Qi People: 1

I’ve been working contract for about 2 months now for a pharma agency in New Jersey, CommonHealth. It feels a like I’ve been here for a lot longer. There are LOTS of meetings, and if they’re large enough, perfect opportunities to sketch your colleagues. Here are a few:

Chris Cullmann

Chris Cullman, profile

Nelson Figueroa

Let the Right One In

A note from the reviewer: OK, I really liked this movie, enough to want to write about it. It’s only after I began writing it in fits and starts that I realized what a difficult thing a review is to do! So my hats off to all those people that write for a living, it’s a tough job! I started this review a while ago, and so many weeks have passed since I saw the movie now, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to finish it properly, my memory for arcane movie trivia is slowly slipping away. Oh well, first time for everything…

Let The Right One In” was a great movie we saw the other day. There’s enough on the internet about it now: essentially the protagonist Oskar is a lonely Swedish boy in the 1980s who is befriended by a mysterious neighbor, a light-fearing 12 year old girl, Eli,  who moves in next door. I knew nothing about this movie before we watched it, Sophia heard good reviews about it and put it on our Netflix queue.

Spoiler alert: if you have heard nothing about this movie, except maybe the title, I’d suggest you don’t read on – I loved the way this movie opened up for me, even though it was clear what Eli was some sort of monster very early on.

This is foreign language (Swedish) movie, so if you can’t watch a movie with subtitles, this movie isn’t for you. For some this may be a bit slow paced, and it is a little at the beginning, there is no American style gore-fest to titillate, in fact the first “kill” of the movie is absolutely creepy in that it’s so methodical and slow paced, and done with a total lack of emotion or empathy for the victim, (although the victim does seem to not suffer a painful death.) Eli’s human companion, an older man who appears to be her father or uncle is shown earlier very matter of factly packing what appear to be mechanical or supplies, but which is actually his murdering and blood-letting kit.

In this early scene, the companion is interrupted by a couple and their dog, and so fails to bring home sustenance for his charge. He is chastised by an angry Eli who shouts “Must I do everything myself!” I’m not sure if the director means for us to not know that this is Eli shouting, he only shows the back of her head in many of these early scenes, and there really aren’t that many scenes where we see her being angry at anyone. Ferocious and insatiable, yes, angry, no. It seems to me, the reason we never see her face in that emotion, is because we’re meant to sympathize with her when she befriends Oskar, the other protagonist of the movie, a young 10 year old boy that is just as lonely and out of place in the world as she is.

The movie plays on the idea of the weak and powerful, on isolation and violence, on hidden emotions and battle scars that are not visible.

This was not an action-heavy American production, but was pretty gruesome and violent, non-the-less. There are moments of pure thrill and horror when Eli’s companion is interrupted in an attempt to capture a school boy and drain his blood, and must use acid to disfigure himself so that they cannot identify him as Eli’s companion.

It’s a little ambiguous whether this act is done out of love or fear of Eli. She finds out from the news that he is captured and held at a nearby hospital, and goes to look for him. This slight, pale, and bare-footed girl comes in from the cold Swedish night and asks the nurse at the reception desk where her “father” is being kept; and leaves once she has the information. There is a moment of anticipated horror when the nurse runs out to find the little girl, and I expected another grisly murder. Instead, the nurse stands outside, scanning the night for Eli, with the hospital behind her, and we see a scuttling figure climbing quickly up the side of the several-storey high building; Eli is going to pay “her father” a visit.

When at last they see each other, the old man offers himself up as a last meal to her, because he knows he is doomed, and this will sustain her. The moment is quite frightening, unlike the old Hollywood movies where the handsome vampire seduces the voluptuous, young maiden; in this scene, it is an acid-deformed old man willingly offering himself up to what amounts to little more than a ravenous animal in the form of Eli. (And there is no pretense in this movie that drinking blood is a clean affair which is neatly accomplished by two snake-like fangs – in this version, Eli does have to quite viciously rip open her victims’ flesh so that the blood vessels will pour out their life-giving fluid.

to be continued…

the reviewer comes back to finish the review…

So I’ll just end by saying there are some really great scenes in this movie, and for me, I always thought that Oskar would be Eli’s next human companion. It was so obvious once her older companion died that he was the most obvious sympathetic choice. I don’t think Eli set out to make Oskar her companion, at the beginning of the movie she said she couldn’t be friends with him. Although, in order to survive, perhaps that’s been her M.O. all along, befriend a sexually immature youngster who is weak, but will do her bidding… I guess we’ll never know unless they do a prequel (Please please please DON’T make a prequel). Let the audience fill in the gaps. There’s a lovely sense of ambiguity that independent or European films have, that American blockbusters are always afraid to touch, you’re really asked to take sides or form an opinion on your own about what it all means… (and then the studios go and make “Doubt” and make that argument toothless)

Of course sometimes this ambiguity can also lead to what Sophia and I call “¿por qué es por qué?” movies – you know – one of those Arty Farty Avante Garde movies that don’t say ANYTHING for 2 hours but you try to hold out for something at the end where there’s a great payoff, but there rarely is.

Overall, the movie is just lovely, the characters are so mellow and “Swedish” even the school bullies. Make no mistake though, this is a horror movie, it has flashes of pure horror, surprise, disgust, sympathy, teen angst, humor and innocence, the only equivalent that comes to mind in recent years is the Canadian Werewolf take-off “Ginger Snaps

Spoiler: The pool scene at the end of the movie — sure to be a CLASSIC.


… and out… and back in… Ah, the joys of freelancing!

So the gig I had with Rapp Collins (The Collaboratory) didn’t last the expected 2-3 months.

I shan’t say what happened, that wouldn’t be too professional; but I can say with all honesty that it was just a matter of bad luck for me. My “boss” Lindsay was super about it, the short duration of my stint was something beyond her control as well. In the short time I was there, I met some really great, smart people, and I just wish circumstances were different it was a terrific project, and *I* would have learnt a lot there. It was a  business decision which had to be made, so even though I was upset for myself, I totally understood why there really was no choice for the company.

I really should have updated this blog when I ended that contract, but I was back to the job boards and combing through my recruiter contacts immediately to find the next opportunity. I heard from one of my recruiters that there was not that much Project Management work out there – and what there was was mostly contract work.

Here’s the general idea about what’s happening in our market, and why it’s so hard for a freelancer to feel comforted and confident about finding good (or sometimes, *any*) work:

  • Advertisers are still skittish about putting money into marketing dollars with consumer confidence so low
  • Agencies are also in cost cutting mode, so they work with minimal staffing
  • If an Agency makes a bid on an RFP, they need to show the Advertisers they can do the same job for less than their competitors
  • The Agency bid is budgeted with the appropriate resources at “market” prices
  • Sales has to figure out where the budget can be trimmed, while Production needs resources from the market
  • Freelancers/contractors are called in to interview for the *possible* positions needed to be filled
  • Agencies get “pick of the litter” for exceptionally talented professionals right now, there are so many of us competing for the same jobs
  • Of the qualified candidates, we’re asked how low we can go with our rate, and they really push LOW
  • The Agency bid is recalculated with the new figures and sent to the Prospective Client
  • The Advertiser can go one of several ways:
  1. Decide to delay the project altogether
  2. Decide to cancel the marketing initiative altogether
  3. Decide to change the RFP if all the bids are too high
  4. Decide to go with another vendor
  5. Decide to go with the Agency the Freelancer interviewed for
  • So *at last* after weeks or months since the original interview with the agency, the Freelancers on the short list are asked if they are free to begin work…

So, I’ve been asked to come in to start a project with a pharma ad agency in Parsippany. I interviewed with them a couple of months ago and thought that was a dead lead. Funny how that happens. Ah the joys of freelancing!

Hope everyone is able to find work, or keep the job they already have. These are really tough times.

Rant over and out.

Back to work

So I started work this past Thursday at The Collaboratory, an Omnicom division that started up from their agency, RAPP. The purpose of The Collaboratory is to provide the client (in this case, HP’s Technology Services Group) with a single, world-wide agency for World, Regional and Local marketing, in order to bring economies of scale to their advertising budget, as well as culturally relevant marketing to individual markets. Right now, it’s an extremely new organization, their are parts of it that are already in place, essentially all of Omnicom’s various world-wide agencies are theoretically at our disposable during this transition period while HP and Omnicom gear up to implement this new process. I shan’t say too much, I’m sure a lot of the ideas behind either the campaigns or relationships with partner agencies are not publicly known yet, so this is another short post…

Obama version 0.2

Still trying to figure out how to draw Obama. With so many caricatures of him all over the place now, it’s hard to not be influcnced. I stayed away from political cartoons for a couple of weeks and only used picture reference for this sketch.

ObamaI’m struggling with his hairline and his eyes, I need to find a bigger picture of his eyes, and I just have to figure out how to physically represent his hair/hair-line in a drawing. Surprisingly, I’m having a hard time with his hair-line, invariably, with his high forehead, I either make him look like he has a receding hairline, or else he’s not as closely cropped as the real person. Well, I think at least this is better than my first attempt. I should get better as long as I don’t procrastinate too much.

It’s officially 3 months of unemployment now

Regardless of what happens with a handfull of prospective jobs this week, that I either interviewed with, or recruiters recommended me for, today is officially 3 months and counting of being unemployed. 🙁

We’ve had to pay for COBRA, Sirius covered us for the first two months as part of their severance package. But the COBRA administrator was supposed to have sent us an application packet for the Federal subsidy of COBRA and STILL hasn’t done it, almost a MONTH after it was announced – surely that’s enough time to work out all the details? Without that help, we won’t last that much longer, it takes a huge chunk of change out of our pocketbook, and with only one part time income, we have not got long at all before we start digging into the home equity loan we took out last year.

We got the utility subsidy from PSE&G a little while ago, it would have helped if it came in the middle of winter; but I’m thankful for it never the less. By the way, those ladies I drew a while ago for drawing practice, were waiting in line with me for that subsidy. That was 3 days of misery – the lines were so long, the building (a converted multi-family house in Newark) could not fit everyone in at the same time. So for about 4 hours each time, I had to wait in the bitter cold with 30 or so other people before we got to go inside.

Our bank (let’s just say it’s one of those being bailed out right now) is reviewing our application to prevent defaulting, we should know in a couple of days/maybe 2 weeks, if they can do anything short term, so we don’t have to worry about liquidity. One of the questions on the form says “why do you need assistance?” followed shortly by “How do you plan to continue payments if we help you?” I dunno, it seems like if you really need help the bank won’t help you (you’re going to default anyway), and if you CAN pay by digging in to savings, then that’s what they expect you to do (thereby crushing your life savings). We’ve asked if they can defer our payments until our income comes back up closer to previous levels. In other words, we’ll end up paying exactly the same amount, (perhaps with a little penalty), and it’ll take us a couple of extra months at the end of the 15 year mortgage to pay it off – it’s just REALLY difficult to pay off the mortgage now on top of living expenses, if they don’t help us.

I *just* finished doing our taxes, we had to get an EIN for the first time this year, because we’re filing electronically, and the Federal form requires it I guess. Pretty simple process to apply for and get an EIN for a sole proprietorship online at the IRS site.

I have to get more traffic to this site, I’ve got to let people know I’m available for drawing and illustration gigs. If anybody out there knows somebody who’s having a Bar Mitzvah and looking for a caricaturist or other entertainment, send them over to my party caricature site: http://partycaricatures.vox.com/ or for banners and illustrations to my “company” site: http://cyclopsnewmedia.vox.com/.

BTW I’m going to try and contact a few Mac-centric bloggers, and see if I can offer free caricatures in exchange for a mention or some real estate on their site. I spoke with one fellow, David Carrol today who gave me some interesting ideas on how to market my business, I really appreciated that he wanted to help me, and not just sell me something, we all need more people like David out there. (thanks again)

The kids

Here’s a couple of pictures of the kids in Mr. Lamberti’s music lessons. Ian on piano, Justin on guitar. The picture of Ian is a couple of years old, he’s being taught by Steve Colson at home now. Justin’s nearly finished with his current practice book and is getting pretty good at recognizing notes, although he still has to write them in the margins now.

Ian on the Piano
Ian on the Piano
Justin on guitar
Justin on guitar

I’m hoping doing this blog will make me get off my duff and draw more… (I still have to get back to doing a good picture of Obama!)

cheers!

Caricature practice

I’ve found that there’s no need to hire models, or get your friends or relatives to pose for you all the time in order to get practice drawing caricatures. Here are a few pictures of some ladies I drew in a waiting room. They were waiting to be called up to see the counselors for PSE&G to see if they qualified for a subsidy on their their energy bills.

Woman waiting for PSE&G bill assistance
Woman waiting for PSE&G bill assistance
Another woman waiting for PSE&G subsidy assistance
Another woman waiting for PSE&G subsidy assistance
2 other ladies waiting for PSE&G subsidy assistance
2 other ladies waiting for PSE&G subsidy assistance

The great thing about waiting rooms is that people usually don’t move that much, so you’ve got fairly compliant subjects. But as low key as you can get, people will often notice you drawing them and get a little self conscious. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes I’d show them my work afterwords, but it can make it difficult to draw strangers if you’re shy.

It’s also a lot easier to draw women than men in these situations. Without being sexist, it’s a lot scarier trying to draw a big guy, than a smaller woman in public, you just never know how someone is going to take a caricature drawing done of them. I’ve never had any problems myself, the worst that usually happens is that the person you are drawing moves too much, or leaves altogether – this forces you to draw quicker and make better decisions when drawing – working in ballpoint pen also forces you to commit to the decisions you do make.

I wish I was as prolific as Robert Crumb, the ultimate sketch artist, who’s sketch books you can buy at Fantagraphics books, I have 2 myself, and he has some great ideas on types of things to draw when your head is empty. I love his drawings of old cars and buildings, he can make them have a life you wouldn’t see without his eyes.

Enjoy! I’ll figure out what I’m going to do with this blog once I start writing with more regularity…