Saturday, May 30, 2015

Stalking For Sale

Email #1 – January 11, 2015

Thank you for purchasing the iPod Touch during out fabulous money saving New Year’s Sale. We hope you enjoy the iPod Touch with its many convenient features at our insanely low prices. If you could take a few minutes out of your time and complete the attached survey so we can find out how we did, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, and when purchasing your next music player, video or audio component remember you can get it less from ZapTronics!

Yours truly,

The Gang at ZapTronics

Email #2 – February 8, 2015

Whoops! Looks like somebody forgot to take care of a few minor chores, like walking the dog, washing the dishes, and leaving a survey about their favorite music & movies vendor, ZapTronics! But hey, we’re patient guys and we’ll let it slide this time. Just make sure to fill out our short, handy-dandy survey attached to this email and shoot it back to us as soon as possible. Don’t overdo the compliments, though, our stock girl Marcie blushes easily! Well, gotta get back to unboxing some new iPod product for our big President’s Day sale, the lowest sale on the net and only from ZapTronics!

Yours truly,

The Gang at ZapTronics

Email #3 – March 17, 2015

We miss you! Did we do something wrong? Earlier this year you bought one of our best iPods at our money-saving lowest prices on the internet. Weren’t you pleased with the great iPod Touch you purchased from us? If our product didn’t meet with your expectations please let us know with the consumer survey attached. Help us grow and improve our service to you! Just take a few minutes out of your time and fill it out, and remember, don’t miss our fabulous Easter sale, only at ZapTronics!!!!


The Gang at ZapTronics

Email #4 – April 3, 2015

After several requests for consumer feedback you have failed to respond. Might we remind you that when you purchase a product you enter an unwritten contract with the vendor to leave them feedback. Failure to do so is a breach of said contract and legal action might be taken, IF we were bad guys, but we’re not. So please reply to our FINAL request for feedback. Your timely response is greatly appreciated. Don’t forget – we got you that nice iPod Touch at super-low prices you can only get at ZapTronics.

Best Regards,

The Management of ZapTronics

P.S. Even Dave Grohl leaves feedback.

Email #5 – April 11, 2015

Take our word for it: Our business depends on your feedback. Without positive feedback we have no reputation, and with no reputation we get less and less customers coming to our fabulous on-line store. Are you trying to put us out of business? Do you want us to file for bankruptcy? Is that what you want? All that was required of you was to leave feedback for that cheap, fucking iPod which you bought WITHOUT PURCHASING A FUCKING WARRANTY, you penny-grinding son of a bitch!!!!! In closing, let us remind you that we have your phone number on file. Fill out the attached feedback and remit as soon as possible or you’ll be hearing from us….A LOT SOONER THAN YOU THINK!


The Management of ZapTronics

Email #6 – April 19, 2015

So, you want to play hardball, asshole? Let me remind you that we have our sources of consumer data and saw your name under the topic called “ZAPTRONICS SUCKS!” on Google. Rest assured the message board that published these libelous lies will be taken down within the next twenty-four hours, and we have carefully captured every name that posted on that message board (including YOURS) and will immediately take legal action against all of you for slander, as well as undue hardship, especially in the matter of a female stock clerk who suffered irreparable stress and anxiety, forcing her to leave work early, following the message board posts which were carefully printed and distributed around the warehouse and corporate office, too, you people, all of you are vandals, buying our precious stock and then throwing bricks and lobbing Molotov cocktails at the hard-working retail enterprise called ZapTronics. You and your thug internet cronies will have the devil to pay for your slanderous doings. Mark my words.


The Management of ZapTronics

Los Angeles Times – June 1, 2015

Adam Walfish, CEO of failing internet electronics retailer ZapTronics was indicted on several counts of income tax evasion, embezzlement of company funds, sexual harassment of a female stock clerk, as well as attempted identity theft of over 200 credit card numbers held by past customers. He faces a maximum sentence of thirty years in federal state prison if found guilty. Mr. Walfish refused to comment on these charges for this article.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tailors Beware

When you call for a plumber it's granted that the plumber shows up with his tools. Likewise, when you call a gardener you know they will show up with a lawn mower and other gardening tools. So why would a tailor call for an assistant and have some graduate from fashion school show up with no tools? This is almost as gross as some musician showing up to a gig without a guitar or an amplifier.

So, for the benefit of those aspiring tailor's assistants who want to advance into the fashion industry, here is a crash course on bringing the proper tools to work, also known as bring your shit to work or stay home.

For those who remain unequipped for tailoring jobs I’m going to give you a peek at what I bring to a tailoring job. There are a few things I didn’t include in this shoot, but I’ll mention some of them so you can have a better idea of what’s important to get the job done.

I normally carry my “tools” in a small leather travel bag, but any small bag with lots of small compartments will work. To summarize what’s in the bag, let’s go clockwise on the photograph:

We have a pair of snippers, a pair of fabric scissors (not to be confused with paper scissors, more on that later), sewing pins for basting (hand sewing), tailor’s chalk or waxes (I like waxes, myself), two seam rippers, a metal tape measure (in the fake cassette container), a Sharpee marker, China markers of varying colors (important), a rotary cutter, and a tailor’s measuring tape.

Let’s start from the beginning: Before you draft a customized pattern you’re going to have to measure your client, and that’s where that pretty yellow measuring tape comes in. My tape goes up to 120 inches, which also means it goes up to 10 feet.

Although that seems awfully tall for normal people, you may be called upon to measure furniture for upholstery or measure for curtains. If you’re doing mascot outfits everything is super-sized, so that 10 foot tape will come in handy. You can thank me later.

Once you have your measurements and your patterns are finally drafted, you’re going to need something to trace the pattern with on your fabric. I use China markers or tailor’s chalk or wax. Always trace opposite tones against the fabric, i.e. dark colors on light-colored fabric and light colors against dark-colored fabric.

After you’ve traced everything as close to the pattern line as possible, and stay away from the selvedge aka the gutter line of the material, it’s time to cut, right? This is where the rotary cutter comes in. Some people like to use standard tailor’s scissors and some use the rotary cutter. It doesn’t make a big difference; it’s simply a matter of taste. They’ll both work very well, but bear in mind that rotary cutter blades need to be replaced regularly, so be sure to buy refills when the blade starts getting dull.

In the next picture you’ll see that nice orange snippers, aka snips. This is good for both altering and finishing. When I use this for altering I will snip every fourth stitch from top to bottom. Once I reach the end of the flawed stitch line I pull the whole thread and the whole stitch comes right off in one pull!

Snips are also good for finishing when it’s time to clean all the threads hanging from your piece, and there’ll always be a load of those. Snips can be also be helpful in loosening stuck bobbin thread and other stubborn threads jamming your sewing machine. Yeah, that’ll happen no matter how careful you are.

Your case should have two pair of scissors: Paper scissors for cutting pattern paper and fabric scissors (shown here) for cutting fabric. Cutting too much paper with fabric scissors will dull it, so use the right tool for the right job.

Next we see sewing needles used for basting aka hand sewing. This container has needles of varying sizes with different sized eyes, as well. There’s a tiny hole in the dial-shaped container so move the dial towards the needle you want and let it fall out. I have big hands so I prefer to use a long needle with a big eye, but there’s sizes for everyone.

Then there’s tailor’s wax which comes in different colors. They perform the same function as China markers. Sometimes you can get a much finer line with tailor’s wax so don’t be afraid to try it.

In the bottom photo shown there’s two seam rippers. Always get two because as sturdy as they look I’ve broken quite a few in my time, believe it or not. Seam rippers are essential because when you sew something lame on your machine you’re going to have to rip out the bad stitches before you sew it all over again. A seam ripper is absolutely crucial to ripping out those bad stitches. Most tailors use a razor blade but you have to be really experienced to use it wisely.

A couple of other pieces of equipment that you need (not pictured) are: safety pins for connecting, ball-head pins for pinning down the pattern to your fabric and keeping fabric from dancing around your sewing machine when it’s being sewed.

And speaking of sewing machines, it wouldn’t hurt to get some looping needle threaders. These are small metal loops you stick the sewing machine thread through and then stick into the eye of the sewing machine needle. It makes threading the needle easier.

It’s also nice to have a tomato to stick your basting needles in. They come with a tiny sand-filled strawberry attached that you can stick your needles in when you want to sharpen them. In addition, always carry a small writing pad with a tiny pen for taking notes when going on location and jotting down measurements while the boss is doing all the measuring.

And finally, no matter what, always pack a small bottle of aspirin. You're gonna need it. Happy sewing!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Do Spiders Dream of Electric Flies?

Not so long ago I stood in line at an auditorium waiting for the doors to open for an important meeting. I stood by a rather boring floor-to-ceiling glass window. Then, something caught my eye that completely demolished any semblance of boredom.

A fly positioned itself lazily on a steel beam in front of the window, and as I quickly looked into the window, where perched on the curtain on the other side was a spider. The spider positioned and re-positioned itself to get closer and closer towards the fly lying on the steel beam outside.

I wondered if the spider thought the fly was within reach of trapping and eating? Did the fly not move because it was afraid of the spider on the other side? Were they both aware of the fact that there was a window separating them? Bees have been known to fly around plate glass windows for hours hitting themselves against the plate thinking they can fly out.

The whole rite of eat or be eaten became very perplexing with no answer in sight. There was no outcome to be seen, nor would I even see any attempt made since I was called in for my meeting. In less than five minutes I saw the meaning of life told in front of me: Someone will survive and someone will die and we’ll never know why or when.

Last year I sent a submission to a literary zine I respected. It was based in London. It dealt with mostly LGBT subject matter and clamored something awful for works that were truly OUTRAGEOUS and TRULY ORIGINAL. This is something I used to hear record companies crying for all the time, but once upon hearing my music they’d turn turtle and play dead, so I knew this hustle was horseshit. Nevertheless, I sent them some of my writing.

While I was waiting for my answer from this zine I looked through their stuff and there was a lot of bad lesbian poetry, just awful stuff that sounded like a woman whining to you in a coffee shop about her disloyal girlfriend. There was one thing that was kind of glam rock but was so rife with comic book stereotypes of glam rockers. The writer sounded like he knew nothing about the subject but found cross-dressing titillating.

After sitting around watching my hand grow and reading the zine’s editor tweeting over and over about SEND US YOUR SUBMISSIONS and more claptrap about OUTRAGEOUS and TRULY ORIGINAL I lost it. I tweeted back, “Hey, my story, have you read it? Are you a beggar or a receiver?”

Mister English LGBT Zine probably bristled at my tweet rejoinder because he snarked back, “We are currently swamped with submissions BLAHBLAHBLAH”….Then why keep begging for submissions, matey?

A week later I finally got my response from this character. It went something like this, and I quote:
“We regret to send you the news that your story didn’t make the grade, however out of all the rejected submissions yours had the most potential”.

(Okay, you didn’t care for my story. Life goes on, but then Mister Swamped goes into a critical analysis of why my writing wasn’t good enough for his obscure zine, which was under no circumstances requested).

“Your writing shows a marked lack of subtlety. Your plotting is brash and overly violent. Your dialogue and descriptions are executed with a primitive crudeness which could use some refining”. I don’t recall even encouragement to submit to them again which other publishers routinely throw out as a beau geste.

The arrogance of someone topping the news your work is unacceptable by offering unsolicited criticism in superior tones was enough to piss me off for the better part of a week. Then I read and re-read his remarks until it finally hit me, and then I laughed. And after that I laughed some more.

His remarks flashed back at me in neon letters: “LACK OF SUBTLETY”…”BRASH”…”OVERLY VIOLENT”…”PRIMITIVE”….In other words he said I wrote like a fucking American. Well, that’s how Americans like to write. Jim Thompson. Charles Bukowski. Jack London. William S. Burroughs. America. No apologies intended. And certainly no changes needed either, Mister Obscure Literary Zine. Have fun with your little cottage publication. Your tame glam rock stories don’t even recall my glory days of the Seventies. Do some fucking research. There’s my unsolicited advice to you.

As long as we’re giving advice about writing, here’s mine: writing doesn’t have fuck-all to do with ideas. You can cart around the world’s oldest idea for a story and still make it work. The success of a story is contingent upon two elements: ATTITUDE & APPROACH.

Attitude is your story and how you SEE it; Approach is your story and how you TELL it. Attitude can also be called the POV (Point Of View). A good example would be the writings of Jack London and Jack Kerouac, two writers who wrote about riding the rails, taking on odd jobs and traveling across the United States. The stories aren’t particularly gripping but their attitude is what sells the tale. Both writers have a distinct attitude on the same situation that makes their writing breathe. Their POV aka their eyes see a similar landscape but everything gets processed in their own style.

A cinematic example of that would be The Killers (1946) which is told from the POV of the insurance investigator, and then we see the same story in 1964 as told from the POV of the killers themselves. Our vision of what the writer sees through his eyes is told through their ATTITUDE.

Approach is the way the tale is told. This is a little different from attitude because now we’re reading our story from a different voice. I can write a bank heist novel but because of how I tell it, it won’t read like W.R. Burnett, who writes in a lean, taut style, or like Ken Bruen, who peppers his crime writing with a lot of Irish slang. To put it simply, it’s the singer, not the song.

In other words you could write the world’s oldest shaggy dog story, but if your APPROACH is different then it’ll still read like something new. The telling of a tale is mostly sold on the writer’s reporting of the events, and originality be damned. I’ve read countless books with original concepts that suffered from shitty story-telling. Don’t worry about having original ideas, they don’t mean shit if you can’t tell a story well. So go write your crazy, unoriginal story.

And don’t be afraid to write like an American.

Friday, May 1, 2015

May Day

I'm going to a job interview; no, let me rephrase that, I'm going to an interview at an employment agency that will send me to a place I can work at for a brief assignment. The name of the agency is DeskWorks and they came highly recommended on Yelp, earning their coveted five star rating.

I enter the office wearing a suit and tie, trying hard to make a good impression. I introduce myself as Spencer Smith to the receptionist and sign in at the front desk. I'm told to take a seat and as I do I reach for a magazine to read until my name gets called. Every magazine on the table is People Magazine, US Magazine, or In Touch Magazine.

As I pick up a magazine lamenting the death of Robin Williams I overhear the receptionist and her co-worker debate about who's the sexiest man alive.
'James Franco always looks hot'.
'Oh, he's so five years ago. Channing Tatum's definitely the sexiest man alive'.

The debate continues and intensifies until I finally hear my name called and I meet my work coordinator. He's a neatly dressed African American man in his fifties named Dalton with close-cropped hair and a green tie with a pink shirt. After the usual small talk I pull out my resume for him to review. He likes my job history and all seems well until he notices a black spot.

'Spencer, can I call you Spence? What's this here about your high school graduation year?'
'Is something wrong with it? Should I take it off?'
'Yes, I would definitely recommend it'.
'Do employers look down on high school graduates?'

He scrunches his face, hemming and hawing. 'No, it's not that. It's just that you list 1974 as the year you graduated. If you were eighteen 40 years ago no one will hire you. You're already dating yourself with your resume....Um, yes, you need to take this off. I can't send this out. This would jeopardize your employability'.

Holding my temper, I ask him if there's anything else he sees in my resume.
'Tell me about why you left your last permanent job'.
I coat the truth by telling him that I left my last position because a new manager came in and brought her own staff with her, cutting the rest of us loose.

The truth is that I worked for a mentally unstable single mother who formed an insane crush on me and thought that I would be her man, even though she still called her abusive ex-husband to come over and fix her air conditioning. 'My son still needs his father', she said.

She told me about her son's porn addiction and asked me for advice about what I would do if I was the boy's father. Either I'd change the subject or excuse myself by going to the bathroom. In retaliation, she accused me of looking at her the wrong way or snapping at her so she wrote me up in a disciplinary report. That was the true story but employment agencies don't really want to hear about all that.

I go home and change my resume and send it to Mr. Dalton the way he wants it. I call DeskWorks the next day and Mr. Dalton is too busy to talk to me. I leave a message, then another, and another and Mr. Dalton has no intention of returning my calls. I killed myself by revealing how old I am.

“The application process has several steps. The first step is taking a written test. After you pass the written test, there is a typing, Microsoft Word & Excel test. After you pass that there is an interview with two or more people who place people in “bands”, which are levels of who they think are most competent. Even at this level, you can be eliminated. The entire process takes over a month, maybe two. If you are chosen, you will probably be assigned to scanning paperwork for six months. Once the assignment is over, you have to undergo the application process again in order to be considered for the next clerical assignment”.


I recently switched gyms. I dumped the last one because they kept closing every time I went there. One time someone burned a bag of popcorn in the microwave oven and they turned on the fire alarm, forcing everyone to evacuate the building regardless of whether they had their clothes on or not.

People using the pool had to stand out in the street in their swimming trunks until the imagined fire was contained. There were more strange excuses for kicking people out of the gym until it became impossible to go there on a regular basis.

The new gym I went to was in the gay section of town. The membership was cheaper and there wasn’t a microwave oven in sight. I chose that gym because I knew that the men were serious about keeping fit and exercising. It wouldn’t be just another social club. There weren’t a lot of women there, and the ones that did looked like they stepped out of ads for the LA Weekly – thin, cold, and unfriendly. But there was one who was different.

When I first saw her she was thick and flabby with a henna rinse of hair and horn-rim glasses, but the odd part was that she wore a leopard spotted t-shirt and a man’s old baggy swimming trunks. She wore tons of eye shadow, foundation and lipstick. She looked like a bottom feeder stripper trying to lose weight so she could get a job at a better club.

In spite of feeling uncomfortable working out for the first time, she was pretty focused with her workout. Unlike the others she didn’t have an iPod connected to a pair of ear buds plugged into her skull. I’d glance at her periodically because she distinctly stood out from everyone else. She was someone different. I saw her every week I went to the gym.

A few weeks later I missed my regular night and went on a different night. In spite of the change there she was, the girl working out in the weight room, which she never used before.

Her appearance changed: the glasses were gone, she bought standard workout spandex clothes but the heavy makeup was still there. The workouts did their magic: she looked thinner than she had since the first time I saw her. I glanced at her for a moment, and upon seeing me she looked alarmed, quickly got off her exercise machine, and raced out of the room.

Two weeks later the leopard girl was at the gym, by this point looking virtually unrecognizable. She wore blindingly bright fluorescent workout clothes, styled her hair, her makeup was heavier than ever and all the flab and chunk she had when she walked in with was long, long gone. She went from looking like someone’s mother to looking like someone’s daughter. When she saw me she walked by my exercise machine and made a weak, ineffectual sneer.

When she sat down at her exercise machine, instead of working out like she usually did, she simply sat there, staring straight ahead, just camping on the machine. It was if she was saying, 'I lost the weight. I don’t have to work out so hard anymore'.

Angered by her unwarranted dirty look I walked up to her and said, 'You were a lot nicer when you wore swimming trunks', and walked away before she had a chance to say anything.

I moved into the weight room and without turning around to check I could feel her eyes burning into my back. And that’s the last time I ever saw her again.

She probably got a job at a better strip club.


I show my new resume to an agency called Clerk Army and they send me out to a job with a pay rate closely approaching minimum wage. The job involves typing up letters to the Mayor of Los Angeles and the Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.

My supervisor is a woman who looks like a young Elizabeth Taylor from 'Suddenly Last Summer' and whose husband also works in the building. He checks up on her several times a day. Perhaps it's because she only hires men to work under her and she wears her clothes so tight they look like they're going to burst from her body. Every curve and highlight of her body gets equal stage time when she reports to work.

In the beginning I create reports and attend important meetings and am treated like a valued employee, pygmy-sized pay and all. My desk is situated in the front of the office. Everyone sees me as they walk by the front door. I enjoy the attention and the responsibility. It makes me feel needed. Everybody tells me I’m a real life saver.

Two months later the secretary who’s been out on physical disability leave returns and I have my job duties taken away from me. I’m reduced to picking up her mail and running downstairs to set up tables and chairs in the meeting room. I also have to unpack and set up twenty laptops every other day. I’ve also been moved to the very back of the office in a small corner, out of plain sight from everyone.

After three months of running around the building and doing nothing else, my supervisor senses my boredom and calls me in to her office. Wearing a tight sweater with a plunging neckline and even tighter pants, she lets me know that my assignment is winding down.

'Spencer, we really value your work here. Would you be interested in having your assignment extended by another six months?'
'Well, um…'
'I know you’ve been thinking about returning to full-time employment. I can advocate for you to return to full-time if you agree to a six-month extension'.

I can tell she’s working me, and I can’t remember being worked this hard since 1974 when a girl at Rodney’s English Disco badgered me into taking her to the Rainbow Bar & Grill and then ditching me once I snuck her in.

I tell my boss that I’m not interested. She responds by not talking to me for the next two weeks until my assignment is over. I’m actually pretty relieved I don’t have to deal with Young Elizabeth Taylor anymore.

When I drive home I think about the next assignment and how I have to work for more money. The phone company wants to disconnect my line. I finally get a call from Mr. Dalton at DeskWorks. I let the voice mail on my dying cell phone take the call. Let him leave a message for a change.

He wants me to guard a jewelry store in Beverly Hills for one night. A wine tasting party in the middle of Beverly Hills need temps to guard the stores so the drunken rich people don’t go berserk and loot the local merchants.

I decide not to call him back. An old man needs his rest.