Friday, July 26, 2013

And Remember Never to Smile

In Germany, Wal-Mart stopped requiring sales clerks to smile at customers — a practice that some male shoppers interpreted as flirting — and scrapped the morning Wal-Mart chant by staff members. 

“People found these things strange; Germans just don’t behave that way,” said Hans-Martin Poschmann, the secretary of the Verdi union, which represents 5,000 Wal-Mart employees here.

-Wal-Mart Finds That Its Formula Doesn’t Fit Every Culture, New York Times, August 2, 2006

Hello my beautiful babies. As you may have surmised from my face, I am not in a particularly jovial mood today. While our southern fried chicken has been selling quite well among the nostalgic American expats in Prenzlauerberg, we've run into a bit of a snafu -- and it has nothing to do with owner Joe's unfortunate press statements in support of Paula Deen. No, no...we've been receiving complaints from customers who have been just a tad bit stressed, some might say "aggrieved," by our customer service. I received this hand-written note in the mailbox today:

To whom it may concern,

Hello, my name is Markus and I visited your establishment a few weeks ago. I love southern food and have always wanted to make the road trip across U.S. to visit all those places where they eat that. Unfortunately, I felt very alienated by your disingenuous servers. For example, the waitress smiled at me before I had even left her a tip. Why? What did I do to deserve such a smile? I have not given her love, money, protection or a home. I do not trust people who smile unwarranted.



Kittens, what have I said about unwarranted smiles? Let's say it in unison:

It freaks Germans out.

We must let go of excessive niceties like saying "hi", asking folks how they are doing or acknowledging their presence with even so much as a nod.

Remember what I told you in May? Customers are nothing but walking, talking pieces of poo rolled in money. People in Berlin expect the brutal truth, like something you'd hear from an alcoholic, yet truthful, Mom: "You are fat, ugly and probably at the low-end of the Autism spectrum."

At the very least, we must strive to be as unhelpful as possible. For example, if some poor soul asks you what the difference between a large and a small drink is, simply sigh, look at the ceiling and say, "One is small, the other is large." If they keep pestering you, yell at them loudly to fuck off.

Think like a local, to whom capitalism is just another fad that is currently having its day in the sun. Those stupid tourists, they think, they're invading our stores like a plague of locusts! They're turning Berlin into some stupid Stasi-themed amusement park! How dare they expect good service just because they're paying for something.

I hope you all realize that treating our customers like they are the worst thing that has ever happened to us is absolutely imperative if we want to have a successful business in Berlin.

Thank you and get back to not doing work!

Monday, July 22, 2013

On Writing for Free

I've officially been a freelance writer without any full-time client for two weeks. After being fortunate enough to land some great assignments, I've found myself in a slump. Over the past few days, I've sent more than a dozen pitches to magazines I like, but none have offered me anything definite. 

So, today, I considered turning to the dark side:

If you aren't familiar with Elance, allow me to give you a brief synopsis: they suck. The work on the site is...demeaning. Insulting. The website throws virtual poo at me every time I look at it.

Here's an Elance job offer that was just sent to me. 

Budget: $20 - $55 
20 Page report on Atkins diet Recipes: Breakfast, Appetizers, Lunch Dinner and Dessert.
I am looking for a writer to write no less than a 20 page on the topic of Atkins diet
Recipes: Breakfast, Appetizers, Lunch Dinner and Dessert. 
(I will supply you with samples of similar content and specific topics to cover within the report once I select you). 
PLEASE NOTE that I looking for a writer to work with LONG TERM and will need you to also write other reports in the very near future providing your work is of quality material and your price per report is reasonable. 
All material must be original content, my staff will check and any material found to be plagiarized will be reported to the proper authorities and not paid for! 
Please keep in mind that I do require the following from you; 
By accepting this job, you agree that you you will own no rights to and that your name will appear nowhere on or within the report/biography and I will own all the rights including resell and distribution rights. 
Note: Please respond to this personally with an attached sample of your writing or your application will be deleted without review. 
Submit 20 pages on the Atkins diet for a little more than a buck a page to an editor who type-yells? Now that's what I call opportunity! 

Oh, and it's a ghost-writing gig so forget about adding it to your writing samples.

There are other, better, opportunities on Elance, but most come with a catch (ie, they are great assignments but don't actually pay). 

Elance lays bare the economics of the written English word, and it turns out the written English word is worth a third of a cent. Whichever assignment you apply for, you can also be assured there are twenty other applicants from India, Sri Lanka, China or Malaysia who can write for less money than you and are probably quicker, too. 

Over at Demand Media, you could work yourself to the bone (and possibly the psych ward), trying to make a living wage. 

So, I've been endlessly turning over a question in my head: when no editors are responding, why not write for free?

The stress of writing on deadline for some anonymous jerk online would inevitably make me crave a chocolate bar, a massage and some new bubble bath anyway, and that money isn't going to magically grow on the dying house plant which sits next to my computer. 

So, instead of hustling endlessly, I think it makes more sense to spend my down time (when I'm not pitching) writing for myself, $0 per word. 

I used to love writing for free. My blog was my release, and I poured everything into it. It didn't get me much of anywhere career-wise, but writing for an (albeit small) audience every day made me a more authentic person, a better risk-taker and guided me towards my true(r) writing style.  

Then I began taking myself too seriously to do it anymore, which was a stupid choice.

So, what I guess I'm trying to say is: hello, world. I'm so glad I'm not being paid to talk to you. I hope I can do it for a long, long time. I'll gladly make my own lunch. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Welcome to Pastoriala!

This will soon be you! (©
Welcome to Pastoriala, Kreuzköln's hottest co-working space! We're super stoked you've come to create / code / rock OUT in our converted grain silo. Since no gmos were used in the 1910’s, you can practically feel the retro bio vibes!

We're a dynamic, innovative group of artists, devs, guerilla gardeners, party promoters, wedding video editors, Polish language instructors, amateur clowns, illusionists and curators. We're all about collaboration here, so please join our Facebook group so we can send you emails every few hours about our friends who are looking for apartments in Berlin this Summer.

I see you've signed up for FLEX membership, which allows you unlimited use of the first and second floors of our collective between the hours of 9am- 5pm, Monday through Friday -- except next Tuesday through Friday, when we'll be hanging 500 pairs of sweatpants from the ceiling of both floors. Here’s the accompanying description by Choi Anderson, resident artist and hella dope philosopher:

Materials: Sweatpants.
Artist’s Statement: Sweatpants represent the alienation and loneliness inherent in our existence. Their comfort lulls us into a false sense of security (much like the capitalist system) while rendering mobility impossible. By hanging sweatpants collected from the homes of Hartz IV recipients, my piece explores the in / visible nature of so-called "uggo," "fast-track-to-depression" apparel. 

Thanks Choi -- you are our spirit animal.

We also serve fresh, organic food on the first floor of the collective every day between 9am and 2pm. After 2pm, if you ask for food we'll stare at you blankly, sigh, and say, "I guess I can try to find you something. Do you like lentils?"  Either eat the lentils or go away.

Occasionally, journalists from design mags may peek out from behind the silo doors and snap a few shots while you’re working. Please be a dude and close any windows devoted to porn and save it for later in the day when there's just one other person in the room who can totally see your screen but doesn't know what to do about it. That’s the Pastoriala way.

Collaboration might sound intimidating, like “Woah, I don’t want anyone touching my fixie.” But it could be something small, like sending out affirming vibes to a blocked creative or sharing your Club Mate Cola with a stranger. If you'd like to collaborate in a more substantial way, come sit at the vintage table in the corner of the cafe tomorrow morning and we can talk about such diverse topics as bike-powered toaster ovens and rooftop animal husbandry.

This week, we'll be featuring a performance from EEEEEEHHHHHAOOOOOUUUUUUHHH, who specializes in melodic yelling. You can also enter the sound massage room and get a shiatsu from Enya and co. Hungry? We're hosting a completely biodegradable dinner featuring Japanese plates made of weaved grass and dirt. Finally, you're not going to want to miss Death Metal Yoga. See how long you can hold downward dog while we blast Ramstein as loud as we can and play an endless loop of barnyard construction noises.

We can’t guarantee you’ll be able to concentrate, but fuck your capitalistic ethos anyway. This is ART we’re talking about.


Dana Deanson,
Head Curator, Collaborative Director of Pastoriala