Thing Thoughts: Taylor Stitch has Gone Global

Taylor Stitch Jack Shirt Made in California

There’s nothing I love more than small local homegrown businesses that put out exceptional quality stuff via local manufacturing. One of the businesses I love that does that is Taylor Stitch, although they aren’t so much anymore and that makes me sad.

I discovered Taylor Stitch back in 2016 when I lost a lot of weight and no longer fit into any of my clothes. Of course since I wasn’t spending as much money on food, naturally, I decided to put it into clothes that fit. Having already been enamored of US-made stuff (which consistently cost more but lasted much much longer) I started looking up local clothing designers and manufacturers and came across Taylor Stitch, a small company based out of San Francisco that was making their clothing in California. I jumped on the opportunity to redo do things. For all intents and purposes, I have since become a Taylor Stitch collector. I have bought their Jack shirt in numerous colors and also own their Chore Pant in all available colors, including some not available on the site (only available in their San Francisco stores.). The Chore pant is awesome, but it does suffer from some fading issues. I might cover that later in a separate post.

Unfortunately, earlier this year, Taylor Stitch decided to move much of their production overseas to, most notably, China. One of the things I like about Taylor Stitch is that they often let customers vote on future clothing releases by sending you to a survey site to gauge your interest in upcoming releases. The most recent survey was entirely items made in China. In the past, they had outsourced items like some of their leather accessories and their Democratic Chinos to factories in Spain. It would appear that both Spanish-made items were/are consistent in quality to the goods they were making here in the US and this may be that they were made under the auspices of Taylor Stitch’s initial charter and what it expected in outsourced goods. In fact the only real issue I have with the Democratic China (which is an awesome pair of pants) is its use of a print of a map of San Francisco inside the pants…despite being made in another country. It’s just weird.

Unfortunately, I have no faith in the quality, materials, or fit and finish of items made in China. I’ve consistently been let down by clothes and shoes coming from China, and while I understand that it allows fashion designers to tag items with a 100,000% markup on items, it also allows them to rely solely on their branding and visual design to earn repeat business, which they get by importing Chinese-made clothing that [possibly deliberately] wears out and falls apart quickly. Given that there is little to no accountability and quality control, this is to be expected from countries with garment factories that place high volume/low price above high quality/low output. One consistently sees a difference here.

To digress for a moment, last year I made the switch from Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star lows (made in China) to SOM Footwear Zephyrs made in Colorado. The difference in fit, finish, and manufacturing is astonishing. I have highly arched small toes which would wear holes through the sides of Chucks in under three months and the sides of the midsole would crack and split. I am now eight months in wearing my Zephyrs and there is ZERO sign of fatigue in the shoe fabric and the soles aren’t cracking at all. On top of that, these shoes can be resoled for $35. I’m so happy with them, I haven’t ordered a resole yet…I ordered a new pair of SOMs (the Briquette) to start a collection, and will get my Zephyr’s resoled once the Briquettes get here. You can make the argument that the Chucks are cheaper, but with the option of resoling, the SOMs will outlast any single pair of Chucks by years. I’d show you a comparison pic, but I tossed the Chucks out eight months ago. I’m still getting used to the whole notion of documenting things here. I covered SOMs briefly in an earlier post when they sent me stuff for winning a contest, I’ll talk about the shoes more themselves in a later post.

Getting back to Taylor Stitch, For me, the red flag went up when I pre-ordered/crowd-funded my favorite cut of shirt ever, the Taylor Stitch Jack insofar as the reverse jacquard variant was the only one I’ve received that wasn’t made in California, rather, it was made in Portugal. The difference in sizing and cut was noticeable and I wonder how it will hold up. In fact, as I write this, I wonder if perhaps Taylor Stitch’s owners sold the company recently, whether as an ouster or part of a planned exit with venture capital investors. If that is the case, that is unfortunate and I would highly recommend you go buy up whatever US-made goods remain in their inventory, I know I’ll be taking a careful look myself.

So in conclusion, I have every intention of continuing to support Taylor Stitch’s domestic efforts, but the more production they move overseas, the less interested I become.

Local Thoughts: The Los Angeles Theatre and Perfecting My Panorama

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of the seminal movies of my life and holds up better than nuclear fuel rods, so when I heard that it was going to be screened at the iconic Los Angeles Theatre in Downtown LA, I knew I had to go see it and also capture a panorama of the interior. We all know the Los Angeles Theatre well from a variety of movies, TV shows, and excellent commercials. For example:

  

Okay that’s enough pop-culture referencing for the moment. The point is, you probably knew about this place, and as theaters go, it’s pretty epic inside, although not in the greatest of shape, as are none of the formerly grand Broadway movie palaces of the early 20th Century.

The theatre is part of the LA Conservancy’s annual ‘Last Remaining Seats’ festival that screens classic cinema in formerly glorious and ornate movie palaces mostly located in the Broadway Theatre District in Downtown Los Angeles, but also in other locations around Los Angeles as well. Previously, I had seen Citizen Kane at the Orpheum Theatre. Not sure which theatre I’ll see something in next time. For better or worse, the conservancy did not let us in to the theatre until 45 minutes prior to the screening of Roger Rabbit and so I had limited time to document the interior, but then I remembered: technically, the glass is always full and I can always come back. I shot this hasty video as I was more interested in photos this time out. Perhaps at a future screening, I’ll get better video:

What I really wanted to get, however, was a humdinger of a panorama of that glorious interior (barbershop quartet notwithstanding) and I put to use many bits of wisdom I had learned over the years from taking many many many less-than-satisfactory-to-me panoramas.

The first thing I learned was:

1. NEVER EVER EVER take a panorama with your smartphone. They suck. Of course I say that based on the assumption that you take photos with something other than a smartphone when you go out. Sure, a smartphone can stitch together a panorama in real time but the end result is incredibly distorted, has no additional stops of dynamic range, makes use of heavy JPG compression, and has to be quite cropped to account for variations in the user’s y & z axis jitters when panning. I could continue onward as to why smartphone panoramas are bad bad bad, but I won’t. Moving on.

2. While you should never use your iPhone, you should use your iPhone’s orientation (ie vertical) for taking panoramas. A normal camera’s horizontal bias (ie 4:3 or 3:2) may seem like the way to take panoramas, but this leads to a lot of distortion and eventual cropping of image data at the top and bottom of your photo and if the point is to capture as much area as possible, then you want to take more pictures in a 2:3/3:4 format to get maximum coverage.

2. Identify the center of your panorama and take a reference photo first to determine the look and focus and feel of the end result. Switch to full manual mode. Set your focus, shutter speed, aperture, ISO. All the things. Now take the picture of the center, and do not change any settings. Including focus. This is important. Most helper-functions on digital cameras have you start your panorama from the left or the right side of your perceived frame and base their settings for the entire panorama off of how the far left or right of the picture looks. The helper function is also typically limited to jpg output which crushes bit depth, compresses colors, bakes in white balance, and a slew of other undesirable things to your pictures, so that’s why we go full manual for this. Your camera is now ready.

3. Depending on your disposition, now start taking your photos from left to right, or right to left (in your camera’s RAW format). Remember. Your camera’s settings are locked from step 2. You haven’t changed anything right? Good. Here’s how many photos I took to capture this panorama:

Los Angeles Theatre Panorama Component Images

4. Load your raw files into your editor of choice. Mine was Adobe Lightroom CC Classic. (Note: Lightroom CC can’t handle this project. Adobe stripped features from the newer version which baffles me).

5. Again, process your middle photo first to taste, and then use those settings for every other photo in the series. Lightroom makes this very easy with the standard ‘cmd+c’ and ‘cmd+v’ allowing you to copy+paste your settings from one photo to another. Very natural.

6. Merge your photos. Again, this is handily done in Lightroom or Photoshop. I prefer Lightroom because it preserves raw data and still allows you to perform additional non-destructive final adjustments to your merged photo.

7. Happy with it? Good. Here’s how it came out:

Los Angeles Theatre Panorama - 20,000 Thoughts

And that, folks, is how I take panoramas these days. I guess you could just use your phone too though.

Seeing Who Framed Roger Rabbit was great as well. In person to take about the film was Don Hahn, Charlie Fleischer, and Joanna Cassidy, and the print used was an old film print instead of a digital file. This was nice because it fit with the theme of the old movie palace, and the visual effects held up better since they were designed to work in the more forgiving 35mm Vistavision format. When you watch a restored HD or 4K version, you can spot the old effects. Notsomuch here. It was great.

I do hope to return to see more flicks in the grand movie palaces downtown. If you’d like to know more about the LA Conservancy and Last Remaining Seats, please do check them out.

Past Thoughts: The MovieLand Wax Museum in Buena Park, California

In celebration of Flashback Monday (which isn’t a thing) I wanted to look back on the final days of the Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park, California.

Movieland Wax MuseumNo I didn’t take this picture, it was from a postcard…and the lake later became a Starbucks

From 1961 to 2005 it was the goto place to feel like you were visiting the movies. This of course, was before many of the studios had their tours (apart from Universal’s…which was insanely awesome back in those days) and one nifty little thing to note was that, given its reasonably close proximity to the film studios of Los Angeles, stars had, in the past, visited and bestowed upon their namesake diorama’s genuine artifacts from what scene was depicted. So there was real Hollywood provenance there!

Unfortunately, in 2005, the MovieLand Wax Museum closed its doors forever, but, as is often the case with local fixtures going away, it drew ridonkulous crowds who had been procrastinating and putting off for years, a visit, which of course cost the museum and forced it to shut down. If you don’t support your local businesses, they can’t succeed. I’m not being sarcastic.

Buena Park was something of an oasis for amazing museums back in the day. The only one that pre-dates me (and which I regret being born too late for) was the Movie World museum which was dedicated to cars. It had a collection that will never be replicated as many of the cars wound up in private hands, or on display and eventually back out in the elements where they rotted away. Truly a sad tale.

The only two surviving amusement offerings in or near Buena Park are places you may have heard of: Knott’s Berry Farm, and Disneyland. And speaking of Disneyland, the line to get in during its closing weeks was longer than the line for an E-Ticket ride! But I did it, I succeeded in getting in, and took over a hundred photos for posterity. I can’t for the life of me, remember every film or star featured and some have the description plaques cropped out, but Wikipedia covers all of them, so you can certainly cross-reference.

Of course this was back in 2005 before digital cameras were the bomb-diggity they are today, and some of the JPGs have since corrupted in the intervening thirteen years, so please forgive me if one or two pictures looks a little off, but I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane.

Live Thoughts: My First KROQ Weenie Roast

That’s really all there is to say about it, I went to the KROQ Weenie Roast. The lineup certainly had its fan base there, but I think there had been stronger lineups in the past. Of course, I also didn’t have the wherewithal to go in the past, for which I have only myself to blame. I tried to live stream, and the result wasn’t great as I was limited to using my phone. The cell reception inside the StubHub Center in Carson isn’t the greatest unfortunately. I think my favorite act of the night was probably Cold War Kids. They were utterly flawless.

Anyway, here’s a selection of archived live stream footage that seemed to come out, well, just okay. Enjoy!

Local Thoughts: Heritage Square Needs Work

I should have titled my trip to Heritage Square as another live stream fail (similarly to Hearst Castle), but there was something about Heritage Square that offset my live stream errors and evened everything out: It wasn’t a very good museum.

Heritage Square Museum

I was really looking forward to using my cobbled-together vlogging system for the first time here, but wasn’t able to, not because I forgot a critical component (although that could have been the reason), but rather because photography wasn’t allowed inside the houses, and that’s just lame. Maybe there was a time when one could argue that camera flashes could damage vintage preserved surfaces on an artifact or fabric or room interior, but nobody uses camera flashes anymore (unless they’re the NoH8 Campaign or Terry Richardson and the latter is a creep getting his just desserts…never understood the appeal of his work or how he got work and why I can’t get work) because camera sensors are so good and lenses are so fast that flashes are unnecessary. Continue reading “Local Thoughts: Heritage Square Needs Work”

Local Thoughts: I Found New Coffee (The Palm) Already

This is a quick note/update on a change to my super-important coffee regimen.

The Palm Coffee Bar Having just broken up with Romancing the Bean for siding with its clientele in inappropriately branding a daily regular like me (a terminable offense per personal policies) I subsequently found a new local coffee stop that is, for all intents and purposes better – The Palm Coffee Bar.

This coffee bar actually brews a bean from a roaster called Equator that is at least as good as Groundwork (what is brewed at Romancing the Bean), and sometimes better depending on the bean/brew.

The coffee bar itself is quite small inside, with only a low bench for waiting for a drink, and two small tables outside with seating for four people, which is fine. I was greeted by Barista Ben (who’s featured on their site) who was a kindred spirit and shared my interest in being green and we chatted for a moment about my coffee thermos (which I use in lieu of paper cups whenever possible).

The Palm joins the ranks of Blvd Cafecito (Intelligentsia brewers – will talk about them in a separate post) and Simply Coffee (Stumptown brewers, will chat about them as well).

Now with Groundwork, Stumptown, Intelligentsia, and Equator all represented in Magnolia Park, it’s safe to say that Burbank takes its coffee almost as seriously as the crowd down in Melbourne, Victoria Australia. No really. You haven’t experienced coffee roasters until you’ve been to Melbourne. It’s amazing.

But that’s a post for another day. For today, go check out The Palm. It’s lovely.

Other coffee spots mentioned here are:

Coffee Roasters mentioned here are: