Monday, May 31, 2010
I laughed when I saw Chris use the word 'tidbits'. I can't help but think of cats eating when I read or hear that.
Anyway, I have one more thing to talk about in regards to Renegade Anime. No, it's not a defense of Chris' defense about what he did as far as the shop was concerned. I wanted to talk a little bit about Paul and my reconnection with the former strip mall owner (from whom we rented the shop space).
Last year, while I was on the wonderful world of social networking sites, I found Paul. Now, I know that when we left the shop we still owed Paul rent money. Chris will correct me and say it is he who owes the money but I have always considered myself a part of the whole debt thing. When I left in 2003 Chris stayed in the shop for several more months and during the last few months couldn't pay the rent. Paul didn't immediately kick him out but let him stay a while. At some point Chris called it quits and moved out (still owing the money).
Chris is real big about paying back all his debts (eventually) and this is no exception. Well, when I reconnected with Paul ,I let him know that we still intended to pay him what was due. I have considerable computer skills and told him I could do some work for him to square things. He really didn't seem to care about the money we owed him since it has been several years, but I assured him that we want to make things right and he agreed.
As you read in Part 4 of my Renegade Anime blog one of the tenants of the strip was Ye Old Lamplighter. Well, the old guy retired (I guess) and Paul bought his business. Paul told me he wanted to add a camera or two to the shop, and add a point of sale system to track customers and transactions. This would give him peace of mind since he wasn't going to be running the business himself. I knew I could do both of these and basically wipe out the debt in one swoop.
I have always wanted to stay on Paul's good side. It's always good to have 'friends in high places'. In the event I decided I needed office or retail space in the future it would be good to have a friend in my corner. This job would put us in good graces with him, and wasn't too difficult to get done.
I think I might have mentioned Paul's 'flightiness' before... Well I get really far into this project when I get very little from Paul. He seems to have gone off the idea at the moment. He tells me he is basically cash strapped so it will have to wait a bit. Now, all the equipment (which is a lot) was provided by me as a part of the repayment. The ONLY amount of money he would have had to shell out was $80.00 for a label printer. Other than that everything else was basically free. I am not sure why he lost interest in the whole thing.
I am still friends with him on my 'face-space' page so if he comes around and gets ambitious again I can get thing rolling and pay him back and get into his good-graces.
Read Chris' introduction to shop week
Read Part 1 of my story of Renegade Anime
Read Part 2 of my story of Renegade Anime
Read Part 3 of my story of Renegade Anime
Read Part 4 of my story of Renegade Anime
Read Part 5 of my story of Renegade Anime
Read Chris' final thoughts of Renegade Anime
Sunday, May 30, 2010
The following is just a smattering of thoughts I had about Nathan’s five part essay. They aren’t really in any order, so don’t expect chronology or narrative. I just wrote them in as I thought about them. I thought I was done defending the work I did at the shop in Monday’s post, but I found some other crap that Nathan said, so I responded to that as well.
Another surprise sell were some hardback books. They were classics. I seem to remember one being by Robert Louis Stevenson. We posted them up for maybe six or eight dollars, and they got bid up to $15 plus shipping. Another such acquisition was a complete copy of the board game Scotland Yard that I hated to part with, telling Nathan that it was a great game. The rule was that we bought things we wouldn’t mind getting stuck with, but we tried to sell it all. I bought Scotland Yard for a dollar, and we it sold for $17. Luckily, we now have two copies of the game for personal use, and have had a blast playing it.
I don’t wish to make this sound like everything was a huge success, because we had some things that moved slowly and cheaply, and some stuff that didn’t move at all. There was a book store in Richland Hills that was going out of business. I bought a ton of books at around eight cents a piece. Nathan was totally bent about this acquisition, and I never understood why, cos he never said anything coherent about why he was bent. My theory is that the books weren’t “shop stock,” book sales while profitable were slow at best, and they were complicated from a posting to eBay perspective. I deal with our differing view on reinvestment later, and that may have also been an issue. We did clear a profit on these books pretty fast, and might have done more if it hadn’t been so close to the time that Nathan quit. In spite of all of this, I still donated about five boxes of these books to Goodwill last year while eliminating clutter from my life.
We used a book that said, “Ledger,” on it in the days before the shop. We pronounced it as you would pronounce “Edgar” but with an “L” at the beginning, because we thought it was funny.
Our formula before the shop was to figure out how much actual profit we made from each sell, reinvest 75% if it into sales growth, and split the other 25%. We would have $5 paydays, or less, each week, but the intent was that as we bought more and had more for sell, that number would grow. When we got into the shop we more or less had to stop that practice because everything we made was put into bills and the like. This was one of the big debates that Nathan and I had. Reinvestment.
The odd thing is that we would buy a lot of stock, and the stuff that would sell, would sell fast. Then everything else would sell slowly or not at all. I feared hitting a stagnant point where we weren’t selling. Nathan feared not getting the bills paid on time. It was a screwed up balancing act to be sure. And one without a right answer probably.
Nathan and I attended a free seminar that turned out to be a sales pitch for a much more expensive seminar. But it was worth the time we invested to go down there. The guy gave this odd markup formula that was supposed to automatically estimate what you needed to sell items for to cover for business expenses. You divide the initial cost by 60%. So if you paid $10 for an item, you do the following: 10/.6= 16.666667. So your markup cost is $16.67. This was higher than our original formula in most cases, but it turned out to be reasonable still.
The shop computer ended up becoming mine for what it’s worth. It eventually crapped out. One day when Nathan and I take all of the dead computers I have and build a super-obsolete computer with them, it will live again as only a cyborg understands.
The Charlatans UK album Nathan refers to is “Between 10th and 11th.” It is a great album. I remember we listened to Duran Duran’s “Pop Trash” a lot during that time too. I know there were other albums, but those are the ones that stick out. Maybe “Once Upon a Time” by Simple Minds. I know that when we first got the Magic cards we listened to an Erasure Greatest Hits that Nathan had, and I tried to get him into Talk Talk, but to this day he seems unimpressed for some odd reason.
Nathan speaks of how I’ve wasted so much time on Magic. I think the interesting thing here is that it’s very immeasurable without data. I know of many ways that being part of the Magic community has enhanced my life, socially and creatively And I’m sure I could list a number of downsides too. I could do the same with pizza delivery, which truthfully has wasted most of my life, because the monetary rewards have never been great enough to justify it.
I’ve actively avoided World of Warcraft. One reason is because I’ve seen how easy it is to get sucked in for hours at a time. I think I’d really enjoy the game, but I wish to prioritize other things. Another reason is simply what order it dropped into my life. I do wish to maintain time for Net Runner, Magic, The Sims, Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Grand Theft Auto. That’s just naming a few, and sticking to the category of games. In order to take on WoW I would have to clear a number of things out of my life that I enjoy. So for me it would be a big waste of time, but I don’t doubt for a minute that those who have played it have had their lives enhanced.
My final thought on this matter is simply this: Nathan and I have discussed creating a game for years. I did a lot of reading about Net Runner and Magic at the time we had the shop because we were trying to create a Virtual Expansion for Net Runner with our Net Runner Yahoo! Group. One idea in my head was that in doing that we would learn something about game design, and could potentially start creating games to shop around to game manufacturers. If we ever do then no one could ever say that the time I spent studying game design was wasted. I already know for various reasons that it hasn’t been a waste anyway.
Nathan makes some sort of weird assertion that I used the shop to hide away from my family, and that I would sleep up there at night. I wrote a big long thing about Nathan’s perception of my work ethic at the shop that was posted up on Monday, but I see that reading through this now it goes much deeper that even what I dealt with.
He says, and I quote, “Now that I think about it all I am not sure Chris did much other than man the shop when I wasn’t there.” It saddens me that he thinks so little of me. I guess I’ll list what I did do, so that he can have his memory refreshed.
But first the avoiding family bit. There was never a point in all of that that 24 hours passed that I didn’t see the kids. In fact, I would be home almost every morning when they were getting ready for school. And my oldest son would sit with me at the shop on my Saturday shift. I even started paying for internet at my home in order to do shop work while at home with my family. If I ever slept at the shop it was short naps when I went up there to work at night. And that’s what I mean, I did a lot of work in those hours, and he thinks I was just sleeping. He has a much skewed idea of what went on. My future roommate who was a pizza delivery co-worker would sometimes ride up there with me and talk to me while I posted auctions. I bring that up because long after Nathan had sworn off of going anywhere near garage sales, because he found it tedious, I was riding around with her every weekend looking for stuff to sell. She was looking for furniture to refinish, but that’s irrelevant.
Here is what I did do at the shop that was shop related. I did still package things to be shipped off, and in fact I went to the post office mostly because I could leave to go to my pizza delivery job and stop at the post office that was one block away. When I was at my job I would sort through cards that I was buying as reinvestment from a shady character named Momomadad, until it was busy enough for me to clock in. One co-worker was quoted as saying, “Oh, he has a card shop! That makes sense. I thought he was just really into that game.” The chore of reposting auctions that didn’t sell, and putting emails for sales into another folder was primarily my job because Nathan found it tedious.
This is where it would do Nathan some good to use logic. We acquisitioned well over 200,000 Magic cards in the time we were opened. Who knows how many thousands of auctions we dealt with. He feels he did so much work because it was a lot of work. In fact, it was literally too much for one person to do alone. It was almost too much for two people to do alone, because we did get help from people on occasion. So I had to be doing something in all of that.
I was primarily in charge of listing books. In spite of the fact that we had a decent profit margin from them, Nathan hated selling them, and he found posting auctions for them (yep you guessed it) tedious. On a couple of occasions I put out fliers for the shop when I was doing fliers for either the pizza restaurant or the Chinese restaurant.
So when you read about all the work Nathan did, and all the goofing off I did, just realize that Nathan is exaggerating, even though I’m not sure why. He says the shop was his baby, and acts like he was the only one who tried to make it work; but he quit after the initial lease was up, and it was me who stuck around and tried to keep it going. The shop was officially open from January 2003 to April 2004. He quit by August of 2003, though he did help out with work and money for a few months after, but he was basically gone. I still owe him money from that time, but I do want to point this out. My profit went to making an even split of initial investment, and the rest was put on an IOU which I have paid painfully slow in the years since. My point is that when Nathan talks about how he went into debt, we really went into debt. And I had just as many reasons to make the shop work as he did. It’s too bad he doesn’t know this.
My final thought at this time is the day I went to press charges against Quentin. I was called by the detective and she was trying to give me directions. She asked me if I knew where something was, and I said I didn’t. Then she asked me if I knew where Illusions strip club was, and I said I did. She laughed and said, “Almost every time I give directions that’s the best landmark.” I thought about defending my reasons for knowing where it was, but I figured what’s the point?
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Let me setup this next paragraph so I don't get my ass kicked by Chris. I actually wrote the bulk of these Renegade Anime blogs several years ago (as one document) and I am now putting them here on Blogger for all to see. I have added and editied quite a bit to correct errors and fill in gaps I originally left. With that said this next paragraph was written several years ago. I do feel it is correct in its thoughts (I won't call them facts.) Chris is my best friend, and we are often critical of each other, but in a way that motivates.
I do feel to this day that I did like 200% more than Chris when it came to the business but I think I was more motivated since it was my baby. He will of course disagree but I really felt I did the majority of the work. I feel he was more my motivation to do all this so it was o.k. by me. One thing he did try to do was wrap the books we sold on EBay. We didn’t want to use boxes since that would be too cost prohibitive so we decided to wrap them in newspaper then in paper bags. What Chris would produce was this mangled brick of paper and tape that looked horrendous. Now that I think about it all I am not sure Chris did much other than man the shop when I wasn’t there. I know I will get it when he reads that but that’s the way I honestly feel.
With the bad location I don't want to give the impression that we never had any customers... we did have a few customers. Thieving customers, that is. Some lady had shop down the ways from ours. She had these three cute little children. These kids came in and their hands were everywhere. It was hard to keep track of what they were doing (the old run interference scam). They all soon exited the shop (buying nothing of course) and I heard a pop noise quickly after they left. I walked outside and they had vanished. On the ground not far from the entrance was the wrapper of one of the items we sold, a bomb bag. They were these little foil bags you squeezed. It released vinegar into the baking soda inside and soon the bag expanded then popped. Considering they were just in there, and also considering I hadn’t sold any of these in a while, and considering I heard the pop I heard, I am going to go out on a limb and say they took it. This is of course America and they are innocent until proven guilty. Needless to say the shop quickly had a new policy of: ‘no one under 15 without an adult’.
Another theft happened right before my eyes from some punks I actually got on tape (or hard drive that is). These two older kids 14 or so came in with a real interest for Magic The Gathering cards and spent some time going through them. I also showed them the earlier edition rares I had and I saw him palm one of them. Before they left I got them on camera. The final theft we had in the shop came months later and was much more involved and interesting (see below). When I think about it I think the thieves we had constituted about 1/10 of all the customers we had.Rewind a little bit... One day in March Paul finally got around to putting an air conditioner / heater unit into the shop. He was going to put it in the back wall, where you could tell one had been years before, but the wall had been bricked over. He started smashing away at the brick and mortar sending clouds of dust all over the shop. I tired to keep things covered as best I could but it was everywhere. He finished out the hole and vacuumed the debris out and we lifted the unit into the wall. He caulked around it while Chris and I took pictures. We printed one silly one of Paul and posted it on the cork board at the front of the store. It said “The fate of the world lies in this man’s hands. Be afraid, be very afraid”. He was holding the vacuum and crossing his eyes in the photo. Once installed, the unit worked great. It would get so very cold in the shop at night that when we came in around 11 or so it would be freezing and we would prop the door open in hopes it would warm up. We would also run a small space heater to speed up the process. I got around to plugging in the heater to a timer to have it come on in the early morning to speed it up even more. With the wall unit finally in place we could warm up the shop much quicker. As the months went by, it helped with the heat too.
Speaking of the corkboard we placed Paul’s picture on, we had quite a collection of articles on it. The first thing that went up was my business license. The next thing that went on it was an attempt to get customers involved in the shop. It was a trivia question. If you got it right you got like 10% off your purchase. The question was really loaded since you would have to be a real freak to know the answer. It was: ‘what was the nam Ling’s father in Kung Pow’? If you watched the movie you wouldn’t even find out. You would have to listen to the commentary track to know his name. I can’t even think of it now. Several Magic: The Gathering cards lined the edges of the board. Chris would place the cards that he found (while sorting) that had writing on them. Chris would also place newspaper clippings of different things on it as well. He found an ad (somewhere) that was for a night club called the ‘Lamplighter Club’. It had this silhouette of a naked woman on it and advertised it to be a fine gentleman’s club. One day he actually got around to showing it to the old lamplighter guy who thought it was funny.
The computer we had for the shop was truly on its way to being an antique. It was an old 300MHz PC I had from years back that was still running (only just). All we needed was something to run Quickbooks and Ebay stuff on. I got it running but ran into a problem when we went to get DSL. It required a 333MHz minimum PC to run it. I spent some time and figured out how to overclock it and soon it worked fine. We got the programs on it and began to use it daily. We used it not only for business but also pleasure. Chris typed many notes and things on it and I played a lot of Highseas Trader on it. It was slow enough to run the old game with no problems. Later, I made the mistake of giving Chris a Magic: The Gathering Online CD. He spent a lot of time playing that in the final months. The computer starting acting up early on with the power supply making loud noises. I think however that it still runs (Chris has it somewhere).I guess that all in all we had somewhere around 20 customers in the year we were open. That’s all. Of that 20 probably 8 bought something. I would have to verify that but I am almost certain that is the correct number. The one conclusion we came to is that you cannot have a comic/collectible shop. They just don’t work. People come in looking for one particular item. You can have everything under the sun, but if you don’t carry this expansion, or that action figure, you get nowhere. I could say that if we had focused 100% on Magic cards we might have had better luck, but with the amount of people that came through the door that would be inaccurate. EBay was our best bet. That year we did somewhere around fourteen thousand dollars of business on EBay. We could have stayed in the shop if we had kept up the momentum on EBay. Once again I will have to give some of the blame to Chris. I can take some blame as well but I would often come in and see that Chris had shown up for only a couple of hours on his ‘days to work’ or spent his time playing Magic Online. We just didn’t give it our all.
The months went by and we tried to keep the EBaying up but it was hard. Posting auctions is lengthy and can get tiresome. My personal money was starting to run out as well since I still had no real job. The shop was just not working out. I had to move back home by March of 2004 and I gave up. Chris didn’t want to give up so I arranged to turn everything over to him. He pretty much used it as his hideaway from the family. Please don’t hurt me for saying that, Chris. He would wind up sleeping there at night. Other than that I don’t know what he was doing there other than staying online and playing Magic. I felt good to be rid of the whole mess and focused on getting a new job and working on fixing my mom’s old mobile home I moved into.Chris did still have the the comic shop open (after I gave up on it) and occasionally had the random guest. During this period our most interesting customer arrived, Quinton. This young man came in with a keen interest in Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic but alas he had very little money. Chris showed him some compassion and allowed Quinton to hang out and even played Magic with him. What a guy! Chris should have been nominated for a big brother award (not the television show). One day Quinton hung out at the shop with Chris for awhile then left later that day. Now I was doing my own thing up in Joshua, having given up on the idea of a comic book shop. Some time that same late evening I get a call from Chris. “The shop got broken into.” I couldn't believe it. Well I could, the shop was in Como. I came into Fort Worth and sure enough I found Paul and Chris standing in the remains of my dream. Paul was cleaning up the broken glass and Chris was kind of looking shell shocked in an amused way. He already seemed to know who did it. He revealed his suspicion that it was Quinton. Our burglar stole something like six hundred dollars worth of cards. We really didn’t know where Quinton lived or his last name so our number one suspect was simply someone with a first name. That is until Chris remembered an important fact from earlier in the day. Our criminal mastermind made one fatal mistake... Quinton had borrowed the phone to call his foster mom when he was inthe shop eariler that day. No one had used the phone since so Chris simply hit *69 and there you go. Apparently he was a troubled youth that was living with a foster family. In the next couple of days Quinton confessed and returned the bulk of the stolen items. He was to pay us back for the damage and other cards he didn’t return. He made like one payment then stopped. Chris decided to press charges and to this day that case is still open. We never got money from him for the window or the missing cards he never returned and probably never will.
Chris was finally forced out in mid to late 2004. I had gotten a job at EB Games and focused on getting as much of the rest of the comic book store stock on EBay in my spare time. Years later I still had a lot of the stock left and I would go to conventions and flea markets every now and then. In 2005, I also officially ended the Renegade Anime business (when doing my taxes). Somehow six months later I received another Renegade Anime business license in the mail. I am not sure if it was a mess up or fate. In 2008 I ended it again.
I want to and will try my luck at my own business again some day. Why, you would ask, would I want to relive the failure of a business? It’s simple. My time with the failed shop and the experience I earned are things I enjoyed and want to keep as a fresh memory so I am writing it here. Even though I lost so much money I treasure the memories I had of those wacky times. It was a nice hang out and I wish we could have afforded to keep it. If anything it would have been a great place to run our little EBay enterprise.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Paul’s shopping center (of which our business Renegade Anime was at the end of) comprised a motley mix of businesses from (our) comics to spa treatments. Maybe that was one of the reasons he had trouble keeping business alive there. Perhaps if he catered to just offices and not retail and trade stuff he might have had better luck. I do know that to this day only one business that was there when we were there is still around. Ye Old Lamplighter. This crabby old dude who restores antique lamps and such. Last year he sold his business to Paul and retired.
During our heyday a guy named Eric had a start up business next to us. His business was called ‘A Mirror Finish’. He polished metals and such. His business had a nice symbiosis with Ye Old Lamplighter since the two trades were very similar. We became friends with Eric and I would often just pop in to see what was up with him. It gave me something to do on those long lonesome days. I built him a website and posted it to help him bring in business but it failed to do any good. We liked Eric because we could have had problems if our shop was near someone like the ‘Old Lamplighter’. Eric wouldn't mind the loud music and screaming (occasionally). Sometime in early 2004 Eric left his shop and moved his business to his garage. After he left a lady moved in and had some design studio for clothing. Apparently she was pretty good at what she did. She didn’t last long either.
Next to that the space sat empty for quite some time. Early in 2004 ‘The DJ Booth’ opened. The DJ Booth was a place for these stoned, drunk dudes like to hang out. Not really (I think). The Fabulous Baker Boys ran the ‘booth’. I think the white Baker boy was kind of a Fred Durst rip off and the black Baker boy was the business side of the duo. I really liked Sidney. They ran their DJ business out of their new shop, and had planned to open it to the public to sell records. I never saw any of that really. I did see some dudes hanging out there from time to time but that’s about it. I believe at some point the Old Lamplighter complained about the loud music they blasted from their ‘shop’. I think they went out of business sometime in the middle of 2004.
The one business that was there, but was never there, was next to the DJ guys. It was some Tax Service. I think I did see it up and running once in early 2003. The entire time I was renting there was a tax service sign at that place, and stuff inside, but I never saw anyone.
Ye Old Lamplighter was next. I did stop in a couple of times to chat with him, and peek around that rat hole of cool electrical stuff. He also made really detailed military models (with little light and everything). Apparently he got quite a lot of business from rich clientele. There would always be some old silver haired dude lugging a huge chandelier out of the back of his Escalade for the lamplighter to fix. He did have an employee or two working for him from time to time. I remember that there was some stripper chick who worked covering for him (or something). On a side note the next shop was storage for some Chili/Pepper newsletter or something like that. I only ever saw someone there once.
Ah, the Healing Touch. This ‘business of dubious trade’ was the subject of many discussions over my time at the centre. We never figured out if it was a bone shop or not. All we ever saw go in there were men. We would see the couple of women that worked there from time to time leaving work and such but we never quite knew for sure. It closed down in 2004. We (still to this day) have a running joke about the Healing Touch and other businesses (and songs) with the word 'touch' (in a dubious, funny way).
The next few spaces were empty and still unrennovated. There was a music lesson studio and a space that Paul used as his office further down. That space was later turned into a spa that quickly bombed. The Spa Haus was run by this rather flaming gay guy and when it opened they pulled out all the stops and had this big event with runway models and hor dourves. Tess’ Tea Time was next to that. It was a dress up party place for kids to have birthdays and such. There was a Church next to that at the end of the building.
If you drive by there now you will see an insurance company where the comic shop was. Before it was an insurance place, it was some sort of business that sold blinds and wall coverings. There is a nursery and a salon where the church was. Strangely and funnily enough the salon is called the Final Touch (har har har).
In the next blog I will take you though some anecdotes of the goings on in the comic shop.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
As with most projects, you start out on fire and get a lot done. Getting the dilapidated shop space into shape was no exception. We did more on the first two days than over the next three weeks. We ripped up the tile floor and scraped the old tint off the front window (that sucked). We tore out the restroom and painted the walls. After this initial tour de force things slowed, considerably. January 2003 was nearing a close and things were creeping along. Paul had a guy he knew come in and do the plumbing. This guy was kind of on the down-and-out side. We had purchased some had sanitizer soap for the restroom and he stole it. Now I know I am jumping to conclusions but it was there when the day started, and it was gone after he left. I can only add two and two people.
While preparing on the store space during January, Chris and I bought stock. I had been accumulating models from Hobbylink Japan and collectibles from various sources including Diamond distributors (aka, pay us full retail price and mark it up twice, Inc.) Setting up an account with Diamond (the biggest comic book store distributor in the nation) was the first real clue this was a legit business. Every comic book shop got their stock from Diamond... I'm not sure why though. Their stuff was so expensive you could mark it up very little, so I used Diamond only for their clearance stuff (which was at the right price). I purchased no actual comics from Diamond, mainly collectibles. I purchased the Anime from The Right Stuff wholesale. In the end, we had very little Anime in Renegade Anime. Magic the Gathering ruled the roost. I found a company online that sold Magic the Gathering and all sorts of other cards. We bought a few new boxes of the most current releases of Magic as well as Yu-Gi-Oh. The big purchase came a couple of months before when we bought 100,000 Magic the Gathering cards from a card shop up North called Star City Games. My guess is that they were a huge Magic dealer and had millions of loose Magic cards sitting about that they would eventually auction off (just to clear space). We spent a couple of weeks figuring ways to bring in profit and these cards seemed to do the job pretty well. In buying in such a large quantity we were getting these collectible cards for less than three cents each. There was some real profit potential if you marketed the cards correctly (and had patience). We spent the next couple of weeks sorting and re-sorting all these cards. It’s amazing how you can become intimately knowledgeable about something in such a short span of time. Chris became a little too knowledgeable with Magic: The Gathering and wasted a good deal of the next 8 years on it.
Before we could officially move in we had to get the correct permits for refurbished space. Paul and I went downtown, and sat aro,und for what seemed like hours waiting to get the ball rolling. I paid the fees, and once the city inspected the space, we could get the electricity turned on and move in.
We continued to sell on EBay while the shop was being finished up. In all I believe we got to move in just a few days before our actual lease began. I went out and bought a cash register and a neon OPEN sign (that was NetRunner colored as luck would have it), and some shelving from Home Depot. I also pieced together an old computer I had and printed up a bunch of funny signs to place here and there (with store hours, etc). I set up a merchant account so we could take credit and debit cards, and finally we bought a display case from someone through the newspaper. I brought a small fridge, microwave, and various other things to make it comfortable for us.
Finally, after much work, we opened to the public. The public did not actually see the shop for some time (since walk-in business was abysmal) but we did open. What a feeling to have a shop of your own! If you have never owned your own business I encourage you to do so! There is nothing quite like being in complete control.
We quickly discovered that Renegade Anime was in a bad location, a really bad location. It’s true we were off Camp Bowie, but the location was too difficult to easily get to. The actual building was on Rosedale Street so getting to it means getting in the turn lane far before you could even see the shop, so impulse customers were a no go. You really had to work to get there. We quickly began EBaying in earnest. This was the only real way to pay the bills. I did pay off the first six month's rent up front so it was a matter of working on all the other miscellaneous bills. We sold the Magic cards and books (we had obtained from garage sales previously) like there was no tomorrow.
Coming to the shop to work meant spending the majority of the day building Magic: The Gathering auctions. That is, we would take all those sorted Magic cards and make stacks of one hundred different cards (throwing in some rare and uncommon cards). I would be there building fifty stacks of auctions at the same time while listening to Chris' Charlatans UK album. We hardly ever had customers come in, so I was never worried about being interrupted.
Its not that I didn't try to get customers, I advertised in the TCC paper, in the local school paper, on the web, and through our auctions. I even went as far as standing on the corner of the busy Camp Bowie and Horne street intersection with a sign. As far as the EBay thing went we did pretty well. On a couple of weeks I think we almost broke a thousand each week.
In my next post, discover the varied and interesting tenants Renegade Anime shared their space with.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Chris and I were doing pretty well with our garage sale finds on EBay, so we decided to move our little business to the Fort Worth Cattle Barns Flea Market. For those of you who don't know about the Cattle Barns Flea Market let me fill you in... Deep in the heart of Fort Worth, ok, not that deep, you will find the Will Rogers Memorial Center. It's located just West of downtown between Montgomery and University (off Harley) in the 'museum district'. It's a collection of coliseum, show barns, meeting halls, etc. This is where the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is held but during the rest of the year some dude rents out one of the huge barns. He is the one making the real dough in this venture, not the sellers. Anyway, he rents the barn, and then subdivides the spaces and rents them out to sellers. The spaces run $12.00 per day (at least it was in 2003). The market is only open on Saturday and Sundays. Our thought was that we might be able to hock some of the stuff there (as a supplement to EBay.)
The thing about the flea market is this… people at the flea market are cheap. Really cheap. We would be lucky to clear the rent for the weekend. I must admit however that we had a real good time sitting around, playing this card game called Net Runner and playing various board games we had come across in yard sales. We had lots of fun with Casino Yahtzee.
It seemed to me that the flea market was basically a place for dealers to hang out and buy and sell to each other rather than having people coming in to buy stuff. A few spaces down was 'the candle man' who sold his own homemade candles. I seem to remember thinking he was really cheap and crabby. There was the old Vietnamese lady across the way whose double stall was full of garage sale crap that no one ever bought. Then there was Mike (or Mr. Bones as he liked to be called). Mike was a comic book collector. He had a stall with boxes and boxes of comics. Mike had bought someone's massive collection wholesale and had so many comics he didn't know what to do with them. We would chat now and again as we all watched the hours tick by. Mike was into video nasties (as they are called in the UK), movies that are considered 'underground' because thy have been banned in countries here and there. None of them were banned here in the US but they weren't in print at the time so they were bought and sold on shady VHS copies. Mike loaned me a couple. Being the gore hound I am, I wasn't all that impressed. Just look at Dead Alive, can it get any better?
There were many other dealers (some in books, some in coins, some in junk) and we all waited each Saturday and Sunday for the money that never really came. Like I said, I think we all just hung around and wheeled and dealed with each other.
Winter of 2002 rolled on until one fateful day Chris, sitting there in the flea market was browsing the newspaper for retail space. He had been looking at places near his job that had been for rent and he had been talking to me about the possibility of getting a space for the business. He claims up and down that it was my doing, but I think he put the idea in my head in the first place. We started looking (kind of half heatedly) at different locations over the next few weeks. This is how we came to meet the colorful Paul Lyons. Paul was an ordinary Joe Schmo until he took a real estate class and learned: "How you can be rich too." He quickly got a massive loan and bought a small run down strip mall off Camp Bowie in Fort Worth. Paul began renovating the spaces one at a time pretty much by himself and attempting to lease them out. Chris and I found his property one day and decided to take a look. The space we were interested in was the last unit in the strip mall. It was still run down and had previously been a beauty shop (sometime back in the 70s or 80s). It was affordable and we thought we could do something with it. Paul was more than willing to work with us on getting it up and running, and even cutting a rent deal with us.
Now, when I get a time machine I will of course go back in time and stop myself from renting this location. I would appear out of nowhere to myself and say something like: “Nathan, don’t do it. Take the time to get a real business loan, and then get a real retail space in a good location.” At that point I would have probably disappeared because my past self would have had a heart attack thus wiping my future self from existence. But as they say: "Hindsight is 20/20." Nevertheless, I got my mom to spring me a four thousand loan (how or why she did this I will never understand) and used the rest of my savings to get us up and going. We signed with Paul (at his office/love pad) paying six months rent in advance. Once the six months was up, our rent would go up like fifty dollars. By then our business would be so sucessful it wouldn't be a problem... right? Paul also worked on a deal with us in regards to getting the location up and running (since it was all run down). We would help him get the space up and ready to go and we could move in eariler than the lease stated (no cost) and he would credit us some money (which never happend). We quickly agreed and soon we were on our way fixing up the future Renegade Anime.
In part 3 I will discuss the biggest leap of faith I ever made and how I landed flat on my face!
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Renegade Anime was the 2nd attempt at a business I have ever made. The first business I had was Game Vault. In 1997 (I think) I started this mail order business. It was really an EBay business but its official title was mail order (at the time the state paperwork had not yet recognized Internet based-businesses.) I sold Anime (Japanese Animation), import games, Japanese toys, and models. The main thrust behind the business was something that Chris later echoed; start a business selling stuff that I myself liked. I was into Anime, models, and such so it was part business and part hobby. As far as the stock went I was able to find a great source for Models from a place called Hobbylink Japan. The price was high, but there were some great products to be had from the land of the rising sun. I obtained some of the import games (for systems like SNES, PS1, and Sega Saturn from various resellers online. Eventually that business sank. Not because of bad market conditions, but mainly from my apathy.
Renegade Anime was the next evolution of Game Vault. In 1999, I got the license and registered the name with the state. You don't have to have a registered business name, but I thought that I should make that extra effort. All you have to do is go to the courthouse downtown and fill out some paperwork and pay them (fifteen dollars at the time) and you have that name registered for ten years. Back then to get the business license you had to go to one of the state's business offices and fill out the forms (it was pretty easy). Nowadays all you do is go online and it takes like five minutes! So I had my license and registered name... Renegade Anime was born. To this day I still have some stuff wrapped up in that name (like old business credit cards, bank records, etc) so I have to deal with people who mangle the word Anime even now after it has been absorbed by our culture. My decision to use Renegade Anime as the name of the business is somewhat of a mystery to me (now, years later). I am guessing I wanted something that had Anime in the title because I knew that anyone who was a fan and knows what Anime means, would also know all the other types of products it includes (toys, models). As far as the Renegade part, I assume I was looking for something cool and seeing similar businesses with those names thrown about was my key.
Renegade Anime started out the same way Game Vault had. I did all my business on EBay selling Japanese models, Anime, and toys. Quickly I ditched the games because they were just too high to import and the markup was becoming too narrow. With the mass of games coming out of Japan for all the different systems all you had to do was wait a few months and the most popular games would get an official port to the US. I did however have some success with the business. It also provided a nice little tax shelter. I was also able to buy and fool with stuff I could not afford normally and then sell it so I didn’t have the debt of those items. It was like a quick fix for my “American Materialism”. To say that the business was a hobby more than a means to self sufficiency would be a correct statement. That is until 2003.
After leaving my job of System Administrator rather unceremoniously, I found myself without income and bills piling up. What better way to react than… to spend lots of money! Somehow or another Chris and myself talked ourselves into doing the business thing in a more serious way. Well, actually we started out slowly. I remember the night I threw down 500 dollars on the table and said, "here we go. We have to start a business from this." We promptly began EBaying in earnest. We started to go to garage sales and buying books, tapes, CDs, and all sorts of miscellaneous items. Renegade Anime was still around its just I hadn’t really done much with it in months. This new venture we had begun was enveloped into the Renegade Anime business name. We started with some success. We had found several good deals at garage sales and made some decent profit. Saturday's were spent driving around to garage and estate sales. Once we happened upon a Wal-Mart bag of Pokemon cards. The cards themselves were in cruddy condition (heavily played with by kids) so Chris tried to talk the people down in price. The woman snatched the bag from him and stated, "They're worth more than than!" We enjoyed that experience so much we incorporated it into a sketch a year later. On another occasion we chanced on some model railroad stuff. We made a tidy profit off these (but also had our first missing parcel which took away most of that profit). During these auctions we worked out a sheet of paper that had some basic formula that figured out bills and profits and reinvestment.
In the tomorrow's article, I will tell you about the move to the DFW Cattlebarns Flea Market and then the big move to our own shop!
Monday, May 24, 2010
One theme that has been very prevalent since we started doing a daily blog is having something to write about. One night we brainstormed ideas. We didn’t just go for one-offs though. We brainstormed topics for future theme weeks. A theme week revolving around our failed comic book store was one of the ideas thrown out.
For his part, Nathan has taken a recollection he wrote a while back, separated it into five parts, and did some updating. He plans to go through later, add more pictures, and make the posts even more entertaining than they already are, so check back. I’ll try to announce when he’s done it. If you’re entertained by this theme week, we might have “shop week 2” pending me finding my written recollection from that time.
Since he’s taking on five of the seven posts this week, it leaves me needing to fill two. So what to write about? It occurs to me to write one before reading his recollection (though I read it back when he first wrote it) and one after. The first one (today) will be a simple thought about what I think I may have learned, and the second one (Sunday) will be a direct response to bits that he discusses.
Here’s a Table of Contents for the week, I’ll update links as we post up:
Monday: Welcome to Shop Week
Tuesday: Renegade Anime Part 1/5
Wednesday: Renegade Anime Part 2/5
Thursday: Renegade Anime Part 3/5
Friday: Renegade Anime Part 4/5
Saturday: Renegade Anime Part 5/5
Sunday: Renegade Tidbits
If you’re further interested in our time in the shop, Nathan wrote an e-book which he has up for sell. It tells much of what he has written about here, but from the perspective of what mistakes not to make in business. Link forthcoming.
I’ve had a thought a few times recently about how we have a history. Here we are. No one has ever really heard of us, but we have a collective history that supports this blog on a daily basis. Even better, we are still making this history, so this blog isn’t just a compiling of old memories. I just spoke with Nathan, who is beaten down by the loss of the Season Two work he’s done. In true Chris and Nathan style, I’m talking about how we’ll recover from this debacle, and he’s talking about just quitting. All I can say, Nathan, is that for as frustrating as this is right now, it’s the new history. The situation at the shop became overwhelming for sure, but now it’s great material. Five years from now we’ll have “Hard Drive Destruction Week” and all will be well.
Now I’m going to preempt something that Nathan discusses in his recollection with a realistic point of view about things. In my review of our first 100 posts I discussed the two “Nathan the Martyr” posts he wrote. I don’t wish to be harsh on Nathan, but he does this sometimes. He sets up situations that require him to put in 200% and then turns all curmudgeon about it. The basic idea that he’s held onto for all these years is that he worked harder than me at the shop. The problem is that it may even be true, but it’s not a situation where Nathan was slaving over raising a barn made of Magic: The Gathering cards while I was drinking iced tea, and letting the prostitutes practice on me. That will make more sense when you read his articles.
I’m not even really here to argue that. I know what I did and didn’t do to make the shop work. I also think I know what a lot of the problem was.
You see when we started the shop Nathan was cool. He was living the single life. He was a regular party animal. Actually, I think I just described myself, in spite of the fact that I was married and working 757.3 million hours per week.
The truth is I’m not a quitter, at least I wasn’t then. I’ve learned a few things about quitting since the shop, and many of these lessons came from the shop experience. I was delivering pizza full time at the time, and I was doing fliers for a Chinese restaurant part time. Nathan was working as IT for a company in Fort Worth. Nathan was making a pretty good paycheck, and I wasn’t.
One might think that since Nathan was single he should quit his job, and since I had a family to support, I shouldn’t quit mine. Nathan and I even seemed to think so. The truth is that Nathan should have never quit, and I should have quit immediately.
Nathan has this impression that all I ever did at the shop was play Magic Online and play some more Magic Online. The truth is that I was getting up early in the morning and going to the shop, working until Nathan got there in the afternoon, leaving to go to my delivery job, and then often going back to the shop to work on things at night when I wasn’t doing fliers. Nathan came in at 3 pm and went home at 9 pm, and worked a full weekend day. He was probably more focused during his official hours than I was during my official hours, but it doesn’t mean he worked harder. What it does mean though is that my official shop hours were not prime activity hours for me, and I had to come back at non-official hours to get anything done. It also means that my attentions were spread out in too many directions. Unfortunately, those early hours when the shop opened was about all the downtime I had. Had Nathan been working two jobs in addition to the shop, he would have understood that better.
Nathan was the first one to feel the financial burden. Not only had he put his savings into the business, but he had gone into debt a couple of thousand dollars. Oh, and he had quit his job. And so his attentions weren’t so spread out, but this was not a better situation than mine.
Can you see the issue? Cos I can.
Nathan does a lot of work for the show, the website, and everything we do here at ATW. He’s very focused. The problem is that Nathan often feels burdened by the work rather than intrigued by it. On the flipside is me with the drive to work constantly. I don’t feel burdened by work the way Nathan does. I just feel burdened by focus.
Nathan didn’t want to work two jobs, so he quit his job. I meanwhile kept my two jobs and took on the shop as a third job. Burdened by the work, burdened by focus.
The week of the initial mad dash to shoot Season Two. Nathan took off from his job to devote full time to the project, and so did I. Of course I had two jobs, so when I took off from my job, I want you to note that I still had another job to go to. Burdened by the work, burdened by focus.
They talk about playing to your strengths and weaknesses. And this is very important. Nathan thinks he doesn’t want to be famous, so when it comes to promotion, and things of that nature, we should follow my lead. I don’t have quite as high aspirations for wealth, so we should follow Nathan’s lead on making money. I’m more about being fully independent, where Nathan is all about job security, and as that pertained to our shop days…
Nathan needed to keep his job, and do the shop as a hobby that made money. That way his every waking thought would be to increase our income at the shop so he could ditch his job; not, “Where is my income going to come from, I need to ditch the shop.” I needed to quit my jobs so that I wasn’t always pulled in different directions. Sure, I would have still been groggy coming in at 10 am, and probably wouldn’t have got my groove going until the sun went down, but I would have got my groove going, and my every waking moment would have been to making the shop work, not, “How am I going to get to my next job on time?”
I think that if you consider what I said that it makes more sense than, “Chris didn’t pull his weight, so the shop failed.” We had a poor business plan (in that I wanted to create a business plan, but Nathan didn’t see a need to.) We had little advertising, a bad location, and a market that has always been niche at best. Most importantly, we were new to the world of a bricks and mortar business. That’s why the shop failed. There’s no need to justify it, only to learn from our, emphasis on “our,” mistakes and lack of experience, and do better next time.
This goes back to the not quitting thing. I’m all for building a business again, eBay again perhaps, or what I really wish to do, which is publishing, but Nathan seems gun shy about it. We have dabbled (the Cyberpunk card acquisition) but we’re certainly not all in on anything, and it’s been over five years since the shop. All in doesn’t have to be full time. There is much we can do getting together once a week as we’ve been doing. This is what I meant about this is the new history. If we had taken a year or two to examine what we did right, and what we did wrong, (rather than blaming) then we could have tried again. And when you try again, and succeed, suddenly the first failure was just a learning curve. When you don’t try again, it remains a failure.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
In 1973 there was a film made of “Jesus Christ Superstar” directed by Norman Jewison. It’s a very quirky movie, but beautifully shot. Perhaps unfortunately, the cast is different. Ted Neeley very much looks the part of Christ (as we believe him to look) but doesn’t have the same vocal range as Gillan. There was a book that came out back in the 1980’s called The Golden Turkey Awards (think Rotten Tomatoes but in paperback) and it claimed Neeley’s performance to be the worst performance in the role of Jesus Christ. In spite of that his acting was pretty good. Carl Anderson played Judas in the film, and I’m always torn about which vocals I prefer, Anderson’s or Head’s. Anderson is a very good actor though, so he is one of the joys of the film version.
When I say the movie is quirky it’s simply that there are many anachronisms in the film. The Roman soldiers are armed with machine guns, and are at one point piloting tanks. The angels who speak to Judas, as he becomes and unwitting part in the downfall of Jesus Christ, are represented by fighter planes. In the temple many of the wares being peddled are modern items such as sunglasses and the like. If you watch closely (and this is a brilliant shot from a symbolic standpoint) you will see one of the turnstiles has many of the world’s currencies for sell. And you get to see Christ break shit.
Another brilliant use of symbolism references the fact that this was based on a play. The movie opens with a bus driving in a remote area. The bus stops and you see all the players exit the bus in their normal clothing. They get into costume, set up props, and put on stage makeup. The only person you don’t see in all of this is Christ, who is risen up by the players when the overture reaches the crescendo of “Superstar.” Somewhere in this, Judas, now in character has wandered away, and as “Heaven on Their Minds” starts we find him sitting alone in the mountains, and the story begins.” After Christ has been crucified (sorry, I should have said Spoiler Alert) we once again see the players in their normal clothes (except for Christ) boarding the bus to leave. Judas is the last one to board the bus, and looks regretful of everything that has transpired.
All this may seem an odd way to present the story, but if you look throughout the lyrics there are many references that are anachronistic as well. In “The Last Supper” Jesus says, “You liar! You Judas!” using a phrase which means “traitor” based on the very person Christ is speaking to. Another line spoken by a Roman in “This Jesus Must Die” is “Where do we start with a man who is bigger than John was when John did his baptism thing?” This refers to John Lennon’s declaration that The Beatles were bigger than Jesus, but in the context of the story refers to John the Baptist. “Superstar” itself is a song in which Judas questions Christ from the afterlife of his choices, “If you’d come today, you could have reached the whole nation. Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.”
Now having viewed the links above I’d like to quickly refer you to a great parody from Mr. Show. Check… well, you’ll get it soon enough.
In spite of being such a huge fan, I’ve only seen the play live once. It was either 1989 or 1990, and I saved up a couple of paychecks from my part time dishwashing job and took my grandfather. The first time my grandfather saw it was with my parents. They took him and my grandmother to see it. My grandfather loved it, and my grandmother hated it, and the same held true for the movie.
One thing I do remember is that my grandfather’s favourite song was actually one of the two new songs in the film, “Could We Start Again Please.” This takes place after Christ has been taken into custody, and Peter has denied him three times. The song is sung by Mary Magdalene and Peter, and then a chorus of the apostles and followers. This is a well shot, albeit melancholy scene, but the song is quite amazing. The line, “I think you’ve made your point now, you’ve even gone a bit too far to get the message home,” may have been the influence for a line from Marilyn Manson’s “Antichrist Superstar.” The line from “The Man that You Fear” is, “Pinch the head off, collapse me like a weed, someone had to go this far,” and it almost sums up all the hate and controversy that surrounded Marilyn Manson in those years.
All in all, what I think “Jesus Christ Superstar” does well is takes a story that is amazing in its own right, true or not, and brings an emotion to it that is lacking in the source material. The whole thing is written from a standpoint of devotional awe, and of course records the teachings of Christ. But you have to imagine that the whole ordeal would have had to be trying to the people involved. The play brings out what some of these trials may have been.
Another odd bit of trivia (and believe me this is trivial) is that I had a mental image of what George Lucas looked like, and it wasn’t flattering, I guess. Also based on the much better vocals of King Herod from the original recording I had a mental image of what that character would look like. If you want to see what my image of King Herod was look at a younger picture of George Lucas. If you want to see what I thought George Lucas looked like watch this painful performance of an otherwise good song. It was meant to be played off as amusing, but the vocals are horrible compared to the original recording.
In fact, I’ll go on record as saying the original recording from 1970 is probably the best all around, though the live performance I saw featured some great vocals. I have the program somewhere in my storage shed, and one day maybe I’ll give credit. I was particularly impressed by Caiaphas and wish I could remember the actor. Mary Magdalene was actually played by the understudy the night we attended, and she was awesome too, and again I wish I had her name. This was in Sacramento, like I said around ’89 or ’90.
Unfortunately, this is not for everyone. Musicals are very glitchy with pop culture. I don’t even like a whole lot of them. While I moderately like some, I think the best musical stories are written as albums first: Pink Floyd’s: The Wall; Queensryche’s: Operation Mindcrime; and Marilyn Manson's: Antichrist Superstar as three examples. But if you’re ever in the mood for something a little more Broadway, I would suggest that you stop off at the Jesus Christ Superstar attraction first.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Since Nathan recently took on a Broadway play for purposes of review, I’d like to go ahead and review one myself. So check… actually, we’ll save that for later.
I first heard “Jesus Christ Superstar” as a cassette recording long before my tenth birthday, but I’m not sure when before. My mom and dad owned the cassette, and played it somewhat frequently, and then somewhat more frequently when I started requesting it. I deal with Miguel a lot on the subject of nostalgia, and if he were to speak up now, he would probably suggest that my love for this play was simply based on fond memories of my childhood. I will dispute this by saying that my mom also owned a cassette recording of “Hair,” and while I mostly like those songs, I’m hard pressed to listen to the soundtrack very often at all. It’s the same with “Grease” as well, which while my mom didn’t own, she watched it on TV frequently enough for me to be familiar with. My dad owned the single for “Greased Lightning,” which I borrowed frequently; but let’s face facts, aside from the theme, that’s the best song in the production. Still through all of this “Jesus Christ Superstar” has been a constant in my life.
“Jesus Christ Superstar” was surrounded by controversy, because at its core it’s a re-imagining from source material dating back thousands of years. I’ll have to look up the title, but it was a book written by Jehovah something. Now I claim Christianity as my religion, but I do realize some very simple facts about the religion. One simple fact is that there was this book that was compiled from various writings all supposed to be inspired by the one true God. Then much later there was a sequel published much the same way about the life of God’s son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Years later another sequel was published called the Koran. The strange thing about these books is there are those who don’t acknowledge any of them as being truth. There are those who acknowledge only the first book as being truth. There are those who acknowledge only the first two books as being truth. And there are those who acknowledge all three as being truth. It was the ones who believe the first two books to be truth, at least some extremists of that sect, who viewed “Jesus Christ Superstar” as a travesty, but that’s nothing special really. The extremists of that religion tend to take offense to a lot of things, and unfortunately, it’s usually without truly understanding what it is they’re on about.
I dealt with my own bit of controversy in 1992 when I named my son Judas. He goes by Jude after the famous Beatles song (watch this amazing all-star performance with some guy named Paul McCartney) but Judas is after Judas Iscariot. What people didn’t, and in some cases refused to, understand is that I would not claim Christianity if it wasn’t for that character. There are many things people don’t understand about the religion they practice. One thing is that there is this challenge of God’s authority by Satan. During this time, we as humans are kind of left to our own devices as God’s way of proving once and for all that we cannot govern ourselves without His guidance. This has always been very off-putting to me. It is why I could relate to Judas who gets caught up in the war of God and the angels, and acts as prophecy has seen by betraying God’s son (someone Christ King of the Jews) only to realize afterward that it was not his will, but what he felt was the right thing to do. I feel that if the story of God and Christ and Satan and all that is real, then the entire human race is in the same position as Judas, torn between our will of serving our creator, and doing what we feel we should, like serving our countries. And I think the biggest reason for non-belief and turning away from faith is this alienation from our creator. In the end, no one could see this as a valid interpretation of Scripture, and Judas's small role in a far more important struggle, so I told them all to go fuck themselves, because Christianity is at it very core based in forgiveness, and some peeps need to learn how to forgive the actions of one man from 2,000 years ago.
Hmm, it’s all heavy up in here now. Let’s move onto the entertainment. Nathan reviewed “The Phantom of the Opera,” which was penned by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. Webber also penned “Jesus Christ Superstar,” but luckily, he had the help of a man named Tim Rice who I feel made all the difference. I don’t know if Tim Rice is a sir or not, or whether he’s even British. I guess I could use the internet on my phone, and try to find out but it hardly matters. What matters is he was lyricist and co-writer for “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Off the top of my head, I also know that he was lyricist on Disney’s “Aladdin” and he co-wrote the play “Chess” in 1984, featuring one hit called “One Night in Bangkok.” Chess was co-written with Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus formerly of ABBA. I’m not sure why, but I don’t like ABBA, but I like much of what the members of ABBA did post breakup. Looked it up; he is a sir.
I think I’m more of a fan of Rice than Webber, and I’m not sure why this is; maybe because Webber gets a lot more notoriety when much of what he does isn’t too noteworthy unless you’re a huge fan of Broadway. I will say this for Webber, he was an American Idol mentor one week, and while many of the mentors smile, look good for the camera, and tell the contestants, “Oh you’re wonderful, yea for you!” Webber was actually helpful, almost as if he’s had to work with singers before. Hahaha.
As a quick aside the recording of the original cast of “Jesus Christ Superstar” featured a Canadian singer in the part of Judas name Murray Head. The song “Superstar” from the play was his first Top 40 hit in America. His second Top 40 hit in America was “One Night in Bangkok.” In spite of many, many albums outside of these two stage productions, those are the only two times he’s made it into the Top 40 in America. The singer in the part of Jesus (Original Cast) on the other hand has. Ian Gillan is the lead singer of Deep Purple: “Smoke on the Water,” “Space Truckin’,” “Highway Star,” and “Knocking at Your Back Door” to name a few. Yvonne Elliman was in the part of Mary Magdalene, and had two hits from the play “Everything’s Alright” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” She also had a hit with a song penned by The Bee Gees called, “If I Can’t Have You,” which was in the film Saturday Night Fever. She may not be the only one, but the only one I know for sure who reprised her role in the film, which brings me to my next point, and will be dealt with in Part Two.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Nathan doesn’t seem as beaten down as he did on Sunday when the hard drive broke. He said that he received an email from the company saying that the hard drive arrived and they will be evaluating it soon. He even thinks he may have it back by the next meeting as the average turn around time is 72 hours. On Earth, that’s three days.
Before I go much further, I want to say this right quick. Next week is “Shop Week” Nathan has a five part telling of our time at our short lived comics and cards shop, and I was going to come in over the weekend with two of my own articles. I’m not sure what I’m going to write about yet. Nathan started posting his articles today, because neither of us (or Miguel) had posted anything for Wednesday, and Thursday was passing by. I did have one in the draft section and ready to go, but Nathan had no way of knowing. Unless Nathan objects, I think I’m going to go ahead and post up that and this when I get home and whatever else to finish out the week, and then modify the publish dates on the shop articles to fit when they were supposed to run. Only because I do have material for this week, and it would be nice to run “Shop Week” as a Monday to Sunday thing. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, but you know.
At the meeting we did a lot of talking about a lot of different things, but it was mostly related to our new goal lists. I say new, but mine is mostly the same.
Nathan wished to discuss what we did right and what we did wrong this last time. I dealt with what I thought in a previous post, and he dealt with it a little in his comments. He said he didn’t feel that his goals were passive, even if the action wasn’t as (I’m listening to Tom Petty on Jack FM and the radio edit literally said, “Let’s get to the point and let’s roll another drag” when the word is “joint”… what a weird country we live in) um… oh, even if the action wasn’t as ongoing as my goals were. He’s right. Nonetheless he said he does wish to have a more challenging goal set this time. One which he was talking about was to write 10 new short stories this time around, and I said I’d like to do so too.
I’ll get a full list and discuss anything that needs to be discussed after he posts up the meeting notes to our private group.
Ok, here they are with my notes about them in brackets:
[He also writes for this blog. You may have read some of his work. The following are his solo goals.]
a.) Register for college.
[This is a holdover from last ten-weeks. He misgauged the timeline.]
b.) Get rid of storage space.
[This means sell the house. He doesn’t want to admit that that wasn’t achieved last ten-weeks. I’m just kidding.]
c.) Finish AND post AND get Season 2 on the air.
[In light of recent findings about his hard drive (they say the data is not recoverable) this may be tougher than previously expected. Yes, I wrote this article at two separate times, and got news of the hard drive in between.]
d.) Write 10 short stories.
[Read: Write 15 pages.]
e.) Sell 20 cases of Cyberpunk Cards.
[Then we’ll only have more than 230 cases left, not more than 250.]
f.) Bug Chris about finishing EVERY ONE of his goals.
[As if I don’t finish EVERYONE of my goals. Finish means ignore, right?]
g.) Visit Miguel's video producer's meeting
[This is a weird one to me. How is it that Miguel can go to some random producer’s meeting, but not come out to work with us? Further, are these people that do things, or are they people who talk about doing things? Just curious.]
h.) Submit 2 stories to Pill Hill
[I have nothing to say about this.]
i.) Save 1/2 of every amount of cash handed to me
[Sort of a whimsical thought that Nathan had. There was a guy, and I really wish I could remember his name, but he became a millionaire by saving half of everything he ever earned. That’s what I’m going to do.]
[That’s me, and I also write for this blog. You may have read some of my work. The following are my solo goals.]
a.) ATW 'Tour'
[This is an odd idea I have that involves the website. I’ll have to figure out what to do with it. I’ll at least lean into it this ten-weeks.]
b.) Finish 1st draft of book
[This is a holdover from last ten-weeks, and the ten-weeks before that, and the ten-weeks before that, and the ten-weeks before that, and the ten-weeks before that…]
c.) YouTube Videos for Cyberpunk: to promote store and auctions
d.) YouTube Video for NetRunner: to promote site and group
[Oh! Huh? Not sure why either of these goals are on my list, and don’t know what they are. The only thing I remember saying involving any of this was to get hold of Zvi Mowshowitz by email or something to see if he would join the Cyberpunk group and get the other designers and developers of the game to join.]
e.) Get tapes from Bill Stober
[This is another one that Nathan added to my list. He wants to put Stober’s old Dwight Williams Show on You Tube.]
f.) Write Id vs Chris from the Future sketch
[This is an older idea we talked about. I’ll have to talk it over with me and me.]
g.) Episode 1 Season 3 finished and posted
[See Season 2 notation above. The nice thing here is that I don’t think we’d have to re-shoot any footage.]
h.) Post one 'long' article to website each week
[Um, yeah. I still have to send Nathan the last one I wrote.]
i.) Newsgroups consolidation
[Holdover, and one I could easily do at work if I was a little more pro-active at home. But I’m usually just asleep at home, so that doesn’t help.]
j.) Add tags to previous blog posts
[Trace attempt activated. Nope. Failed.]
k.) 10 short stories
[I found it sort of interesting when Nathan picked this for himself, because it’s been a ten-weeks goal of mine before. I mostly end up with ideas that I don’t finish.]
l.) Ebay shit
m.) Organize shit
n.) post one video that is sitting on hard drive each day
[Nathan makes a presumption here, which is that I have anything on my hard drive at all. As part of, “m.) Organize shit,” I keep my hard drive clear. I only keep relevant files (read: things I'm working on currently) with me at any given time, and everything else is backed up on DVD and locked in a vault in the Arctic. Ok, maybe not that extreme. I started a separate You Tube a while back which was meant to house local band performances. I taped a few shows and then proceeded to not do a whole lot with the videos. As Nathan discussed at some point, the steps involved in posting a video can be daunting, especially when at the time I was working two jobs. Some of the recordings are still on tape while others I encoded and then backed up to DVD. Nathan has wiped my drive since then and I have not messed with it. I guess he wants me to mess with it now.]
o.) Log Blink 182 deck
[This is a Net Runner deck that I created a while back to be funny. It is a Runner deck, and uses the card Blink, and has 182 cards. The deck has been the subject of spirited debate because some believe that a deck that size must be too inconsistent to work. The funny thing is that while it doesn’t win every time (no deck does by the way) it does get setup every time to give it a go. I simply need to make a log of what cards are in the deck.]
[“Both” refers to Nathan and I, and we both also write for this blog. You may have read some of our work. The following are our joint goals.]
[Should be fairly straightforward.]
b.) Daily Blog Posts
[Should also be fairly straightforward, but hmm. We'll get on track again.]
c.) Finish and post and make DVD of Season 2
[Not so straightforward as dealt with above.]
Thursday, May 20, 2010
As sort of an interesting point, at least to me, Nathan brought up that he was a fan of Duran Duran’s Facebook page. It’s partially interesting because I’m not, but I’ll fix that probably before I even post this up. I think it’s mostly because I try not to be too cluttered on my social networking sites.
I have two My Space accounts, one which is people that I actually know, and one which is an “add everyone.” I have some passable to great blog reading at both accounts, and I’ll add you on the Video Hack account if you send a friend request… probably. The “add everyone” is so hard to keep up with at times, and that’s why I try to keep things uncluttered. Because of the nature of Facebook, my current account is not an “add everyone,” and I doubt I’ll ever make one.
The point here though is that Duran Duran is simply a group I should have on my fan list, and Nathan said they were pretty active with their stuff; blogging and such. I’ll often just go check in with the official site, where they post up blogs and news as well. This got me thinking about the likely differences between being famous like Duran Duran and having a blog, and being famous like us and having a blog.
The first point is clearly the general differences between their level of fame and ours. Their “Liberty” album failed to sell 500,000 copies, and it was considered a failure. We can’t even fathom selling one percent of that (5,000) with our DVDs. Part of that is because we don’t really have a DVD for sell, but even if we did, we don’t have that many friends and relatives.
I sometimes think that there has to be a certain charm to our writings here that comes from us literally being the amateur and unknown. We’re the guys who don’t know how to market ourselves, even though we do a lot of work (some of it is even good) and even though we have hours upon hours worth of content available. The irony of course being that we can’t always be those guys if our work is to reach the masses as a testament to being unknown. If we stay unknown no one gets to read about us being unknowns.
What are the differences with Duran Duran and others of that caliber? Do they have editors while I edit our writing? Do they have people who manage their websites and social networking sites while Nathan manages our website and we manage our own social networking sites? Not that I have anything against delegation, or even the fact that they’re big enough to need that kind of support for their internet presence. I simply wonder what it’s like to have to need it. Even Henry Rollins has a staff for as much as he does on his own.
I don’t want to be an overnight success. I’d love to be able to write my perspective on every step up the fame ladder, and stop somewhere around the Henry Rollins level. Then again, while I don’t want it overnight, soon would be nice. It feels like for as long as we’ve been at this that we should be bigger somehow. Miguel and I were doing the first show in the late 90’s on public access TV, and we had a little bit of a web presence. We’ve been doing the audio show for over a decade now. Nathan and I have been on You Tube and public access TV for years now. We have a definite web presence except that nobody knows we’re here. I’ve even been in a couple of local bands. It’s sort of funny and sort of sad. And we’re still unknowns.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Quite con… trathan?
How did your Thursday go?
[On Thursday night after I got to work I sat down and started writing about the final shooting day of Season 3, Episode 1. When I signed into the blog the next day Nathan had already written a summary of the shoot. Looking over mine now, I did cover some of the same stuff, but there isn’t a whole lot of overlapping of ideas. I decided to go ahead and post mine up as well. Enjoy.]
We had our final Thursday Meeting for this ten-weeks. It was pretty productive.
To start with, I woke up pretty early, so I left out a lot earlier than normal hoping to avoid traffic, which worked a little. Then I got a call from Nathan saying he was going to be late. Go figure. He got home pretty quickly though, and he put dinner in the oven, some sort of automatic pasta. We looked for some props, put the front license plate on my car, and by that time dinner was ready. We watched an episode of Case Closed while we ate, and then got to work on the last footage for Season 3, Episode 1.
Our ad-lib skills were up to snuff, and we found some silly things to do with the scenes. For the scene where Stout Man confronts a prank caller, Nathan intended to dress up as a woman and play the prank caller. I told him as we shot that we should probably just do the woman as a voice, like Charlie Brown’s parents but comprehensible, since he was going to do the costume for the Public Access Script Review scene. The only thing I didn’t keep in mind was that we didn’t deliver the lines in one constant dialogue. So later he got his wife to motion her hands and speak the lines.
[Note: Nathan seemed confused as to why I suggested not using the Nathan in drag bit for the prank caller. There were a variety of reasons, or I probably wouldn’t have said anything. First, as I said above, we were already going to use the drag bit in the Script Reviewers segment. Second, it’s something we haven’t done too often, but occasionally do, where we speak to a faceless individual. Third, we were working against fading sunlight, and as Miguel talks about in the Sniffles (sniff) history, when the sun starts going down abruptly, lighting problems ensue. Fourth, and probably most importantly, we were trying to figure out the logistics of how to shoot everything where Nathan has goatee (the Nathan character) and Nathan has no goatee (female characters and Greenly Meadows.) We seemed to be confused, so I figured we could either create a flow chart, or for the reasons above as well, not shoot the prank caller. Although Stout Man would say that the villains should be shot. The rest of the shooting didn’t turn out to be that complicated, but that’s fine.]
We did a scene where both of us had to hold the camera on ourselves and run. I was worried that the footage would be bad because they were such strange shots. I suggested we look at them, but Nathan was sure they were ok. It turns out Nathan’s cuts out halfway. He’ll possibly have to re-shoot, or edit my shot to look like his.
Then we did the Public Access Script thing, which was pretty easy. And finally the Greenly Meadows segment, which I think was about to make Nathan cry. The lines are pretty precise, and he kept getting tripped up. Finally he did a passable take, but by that point he seemed to know the lines pretty well, so I told him to try one more time. He delivered the lines almost flawlessly.
He made the choice to do the video encoding immediately, so that he wouldn’t put it off. There is a scene where a globe hits him in the head, and when you see it you may believe that we found a funny sound to put in there. The truth is that was just how it sounded. It really made me laugh, and I told him he should keep that sound.
[He called me Saturday and said that the editing was going pretty well. The goal was to have the episode online by 11:59 pm Sunday, May 16, 2010, but even if it takes him a day or so more, I think we did a good job with this, and I’d rather it look good than for him to rush it. Nonetheless he said he has Sunday open to work on it, so maybe.]
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
[9-15-2010: I have inserted the links to all the related blogs at the bottom of this blog for ease of future reading since there are a few blogs related to this blog (and incident).]
Nathan sits at his computer, eyes red with strain, wrists on the verge of carpal-tunnel syndrome, room dark and seedy (OK, maybe not that last bit). Things are going well. Season 3, Episode 1 is 99% done. Nathan sits there, reviewing and tweaking the episode. The opening credits, intermission are a particular triumph and out-do Season 1 and Season 2 while keep the feel similar. This is good work. Nathan is pleased. The 10 week goal was to have the first episode up and on the web by Sunday night before 11:59:59. Oh yes, he would make it. Nathan moves his mouse over to the timeline to readjust an edit. His elbow moves just a half-inch too far. It bumps the external hard drive sitting on his desktop. This hard drive contains everything. Not 'most' everything, not 'some', but absolutely everything. The raw video files for the episodes, the music, Nathan's personal files, even the small amount of pornography he owns. The hard drive tips from it's vertical standing, and falls flat on the desktop.
Buuuuuzzzzzzz... clip clip... fuuuuurrrm... buuuuuuuzzzzzz... clip clip... etc...
Nathan quickly saves the project (a lot of fat good that will do at this point) and unplugs the hard drive. He raises his hands in horror to cover his mouth. Thing have gone badly...
I was having a really good weekend. Maybe that's why things went so badly. Candice gives me shit for not being overly emotional (or even slightly so) and will get excited if she thinks I will cry about something. I don't cry at funerals. I get sad and such, but I'm just not much of a crier. If any situation would warrant a good cry, it would have been this one. Everything from the show is on there. Everything I have ever saved to a PC was on there too.
Now I do have backups of my personal stuff (which amounts to 6 DVDs worth) which includes family photos, documents, programs, etc. The backups are old and I would be missing a lot of newer stuff, but I could live with it. The show material would be the biggest blow. It represents hundreds of hours of work.
I tried turning the drive back on, but it did the same thing. I unplugged it again and removed the drive from the enclosure to examine it. Nothing outwardly wrong with it, but I decided not to open it any further. I am too worried about what will happen if I ruin the data trying to get the data.
I knew what I was going to have to do. I knew the moment it happened that I would have to send it to be recovered, and get anally raped in the process (money wise). Data recovery is not cheap. You get charged a per gigabyte fee for the recovered data, and there is somewhere between 500-700 gigs of data there. I think I will need some extra lube for this one.
What else can I do? Nothing. If I want the data, I will have to pay. Simple as that. When I got to work the next day, I started looking for companies that do this recovery. No one will quote you a price until they 'evaluate' the hard drive. I decided on a place in Colorado that did not have an evaluation fee. I filled out the forms and mailed the hard drive off.
I will update when I get the evaluation and price (but after a good cry).
Click here for Update #2
Click here for Update #3
Click here for Update #4
Click here for Update #5
Click here for (semi) Update #6