Thursday, December 29, 2011

Earthly Neighborhood


      Madelaine was inundated with phone messages. Where was Victoria? This business of theirs was supposed to have been a partnership, not a sole proprietorship. Here she chanted her mantra: Promoting physical fitness establishes daily hope.
     Creating the memory databanks for WorkingOut.com had been mainly Madelaine’s forte, but once everything had stabilized in their day to day business cycle, both she and Victoria were supposed to have been evenly manning the office. Circuit training, aerobics, hip hop dance, strength sculpting, all types of exercise had been converted into 3D animation exercise videos for their business.
     Eighteen actors and actresses with exercise training had been hired and choreographed to do the stomach crunches, the pull ups, push-ups, calisthenics, weight lifting and dancing to make all the moves look effortless. They had all been hooked up to sensors as they went through all the motions of choreography and had been electronically attached to the advanced computer equipment to capture their movements.
     Where was that bagel tray with all the fruit juices and protein supplements? they had all clamored in unison in an effort to get through one of the days during the 3-week filming. Again the mantra: Promoting physical fitness establishes daily hope.
     The different characters had been rendered, using computer animation. It came out as a virtual dance studio with a cast of participants with catchy-sounding first names who were there to motivate, stretch and uplift the clients of WorkingOut.com.
     How come the computer driver interface to this dance video is no longer working? The software interface from the WorkingOut.com website was meant to act as a driver interface complete with password permissions so that each client user could download the workout videos. Once they were on the client’s hard drive, they could burn them on DVDs and watch them on their DVD player at their leisure. Of course, once the most recent popular computer operating system came out, the driver interface became antiquated. Needing the updates, that newest driver at this time, was not yet available on their website.
     When were the lawyers going to get back to them? She recited her recurring mantra here: Promoting physical fitness establishes daily hope.
     That had been the question on Madelaine’s mind the following day.
An elderly man had injured himself doing one of the strength sculpting videos and was threatening to sue their company, if he couldn’t come up with some kind of agreement with them.
     When one signs up with the website, there is that obligatory disclaimer stating that one should get the okay from their doctor before performing any of the exercises. Bernie, the elderly man had produced the written note from his doctor stating that he had indeed been fit enough to go through the rigors of the trendy routines. However, while doing one of the squatting moves, he pulled a hamstring and because of his advanced age, was now having a hard time recovering.
     Both Madelaine and Victoria had told the lawyers they were going to go so far as to pay for physical therapy for Bernie, in order to avoid litigation. Physical fitness was, after all their business, and getting Bernie set up with a therapist was definitely within their realm of influence.
     Why were the reviewers so harsh? In Victoria’s absence and while procrastinating for getting to her other business tasks, Madelaine read some of the reviews since the launch of their new website: Another Internet Exercise Fad, read one review; Not Such an Original Idea, read another one and the one that really hurt the most was; Do They Really Think They Can Compete? However, as startups go they were in the same league as the most current of websites. The only truly rosy review was one written by a website reviewer who had been a relative of Victoria’s.
     Promoting physical fitness establishes daily hope, she wrote spontaneously on a handy piece of paper.
     Let’s have amateurs rate the DVDs, was Victoria’s thinking. She had taken copies of the exercise DVDs to the local men’s and women’s sporting clubs and had different groups try them out. They were of different age groups and she encouraged everyone who liked the products to go ahead and rate them on the WorkingOut.com website, emphasizing that they were free to leave comments.
     Let’s advertise on free social networks. Tell a friend and spread the word, that had been their message when they spammed the networking websites with ads promising a better leaner physique from trying out their exercise animation products.
     In the meantime, a retired scientist who no longer believed in the powers of exercise, was secretly cursing the spam he was getting in his inbox from none other than WorkingOut.com. Where had they gotten his email address? Warren was working on a project that entailed writing articles about the planets of our solar system. He really believed in directing his mind to discovery and exploration of other worlds, and he paid very little attention to anything to do with diet or exercise. He was consumed with scientific facts.
     One of those facts was the circumference of each of the planets. Another fact was the number of moons orbiting each one. In fact, the laser light show at the planetarium was one of his evening highlights once a week.
     Then a scare for him . . .
     Warren’s cholesterol and blood pressure readings had suddenly gone through the roof. Urgently he had to think about the here and now – about his health as opposed to distant planets and future explorations.
     He remembered the website WorkingOut.com from the spam he received earlier on and he had a myriad of questions for them. So, he clicked on the ‘Contact Us’ button at the bottom of the website and typed this away on his computer keyboard . . .
     How much water should I be drinking?
     Will my health insurance cover your fees?
     How do I get started?
     What about nutrition?
     In fact, his email to them was composed entirely of questions. Madelaine that faithful day, which was the third one that Victoria had gone missing, fielded Warren’s questions.
     Victoria had apparently taken a vacation without leaving word because she had been over-wrought with stress. She eventually came back after two weeks.
     At hand, Madelaine wanted to ease Warren into the exercise mindset by telling him about the targeted body parts of each of the videos. From the elevated levels of his health scare, she recommended that he do some of the stretching and yoga moves first, followed by some of the easier dance movements.
     She explained that WorkingOut.com was there to offer a unique home service with the goal of getting everyone fit and healthy. Warren felt so much at ease with the rapport that he had established with Madelaine, that he sampled some of their exercise video animation packages immediately.
     “Supplement the exercise videos, by taking a brisk afternoon walk around the block,” Madelaine suggested in a later email, “ . . . and don’t forget your water and to reward yourself for all this exertion.” Did Warren need his own health mantra at this point? she wondered.
     At first, Warren couldn’t muster enough energy for the extra walks around his block, and he remedied this by hurling a myriad more of questions towards Madelaine.
     How will I know if I’ve improved my physical fitness?
     Can you recommend a dietary supplement for extra energy?
     Is there such a thing as not making enough progress?
     Their rapport by now included pictures of Warren that he sent in as attachments with his emails. In fact Warren became the first official case study for WorkingOut.com. Madelaine in their latter communication, allayed his fears of him seemingly showing no improvements, by saying that based on his pictures, he indeed was looking happier and healthier.
     Four months down the road, his bad cholesterol level had gone down and so had his blood pressure vitals.
     “How can I thank you?” Warren asked.
     “Just keep up with the exercise videos in order to stay healthy,” she replied.
     To Madelaine’s credit—Promoting physical fitness in this case, really did establish daily hope.
     Warren had a revelation . . . . He felt that although the study of planetary exploration was one of the first things on his list, keeping tabs on his health also meant appreciating his own Earthly backyard!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Karen Sylvester


      Karen Sylvester was materialistic. She graduated as a marketing student from the University of Redley last June. She would eventually work for a marketing firm that catered to the average and plus size woman. Her other jobs in the past included taking depositions for a friend’s dad’s law firm, as a photographer’s assistant checking lighting numbers and delivering newspapers from the back seat of a Honda motor-scooter.
As a photographer’s assistant, it was her job to check the light meter in between shots. The lighting director would then adjust the luminosity according to what the photographer preferred it to be. When it was her job to take depositions, she would gather information from the lawyer’s clients and each client’s friendly and neutral witnesses. In delivering newspapers in the early mornings, she rode on the back of that motor-scooter and slung newspapers on each appropriate doorstep.
     She loved to go to the nail salon to get acrylics on her fingernails and a traditional pedicure on her toe nails. She loved brilliant colors atop the acrylics, bright oranges, purple-lavenders and even yellow. Her pedicure color was always a hue either just darker or lighter then her nail color. Her natural hair color was brown, but she had it done in black from time to time as well. She always had her hair cut in long layers, keeping her hair long, shiny and sleek. The dark color contrasted and added a sparkle to her blue eyes. She often put a balm on her hair that melted into an oil in between the palms of her hands. This she put on, from the roots to the ends. Whether her hair was nourished enough, she didn’t know, but as long as it was shiny, she thought that that was important and to her liking.
     Her face makeup foundation, she did in a light beige color to bring out her eyes. She moisturized excessively and reaped the benefits of softer, smoother skin than what she was born with naturally. She usually smeared her face foundation on and blended it with a makeup sponge, then added a sweep of gray-black eye shadow, just to the contours of her eyelids, then dusted her whole face with face powder, swept her cheekbones with a dusty rose color, and applied two generous coats of mascara on her eyelashes.
     Her taste in clothing was club wear, even to work but she tried to dress down her style so that is always fit the conservative atmosphere, like donning a light weight shrug or fitting a blazer over her ensemble. At specific nights, she loved to go club hopping, preferring the retro disco scene to the hip hop or overly grunge scenes. She was there to party and spend most of the night just dancing. She didn’t feel comfortable dancing alone otherwise she would have, so she had a list of single eligible guys to call upon to be her disco dance partners. As you would agree by now, Karen was somewhat materialistic. She always needed funds for her hair balm, club wear, matching high heels, makeup to get that “approaching to natural look,” not to mention the manicures, pedicures and timely hair appointments to keep her hair in silky long layers.
     She was oblivious to everything, but the sights of the city of Harlem in New York tugged at her conscience. Many of the young mothers there were on welfare, struggling to make ends meet. The point was that these women were trying for a better life, and the turning point for many of them, was when they had children. At that point, it was not only themselves of concern, but also the lives of their children.
     Karen decided that she was no longer going to have different jobs. She would keep the marketing job she had currently. Her job at WebPrints, Inc. was to create the web page ads sent via email representing several of the department stores as well as specialty stores.
     What finally landed her the job doing marketing work via web ads through email for WebPrints, was a chance meeting with their department supervisor. Karen was having coffee at a mall cafĂ© during the noon rush hour, when seating was limited. She had an empty chair at her small table. David Henner from WebPrints, looking exhausted from back to back meetings, asked if he could sit down at her table. She graciously said yes, and eyeing the job application she was filling out for the retail department of one of the stores he represented, David in return for her kindness, inquired what position she was applying for?
     “... for the women’s clothing department, in sales,” she answered.
     David went on to ask her if she had a college degree, hoping to coach her on some of the questions she would encounter on the application. He was pleasantly surprised to hear that she held a Business degree in Marketing from Redley. He immediately gave Karen his business card. None too soon later, his pager went off, with a text message calling him to another meeting. His coffee in hand, became coffee to go. He reminded Karen to please call him in the morning of the next day. His card read Marketing Supervisor of WebPrints, Inc.
     Her days after getting the job with David’s company, was to sort through a virtual bin of background graphics and apply them to the dynamic web ads sent out. She played with Photoshop all day, cutting, pasting, overlaying and creating web print ads for these various department stores and shops.
     Having just broken up with her boyfriend, she tragically felt an overwhelming need to pull herself up from her sorrows, by helping others live the dream, which was to provide an escape, by going out once in a while. So she wrote a business proposal and collaborating with five of her closest friends, secured a loan with First National Bank.
     They opened the Basement Store. Karen literally found a basement in the building of one of the department store’s corporate offices. She took all the extra or overstock clothing from the stores she designed web layouts for and filled the Basement with them, making sure that the room of course was air conditioned and clean. She even consulted with OSHA for the safe handling practices of the merchandise, and also to ask what the temperature and cleanliness level of the basement should be.
     The modeling shoots for the outfits often had numerous photographic shots, that would never make it to the print sheet, so she bought these at a discount, usually straight from the photographers. She made an online catalog and populated it with all the overstock fashion. She used her sense of style to pick out only the clothing that she would wear herself. Her five friends did all the fulfillment orders and regularly organized the rapidly changing merchandise.
     Initially, she had to work to maintain her shiny hair with innumerable products, her flawless “natural-looking” skin through facials and make up and of course, those all encompassing club wear of hers. Sadly, those were the very reasons she lost her one serious boyfriend, because she was going nowhere, except clubbing. If her ex-boyfriend could see her now, he would see how resourceful she’d become.
     She stayed on with WebPrints and with her supervisor David’s permission, programmed in a code on various webAds sent to internet addresses of less affluent residents, giving them the option for huge discounts. The Basement overstock web store catered to residents who were close or were at the poverty level. She sent a survey out to assess the incomes of those below 10K and those were the recipients of the discount codes and the club wear line from the Basement. This was her pet project. And after searching for the right job and overall lifestyle that would give her happiness, giving people down on their luck the inside scoop, gave her a sense of purpose.
     She continued to go to clubs, dancing to retro disco music. The Basement became the disco ball in her life. Outside of the Basement, she was the all-consuming responsible adult. No more job hopping and all boyfriend relationships were handled like a mature adult.
     She had in mind to vary the club wear with Pasadena Rose Queen Judging wear, but after careful deliberation with her colleagues, they decided to keep it simple and just provide an escape for the struggling women out there through club wear.
     Life was short, Karen reasoned, so escape once in a while. Offering overstock club wear to the less affluent was her way of nudging everyone, who may not have experienced the “club scene,” to do so.
     Her life was once a mudslide, now the weather has cleared and her motto is: If you can’t dance regularly to the beat, then it’s best to bring that disco ball’s ambiance into your everyday life!