Wednesday, March 31, 2010

About to Go to Work

I'm typing this one straight into the box, which I normally don't do. We're having a little bit of a tough time getting things posted. I'm not sure what's up. I think part of it is getting back in the swing of my job (at least for me) I'm not sure with Nathan. I know he busted his ass getting the house ready over the weekend, but he used to have three ready to go at any given point, and he used up all his saves, and then had to scramble to cover for a couple of days ago. I think maybe I need to get a couple of saves up there too, just in case, just so I'm not busting out this kind of thing last minute. Ok. Bye.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Alpha Player

by Nathan Stout
Stronghold. The baddest game I have EVER played. I remember being at Fry's one day (when I worked there) and seeing a PC gaming magazine talking about a new game coming out called Stronghold. It was a castle sim game. Well I was all a titter about it. I loved castles. I even wrote my college thesis on castle construction (take that!). I liked a game called Lords of the Realm (1 and 2) which was sort of a castle sim (but more of a economy/invasion sim). The release date was a year away (in 2001).

The release finally rolled around and I instantly fell in love with the game. It was great. The music was nice, the graphics were fantastic...
Hold on, let me clarify something here before we continue... I HATE 3D graphics. I LOVE 2D graphics. I guess this love relationship derived from 8 bit Nintendo and the like. I have always felt 2D graphics show real artistry and work as opposed to some blob of 3D. You know what I mean. Look at the graphics in the Sims and compare it to more flat-looking but far more detailed 2D gaming graphics. I have always thought 3D looked bland and nasty compared to 2D.

Ok, back to the story...

The game play was great too. You basically build up your castle by keeping your peasants happy and fed. You manage resources and build weapons and a means to defend yourself. Its far more basic than most games of this type. Take for instance Age of Empires. It is basically the same game. You manage resources and build yourself some army and defeat your enemies. Age of Empires was great but it was far more complex than Stronghold. I think that was a huge reason it did so well. It was simple.

So I played it and played it until I finished it. Then I played it over again... and again, and again. I must admit I played through the entire game at least 9 times up to this point in my life (and I intend to play some more).

Much to my amazement in 2002 a new version of the game came out: Stronghold: Crusader! It was basically the same game but now with a Crusade theme. It was very historically informative in between all the fun game play. There were some new graphics (to match the Middle East theme) and a few new army troop types. It also boasted more than fifty more levels than the original Stronghold (with emphasis on multi player). Just when you think a game couldn't get any better it did. This was gaming ecstasy!

Once again I played and replayed it. Then heading towards 2005 I hear rumors of a brand new Stronghold on the way! Completely new, not just changes and additions... Stronghold 2...

Well, I can't have everything... Stronghold 2 S U C K E D!

Why, you ask? I will tell you... 3D graphics. It looked crappy! I mean crappy. I am not too sure how it worked out in the end because I never played it too much. After about a hour I gave up. I was not feeling the love for my favorite franchise.

Suddenly the skies opened in my despair and a ray of kick-ass sunshine brought me new hope an fun... for in 2008 Firefly studios brought us Stronghold: Crusade Extreme!

This new game was basically the same as Stronghold: Crusader but with the ability to have 10,000+ troops on the battlefield at once (as opposed to a few hundred as before). They also added some quick attacks and 50 more missions! Oh man!!!!!

So I had fun again and again with Extreme until in 2009 the announcement comes down that a new Online version of Stronghold was coming... Stronghold Kingdoms! I wet my pants.

Ok, maybe not but pretty close. The graphic shot they leaked had the game looking JUST LIKE the first Stronghold! 2D yahoo! I signed up on their website for updates etc...

A few months passed and suddenly they started asking for Beta testers! OMG! Sorry I am all spazzing out but this is greatness! I had been a Beta tester once before in the past on a DVD game called Hologram. Do you remember that? It was an actual arcade game that was a hologram. It sucked royally but it was kinda cool in concept. Anyway I Beta tested that (basically I played it and returned a survey telling how well it played on my DVD player, controls, and issues I had with it). Anyway I signed up for the Beta test on Stronghold Kingdoms and waited...

In early March I got an email, I was accepted as an Alpha tester! Alpha testing is the same a Beta testing but with an even earlier version (where some graphics might not be complete, no sounds, etc). I had a mix up with my email addresses and couldn't get in right away and had to wait a couple of days but then I was in!

Ahhhh bliss...

There was a bit of a learning curve since there were no instructions written yet but I got the hang of it quickly enough.

Stronghold Kingdoms is less like Stronghold and more like other online games (like Envoy, so I am told). It is more about the economic development as opposed to the hard core warfare. I am not complaining though. It's great. With it being in Alpha still they release patches every week or so to add features and correct bugs. Apparently the game will be free to play with the option to 'buy' additional features.

I am having so much more fun than I did with Hologram.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Review: Valley of the Pharaohs

by Nathan Stout

Today I am reviewing Valley of the Pharaohs by Front Porch Classics. This board game comes in a handsome wooden 'book-like' box that you can place on your bookshelf along side their other games.

Valley of the Pharaohs is a game set in the year 1926. Just think of the Mummy movies... it's set around that time period. You play the role of an adventuring hero setting out to search for the fabled Scepter of Aumn-Ra. You must first find three scarab markers that are spread out around Egypt and then when you have found them you may collect the scepter and return it to Constantinople being careful not to be attacked by your enemies.

The game concept is fairly simple and takes very little to get going. The game comes with a cloth map, several metal player pieces, a metal mummy, some cardboard markers, a deck of cards, a spinning wheel, and some metal coins that you use for currency (to buy cards with).

Each player takes a metal camel and starts at Constantinople. They look at their scarab key and then set out across the board to collect the 3 correct scarab markers. Before you can claim your marker you must 'pay' for them with cards that you buy that represent things like equipment, weapons, medicine, etc. Once you have moved all over the board and have collected your 3 markers you can then move to the middle of the board and collect the Scepter of Amun-Ra. Once you have this you must make your way back to start (Constantinople) to win the game...
Sound simple? Not so...

The other players are trying to do the same thing you are. They also have the ability to slow you down or even steal from you. If doubles are rolled at any point the rolling player starts controlling the mummy. They can make the mummy come after their opponents and make them loose their turn. Other players can also 'attack' you and try to steal your scepter (if you carry it) and they may place cards that hinder your movement as well.

All around the board are excavation sites where the scarab markers are waiting. There are also oasis as well as towns all over the map as well. In the towns you can buy cards, in the oasis you can sell cards or spin the wheel of fortune (which will give you stuff or take stuff away). While you are in a town you are safe from the mummy as well.

There are a few advanced rules for the game as well. You can hide the scarab markers so each player has to go visit the excavation sites to even see whats there. There are also character cards that allow the players special abilities. There is at least one card in there that Chris and I feel breaks the game. One of the character special abilities allows the character to sell the cards for 2 coins (instead of the standard 1 coin). This gave the player way too much power in the long run. Other than that that cards worked well.

Chris and I have played a few times now, trying out various advanced rules and it has worked out well and we have had some fun. For some reason or another when Chris activated the mummy one time (when he rolled doubles) he made this mummy-type groan saying the work 'chuuuunk'. It struck me funny and we have been using that term each time the mummy gets activated.... Chuuuuunnnnnkkk!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Old Man Defends His Wife's Honor

by Miguel Cruz

This isn't a complicated, detailed, or incredibly long tale, but I thought I should at least document the incident for my own personal posterity. A few years down the road when we're recollecting it, we can turn to the blog (if it still exists) and go, "Oh yeah, that happened on March 27, 2010. I can't believe that was X years ago.

It was the close of a rather long day. Kim had a pretty grueling day serving up nachos and hot dogs at the PTA carnival and then shuttling Lauren off to the soccer team photo shoot and game. I had a rather routine day delivering Bank of America advertising disguised as official, important looking letters and Oriental Trading Company magazine-size catalogs. You know stuff that very quickly ends up in America's trash cans and recycling bins, but which comprises 95% of the Postal Service's business.

The week itself had been full of conflict and loss (as compared with real life rather than the average episode of As the World Turns). Kim's Aunt Katherine died and Kim had to take a day off to go to her funeral. At the funeral, I showed a couple of relatives the video I shot from the day before of Kim fighting with her brother Steven. A growing dissatisfaction Kim had with Steven had finally hit the tipping point. To give an example of one of his most recent transgressions. Steven and his wife Julie had stopped by for one reason or another. They were short on money and didn't think they'd have enough gas to get back home. Kim and I went with them and put about $10 into the tank. Literally I waded up a Hamilton and inserted into the little hole where the gas nozzle goes. That actually works as fuel.

The next day or a couple of days later, Kim is on the phone with Steven and he's talking about having gone riding around with Julie and otherwise driving to relatively far flung places when considering the supposed no-money situation and near-empty gas tank. It's all part of a pattern that has made little sense: Steven brings in X amount of income that on paper should cover all their expenses. Steven falls short on some bill, presumably because he had no money left over after paying the other bills. Except for the fact that the other bills didn't get paid either.

And last week, the guy they were buying their house from has started foreclosure proceedings. They are supposed to be out the day of Julie's 40th birthday. There has been some concern that on that day they will have nowhere else to go and will end up wanting to occupy our extra bedroom. The week before they had wanted to come over when their cable got cut off. Kim figured that this must have caused him to miss Dancing With the Stars. I don't understand how that and American Idol are the two most highly rated shows in America and yet two-thirds of all Americans are opposed to gay marriage. We would be damned if our TV was going to get monopolized by HGTV.

The imbroglio started on Tuesday morning with a routine enough phone call in which Steven was angrily lamenting the hard times that had befallen him and the fact that no one was able (willing) to help him out. He started talking bad about another one of their relatives calling her a "lesbian" and exclaiming, "Fuck her!" This was all Kim could take and an exchange of words ensued. It was at this point that I decided to pick up the camera and at least get Kim's side of the conversation. At some point, Steven demanded that a painted portrait of their mother be returned to him which has been hanging in our extra bedroom for the last couple of years now. Kim flatly refused.

About 20 minutes later, Steven was at the door step. I was at the other end of the house trying to get the camcorder turned on and rolling. The video starts with me walking down the hall toward the door. Kim has opened the door and yells, "Get off my property!" She is about to close the door, but he forces his way into the opening. He is insistent on getting his picture back. Kim yells for me to get the phone so she can call 911. I run into the computer room right next to the front door to find the phone. When I return he has given up on his B&E. I'm zooming through the narrow opening in the door above Kim's head trying to catch a glimpse of him walking away. Kim hurls an accusation at him, which I will not repeat as it is potentially libelous. If true (we're certain it is) it serves as an explanation for his and Julie's problems. As much as I would love to, I won't be posting this video anytime soon. Most who have seen it have found it funny, but I made a promise.

So onward to Saturday night. After a 3-2 loss at the soccer game on and dinner with Kim's folks at the Circle S Catfish, we stopped off at the Saginaw Wal-Mart for a few items. Earlier I had decided to bring my camcorder with me and stashed it in my jacket pocket. It's a fear I have anytime I bring the camera with me that the car will get broken into or completely stolen altogether. And you never know, maybe something YouTube worthy will happen that I'll be able to capture, something like the Epic Beard Man video.

We're on our way back to the car, midway down the aisle. An SUV cruises along close to the grocery entrance of the store. The passenger window is rolled down and a teenager is calling out to Kim, "Hey, Big Booty Judy!" Kim was going to let it go, but he kept on. I didn't catch it the first couple of times. I sensed that Kim wanted me to do something and so I turned and yelled, "You got something to say!" Obviously he did. A short exchange of words followed. I told him to go fuck himself and called him a cocksucker. He got he last dig in with "Fuck you, old man!" I hate to say it, he won that one.

All around a moderate defeat for me because somehow it stung. Other than all the douchebags on YouTube saying that to me, I never took it all that seriously. After all the video isn't particularly well-lit. They can't really see just how youthful I really am. Well that's not the case apparently. I had also been thinking earlier that day about my as-of-yet unfinished entry on Skid Row's "Youth Gone Wild". When they recorded that song they were in their 20s. Now that they are all in their 40s can they really, truly lay claim to the anthemic proclamation, "We are the youth gone wild!"? Old and young are somewhat subjective terms. As late as last year, I had people telling me that I was still young. Of course they were all in their 50s and 60s, but comparatively that's how they saw it. Now tonight here was this guy, born when Forest Gump and Pulp Fiction were still in theaters, setting me straight

It was a defeat for me on three other grounds. I didn't really have anything clever to say. It's not like in the movies where the hero is able to dress down his opponent with his wit. I guess if I had had time to prepare I could have come up with some zingers. He had a passing resemblance to one of the Jonas Brothers. I could have said that he looks like their retarded brother. I mean anything but the standard issue stuff from the white trash repertoire that I could fire off.

It wasn't exactly what Kim had hoped I would do. She envisioned me approaching the SUV, menacingly as if I was about to give this guy a little what for. Had she communicated that I might have been ramped up enough to do it. Whether they would have driven off in fear as Kim surmised is another story. I might very well be writing this today with a my ass fully kicked. The other shoppers said there were 5 guys in the vehicle. I haven't practiced my martial arts since I took Tai Kwon Do in the third grade. Even then I never advanced past a white belt.

The biggest loss: not once did it ever occur to me to pull out the camcorder from my pocket and record any of this.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Accidentally Becoming Employed

by Chris McGinty

So Wednesday night I was sitting around actively not employed. Since quitting my job in December 2009 I had not so much as put in an application. I was uninterested in doing anything that wasn’t self employed. My dad was subsidizing my living with a $200 a week allowance, and for those of you who think that’s a lot, I was paying my bills with that too. Then my phone rang. It was my boss from my last security guard job. He not only saw the public access show, but needed guards bad enough to realize that I was a good worker and the whole issue with me having a goatee (not his issue by the way) was just silly.

He asked me to come back to work. And I said yes. Oops.

At various points I would think that maybe a part time pizza delivery job would be nice just to have time to listen to audio books. Or that a guard job might be nice if I could be promised a post where I didn’t deal with people excessively, and had some time on the clock to sit up all night doing whatever it is that I sit up all night doing anyway. While I did think that a little extra money might be nice, it was my lowest priority in these thoughts. Over the years I’ve been training myself to live on less and less money. While it doesn’t have me on the road to a lavish retirement, it has given me a freedom that I don’t think many people will ever understand.

Now that I will have a paycheck coming in, because I did accept the post my old boss was offering, I still plan to simply live off $200 a week (including my bills.) I figure that if I was planning on doing that for the whole year anyway, I still can, right? I can save the rest and put it toward something worthwhile later.

And as far as that lavish retirement; it won’t really matter if I keep slamming my truck into 18-wheelers. Yeah, I’m going to have to hold out part of my $200 a week to pay for the $500 deductible to get my truck fixed. If I was at all superstitious I would have taken it as a sign that taking the job was a bad idea, cos I wouldn’t have been on the road avoiding being hit by another car, and tearing out my headlight with the back end of an 18-wheeler if I wasn’t going to my guard job.

I have a different view of jobs than most folks. I think it started years ago when I was married the first time. Having just moved down from Tulsa, Oklahoma, I had no job. My father-in-law was unemployed as well, and complaining about how hard it was to find a job. Meanwhile, I set out one day with a list of jobs from the newspaper and a list of temporary agencies, and was working by the end of the week. I told him how easy it was for me, and he said that he couldn’t live off of what temp services paid. Maybe being only 19 years old I was delusional, but I asked him if it wasn’t better to have $275 coming in rather than nothing (keeping in mind that this was 1992, so that wasn’t so bad compared to minimum wage, which at 40 hours was $170 a week.) For some reason this was wrong, and he explained to me that, “I ain’t working at no Burger King.” I told Adam about this later, and told him that I was perplexed, because I wasn’t suggesting that he work at Burger King. Azle, Texas at the time didn’t have a Burger King that I knew of, so I was suggesting that he work at McDonald’s. Ok, I’ll be serious.

What I was suggesting was getting a slightly higher paying temp job while he was looking. I know that for my part that the $275 a week got my family out of the in-law’s house and into our own apartment. Once we were in the apartment, I got my first pizza delivery job. Yep. You heard me. While the rest of the world was having trouble finding jobs, I had two. And it’s been like that for me my whole life.

If there is a flaw in what I’m saying it’s that I’ve never had a job that pays me well beyond my need, but that’s only because I’ve never really tried. I’ve never used my days off, from my other jobs to pound the pavement looking for a high paying gig. I’ve also never been unemployed longer than a week unless it was by choice.

This is, in fact, the second time that I’ve been sitting around trying not to be employed, only to have a previous employer call me up and say, “I’m hurting for people, will you come to work.”

I was listening to all the reports of unemployment, and I was watching more and more people apply for pizza delivery jobs and get turned away because our schedule was filled. When I quit the guard job I realized that I had been taking up two job slots when there were people needing work. I also realized that if our society wasn’t so dependant on two incomes that it wouldn’t be that big of an issue, but that’s a rant for another time. Then when I quit the delivery job I realized that I wouldn’t be stimulating the economy, but I was no longer taking up jobs that other people needed more than me.

Except that that they didn’t, did they? Except that I wasn’t, was I? If I have an employer calling me pleading with me to “start tomorrow” and there is still an unemployment rate, then there are a lot of folks out there that “ain’t working at no Burger King” and still complaining that there are no jobs.

I’m not going to feel guilty because in this economy I was handed a job when others “can’t find” jobs, cos I bet you that if I wanted to be flippant about it I could leave out Monday morning and get hired at a minimum of five jobs by the end of the week. They might not be great jobs, probably fast food, which I’ve never worked if you don’t count pizza, but the point is there is work out there.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Season 3 - Like Gone with the Wind...

Will end up like Dukes of Hazzard.

If you get that line then good for you.

Last Thursday Chris and I began shooting Season 3. Actually we should have started the Thursday before but I wasn't ready for all that yet.

In Chris' "10-Week Goal Plan" (patent pending) we decided to get episode 1 of season 3 finished and posted to the net. This would require us the shoot three 'screen minutes' of footage each week (during our weekly Thursday meeting).

Now three minutes doesn't sound like much but when you consider setting up, angles, messups, and such it turns into quite a long time. Since we didn't do anything that first week we needed to play catch up and shoot six minutes of footage. I think we got it and then maybe another minute or so.

Season 3 is a lot more silly than season 2. It has strangeness in it that make it more like a traditional public access sketch comedy show than season 2 did. With that in mind while were shooting we added some extra silliness into scenes that extended them. For instance in the first scene Chris comes to Nathan's house to 'make up' and get back to some creative work. Chris knocks on door, Nathan let's Chris in... that's whats in the script. When we were shooting I had the idea that Nathan would be feeding his fish. My fish are rather overgrown so then I had the idea that one of the fish should jump out of the tank and Nathan would fight with it. We have a fish shaped pillow so I used that and we drug out this whole Nathan/fish wrestling scene. That's what we did to extend scenes (and make them more comical).

Chris forgot that it was Thursday yesterday so we didn't get together. He is going to try to come over this weekend, if not then we will be shooting another six minutes next Thursday. I must admit it would be a lot easier just to shoot three minutes of footage a week but things will happen and hopefully we won't have to shoot nine or more minutes some day. Then it would be like Dukes of Hazzard.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

News Story: Wife Wins $9 Million From Mistress

by Miguel Cruz

A couple of years ago, Chris and I had a little debate over a person that we know who hooked up with the spouse of another individual while they were still married. Chris' opinion was very strongly held. The person in question was a bad person and a thief. I'm not entirely sure if Chris' feelings were based on an entrenched personal philosophy or if it was a special case based on the nature of his relationship to this person: "I really hate this person. And you know what? They quite often go a couple miles over the posted speed limit!"

So the basic controversy in our discussion was whether having an affair with someone else's spouse amounts to a theft. My own opinion is that it does not. The law in most states (43 of them) is that it isn't. But there are 7 states that have a legal principle in place known as alienation of affection. A jilted spouse can recover money from a third party if they generally can show three things.
(1)The spouses were in love
(2)The spouses' love was destroyed
(3)The defendant's malicious acts caused the loss of love

Last week, a jury in North Carolina awarded $9 million to the wife of a guy who was having an affair with another woman. If this law had been in place in Texas, the person Chris and I were talking about could have been sued. For that matter, I could have been sued by Chris' first ex-wife (Not because we were fucking, you assholes. That didn't start happening until after the divorce was finalized) because you don't actually have to be sleeping with someone to be held liable for alienation of affection. People who have recommended a divorce like family members and counselors have been sued. Chris' first ex-wife believes that since I let Chris hang out at my house all the time then I caused their marriage to fail.

The problem I have with this line of thinking is that it presupposes that a person has some kind of property interest in their spouse. It goes against the basic right of freedom of association. I can be friends with whoever I want and what we do, as long as there is no obvious harm to anyone else, is our own business. Now the counterargument to that might be that the spouse being cheated on is hurt by the infidelity. But why does the fact of the marriage grant a special position to the innocent spouse? Do Nathan and Chris not realize how hurt I am by Chris' friendship with Nathan? Chris' love used to belong to me, but he would rather drive all the way to Rhome (if you want to) to hang out with him than come visit with me. What if the couple isn't married? Does that infidelity somehow sting any less? What if your significant other is simply tired of you and wants to break up? That hurts too.

The second problem with this line of thinking is that it takes the position that the cheating spouse is completely incapable of making his or her own decisions. When I steal a DVD like I did with Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (the Don't Look Back of the 2000s) at Best Buy last week, the DVD has no choice in the matter. It is neither alive nor sentient. A cheating spouse on the other hand is.

The marriage is the responsibility of the two people involved in it. If one of the spouses does things that will foreseeably lead to a divorce, that's on the spouse who decides to do those things. It is irrelevant that the mistress might have provided some kind of temptation. Unless the mistress is also a rapist, the cheating spouse is the one who decides whether or not to act on that temptation.

But that's my opinion. If you happen to live in Hawaii, North Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Mississippi, and New Mexico you better make damn sure your boyfriend/girlfriend isn't married and that you don't have a lot of money to make you a worthwhile target of a lawsuit.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Not Burying the Past so Peeps Don’t Have to Waste Time Digging it Up

by Chris McGinty

Nathan posted a blog on March 23, 2010 concerning a little box and a little regret. Or something like that. I like reading Nathan’s blogs. I think he’s a pretty good writer, not necessarily a great proofreader, but he’s comprehensible and compelling. That puts him steps ahead of many of the folks who write on the internet.

With this particular blog he stepped a little bit away from “Hey we’re cool creative guys, please like us” and dealt with something that we all have a point of reference about. Family.

Some of us think family and glow with pride and fellowship. Some of us think family and think things that aren’t quite so glowing. Some of us think family and realize that they’re mostly cool people, and we love them, but they just don’t inspire any deep sense of anything. This isn’t a bad thing by the way. It’s better than hatin’ on folks.

The one thing that I regret concerning family history is that I don’t think anybody saved much of my grandfather’s work. I don’t think he wrote much, but he did write, mostly about movies. He published a few reviews in Leonard Maltin’s “Home Video Guides” and they were supposed to get me copies, and highlight the ones he did. But it didn’t happen.

I had a thought once, but I’m not even sure what to do with it. It involved interviewing people who would otherwise not be famous, and writing up their lives. Depending on how you did it, it could be a compelling read. The roadblock that popped up in my head, aside from having so many other projects that I really need to worry about long before I’d even consider this, is that it would require poking around in other people’s business. Let’s face it, people have lied before, and even done it in book form on Oprah. The simple fact is that people’s e(my mom just called, she has some of my Grandpa’s writing. Is all good) (sorry, I’m explaining to her that anal penetration can hurt)…

I don’t remember where I was, and I think I was about to misspell a word anyway. People’s memories can sometimes get skewed, so even if they’re not outright lying, taking one person’s account of something can be inaccurate. What this leads to is the need to verify stories with people, which requires interviewing a lot more people than just the subject. I mean, I write a lot, and I have what I believe to be pretty accurate accounts of things, but occasionally I’ll talk to people and they’ll remember things that I said or did that I don’t remember, and sometimes even remember things more accurately.

The project would require prying into people’s lives in a society that values its privacy, so while I think it’s an interesting idea, I doubt I’ll be following through with it. Still this brings us to Nathan’s article. His family seems to be close enough, but not so close that any real history could be written.

I guess it got him thinking about what we do. Many of our experiences are recorded either on the audio show, or in our writing. Our sense of humour is present in our public access shows. It wouldn’t be too hard for future generations to find out what we’re about, and what our lives were like…

(Sorry. Called my mom back to ask her to send my grandfather’s stuff down for me to look through, and I had to explain to her that there are ways for women to give head without getting their knees dirty.)

Finally, I would like to deal with fame real quick. Nathan says he’s not really all about the fame, but as I said in my comment on his blog, history remembers the famous and the infamous. Sure our works may stay in the family for a while even if we don’t become famous, but it won’t have the same staying power as it would if we’re famous.

I guess what interests me about Nathan’s stance on fame is that this is the same guy who worries about videos getting into the six and seven figures in You Tube views, when we barely break the four figure barrier, and only occasionally. There is a trade off here and it’s this. Having that many views will give you some level of fame, and will only ever happen when you start achieving higher levels of fame than what you have. I joke sometimes about achieving mega-fame, but what I really want is the Henry Rollins level. I want to be known by almost everyone, but only understood by my real fan base. That would be ideal for me.

Heck, at this point, I would just like it if a few people would read this. We can work on the six and seven figures later.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Knowing your place

by Nathan Stout

Now I don't mean to depress you during your fun-filled daily tour of but I thought I would relay some thoughts I have been having lately. You might be inspired to do something or just consider your position in life.

My Grandfather (on my mom's side) died 6+ months ago (stay with me here, don't leave yet). I didn't know much about him. I mean I knew him, saw him somewhat often, I just didn't much of his history. After his death I figured I wouldn't know much more.

A couple of weeks ago his widow told me there was a box she wanted me to have that had some old coins and papers in. She thought I should have it so last week I got it. Inside this metal tool box was a treasure trove of items I didn't know much about. Yes there were some coins in there that I could add to my little collection but there were other items too.

The box was my Grandfather's but it was actually my Great Grandfather's. There wasn't alot that my Grandfather added to the box. He basically inherited it from his Father and didn't do too much with it. Inside were the following items:

Some old coins
My Great Grandfather's nationalization papers (he was a German who moved to the US).
Some one's baptism papers (I don't know which relative it belongs to).
The death certificates for my both my great Grandparents, and a Great Uncle.
A German daily devotional (I am guessing).
A German medal for long service in the military (my Great Grandfather's).
A German military belt buckle.
My Grandfather's purple heart medal.
My Grandfather's WWII victory medal.
A few pictures of him as a child and a couple of other people I don't know.

My point here is that even with this massive amount of 'clues' I still don't know much about my family. In some way this makes me sad that there is some great history here of where I eventually came from but I can't divine it.

All my Grandfather's family is gone now. He was the last. Who will remember his, his parents, and his 9 bothers and sisters? Me. I am about it. Sure my mom will remember, his widow, and my brother but that's about all. If we don't do anything about it when we are gone there will be no one to remember them at all.

What the heck does all this mean? It means everything.

It is the reason Chris and I do what we do. We are wanting to leave something. That phrase might not be in the 'According To Whim' business plan but it is there, lying underneath all the other stuff. If you watch Episode 1 of season 2 that's basically the whole thrust of Nathan's rant... wanting to be more than another person on the planet, wanting to be more. Some call it fame (probably Chris) and some call it legacy (probably me) but all in all we want to be remembered, not only remembered by some trinkets in a box in some one's closet.

I will do my best to piece together the puzzle I have and place more of a permanent record of my Grandfather's family and his place in the world but I want to make sure that long after I am gone I will still have some effect on people in this world.

Please send your Nobel Prize for Literature nominations for this article here...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Exaggeration and Limitation

by Chris McGinty

Well, we are now a Communist nation, and strangely when I woke up today the sun was shining and the birds were singing. I doubt this is a coincidence. I’m not sure that’s what I want to talk about though. Mostly this is because I really don’t know what to talk about.

I’ve been scouring the web for random everything. I’ve always had an interest in random things. Much of my own writing has an element of randomness to it. Not what you’re thinking. In fact, in many cases the more rambling and random that my work seems to be the more it was actually planned out.

What I’m talking about is the act of brainstorming. Writing a word, a phrase, a person’s name, or anything at the top of a page and writing any associations you can make from it. You can do this as a general brainstorm, or with a specific project in mind. You can take two unrelated concepts and link them together somehow. There are many of these sort of tools you can use, but I can’t think of all of them right now. Maybe later

Another tool you can use is called limiting, or as I call it formatting. I think one mistake that a writer can make is literally leaving all possibilities open. I used to feel this way myself. I didn’t want to plan out my stories. I wanted to start at the beginning and write through to the end. I’m not a fan of outlines, at least not as you learned to use them in school.

I: Why Outlines Suck
  A: I don’t know, how many ways can I describe tedious
    1. I could get the dictionary definition
    2. I could describe some of my dead end jobs
  B: Really, do I have to keep filling this in?

I read about an author once who would write a novel in about two months, but he would spend ten months outlining. I just can’t even imagine.

What I prefer is to simply write down chapter numbers, usually in a word processor file, and start putting plot points and any other ideas in the chapter I think it will go in. As I write, I’ll move things around if need be.

But limiting works in another way. I have two things I like to do. I don’t always do these things, but they can be useful. The first has to do with limiting. What you do is you make rules about what you can’t do with a work, and you don’t do it. An example could be: I will write a story about World War II, but there can never be mention of guns or a gun on scene. Another example: Every chapter has to contain a reference to something. I don’t know what the something is. If I was using that rule I would know. What this does is it moves your thinking in a different direction than it might normally.

They say that rules are meant to be broken, and I agree. If I’m doing the World War II story, and the alternate thinking has helped me to create a sound, quality story, but I realize at some point that a gun is really necessary in one of the scenes, then I’ll use it. I’m still in charge here. The limiting factor whether it’s chapter length or what point of view a story is told from (well over 90% of the Harry Potter novels are told from the perspective of what Harry knows or see, often requiring back story to be told to Harry in some way) is merely to keep you from meandering too much. If you have to break the rule out of necessity then do it.

The other thing I like to do is what I call take everything to the next level. This can be a dangerous thing if you’re not careful about it. What this means is that your initial idea is probably in a safe zone of some sort. Either you’re following story conventions of almost every movie or book or whatever out there, or you’re simply following the conventions of everything you’ve ever written.

One way to combat this is to ask, what else can I do that will make sense, but take me out of my comfort zone. It’s really hard to explain this one, because it often has to be done early on in the process in order to get the full use from it, but it has to be done after you have the basics in place, and perhaps just as you’re starting to get stale with your ideas. It’s an odd balancing act.

I’m sure this blog is not helpful in anyway. Sorry. What I started out saying is that I’ve been messing with random generators for a few days now, writing out idea after idea and not taking any of them too seriously. At some point I will read through the mess and find what works.

If I have a point here it’s to write down ideas, as many as you can, and sift through them as you go. Some you may never, and probably should never, use. Others may resurface in your thinking at just the right time, and make something that much better. Just don’t allow idea generation to become a crutch. You still have to sit down and write something out eventually. Otherwise, all those great, and not so great ideas, will be wasted.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Weekend Alone – Day Three: The Snowstorm I Created

by Chris McGinty

I may have mentioned that I started my weekend alone with Nathan moving… what? OMG! Ok, hold on.

It’s a Sony brand (because I so loved their contests!) Mini-Disc Multi Track Recorder, and the Model Number is MDM-X4 Mk2. The owner’s manual is copyright 1998, so it’s considered to be antiquated I’m sure. Can I get back to my story? Thank you.

So we were moving stuff, and as we cleared out the back of my truck we lowered the tailgate, and I noticed that wedged down between was my ice scraper. When we had our great snowstorm of last time we had a snowstorm, I used it, and must have set it in the bed of the truck.

Now I honestly can’t remember doing this, but I set the ice scraper in the bed of Nathan’s truck, because I guess it was safer there than in my glove compartment. Later Nathan saw it and he said, and this is exact quote perhaps a little tweaked, “Say homez, can I get a wut, wut cos I ain’t sho wut dis here hunk of plastic is.” I looked and it was my ice scraper. I explained what I knew about how it got there, which was nothing.

As we parted ways, I grabbed the ice scraper and told him, “I might need this because of the pending snowstorm.” And we laughed. Oh lord how we laughed, because we just didn’t know. (speaking softly) We just didn’t know.

Ok, that might have got a bit heavy handed. Sorry. The reason why we were laughing was because we were moving stuff in our short sleeve shirts, and if either of us really wore shorts I’m sure we would have been in shorts too. We were running our air conditioners as we drove our vehicles. And we were in danger of breaking a sweat as we moved a few heavier things.

Needless to say, it was kind of odd when later that night I found myself turning on the space heaters at my house again. It was even odder yesterday after I posted the blog mentioning that it was cold again when I signed into Facebook to find a picture of Nathan’s yard with snow in it. I walked over to my window and sure enough there is snow falling. And I remembered the ice scraper that it seemed now might come in handy.

Anyway, I guess it’s a good thing I had that tale to tale, because the roommates are home now, and my third day alone is a bit anti-climatic (at least as far as you know.) I did go see a few good bands play last night, but as that goes it sort of doesn’t count, because I can do that even when the roommates are home. Oh well. It was a good time. And it sort of netted me a trilogy of blogs.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My Weekend Alone – Day Two: Setting Aside Time

by Chris McGinty

I don’t seem to have the brand name of my multi-track recorder, nor have I pulled it out to do anything with it. And on an entirely different subject, it’s cold all of a sudden again. Stupid weather.

I’m not wasting my time by any means. I’ve revisited an old concept the last couple of days. It’s a concept I should be revisiting everyday. I think that sometimes I over think what I put on my list of things to do each day. I’m all about spending about eight hours on personal work everyday. This is loosely defined as work. Sometimes it is really just reading books, watching TV shows, or playing video games. The trick is to make the starting and stopping point clear. For instance, Farmville will never go on my official To Do List. I’ll write things down occasionally if I need to remember something, but I feel it is just a time killer. Magic: The Gathering Online will typically not make it on the list either, unless I have a deck idea I’d like to build, or back in the days when they had leagues and I needed to make sure I played all my games.

The point is that half of my list items are automatically writing work of some sort. I feel that I should spend about four of the eight hours on writing of some form or another. Then I have to split the other four hours between other things. If I want to put some fun stuff in there then I think it makes my list better rounded out.

The original concept behind the list was that when I had extra time here or there while I was working 60 to 70 hours a week, I could work on the stuff on my list without tracking my time, and if I completed my list it would be somewhere around eight hours a day. Later, I realized that when I have eight hours available to me each day, like since I quit my job that I’m better suited to pick Time A to Time B, and literally spend eight hours of my day completely focused on one list item or another. This works well for me when I do it. And that’s what I’ve been doing. I worked from 4 pm to midnight yesterday, and started at 12:30 pm today.

So what am I doing? Is it important? Like I said, there are things that will never go on my official list, so that during this eight hours I can’t do anything that isn’t worthy of being on the list. The concept is that it’s sometimes more important to spend the time than it is what you’re specifically doing. I know this contradicts conventional time management theory, but whatever. The truth is that some of us have more trouble with the concept of priority than others. The fact is that I know that I should focus all my energy on finishing my novels until they’re done, but I will never convince myself to sit down for eight hours straight and do nothing but write the novels. It’s better that I just convince myself to use the eight hours to good use.

Since my intent is to clear 16 list items each day, and I’m spending 8 hours of time, I start with a small item that can be done in less than 30 minutes, and then use leftover time to work on bigger items until the big items become small items. Nathan will be happy to know that my small items involve our ten-weeks goal of sorting through three cases of Cyberpunk cards each. And once I was far enough ahead in my time I sat down to start to write. It’s not a perfect system, but one that when I follow daily always shows results. If nothing else my desire not to waste my time alone this weekend has made me realize this. Things may not be going as planned, but they are at least going as they should.

Friday, March 19, 2010

My Weekend Alone - Day One: Dealing with Setbacks

by Chris McGinty

A couple of weeks ago my roommates told me they were going out of town over the weekend of whatever today is to whatever Sunday is; in essence, leaving me with three days to myself. Now I’m sure some of you might think that my first thought would be to throw a wild party here hiring strippers, and inviting an ex or two. If I was any sort of editor I would clean up that last sentence for redundancy.

The truth of the matter is that my thoughts immediately turned to what can I do while they’re gone that I normally can’t do when they’re here? One such thing is recording. On occasion I write and record songs, most of which I don’t bother to let anybody else hear. I’m funny that way. The fact of the matter is that most of the work I do can be done wearing headphones. I use an older multi-track recorder that uses mini-disks. Um, let me go look up the brand real quick for those of you who care. Here it is. It’s a Zetatech PK-6089-a, with a ZZ22 Speed Chip and HQ Interface.

Tell you what. I’ll write it down and mention it in tomorrow’s blog. I don’t feel like walking back to my bedroom right now.

This blog is about setbacks though, so let’s deal with them a moment. What I’ve noticed is that life has a way of just slapping you around sometimes. You plan to do something, and something else comes up. Unfortunately, it’s a very ongoing process, which causes you to constantly check your priorities, lest you never get your priority items done.

It seems that the moment the roommates said, “Hey we’re going out of town,” the various things that would drag me out of the house and away from what it is I wanted to do with the time started popping up. Really it wasn’t a whole lot, but they all popped up right after I was told. There are two shows I could go to tomorrow, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. Nathan needed help moving some stuff to storage. One was speculative that knowing my luck it would happen this weekend (but it didn’t) which was that a party that was supposed to be last weekend would be rescheduled for this weekend. Finally, some friends asked my roommate if he could feed their dog while they were out of town. And well, my roommate is out of town. Yeah. I can’t just let the dog die. Can I?

Still all of this seemed manageable, within reason. I planned to record all week and get the instrumental tracks recorded. Since I plug into the multi-track and listen through headphones, this could be done in my bedroom at anytime during the day or night without bothering my roommates. I would still make enough noise that it had to be in my bedroom, but no problem. Until we had an electrical malfunction last weekend, and I have no power to my bedroom until probably Monday. Yeah, the Monday after whatever this Sunday is. This is what I mean by setbacks. Even deciding against the one show, the party not being rescheduled for this week, and helping Nathan not taking too long, I still am not spending my weekend as I planned.

And I thought maybe I might have some advice on avoiding setbacks, but like I said, things never really go as planned. Now that I’ve gotten this far, I realize that no, I guess I don’t. Maybe tomorrow… along with the brand name of the multi-track recorder.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oh my blog... what's this?!

by Chris McGinty and
by Nathan Stout

Today we are doing a joint blog. I know you are probably rolling your eyes at the thought but stay with us for a bit here...

Chris: Nathan wanted me here at noon, so that's why I was here promptly here at 3PM.
Nathan: I swear Chris said he was about to leave and he showed up at my door 2 hours later. I just don't know where the time-warp is off of 287 (or I-35).
Chris: And I was drunk.
Nathan: You've never been drunk. Have you?
Chris: Why just today. Blasted out of my mind.
Nathan: On what?
Chris: (silent)
Nathan: That's what I thought. Anyway, we started shooting Season 3, Episode 1 today (after a one week delay). It began a little rough, but by the time I was wrestling with the fish, we were rolling along nicely.
Chris: I'm not really sure why he couldn't wait until I left.
Nathan: That's the monkey, not the fish.
Chris: No you spank monkeys, you wrestle with fish.
Nathan: (silent)
Chris: That's what I thought.
Nathan: Anyway we needed six total minutes of footage (since we missed the three from last week).
Chris: Ummmm.
Nathan: But before that we played a little NetRunner. You can read about the game here (not THE game we just played but NetRunner in general). I won.
Chris: Ummmm.
Nathan: Then we shot the footage then we broke for another game of NetRunner. Oh, but before that we ate sandwiches for dinner.
Chris: They were pretty tasty.
Nathan: Blue skies, Barthy burgers, girls!
Chris: And that's the news up to this hour. You have your obscure reference, and I have mine.
Nathan: I happen to know it's from the beginning of a Bong Water song.
Chris: Bongwater is one word.
Nathan: Bong Water.
Chris: No, you have to uhhhh.
Nathan: Bongwater.
Chris: It was nice talking to you folks.
Nathan: Bye.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

NetRunner: The Collectible Card Game

by Nathan Stout

or NetRunner: better ROI than your house.

NetRunner is a collectible card game (like Magic The Gather or YuGiOh). It was made in 1996-1999 by Wizards of the Coast (the same people who made Magic The Gathering or MTG or Magic The Crappering as I like to call it).

In my opinion NetRunner was a game that was GREATLY underrated and before it's time. Had it come out two or three years later I think it would have done even better. In the end NetRunner was apparently only a marginally successful game. It saw two expansions (additions to the original card set) called Proetus and Classic.

NetRunner still has it's fans. In fact it's fans are smart, affluent, and rich.

I'm serious. Well, in Chris' case I will make a exception. I kid! I kid!

Its safe to say there is a core fan base for this game still in existence. I myself created a NetRunner Yahoo! Group and it has a couple hundred members. This doesn't include a couple of still active websites. The most active of all the site on the inter-webs when it comes to the NetRunner fan base is... EBay.

A pack of 15 cards that you could buy for $2.95 now go for about $4.00 (and that's just the base set). The expansions are even more rare and you will pay between $6-$8 for those 15 cards.

It's not uncommon for a box of these 'booster' card packs to sell for $140.00 (and around $200-$300 for the expansions).

That's ridiculous!

It is!

At the same time I can see the logic behind it. If I had money just lying about I guess I would be buying them up too at those prices. They are becoming more and more scarce and so I guess the prices will continue to go up.

I have decided (until I am mega rich at least) that I don't need to buy any more. I have 2 five thousand card boxes full of cards and scans of all of them. My friends and I don't mind playing with photocopied proxies if we need to.

Chris and I play regularly and we intend on making a 'how to' series of videos on YouTube in the near future. I think the game is so great that one day Wizards of the Coast WILL reprint it (I am sure of it). Until then we will treasure our cards (I refuse to shuffle my cards in the traditional way so as not to bend and wear on the heavily).

Now for some history... Chris introduced me to NetRunner in 2002 while I was living in Fort Worth. His friend Loren was playing this game that was 'internet hacker' based and was really fun. The dynamics of the game was nothing at all like the other game of the day (mainly Magic The Gathering). NetRunner utilized two completely different sets of cards. In Magic The Gathering each player can choose any of the three gazillion cards in the set. In NetRunner there are cards that belong to the 'hacker' and cards that belong to the 'corporation'. This makes NetRunner very unique (even to this day). I told Chris it sounded cool and we gave it a shot. In no time at all I was playing and having a great time. Chris brought Loren and we would have tournaments and be playing for hours on end.

One of the other great things about this game is that the cards are fantastically balanced and a game can go one way or another in the blink of an eye. With a lot of other collectible card games once someone gets the upper hand (so to speak) the game can be very one sided and/or end very quickly. For the most part NetRunner is not like that at all.

During this time up until 2005 ish I was loading up on NetRunner cards off EBay. They were pretty cheap. At one point I was able to buy several of boxes of 'Starters' (2 complete, ready to play against each other decks) for $20 a box. Those are the ones going for about $100. In 2004 I think I had about 6 starter boxes and about 4 booster boxes just sitting in my closet. I did sell a few and opened quite a few more. In all that mess I completed a set (all 500+ cards) and sold it for some insanely cheap amount on EBay. I wish I would have saved it... I have built myself a second set (that is still not complete). Chris didn't have the money or credit that I did (since he had to support 1,500 children) so he did a lot of 'proxing'. He would take some real cards to Kinko's or someplace and photocopy the cards and cut them out. He would go to the dollar store and buy packs of playing cards and a stick of glue. He then glued the photocopied cards to the playing cards and there you go! He would also make boxes for those decks from interesting things like mutilated playing card packs and Walmart saltine cracker boxes.

He still has those. We still play them too.

We hope to continue to play NetRunner for years to come since it provides us with some great gaming time. I highly suggest you try it out if you ever can. If you are in the DFW area, look us up and we will be glad to come teach you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The big gig that never was

by Nathan Stout

In 2007 I bought the Jedi Cannon (and Chris likes to call it). It's a Canon XL2 Mini DV camera. It is super customizable and shoots some great video.

I had been putting feelers out at work to do some video for the hospital. The Bariatrics department was needing stuff as well as marketing and various other departments. I early 2008 I did a short video for Bariatric Education. I made $300.00 off it. This was a great start.

People were slow and dragging their feet, and nothing else got done in 2008.

Marketing looked like they wanted to do some stuff and I got a call to film an interview for them. All I had to do was film the interview, no editing needed. A quick $150.00. Then all the sudden in early 2009 marketing hired a 'web and video' guy. Suddenly my prospects went to near zero.

Video were getting made left and right, but not by me. I kept getting talk from Bariatrics about doing stuff but nothing ever came through.

The Bariatric program took off. They were starting to do business hand over fist and they hired an outside marketing consultant. This guy didn't have ANY marketing experience. Basically it was a friend of a friend of someone high up in the hospital. They set him up with a bunch of money to start this business up (which was really independent of the hospital). What a sweet deal. It's not what you know but who you know.

This guy starts blowing smoke up my skirt (so to speak) about doing all sorts of videos for the web as well as television commercials. This could be some big money. He asked me for several quotes. My quotes for those initial 12 projects were somewhere around $15,000 total. It was a steal when you compare them to real-time video production companies.

I heard nothing.

A few months later he calls again telling me how we need to get together and do some videos. He needs some videos for this and that. He asks for some quotes again. I send him a couple more. I increased my price this time since by then I am getting better and better with AfterEffects.

I hear nothing.

Several more months pass and he calls again. He needs to get some videos up for a doctor he is working on a website for. He needs them quick. He asks me what equipment we need ASAP for lighting etc and the quote for the work.

At this point I am tired and weary of this guy. I quote him basically three times what I used to in the past.

I finally figured out his game. He had been taking my quotes to the guys he had been using all along and basically telling them 'look, I can get this made for X amount of dollars from this other guy so you need to come down on your price'. He was using me to talk down his real-time video production people.

Wha' a bastard!

I think I came to that realization before the last quote and that's one of the reasons it's so high. I am very glad to say that he was basically fired from the hospital's Bariatric marketing for failure to deliver. I was very happy about that.

During all this I made a video free of charge for the foundation (the fund-raising arm of the hospital). I was planning to make the video and claim it as a deduction. I had also shot video for a county wide disaster drill that the hospital was involved in (not edited). I had the bright idea to just do this sort of thing alot and basically get back everything Uncle Sam took during the year.

Uh, no, not gonna happen.

I talked to the account guy and he told me 'time' (what my contribution is considered) is not deductible as charitable gift. Arg.

That was basically it. I am hoping that one day I will get more work because I have raised my rates for it to be worth my time and give me some more experience. It's a great money making field and I hope to make enough to at least recoup the cost of the Jedi Cannon.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Break

by Chris McGinty

I think maybe it was Spring Break for me and Nathan last week, instead of this week. We got off to a really bad start on our ten-weeks goals. I know that we’re not going to slack that way for the rest of this goal period. In that way, I have nothing incredibly interesting to report from our first week. But read on anyway.

The question came up recently about participation in this blog. There are 71 blogs listed on our Dashboard. Of those the break down is like this:

Nathan 42
Chris 26
Wade 2
Chris & Nathan 1

Since we started doing this as a daily blog the break down is like this:

Nathan 26
Chris 17
Chris & Nathan 1

These are not counting this blog I’m currently writing and Nathan has 5 drafts that have not been posted up yet and I have one draft, making the participation, not counting today and only counting the onset of the daily blog, something more like this:

Nathan 21
Chris 16
Chris & Nathan 1

I’d say pretty even.

We did our second Ustream show, and I’ll have to get Nathan to point me to the location so I can link it. This one was probably not as good as the first, cos we lacked any subject matter it seemed.

Nathan began his ten-weeks goals sort of at a good pace. He met with a realtor about selling his house, and he took his Volkswagen Beetle in to be looked at. I suggested in our blog topics that maybe he could keep everyone updated as to how his quest for a drivable Beetle is going, which brings me to my great contribution last week. I did a mini-brainstorming of possible topics for us to write about in this blog, so we don’t run out of ideas anytime soon. My minor contribution was I looked a little bit for an Information Society CD that Nathan needs a new copy of, but neither place I looked had one.

We are supposed to start shooting on Season Three this week. We’re having an intellectual schism about the production. It’s pretty much that Jack Sprat wants to over organize the production, and his wife wants to keep it from getting bogged down with actor/directors who can’t break away from life long enough to help.

Of course, the ideal meeting place is some place in between. Nathan pointed out that two of the scripted segments would be easier to shoot at the same time, and that’s fine. Just the same as the “non-story” segments can be shot in whatever order we want. My concern is getting to say Episode Six and not getting anything done for days, weeks, months, and years just because our original outline was Miguel heavy. By keeping the script open to change we can entirely write out the Miguel segment if need be, or put it off indefinitely if need be. My feeling is that by doing so we can create a more regular schedule for episode production, and create a consistency with our output.

If it makes sense to have a daily blog, then it makes sense to have a new episode every ten weeks, maybe stepping up production to two in a ten week period when we have enough reserve material, and making our release schedule six episodes a year. It’s an issue of pacing, because over the years our pacing has been best described as sporadic, and I would simply enjoy it if we could call it consistent.

So everyone enjoy your Spring Break. I’m hoping that ours is already over.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Whimmy

by Nathan Stout

Every great organization needs an award to present... the Whimmy is ours.

The Whimmy is not just an award, it's a promotional tool. Not just for us here at According to Whim but to the winners as well.

To Cap off this weeks 'contest theme' I wanted to tell you about a new feature here at According to Whim, the Whimmy.

The Whimmy is the brain child of a think tank of super genius' located deep in a bunker in the Arizona desert. Not really. It was me.

I thought to myself... what can I do for According to Whim that would make it get some more notice and become not only the creative behemoth we wish it to be but a 'cool' or 'hip' concept as well? I came up with the Whimmy. The Whimmy wasn't the initial name for the project. I considered 'The According to Whim Award', 'The Whimmer', as well as 'The Whimmy'.

I posted these suggestions on our Yahoo! Group (According to Business - which you can't be apart of unless you are apart of that said super genius think tank) and got a positive vote by Chris who loved the term Whimmy.

I created several logos for the Whimmy (including designs based on the various other names I mentioned above) and put them on the site. After Chris told me he liked Whimmy I changed a few of them to reflect this. Click here for the page and the graphics.

The Whimmy award is cheap and an easy way to promote us (and those who win it). Basically it works like this... We pick (each month) a website, blog, and video that we at According to Whim really like. We then award them a Whimmy. They can then put the Whimmy award on their site and tell the world how great and cool they are. The image links back to us and on our page we show a listing of the winners of the award. There are 3 winners each month for 12 months then at the end of the year we pick the best of the best (out of the previous winners) in each of the categories and award the yearly Whimmy. Then out of those 3 finalist we award the 'Golden Whimmy'. This is basically the best of the best of the best.

The winners are listed on our site with links to their content and *hopefully those winners have linked back to us.

Chris is very good about finding great content on the web so I don't think it will be too hard to find winners each and every month in the 3 categories.

We will also take suggestions as to which sites/blogs/videos to look at so if you think someone deserves a Whimmy, please email us!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sony Contest Part Dupe

by Chris McGinty

In April 1995, a full year had passed since April 1994. It’s a fact. Look it up if you don’t believe me. If you read yesterday’s blog, and then clicked over and read Miguel’s show history, you know that Miguel was a little disappointed in October 1994. It seems that even on the amateur video maker scene we weren’t being taken too seriously. We knew that we were better than much of what we had seen. I knew there had to be people who were better than us, and I’m sure that Miguel even felt so. What perplexed us is that aside from some acting issues, and a questionable job scoring the music, we made a decent video. But even still we didn’t place in the 1994 Sony contest, and Miguel had actually paid a $15 fee for inclusion in a video festival just to be told there was no room for it. There was certainly room in their pocket for that $15.

Miguel was not to be swayed though. We were going to make these contest and festival folks like us. In that way we set out to do our second 20 minute masterpiece, which we called “Repeat Offender.” Nobody got that.

In much the same way I referred you to Miguel’s Show History before, I’ma refer you there again, because he says it all.

This, amongst many other things, started me on a certain train of thought. I was always about self-publishing. I think a large part of this is that I’m not too worried about impressing people. This isn’t to say I don’t like impressing people. There is a huge difference.

My mom used to say that if you were good enough there would be someone who would publish you. But over the years I’ve heard plenty of stories that contradict this wisdom. The truth is that no matter how many publishing houses or record labels or movie studios, there is at least one story of someone who had to go out and do it alone because no one saw the talent, or saw the talent but didn’t have the funds to add yet another project to their budget, and some of these folks who went it alone did pretty well.

I started spouting off to Miguel about becoming our own media. Why were we running around trying to get the Sony judges to like us? Why were we worried about the opinions of video festival lackeys? Why were we worried about the editorial staff of Gear magazine, or any of the other things that we seemed to be worried about.

I say a lot of things that seem to be misunderstood. Look at Nathan’s comments that last couple of days and you’ll see this in action. I get that there are advantages to doing the contests, but there are not as many advantages if that’s all we do. I get that we all have our issues with doing personal goal stuff, but that’s why working as a team and being accountable to each other is important rather than blaming each other.

Miguel, as I remember, misunderstood my declaration of self-media to mean that we don’t ever worry about contests, or festivals, or newspapers, or magazines. It was that we don’t kiss ass, and we don’t sit around kicking ourselves because they didn’t fall over kissing our ass.

The sad fact is that we started doing many things that had we followed through for the last decade, would have built the media we were (or maybe only I was, I don’t know) trying to build. The audio show could have fit in nicely with the other podcasts. We had videos on Extranet TV, but weren’t paying attention when You Tube first burst onto the scene. And the old Two Dogs stuff I was doing would have worked well as a blog, since I usually wrote short pieces for my email list when announcing updates. It’s too bad. Because now years after the fact, the online video, podcast, and blog markets are saturated with people who just never stopped self-publishing and self-promoting.

I think this is all I have for Stupid Contests week. I figured Nathan could round it out with an explanation of the Whimmy Awards, since that would be perfect for the theme. I think I’d like to do theme weeks from time to time. So maybe when we have a lot of ideas along the same line of topic we can do this again.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Summer Project 199Hate

by Chris McGinty

Provided you read that as “nineteen ninety hate” and not “one ninety nine hate” the title sort of makes a false suggestion. You’re probably thinking I’m referring to 1998. It’s kind of like this thing I heard at a party recently. You say, “Spell ‘top’” and they all like “T-O-P” Then you say, “What does S-T-O-P spell then?” They say, “Stop.” Then you ask “What do you do at a green light?”

Perhaps you had to think about that a moment, and if so you see what that trick does. So let me explain what I mean by “nineteen ninety hate.”

Contests have been a part of the ATW history since Alpha… uh, that is Sniffles (sniff). The fact is that while the intent was to make a public access show, our first completed project was a piece that Miguel and I did called “Chris and Miguel: A Hate Story” circa 1994. That’s the explanation. Hope I was clear.

I’m not sure that there is really so much to say about this contest that isn’t dealt with in Miguel’s Show History for Sniffles (sniff) . April, May, and June 1994 and October 1994.

There are lessons that we learned from this endeavor, and should probably keep in mind today. Having a hard deadline pushed us to get things done. We either had the tape in the mail by June 15, 1994, or we weren’t in the contest. Sadly, we spend most of our lives without hard deadlines. And giving ourselves hard deadlines is kind of a moot point, because they’re probably more soft than anything.

What I remember about that time was a unified sense of purpose. We woke up and we tried to figure out what needed to be done for the project. We didn’t sit around worrying about whether or not we had people to play the different parts. We just had people to play the different parts, because we had to.

We’ve had this sort of sense of purpose at various points throughout our time as amateur videographers: Summer Project ’95, Episodes 1-6 of Sniffles (sniff), Season One ATW, and the first six days of shooting Season Two ATW. Our downfall is that it doesn’t turn on and turn off on occasion. Our downfall is that when it turns off, it turns off for a long time. Just look at the time span between what I listed above. It’s usually years. You don’t find too many success stories that read, “Well we kind of worked on it for two months then took about ten months off dabbling a little here and there, then worked for two months, then took a about a year off dabbling again, then got serious for six months, then got mad at each other for a bit, then half of us started working with someone else a few years later and did alright with it for a while and then just dabbled with things for a few years, and then got serious for six days, and then I don’t know what we did.”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why Nathan Is Just Crazy

by Chris McGinty

Forget about being Crazy for Rosa’s Nathan is just crazy. Welcome to Stupid Contests Week here on MagicTheGat… uh, on For the last three days Nathan has dealt with our brush with the Dark Side, when we (I use the term “we” loosely) thought that entering video contests was a good idea. I’m not sure, but I think I’m here to set the record straight. That might also be read as “trash talk Miguel and Nathan,” but really that goes with out saying.

The first contest that Nathan discussed was his EB Contest entry, and aside from claiming that I was Asian that year, there’s really nothing I can add to it, so I won’t. I will say that knowing a little bit about the “talking points” in the video, and the “grinding halt” gag, I’ve always enjoyed that video. Fine work, Nathan. Ok, so let’s trash talk.

The second contest Nathan discussed was the Crazy for… wait, Mexican food… right? Loco for Rosa’s contest. Couldn’t even name the contest right. Sheesh. I’m just kidding, sort of. I’ll be truthful. I still have never had Rosa’s. Nathan bought out my gift card from me, and I spent the $35 on drugs. Tooth infection. I had to get pain medicine and an antibiotic. I still have most of the pain medicine, cos once the antibiotic kicks in, the pain just goes… This really has nothing to do with the contest.

The thing is that when Nathan suggested we enter the contest I was kind of cool with it, not because I like Rosa’s, but because I like doing creative work. I was working two jobs at the time, so it was sort of tough to set aside the time, and Nathan was doing something immensely important too. What? I don’t know. So one day when it was really slow at my pizza delivery job I said, “Hey if you get busy call, and I’ll be right back.” And since we had hardly any business and clocking me out would save on labour, it was a win/win situation. So I rushed out to Nathan’s quicker than sped up footage, and we shot the Rosa’s entry. And then I got called back into work, and had to hurry back.

Nathan spoke of the fact that I was wearing my True Crime t-shirt, but to me the real issue was that I was in my Papa John’s sanctioned beige slacks. Nathan also spoke of the weird method of choosing top contestants in each of 17 areas, but he didn’t mention the part where on the deadline night he was reviewing the rules to make sure he wasn’t doing anything to get him disqualified, when he realized that the rules said that each contestant could make one entry per area. We thought of all the videos we could have shot if we had only known. And if I didn’t have two jobs and Nathan didn’t have 30,000 seasons of MASH to watch.

The third contest Nathan discusses was the traffic contest. It may seem sort of bipolar for me to go from marginally excited about contest videos to vehemently opposed from one contest to the very next, but the truth is that Nathan and Miguel got stupid. From my point of view they were forsaking every bit of creative effort we could be making, and focusing all their efforts on keying in “no brainer video contest we can waste our lives on” into search engines. They wanted to do some stupid thing about what the government should do to fix traffic. Ha! They wanted to do some sort of Don’t Mess with Texas thing. They wanted to do 10 Non-sexual uses for KY-Jelly. Or that might have been Why I like Welch’s jelly. Either way, I wasn’t wasting all my off time on that crap. I wanted to finish the Halloween sketch we had started, which can be seen here. What? No link. Figure it out Einstein.

I’ll write my actual thoughts about “fixing” the traffic problem either in this blog, or in my weekly article, depending on how long it runs. But just to summarize my experience in this contest right quick. Somehow I still got dragged into it even though I was playing it off all Pontius Pilate. Miguel called me one night and asked me to rant about traffic, and after I told him how great a musician Steve Winwood is, I told him what I thought would ease the traffic situation. He had the foul mouthed character spout it off in his video, but didn’t really hit all the points. So I was present in Miguel’s entry in spirit, and Nathan asked me to submit one of his videos. Mine won. We laughed that it was all a sham, but the fact is that we are a creative collective, so some how I still had the blood of Contest Christ on my hands, so I think it’s valid.

For the record. I’m not opposed to the contests outright. Not any more than I was opposed to The Nathan Show (what I call Season Two). My issue was that we were going in a direction that was basically, “Hey Chris look what we have in store for you this week.” We’ve all done stuff on our own, and some of it has turned out very well. Thing is that’s not what being a creative team is about. It’s about throwing around ideas, and getting input, and using the strengths of everyone on the team to produce something better than its components. So who knows, maybe in the future if we have a steady stream of creative work to brag about, maybe we’ll bust out a contest here or there.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

DFW is the heart of North Texas

by Nathan Stout

In 2009 the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition held a contest called CannesGestion Film Festival. A video contest where the contestants let everyone know what drives them crazy with North Texas roadways and ways to improve them. Top prize is $5,000.

The finalist and winner's video would be shown to the state meeting in Austin as well as have the spot broadcast on TV one time.

This time I was in high gear to win this one. This whole contest was for just one geographic location so I knew my chances would be pretty good (hopefully).

My scam was this: I was going to produce several videos and submit them under different names to ensure that all my videos got a chance. I was afraid that if I submitted 4 videos under my own name some might be discarded for the lesser prizes since one might place. This is how my video distribution went:

Nathan: I submitted this for my first video. It was an interview style video where I talked to my coworkers about the issues they encounter driving in the DFW area. I took the camera to work and asked my Help Desk guys to get in front of the camera and tell me their horror stories. I also got Stacy Hopkins to do a little bit as well. She went on to be the landlord character in Season 2. Here is the contest entry.

Candice: I submitted a video through my wife so I could put out a video of my driving through Fort Worth that is sped up like 2000 times. It was shot for Season 1. I simply used some new titles talking about the traffic woes of the area and viola! New video. Easy peasy. Here it is. You might also like to see the original video that I had in Season 1.

Candice: She also submitted the best of all the videos (in my opinion). A video that utilized the camera and AfterEffects to it's fullest. I even got one of the directors at my work to do the narration. He had a deep booming voice. It was a sappy kind of piece that talked of the importance of clear roadways for commerce, health, and well-being. I took the day off and drove into Fort Worth and basically sat at busy spots off I35 and I30 and shot traffic. I also drive around and too pictures for some of the still shots. I then used some royalty free music I found on the Internet and added it all together. Here it is.

Chris: I submitted the final video through Chris. Originally I planned for this video to be of much higher quality. I shot it with the crappier, older camera (so there wouldn't be too many similarities between the different videos). I basically shot down onto a piece of paper and drew with a marker while narrating about the troubles I have while driving in the DFW area. The video looks horrible and I kept messing up the dialogue and having to re shoot. When I finished filming and had the footage in the camera I gave up on a coherent idea and simply slapped all three bad takes on top of each other so it got this blurred effect. I added some silly music and (in true Nathan fashion) sped up the footage for comedic effect. Here it is. If you notice it looks alot like what I did for the opening of Episode 2 of Season 1 of According To Whim. You will also notice it looks a whole heck alot like my EB video contest entry opening (with the same music too)!

I had my videos submitted and ready to win!

Let's go visit Miguel shall we? You know even though Miguel is 'part of our group' he always does things on his own instead. This contest was no exception. Miguel had this idea of doing an animated style comedy bit with 2 characters; Nat and Craig. Miguel got me to do the voice of one of them (I never figured out who was Nat and who was Craig). My character looked like one of the village people and spoke like a sailor. The intent was 'cussing is funny'.

Miguel did a speech about traffic and my character was bleeped out constantly with his rude responses. It's rather entertaining and he should have made reoccurring shows with these characters, I think they would have been real hits. Here is the video. Miguel did reuse Nat and Craig in a later contest called Car 2 Can. It was basically a 'hey fool, clean up after yo'self' type of message contest. Here is that video.

So one day (a while later) Chris gets notice. You won 2nd place in the TRTC Video Contest!


That video?! That was the crappy one. How... Why... What???

So Chris has to go accept his $500.00 award at the TRTC meeting in downtown Fort Worth. Now let's get this clear, Chris had never even seen the video. When the video was show to the audience at the award ceremony Chris was seeing the video with the audience for the first time.

Chris goes up there and accepts the big fake check (I wish they would have let him keep it, it would have been better than the $500.00). Miguel showed up and took video of it happening. Here is the whole sham as it happened!

I guess I SHOULD mention the grand prize winner while I am here (I guess). Another 'video team' from the DFW area (that I had such high hopes for when I first saw them) won with a video that didn't really address any of the topics of the contest. Once again I am not sure how this actually won. Never the less here is the video and here is the acceptance video. Miguel has a theory that the big winners featured loud yelling and that's what won it for them... interesting thought.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why EB is the best game in town

by Nathan Stout

In 2004 I was working at and EB Games in Burleson, Texas. EB stands for Electronics Boutique. My aunt always gave me hell about the name of that store. But I digress.

I am standing there making 6.25 an hour with keys to the store and a night deposit to make... hum. Anyway this notice shows up telling all employees that there is a video contest coming up and the winner would be announced at the annual company meeting event thingy. The first place winner would get two airline tickets (limit 500.00 each) and a hundred bucks. Well by this point I had started making According to Whim and I know a bit about making cool looking videos. There are near (or right at) 1,300 EB stores across the world but the staff isn't that great so I might have a chance!

I begin working on this video. The rules are simple. It has to be NO MORE than 60 seconds long. That's it. There is the usual stuff about profanity etc but that is all. Easy!

I get to work on it right away. One day I placed the camera high on a shelf and recorded an hour of the busiest day. I also recorded my fellow employees being silly (but in a professional way). I also recorded a couple of cheap effects too (stop motion and sped up footage).

I get the stuff in the PC and add some slide show material, nifty music (from EJay Music Mixer) as well as some deep-voiced narration. It clocks in at right at sixty seconds. Perfect.

I looks good and everyone seems to love it. Here it is. By the way 2 of the 3 guys in that video were my roommates at some point (the Asian ones). Also, the music was the end credits music from According To Whim Season 1.

A couple of months down the road the company has it's annual meeting and the winner is decided on (by the attendees which were district managers and company big wigs). I got the letter! I won!
2nd place.

A lavish pizza party for my store. So one day Brad orders three pizzas. Wooowe.

Ok. I am fine with that... until I hear who actually won.

The grand prize winner was from the area around the corporate headquarters and his video made fun of the CEO and other high ranking officers in the company.

Inside info... I guess that fine too.



The video that won was nearly three minutes long.


So in the end I won. Did I win? No. But I won. In the world of fair and right I won first place in the EB is the best game in town video contest.

Am I bitter... no, not at all.