and I’m officially four months and eight days into my goal of doing something writing-related every day. I’ve sent queries, written articles, entered contests, worked on a new Cafepress site (more info on that later) and followed up with publishers on my work. Yes, follow-ups (f-yous) count as writing-related. Shut up. My world doesn’t have clearly defined parameters. I am not black and white. I am gray. And pink.

Just for fun, here’s a little tally I came up with today, based on the journal I’m keeping on my progress, or lack thereof.

I queried two publications, one on January 2 and one on February 20 for an article about what you need to know before you go to cooking school. Neither answered.

And they never did. Also, the Cafepress site was, briefly, a selection of punny bumper stickers… for caskets: “Bumper Stickers 2 Die 4.” A concept ahead of its time. Or maybe too sick. (Note to the kids: not “sick” as in “awesome.” “Sick” as in Auntie Wendy is a real sicko.)

I postal-mailed an article query plus TIFF photos to a magazine on February 14. They sent me an e-mail acknowledgement that they received my materials on February 24. I sent them a follow-up e-mail on April 6 and was told that it’ll take up to six months to review my package.

OK, so this one I’m not clear on. I seem to recall that I eventually got a rejection, something like a year later.

On March 13, I called a publisher to find out what happened to an art book (collaboration with my photojournalist friend Tina) proposal package I sent last November. Also sent a follow up e-mail. The nice receptionist told me she’d check into it, but there was no way of knowing they even received my materials.

They never got it. Or they lost it. One of those things.

I sent an article query to a magazine February 1. They e-mailed me back right away, wanting to see the article. I wrote it up and sent it to them February 4. I sent a follow-up March 20 and found out that it’s still in the review process.

Never responded. No rejection, no nothin'.

I sent a flash fiction story to an online magazine February 12. I sent a query about safe city living to a trade publication February 13. I sent greeting card ideas to a company February 16. I sent an essay to a humor mag February 19. No answer yet from any of those. There are lots more after that, but it’s only been a month or so since I mailed or e-mailed my submissions.

Again, my memory is hazy, but I seem to recall that the flash fiction editor made fun of the story. True, I mostly suck at fiction, but this was not constructive criticism. The trade publication never answered. After a follow up with the greeting card company, the editor said they never received my ideas. The humor mag sent a form letter rejection, which was disappointing, but very professional compared to a lot of these companies.

This interminable waiting—with the possibility of never getting an answer—is just the way it is with the writing world. I don’t like it, but I accept it. But now you see why I’m entering so many contests. With writing competitions—even the silliest ones—at least I have some idea as to when winners will be announced.

Except several of these 2009 writing contests never announced winners, and one that I CLEARLY WON ended up being a complete scam, their excuse being that the site was in beta and it said so in the fine print, so I didn’t get my Mac Mini.

On the plus side, I won AND RECEIVED, thank you, a bright green hoodie from the Flying Dog beer haiku contest. I still wear it. In fact, I’m wearing it right now. It matches my dreamy eyes.