Friday, September 30, 2011

The summer of work and shitty contractors 3

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

This is an ongoing set of blogs about the work I have been doing this summer on my house (not the rent house as outlined in the 'On having renters' series of blogs.

I have been spending the summer painting our house. I know that having someone do it would be way too expensive and I have other things to spend my money on... like my bug. I did get the place re leveled, new skirting, and new tie-downs. Like I said in my last blog about all this work I got to the point where I needed to get gutters but a lot of the trim was rotted so I started replacing it. This lead me to 'pre-paint' these before the gutters went up. In the end I decided to do the gutters myself but I havnt' been to rushed since we haven't had any rain. I instead started paining the whole house. It has needed it very badly for many years.

I spent almost 2 months caulking (in the hot evenings) the house. It needed that just as bad as the paint. I began the painting part by painting all the smaller, hard to get to areas and the edges. This took me another month or so (about an hour a day just before sundown, 5 days a week). After that I roller painted which went really fast (with a good paint). I then began to paint the trim with a different color. This didn't take very long at all.

Yesterday I got the paint sprayer out and started on the front porch. The paint sprayer was all clogged up from my first mis-use last month at the rent house. After getting it all working right I set my sights on the underside of the front porch (about a 10x10 area). I didn't want to try to brush paint it because the roofing nails are all over the place. I knew the sprayer was the best bet. I got it all done in about forty minutes. Its great but it uses a LOT of paint. That small area took 3/4 of the gallon. It took only 2 gallons to do the entire rest of the house.


The before (colors and skirting)
The after
This leaves some touch ups and some trim painting on the carport. I am guessing it will take me around another five house of painting to finish the whole thing. Once it is done I am going to rebuild the trellis that was out front, rebuild the rest of the fence on the side of the house and I should be good for the winter. At that point I will start with all the indoors work.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chris McGinty - Enemy of Debt - Episode Twelve

Welcome to Episode Twelve of: Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt

For an explanation of this feature, and disclaimers that talk about how I’m not a professional money anything, go to Episode One. If you are caught up to speed though, we’ll begin discussing my friend who called me in financial desperation on July 10, 2011. Out of some, perhaps slight respect for his privacy, I’m not using his real name. I am instead referring to him as Genghis N. Consistent.

So we got together on the Wednesday of his check for his main job. His check was short because of a missed day somewhere in all of that mess. I’m going to make him go get his pay stub, so I can make sure he’s not using his money behind my back. Sounds funny, huh? The thing is that much of his ability to pay this stuff up has been leveraged on my money. He’s owed me some amount of money this whole time, up until we cashed his check. I don’t think I will be loaning him any more. And there is a reason. Read on.

I told him we needed to go see about getting the loan from the bank. Better to have the lower upkeep on a bank loan than the payday loan fees. He got all lazy on me, not that this is anything new, and said that the paperwork took too long to fill out. I pointed out that we had an hour before we could even start paying his bills. He had time to fill out paperwork.

The problem was that we wouldn’t be able to get it until Friday. It’s some odd thing where, because he has overdraft protection, he can get $500 even though he doesn’t have any money in his account. They then set it up as payments, and he pays small fees. Again, it’s still better than the payday loan places.

The plan was to get the loan, pay his rent, pay the two payday loans that were due, and try to actually get rid of both of them. Something has been telling me lately to get my money back, and not loan him any more. He’s finally in a position that he can pay everything on his own. My thought process was that if I loaned him enough to get rid of two payday loans that it would save him quite a bit in fees in the long term.

The problem is that I don’t know which time that he called in to work caused his check to be short, but it still compromised our ability to pay stuff by nearly $100. Each time he gets money, the first thing I have him do is pay me back, and then choose whether to loan him more. This time when I had the money in my hand, I had this feeling that I should keep it. I’m tired of struggling financially because of his issues. I can struggle financially just fine on my own, thank you.

We went and paid the one payday loan that had to be paid before Friday, and then we went to our respective homes to get some sleep for our respective guard shifts. No issues there. I was tired, and I’m sure he was tired, but we got through them. Luckily, I got to go home and sleep all day. He had a doctor appointment for his daughter. While I feel for him that he would be tired for work, I’ve had to point out to him a couple of times that I always end up being tired after helping him when it’s not even my financial troubles.

If you haven’t already figured out where this is going, he called in to the guard job. His excuse is that he had no sleep, and working a fourteen hour shift would be hard on no sleep. I admit that that is true, but I’ve done it before, and I’ve managed to stay awake. He could have done it. Yes, he would be tired, especially having to pay bills the next day, and then work his regular job that night. My issue is that he is losing out on a little over $100 that would be useful when he gets that paycheck. He keeps doing this crap.

The first check he got after I agreed to help him, back in July, was short because he was sick. He tried calling in the day he was waiting for the check from the stock option account, but I insisted that he go in. He missed two days at his main job when his van broke down. He also missed two guard shifts because he had no vehicle. Then he missed four days when his daughter was in the hospital. While almost all of his days off from his main job were covered by paid time off days, he still ended up short on this check.

Let’s ignore that for a moment though. The real point here is that he’s using up his paid time off excessively fast. Eventually if he misses days, valid or not, it will start to affect his check. Since he is a pretty lazy person, who calls in a lot, I imagine it will happen sooner rather than later.

I think it’s the laziness that is bothering me. We’re all lazy. We all like to chill out sometimes. I took some time off recently myself. No kidding. I took a week off by only working 46 hours. I’m such a slacker. I spent that entire time taking care of my day to day life though. I didn’t even really get to catch up on sleep, because I had so much to do that normally doesn’t get done when I’m working the hours I do.

It just makes me nervous having him owe me money. Excessive calling in can lead to job loss. If he has no job then he can’t pay me back. Further, I’ve always felt that I’m more serious about getting his bills paid than he is. At some point, I need to just back off some. I need to quit putting my money at risk, and I need to stop losing so much sleep over it.

So I think that I will go with him tomorrow to get that loan. We will pay his rent. We will pay just the reinstatement fee on the second payday loan. We will pay his electric. We will put the rest of his money into his gas tank. He will owe me nothing.

The trick from here will be to simply save up for his bills for next month, and whatever isn’t held aside for his bills will be thrown at the payday loans. I think he’ll still have them paid off by October, provided he doesn’t keep shorting his checks by calling in. After that the matter will be one of him saving for a car, saving for Christmas, and saving to pay off the title loan before they sue him. Hopefully, by the end of the year I can just hand it all back over to him. And hopefully he won’t mess it up.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review: A Haunting in Connecticut (Movie)

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

This is a dual review of both the documentary of A Haunting in Connecticut and the 2009 movie. I posted the documentary review earlier in the week.

I saw the movie before I saw the documentary. Once the movie piqued my interest I decided to start looking for stuff online abut it. I love stuff that has a basis in fact (even in the most loose way). That lead me to YouTube where there were a few videos such as TV news segments and such. I happened across one of the segments of the documentary and started watching it all. You can read about that in the other post. This review is about the movie itself.

A Haunting in Connecticut is your typical Hollywood fare. It takes the story that you know about from the documentary and puts that Hollywood shine on it. Some of the facts are changed in base facts of the story but for the most part they stick with the 'real story' until about halfway though. At this point the movie needs to go out with a bang so they do the whole 'hollywood thing' to it. I can't blame them. The actual story just ends with no real resolution. The family has the exorcism and all is quiet with the house from that point on. This is a movie... we can't have something as mundane as that happening!

The story revolves more around the oldest son and his illness more than the facts tell us. In the movie the son is there right up to the end and in the events of the actual haunting he is basically taken out of the home about halfway through the whole ordeal. I can totally understand having the son be the focus of the movie (you have to do that sort of thing to keep things centered and tell a compelling story).

For as much as alot of the events of the movie seem old hat to horror fans they are portrayed just as the family said (at least until the last half of the movie). The bloody mop incident seems like it came right out of a movie but the mother says that what happened. As I have covered with the documentary a few people say they made all of it up so maybe it did actually come out of a movie (where she got the idea), who knows.

The 2nd half of the movie is where they basically leave the 'true events' behind. They needed to in order to make it a big budget horror-fest. The mundane and random events are dumped to add the more interesting sub plot of communication of the dead and physic mediums into the mix. The movie reaches a crescendo with bodies, fire, and a removal of remains that was very reminiscent of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4's Freddy's burial scene. Like I have said a few times I can't fault them for taking the movie there. You have to make stuff big (and whenever possible explode) in order to cash in on the those big movie dollars.

I watched the DVD and the Bluray versions and both look fine. My crappy 2nd generation Bluray player had problems loading the menus at one point but eventually I got it to work. I also watched the documentaries that were on both and enjoyed them as well. There is one that is basically a new retelling of the documentary with the mother Carmen. It is interesting but not as good as the old documentary. There is a making of feature which is fun, a short feature on memorial photography in the 19th century which was morbidly interesting, and a boring 'Anatomy of a Haunting' feature. There are some other typical features on too like commentaries.

A Haunting in Connecticut is an enjoyable and well made movie. It doesn't set new levels as far as a haunted house movie goes but it's not bad. Check it out if you are interested (check out the documentary first).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Life: A Reboot

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

At various points in my life, I have had to step back and examine my life to figure out what is working and what isn’t working. I’m sure that if you’ve ever read any self-help, talked to anybody who reads self-help, or given change to someone living on the street who listened to self-help... sorry, I’m trying to be funny. The point is that I’m sure you’ve heard of examining your life frequently, and fixing what isn’t working.

I think the mistake that people make, and believe me I’ve watched people make this mistake, is that when they examine their life, they start looking at everybody except themselves. I think that in most cases, people don’t maliciously try to ruin your life. If people were malicious about it, they would be a lot more effective than they typically are. I don’t think that a person who doesn’t let you pursue your dreams without a guilt trip is maliciously trying to ruin your life. I think that person is just insecure. On the other hand, if that person does actual physical or social damage to the pursuit of your dream (destroying gear or causing irreparable rifts between you and contacts) then you’re dealing with a malicious person. When I start examining my life, I do my best to look at myself, and not what others are doing or not doing.

Most recently, I’ve been sitting at work, for many, many, many hours, and wondering why I’m spending so much time at work. The answer is simple. I made the choice to be there for many, many, many hours. It was one of my goals at the start of the year. It was framed as “Get the Taxi Situation Worked Out.” The result was going to be the same either way. I would be working over 12 hours a day to make enough money to pay my bills. Before I was able to jump through the hoops to start as a taxi driver, I found myself with enough hours to get by, working the equivalent of two full time jobs.

I worked a lot, and I did get many of my bills caught up, including a couple of debts. I have $1,000 set aside for emergencies, and a written budget to prioritize my spending whether I’m working 40 hours or 95 hours a week. I’ve figured that if I’m working about 65 hours a week (as long as I’m making $8 per hour or more) that I have enough to pay my basic bills, eat, and put gas in my vehicle and get to work. I don’t have much leftover after that, but I have enough. After many months of working between 70 and 95 hours a week, I decided to start moving toward fewer hours at work, and more hours living my life. This meant that I had to start thinking in terms of: What haven’t I been able to do while I’ve been at work?

Group Projects - These have been more or less non-existent. There were a lot of goals that I had, that Nathan had, and that Nathan and I had, at the beginning of the year that became completely overshadowed by my achieving my work goal. I never expected that I would have this much work for this long. When I worked two jobs before, one or both would often not have enough hours for me. I’ve stuck with it as much as I can, but my life is getting out of control in a number of ways. The number and quality of projects that I can do while I’m at work is starting to tip in a direction I’m not happy with. I can still find things to do, but I can’t seem to focus on them for 90 hours a week anymore. Too many of the projects have another step that require me to do something away from work, whether it’s a solo project that has to be done at home, like recording music, or a group project which simply can’t be done while I’m at work.

Organization - I worked 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm yesterday. Then I slept for around ten hours. When I woke up today, I decided that I needed to clean my bedroom. One of the strangest things about working as many hours as I have been is that the normal day to day things that you take care of stop getting taken care of. You find yourself too tired to do something as simple as cleaning your room. Then two months later, you find that it has exploded, and you don’t have time to clean it up. Too long ago, I tried to start going through my stuff and throwing away things I didn’t need, using things that have practical value, and archiving nostalgia items. To an extent, I have done this, but what I have found is that stuff has a way of growing faster than you get rid of it if you don’t focus your attention. It’s great to go through a box and throw away fifteen bills that are no longer relevant, except for when you then get another thirty bills in the mail before you throw anything away again. My answer before was to put everything in storage, and then slowly pull it all back out. This did work to an extent, but eventually, what would happen is that I would bring some stuff home to go through, not go through it, and it would multiply. It’s really easy to go through a box and think, “Oh, I need to do something with that,” and think it over and over before you have more stuff than you can do anything with. I’ve decided to restart that. Everything that I thought I was going to get to is going back into storage, and I’m going to restart.

Money - One thing that I really wanted to do while I was at work was to start selling Magic: The Gathering cards on eBay to clear a small amount of income. I’ve always realized that doing eBay enough to pay my bills would be a full time job. It might even require that I work as many hours as I have been. The problem is that as with everything else, I have no time to work on it when I’m home, because I’m sleeping. One might say that if I spend just a half hour each day either before I go to bed, or when I wake up in the afternoon, that I can probably do enough to get started. The problem is that if I do a half hour on that, then a half hour on organization, and a half hour on normal day to day errands, and a half hour... You can see the problem. Eventually, I’m just out of time. Eventually, I lose sleep. And when I lose too much sleep, I can’t focus on the projects I would work on at work.

Job - What I plan to do from here forward is to do my best to work between 65 and 75 hours a week. I can get by on 65. Anything more will help out. I’ll just spend my money with purpose, and try to use the extra time to get my life back in order. I always said that I could work 90 hours a week if I had to, and I think I’ve shown that. I could keep at it if it was necessary. I no longer believe it’s necessary. Maybe I’m wrong, but for now, I’m going into debt in non-money areas of my life. It’s time to get more hours in those areas. If my job paid better, I might not feel this way, but I always feel like I should be spending time pursuing a personal business.

Life - I always realize that life is a limited amount of time that a person has to experience living. I don’t believe that living has to be nonstop excitement. I want time for downtime. I want time to watch TV, play video games... sleep. Sleep would be nice. What I do believe though is that if there are things you want to do in life, and you’re not moving towards those things, then you’re not really living life. I don’t mean that you have to put everything on hold to achieve your goals and dreams. I simply mean that if all of your goals and dreams have been put on hold to achieve things that don’t fall under the heading of basic survival and necessity, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate whatever it is you’re doing. I think sometimes setting goals looks like something that has to be done with time I don’t have, and it makes achieving even a simple goal feel like a chore rather than a positive life experience. I don’t want to be there anymore.

Monday, September 26, 2011

(Review) A Haunting in Connecticut (Documentary)

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

This is a dual review of both the documentary of A Haunting in Connecticut and the 2009 movie. I will post the movie review later in the week.

I saw the movie before I saw the documentary. Once the movie piqued my interest I decided to start looking for stuff online abut it. I love stuff that has a basis in fact (even in the most loose way). That lead me to YouTube where there were a few videos such as TV news segments and such. I happened across one of the segments of the documentary and started watching it all. Click here for the first part.

The documentary is not a traditional documentary, it is more of one of those 'docu dramas' that Discovery puts out. It is very well done considering it was made for television. They put a lot of effort into it. The mother of the family is there in the voice overs (you can tell it's her from all the other segments on the net (and the DVD features). The events are more or less accurate (unlike the movie) to what the actual family claimed happened.

The home portrayed in the movie and the documentary are very over-done. The movie has a completely different exterior (as you would expect in a haunted house movie). The documentary shows the actual exterior of the house but the inside is very haunted house looking as well (as opposed to the photos and news videos of the actual house). I guess you need that sense of dramatic interiors to make the show memorable.

The whole thought of a house once being used as a funeral home is awesome. This is a setup for pure horror movie fodder. I know it's sad and all but wow its interesting! If you have an interest in this sort of thing go check it out. It's all on YouTube so it don't cost a thing to watch!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

CTFU: Super Mega Edition (Part Five) – Indie Films

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

And here we are again. If you want to know what this is all about, you can go back to Part One, even though in this case I don’t think it’s entirely important. I’m basically going through a file of brainstormed topics for the daily blog and discussing what I wrote, what I didn’t write, and what I was thinking when I brainstormed them.

The next topic was this:

[7. Indie Films

Recently watching “Fargo” and “Reservoir Dogs” (both of which I’d seen before) I was reminded of something that I always try to keep in mind, but sometimes forget. Sometimes the low budget is the way to go. I did touch upon this briefly back when we started the blog when I saw “Run Lola Run.” I always find myself torn between the popular and the underground, and all too often the underground wins out in my mind. Even if it’s not entirely accurate, which it may or may not be.]

This is a topic that I think I’ve spent a pretty big portion of my life discussing. One take on it is from my friend Adam. What we started calling indie films in the 1990s were once called b-movies, and didn’t really get the same respect as the indie films. I suppose that the argument against that would be that b-movies that are not always independent. Major studios make movies that are meant for direct to video markets, and other limited distribution channels.

*This is why I tend to wonder about my own thinking. It’s very easy to fall into the belief that the Hollywood machine is destroying movies, but the major studios don’t always get it wrong, and the independent filmmakers don’t always get it right. When I saw “Run, Lola, Run” it was because the storyline had always fascinated me, and I’d heard good things about the film. There were probably a dozen movies made around that time that I didn’t hear about that I might not be all that impressed with.

What I’ve realized is that I fall into a personality type, which might be called “the cult follower.” I’m interested in many things that are just a little on the outside of popular culture. I play RPGs and CCGs. I watch MST3K and other TV um… something abbreviated. I listen to underground and unsigned bands. I actually like “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I like Anime. I like comic books. Of course, I don’t like the proliferation of comic book movies, but that a topic for another time.

The list could go on, but I won’t worry about it for now. I really don’t mind people who have popular tastes in movies, music, books, TV, or anything. What bothers me is the way things are made and the way things are received sometimes. I don’t fully understand why it is that it seems like everyone loved “Transformers,” everyone hated “Transformers 2,” but “Transformers 3” was still made and seems to have done well. And they will continue to be made until they are no longer making money. I get the business side of the movie business. Making money is necessary to keep making movies, and so you have to ride the moneymakers and bury those that aren’t. It’s just frustrating when such terrible movies get made just because there is still a fan base that hasn’t been fully alienated yet. Just look at the late 80s/early 90s “Batman” franchise. Someone, somewhere, clearly thought that writing a vapid movie centering on a popular character and then casting big name stars would be good enough, and that mentality produced some very shitty movies.

To me the solution is simpler than I think Hollywood is willing to realize. Have you ever heard someone say that you make all your money when buying a house at the time you buy it, not when you sell it? What they mean is that generally the housing market makes for a good investment, because the values tend to increase over time. But if you spend too much for the property, or if you get bogged down in a high interest mortgage that causes you to pay half the cost of the house in interest over the years, by the time you get around to selling the house, the appreciated value has been eaten up in the expenses. In that way, they suggest that you look for undervalued properties, in areas that are looking to increase in value in the future, and to pay attention to things like down payments and interest rate and so forth. In that way, you make all your money by not spending too much at purchase.

Why doesn’t Hollywood follow this wisdom? Let’s go back to the indie films I was discussing. Why was the film industry pushing them under the heading of “indie films” rather than “b-movies.” Simply because they realized something important from a business standpoint; they could sell movies to the moviegoers of that era that were made for incredibly cheap while making big budget blockbuster money. Sure they couldn’t ride that forever before people wanted to hear about those huge budgets again, but they could make a great return on investment for a little while at least.

Now, I’ve sort of painted myself in a corner here, when you consider that “Batman and Robin” made almost twice its budget and “Transformers 3” made over five times its budget. Who can argue with success like that? Except that Roger Corman never lost money on a movie and his movies sucked too.

The thing about “Batman and Robin” is that it got so close to the line, and by its reception, it was likely that another movie would simply lose money. Part of the equation that I discussed about buying a house is selling for more than you paid, but the other part of the equation is getting the right interest. This is not only a nice analogy, but a nice play on words. By the time “Batman Begins” rolled around, it was evident that there were still people who wanted to see Batman movies. The difference is that Hollywood had to promise that they weren’t just phoning it in anymore. How much money did they indirectly lose between 1997 and 2005 while they were waiting for the movie going audience to forget that they got lazy with a franchise that was still popular in other media that hadn’t screwed it up?

Why was Miramax so successful? Because Miramax made and distributed movies at lower budgets and most of them were good. They built a trust with their audience. They betrayed that trust when they were sold to Disney, but at least while they were independent they were respected.

Perhaps the reason I took so long to get to this is because I don’t really have an answer to any of this. Most of the time, I can’t even make my own writing consistently good. How can something as multiple-personality as a major studio, or even an independent studio, manage to consistently release good movies?

We’ve all heard stories about how good scripts get passed by because someone doesn’t have the vision to see how good it could be. Then we see something like “Transformers” that was entertaining, but mediocre at best, and we just have to wonder. We’ve also heard about how there were formulas, software, and any number of tools that took the creativity out of writing a film. As a writer, that’s a daunting idea. How do you write something inspired when inspiration seems to be frowned upon. And that’s where I think the indie films of the 1990s earned my respect.

I think the reason I try to keep the independent films of the 1990s in mind is because those movies came along at a point where many of the studio movies were lazy and uninspired. The independent films showed the audience that film wasn’t a dead art, and not all the good stories had already been told. Maybe it helped long term and maybe it didn’t. What I realized though is that I’m not stuck with whatever crap the movie industry wants to spoon feed us at those times that they get lazy. If I look hard enough, I will find movies, whether studio or independent, that are worth watching. And if I ever get into producing movies of my own, or of others, if I look at it with an eye for the movie to make its money at the time of purchase, maybe I could be successful, and hopefully those movies will be worth watching.

And so it goes that we managed to cover one topic for the day. And even with that, I feel like I’m going to have to heavily edit this one to get my point across. Or I’ll just leave it and sound like I don’t know what I’m talking about. See you next time.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Thirty-Eight - Mind Boggle-ing Adventure!

(by the AccordingToWhim crew)

(Part One by Nathan Stout)

[INT - VAN - DAY]

(Nathan and Chris are pursuing Angelina down the road and suddenly their reality is changing, leading them to suspect Larry is with her.)

NATHAN: Hold on!

CHRIS: Weeeeeee!

(The van plunges into a river of Dr. Peeper. When he clears his face, Nathan realizes he and Chris are holding paddles and are in a yellow raft, rushing down a river after Angelina’s van.)

NATHAN: Oh man!

(Chris is paddling and cupping handfuls of Dr. Peeper out of the river at the same time.)

NATHAN: Keep paddling! This is just a dream-state. We are still driving down the road.

(The raft is suddenly a roller coaster at Six Flags. The van is just ahead on the tracks doing loop-de-loops and such.)

CHRIS: Ahhhh!

NATHAN: Ahhhh!

CHRIS: This is great! It’s like being on drugs or something!

NATHAN: Ahhhh!

(Larry appears behind Chris in the roller coaster with a huge pair of scissors. He quickly cuts a lock of Chris’s long hair.)

CHRIS: Hey!

(Larry vanishes. The van is back where it is supposed to be, but soon swerves off the road when all four tires blow out, thanks to something Larry just dumped out of the back of Angelina’s van. Nathan struggles to regain his sense of direction and control of the van.)

NATHAN: Shit!

(The van comes to a stop on the side of the road, torn wheels flapping.)

CHRIS: That one is getting told to the kids one day!

NATHAN: What is going on?!

CHRIS: Angelina Larry-napped Reece.

NATHAN: Why did Ree... I mean Larry stop us?

CHRIS: Maybe Angelina was forcing him to do it.

NATHAN: She was driving.

CHRIS: I think someone might have been making him do it. Why else would he put a river of Dr. Peeper in our way? Why not just water?

NATHAN: What about the hair cutting?

CHRIS: Now that one is beyond me. Unless he was just wanting a souvenir of me... I mean, who wouldn’t?

(Nathan starts rummaging around in the glove box.)

NATHAN: Here we go.

(Nathan pulls out a XXX Auto Club card.)

NATHAN: We need to get to a phone. Man it stinks in here.

CHRIS: All my precious Dr. Peeper spilled when we skidded. Not to worry, only forty-nine cents and we will be as good as new.

(Less than an hour later, the XXX Auto Club repair truck pulls up. The Grrrls get out, all dressed in workman’s outfits.)

NATHAN: Oh man!

(Nathan starts bouncing up and down on the seat in delight).

CHRIS: Whoa boy! This might be a trap.

NATHAN: I’d take a broken bone or two to be between that cleavage once more.

(Grrrl 1 taps on the side window. Nathan rolls down the window.)

NATHAN: Are you here to kidnap us?!

GRRRL1: No, we are changing out your fucking tires, nutsack.

(Nathan passes out at the comment.)

CHRIS: You will have to excuse dear Nathan. He is a little excited to see you guys again.

GRTRL1: What’s that smell?!

CHRIS: Oh, that’s my Peeper.

(Grrrl1 looks down and back up at Chris).

GRRRL 1: Just sit tight, we will be done soon.

(The van starts bouncing up and down as the Grrrls jack it up and speedily replace the tires. Nathan wakes up just as it all ends.)

NATHAN: What happened?

CHRIS: You just missed the Grrrls jacking us.

(End of Part One)

(Part Two by Chris McGinty)

CHRIS: Yep. I’m in control now.

NATHAN: Quiet you.

CHRIS: I can take this in whatever crazy direction I want.

NATHAN: Uh huh, I know.

CHRIS: You know why? Cos, I’m in control.

NATHAN: Shut up!

CHRIS: Sheesh. Grouchy.

NATHAN: Just embarrassed that I acted so pubescent back there and passed out, and am not recovered enough to drive a van.

CHRIS: Yep. I’m in control.

NATHAN: I’m aware!

[EXT – DAINTY PINES ASSISTED LIVING CENTER – DAY]

(Chris and Nathan walk to the game table. They find the rest of their group playing Boggle. They seem to be in a debate about a word.)

MIGUEL: Jedi is a word. It’s recognized by spell check.

OLIVER: It ern’t a werd. It from dat fancy-ful sky-fi boolshit.

MIGUEL: But it’s recognized socially.

OLIVER: But it only werks on da spell chick if’n yoo capiterize it. Yoo no why? Cos it iz cornsidered a proper pronun even in da Star Wohrs uni-virse.

MIGUEL: It’s a rank. Like a lieutenant.

NATHAN: Miguel, let the Wookie win.

MIGUEL: Well, since you put it that way. And where the hell have you two been? I really hate game day.

CHRIS: Larry was kidnapped by Angelina.

MIGUEL: He didn’t seem to be taken in duress.

CHRIS: It’s up to him what kind of clothes he chooses to wear.

OLIVER: Ok, Ab-Bert and Coss-teller.

NATHAN: Are you sure he was intentionally going with Angelina?

MIGUEL: I guess. I was coming back from the bathroom making a pretty huge turd. I was still a little impressed by my work. Chris, why are you looking around like that?

CHRIS: I was expecting Zigee to pop in all of a sudden.

MIGUEL: Anyway, I just saw him getting in. He seemed to be doing it of his own freewill, but she could have threatened him. I don’t know.

SHAG: Where do we go from here?

NATHAN: That’s a good quest–

CHRIS AND SHAG: Which is the way that’s clear? Still looking for that…

NATHAN: Oh, you’re singing. Stan, why don’t you shake up the Boggle thing? We’ll play a quick round.

(A few minutes later.)

NATHAN: So that means zero points for everyone, because Chris also got every word we did, and 5,041 points for Chris. I remember now why I don’t play this game with him.

DENTRE: So what are we going to do? We seem to be at a standstill.

NATHAN: I think we need to find someplace to examine the situation, and create a plan of action to bring it to a reasonable conclusion. What do you think, Chris?

(Chris has laid his head on the table and is drooling.)

NATHAN: A real help.

DENTRE: I can call MaryAnn, and we can go to the Re-Max offices. We have some pretty high-tech equipment there. We can run background checks, cross references, and everything else. We can find out who these people are, and what they might possibly want from you.

NATHAN: Sounds almost organized. Chris, what say you?

(Chris continues to drool.)

(Within five minutes MaryAnn, Dentre’s Re-Max balloon, has landed.)

NATHAN: Stan. Oliver. We will see you next month for another great game day. I might bring Clue: Museum Caper.

STAN: Okie dokie, Nathan.

OLIVER: Ar plessure as all ways.

(They shake hands. Nathan sees that Miguel is in the balloon and Shag is getting in. Chris is looking at a rope on the gondola. Stubby is walking up to Dentre.)

STUBBY: I realize that relations might be strained between us, but I have to get to work at the casino. Can you drop me off?

DENTRE: Sure, I believe it’s on our way.

CHRIS: Dentre, you mind if I use this rope real quick?

DENTRE: I can’t see what it will hurt.

NATHAN: Dentre, no!

(Chris grabs the rope, and quickly rushes Stubby. He punches Stubby three quick times, disorienting him enough to throw him to the ground and hogtie him. He picks Stubby off the ground.)

CHRIS: Now you listen to me, George Thoroughly Fucked. You’re going to take me to my Duran Duran collection, and then I’ll decide whether I’ll let you live.

MIGUEL: Gawwwddammit, Chris!

NATHAN: Chris, I’m not going to let you…

(Chris pulls a gun and points it at Stubby’s head.)

CHRIS: Don’t make this worse than it needs to be, Nathan.

NATHAN: If you shoot him, you’ll never get your collection back.

CHRIS: Well, duh. But what are you going to do anyway?

NATHAN: Where did you get a…

OLIVER: Das my gun. I thourght it were weird dat he were mass-sodjing my back.

NATHAN: Fucking great.

(Chris is forcefully leading Stubby toward the building.)

CHRIS: I’m taking the van. We’re going to get my Duran Duran stuff, and then, I’ll contact you at CTU and we’ll reconfigure our operation.

(They watch as Chris drags Stubby to the van, throws him in the back, and drives off.)

MIGUEL: What does CTU mean?

NATHAN: It means that Chris has been watching “24.” It means that this story won’t be in control again until he’s watching something tame, like “Cheers.”

(End Episode Thirty-Eight)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Doing the dirty work' of charity

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

As you well know by now According To Whim has be active helping Hangman's House of Horrors in Fort Worth, Texas. We have been putting our video skills to use making various videos for them. I have been also helping them with their website which has been outdated for a few years now. I have also helped the owner with one of her other charities (A Wish With Wings) with a tiny bit of video work.

Over the last year I had been thinking about various things about the house that I'd like to see changed. I just didn't come right out and start telling her 'you should do this' or 'you should do that'. I am a new comer to this and it would seem rude. I decided last year to involve myself with the planning meetings that the Core members hold in March. I quickly found out that my ideas wouldn't be accepted by this group so I kept them to myself until I had a voice... that is to say that I wouldn't put forward any ideas until I was a more prominent member of the team.

As you read in my last post, I have been feeling discontent with the main group of volunteers there. I don't feel that I am making any headway into being more apart of that group. They don't seem to want to add new people. There is this sort of clique of people and they don't want 'outsiders'. The owner seems to be aware of this. That's ok since I am only really interested in helping her and I don't have to be in them to in order to do some good for the charities.

This brings me to my thought a few days ago. The house property has the main building and 2 single wide mobile homes that house a couple of smaller attractions. The property has always looked drab and uninviting. One the first ideas I ever had was to decorate the grounds. Surely she could get some landscaping company to come in and do some work to spruce up the place. It could be made to really add a whole new level of creepiness. I also had the idea of replacing one of the single wides with a double wide. I needed to know a few facts about the property so I emailed her and found out that they are only renting the property and that one day the owner is looking to tear down the old warehouse (the main haunted house) and sell the property (I'm sure it's worth an nice chunk of change because of it's location). She never wanted to do any upgrading of the property since they could be kicked out any year.

I also asked her permission to start soliciting for a new double wide. I didn't want to go off and be representing myself as apart of this organization when I had no right to. My idea is to send out letters to several of the mobile home manufacturers in the North Texas area asking for a double wide. One issue with this is that if the structure is over 1000 square feet it will require a sprinkler system. If I can procure one I will just have to find a company to donate the sprinkler system. I also committed to getting the money to have the mobile home moved and mounted. I figure if I can get the fantastic feat of getting a mobile home donated then surely I can get the money to have it moved!

So there you go. I wanted to start documenting this attempt in case it actually works out. Keep an eye out in the future for updates to see how I am doing.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chris McGinty - Enemy of Debt - Episode Eleven

Welcome to Episode Eleven of: Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt

For an explanation of this feature, and disclaimers that talk about how I’m not a professional money anything, go to Episode One. If you are caught up to speed though, we’ll begin discussing my friend who called me in financial desperation on July 10, 2011. Out of some, perhaps slight respect for his privacy, I’m not using his real name. I am instead referring to him as Genghis Concert for Bangladesh.

One of the few readers we have quipped something about me going to a Genghis Concert when I went to help him out, probably because concert going is one of my big pastimes. She said that maybe that didn’t quite work. I thought it was funny though, and so I tweaked it a little, and now we have this week’s name. This is good because I had no idea what I was going to use next. I had actually thought about giving Genghis’s wife the nickname Madeline. The problem is that the naming thing requires a logical, and knowledge based, jump to start with. This requires an extra jump, provided you understood the naming convention to begin with.

Last week, I discussed how Genghis decided to quit smoking. He presumably gave me all of his cigarettes, all his cigarette paraphernalia, and he even emptied his car ashtray. After that we went and talked to his bank. We were going to see about getting yet another loan now that the old one was paid off. The reasoning was because they charged real interest rather than reinstatement fees. This meant that the money going out the window would be far less if we got a loan from the bank and paid off the payday loans. They said that we would have to wait at least two weeks, so we will look into that soon.

We went and reinstated one of the payday loans, and for the first time, we paid off a little bit of the principal. It wasn’t much, but at least we’re seeing some progress. I think we jumped the gun a little bit though, because we went to fill the gas tank on the vehicle her mom gave them. It’s a forty-five gallon tank. My intent was to find out how much gas it really is burning. By the time we were done buying the nicotine lozenges, paying a $17 fee on his rent that was left over, paying on the payday loan, and filling the tank, he owed me $144. So much for getting paid back. The thing is that there was still plenty more that I would have to loan him.

The first reason was that we had to pay another payday loan, just the fee this time. Then he paid me back a little more when he got his guard check. But then we had to pay his cell phone, pay the third payday loan fee, pay the remainder of the electric bill, and then I put $84 to fill his tank again. This was after a week and a day.

I did the math, and the vehicle is getting 7.5 miles per gallon. That’s terrible. I’ll probably have to estimate how much they can afford for gas each week so they don’t overuse the vehicle.

I have the actual figure around here somewhere, but he owes me around $400 now. His rent is due this week as well as two of the payday loans, so I doubt I’ll be seeing it until maybe his guard check.

In the last episode, I talked about buying the nicotine lozenges for him to quit smoking with. The problem with last time he used those was that he never slowly tapered off the lozenges, so he quit smoking while not quitting nicotine. The lozenges are more expensive than smoking if not used right, so I insisted on rationing those out to him like I’d done with his cigarettes. The actual treatment required twelve weeks and would be expensive. I figured that I’d already been weaning him from cigarettes (who knows how much he screwed that up when he sold those DVDs though), so I figured we would start four weeks into it. It was still going to be too expensive though. He owes me money. I have some say.

The first box we got was 4mg lozenges. You’re supposed to slowly taper off of those, and then move to 2 mg lozenges. I decided that rather than buying as many as he needed to wean himself according to the directions that we would buy two boxes, no more, no less. This isn’t too far off what he should be doing anyway, but it required me to figure out how many he could have each day. He doesn’t really know yet, but I bought a 2mg box, and I started mathematically reducing the amount of milligrams he intakes each day by using a mixture of 4mg and 2mg lozenges. This is probably a little cruel because when he pops a 2mg lozenge it’s not as effective, but the same logic applies when you go from 1 to 2 hours to 2 to 4 hours. You’re taking in less nicotine. And no one ever said that quitting an addiction was easy.

Again, I’m doing all of this for his own good. He can’t afford to smoke as much as he used to smoke. He can’t afford to buy the lozenges to maintain his addiction rather than quit. If I was truly a cruel person, I would have forced him to quit cold turkey when he first called me. There is a part of me that feels that would have been the better way to do it. There is also a part of me that believes that if he meant it when he told me he really wanted to quit but couldn’t, then he will be more likely to quit and not start again. It would at least be his choice then. I don’t know if he’ll go back again once he has control of his money again, but at least while this is going on, I think there has been less drama since he made that choice.

I think this is still posting about a month after things happen, but I think that this is starting to hit a slow point, which is fine. I don’t want a lot of drama each week. I figured that it would be pretty crazy to begin with. We had to talk to absolutely everybody, every time we went to pay something, just to get more time to pay everything. It’s finally starting to even out, and so a lot of that will be gone.

What I see for the future of this feature is just whether or not we can get everything paid up before Christmas, whether they can get a vehicle that doesn’t burn gas like crazy, and whether they get sued by the title loan place. He said that he got a certified letter, but he hasn’t gone down to pick it up yet. It’s probably the title loan place, because he never called to tell them where the van was before it got towed. Wonderful.

I’ll see you next episode.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: V For Vendetta (Movie)

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

V for Vendetta is a 2006 movie based on a comic book serial by Alan Moore and David Lloyd from 1982. The comic was a featured (and popular) serial in the comic anthology Warrior. When Warrior was cancelled Moore and Lloyd's work was reprinted and continued as a comic on it's own (by DC comics).

The Story of V for Vendetta was brought out of Alan Moore's increasing loathing of the conservative control of England by Prime Minister Thacher and her party. In V for Vendetta Moore has created a Britain of the not-too-distant future where the government rules with an iron fist. A masked individual only known as 'V' starts a campaign of terror against the ruling regime, trying to start a revolution to overthrow the ruling party.

Evey, a young woman working at the state-controlled television station (she is a factory worker in the comic) is saved by V and somewhat reluctantly helps him in his plot. Eventually she sees the truth in plan and helps him whole-heartley. V himself is the product of government biological testing. V goes after each of the people that were apart of that testing (which are now big shots in the government). The weapons they were developing were used against their own people in an attempt to grab more power and restrict the freedoms of the public. The other main character is a police detective that is investigating the terrorist known as V. He slowly uncovers the biological attack for what it was and eventually turns against his own government.

I really enjoyed watching this movie. It was made by the guys that did the Matrix and you can see this is some of the action scenes. I like the theme even though it was spawned as a slight against conservatism. A good story is a good story and the movie doesn't go out of it's way to bash conservatism.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Magic: The Gathering – Modern, “Legacy-Lite,” and Alternate Formats

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Magic: The Gathering is a game that is particularly interesting because just as there are a crazy number of combinations that can form a Magic deck, there are also a crazy number of ways to play the game, called formats. Some formats are simply a list of expansion blocks you can use in games. Some formats are rules for how to play with more than two players. Some formats make rules about how you can construct your deck. One format doesn’t even use cards. One format starts you off with an avatar that gives you special rules. One format has random occurrences built into the game that affect everyone. Sometimes the formats even overlap. It is possible to play 2-Headed Giant using the Extended card pool.

The formats that follow the rules as printed, but are based on which sets can be used, are rotating formats and non-rotating formats. Standard uses only cards from approximately the last couple of years. Extended is something like the last five years. Vintage and Legacy both allow use of every card printed with a few exceptions. Standard and Extended rotate out sets when new sets are rotated in. Legacy and Vintage don’t rotate, because they have a start point that doesn’t change. They are more cumulative formats in that they just constantly get a bigger card pool.

The trouble with the non-rotating formats is that they are very overpowered in tournament play, and the availability of the power cards has been decreasing for years. Because of this, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) started looking for another non-rotating format to introduce. They came up with a format called Modern. The idea behind modern is that when they released 8th Edition, they changed the look of the card frames. Cards with the new card frames would be legal in Modern with a few exceptions. This was as arbitrary of a start point as any other was, but when Aaron Forsythe suggested it, it seemed to make a certain logical sense. It felt like a natural start point.

When I read about Modern, I thought it was a great idea. I will probably never play Legacy or Vintage except maybe casually. I play Classic, and that’s bad enough. There is an odd problem with trying to differentiate between the two types of casual. There is casual where you build fun decks that aren’t meant to destroy your opponent, and then there is casual online where people act like that’s the point.

As to the why I’m a fan of the Modern format idea, my first CCG was Net Runner (I’m a huge fan of Richard Garfield, go Rocketville!). Net Runner lived an unfortunately short life, but thrived for a few years after it was unable to be officially supported. There was a semi-recognized tournament format known as Draconian inspired by Neal’s Draconian Banned list. It took the, just over, 500 official Net Runner cards, and banned 120 of them to create the Draconian format. His intent was to let some good cards that weren’t quite the best see play.

Every time I see a format in Magic that causes players to have to rethink what cards to use (Kaleidoscope, Rainbow Stairwell, Pauper, Highlander) it makes me just a little happy, because I enjoy Magic for the mental exercise.

My biggest complaint about Magic has always been that I don’t think I have an ounce of Spike blood in me, Spike being the nickname for the player who is only out to win. I play the game from the perspective that it is more fun for me to win because I thought my way through to victory than to win because my deck worked as it was finely tuned to do. I build decks around cards that function in a way that I find interesting and fun, rather than cards that create nearly unstoppable win conditions.

Most of my Net Runner playing has been with people who aren’t dicks about creating overpowered decks though, so having the Draconian format hasn’t been that important. But in Magic, a format like that would be very helpful.

My suggestion, which I’ll call “Legacy-Lite,” just because I have no better name popping into my head at the moment, would have some real downsides in time and cost to implement, but if it was something WotC was able to do might give them a long term non-rotating format that they would have better control over the power level. Let’s face it, there are already decks that would dominate in Modern as they proposed it.

With “Legacy-Lite,” each year, WotC would release a set similar to the old Nth Edition sets, and to the Masters Edition sets online. The sets would consist of all reprints, and would intentionally avoid the top 25% in terms of power cards. The format would start with the first year of reprints, and would maintain a legality of only cards in “Legacy-Lite” sets. They could potentially take it a step further to push sales by saying that it has to be those printings, though they normally don’t use that restriction. Since all of these cards would be cards already known to the public, much of the design and development of the sets could be done by players, with R&D having the final say to maintain power levels.

Even in the Draconian format, banning 25% of the Net Runner cards that were most commonly used in tournament decks, there were still some powerful decks. How nice would it be to see some decks in tournament play made up of “Tier Two” cards that are only considered to be not good enough to play because there are cards better than them?

If developing a whole new set each year would be too cumbersome (which I suspect it might be) there are three possibilities I can think of to lessen the burden:

- The first would be to make the initial “Legacy-Lite” set a very large set to get people started (1,000+ cards) and then do the new sets every two to five years depending on sales and demand.

- The second would be to start with Magic 2010, and make the format legal cards just those printed in Core sets from 2010 on, which is just “Modern but More Modern.”

- The third would be to let the community build the format with guidance from WotC, and rather than print cards, just post an official list of cards that can be used in the format, adding cards to the list at semi-regular intervals.

The issues I see with the third possibility are that it is easier to list cards that can’t be used, than to list cards that can be used, when you have no anchor (like cards printed with expansion symbols) to help people keep track, and that without new cards printed it would be a format for the secondary market. Perhaps making it a Magic Online only tournament format could fix many of the issues, since the online interface can keep track of whether a card is legal in a format.

So why do I care? I think one of the fundamental flaws of “Magic: The Gathering” is that there are cards that rarely see play, and not because they are just seriously useless. I understand that that happens from time to time, even in my precious Net Runner. The problem is that all too often a card is actually pretty good, but it’s not strictly better than other cards. With Magic, taking out the top 25% of power cards, like Draconian did in Net Runner, would solve this problem some. Slowly replacing the usable cards, while avoiding the top 25%, would be even better. I’m willing to bet there would be a tipping point where all of a sudden even the “Legacy-Lite” format would have cards that never saw play, but at least for a little while they might.

The best way for lesser used cards to see play is simply for players to start using them; this is obviously easier if you have a small group that plays together from time to time, and you can create you own formats.

“Ok, everybody listen up. Next week. Your decks must be two colours. One of your colours must be white. You may not use black. Your decks must have 67 cards. These cards may not have names that start with the letters S,W,A, or T. Further, the card Swat is banned in this format, along with any card that has been banned in Standard. Your deck must run 20 to 24 creatures (10 have to be uncommon cards from Onslaught block, 2 must have appeared in a Core Set). Your deck must contain seventeen cards that are not basic lands from Homelands. Everyone will start with 11 cards in hand, 4 of those cards will be Terrors that are not part of your deck, and may be cast using any coloured mana. We will play free for all, and start with 42 life each, except Bob who will be allowed to run a proxied Black Lotus in his deck and will start with 33 life. Good luck.”

Now you tell me that wouldn’t be fun.

Unfortunately, the only way I can think to do this online is to find like minded individuals who would like a deck building challenge, and would stick to it. It might require creating a chat room where specifics could be decided.

Online would be limited in other ways, but that’s the very nature. It has advantages and disadvantages. Imagine a format where there is a pile of Equipment cards that anyone can draw from if they put the top five cards of their library into their graveyard. You simply couldn’t do something like that online. I’m not sure why you would do it offline, but that’s not relevant to this discussion.

Actually, one that you would have to do offline, that I think might be interesting, would be where everyone looks through one person’s collection and builds enough 60-card decks for everyone who is playing. Shuffle these decks into one deck, and then randomly make piles of 60 cards, and set them all aside. Each player can draw the top card of any of these piles as though it was their library. All effects that target a specific library simply read any of these piles. Everyone maintains their own graveyard though. Keep a pile of basic lands face up, and any basic land in your hand can be traded for another basic land in the face up pile. Obviously, you can’t lose by decking, but cards that mill, you would decide which graveyard they go into. I’m sure there are other considerations (the reason I said one person’s collection is so there is no confusion as to whose cards are whose), but I’m just saying this because I’ve always been interested in a format where you really don’t construct a deck, but rather have to adapt to whatever you draw.

I feel that there are many interesting things that can be done in Magic. I think formats are the way to see more of these things happen. Some of what I’m writing here may seem convoluted, but you have to admit that different cards would see play, and different strategies would have to be used. If a format doesn’t work then don’t play it again. If a format does work, play it more often. All I’m trying to convince you of is to play formats that give the largely unused cards a chance to be shuffled up and played.

Monday, September 19, 2011

NetFlix - 'Fixing' what is not broken

by Nathan Stout (AccordingToWhim.com)

A couple of months back Netflix sends out a notice saying that they are about to split up their services so you have to pay for each service separately (DVDs by mail and Internet streaming).

This is dumb.

Netflix has every other competitor on the ropes when it comes to services offered. Someone in their corporate offices thought they needed to make this change to get more revenue.

This is dumb.

I am thinking they got the Walmart method in their mind but failed to realize that their competitors are on the ropes... not down and out. One day Walmart will have run all other businesses out of business THEN they will have the power to jack up their prices and reduce services and we (the public) will have no choice but to give in a pay more. Netflix 'thinks' they have this now and decided to stick it to their customers but they are just greedy dumb asses and are just going to hurt their income.

We are in a down economy and Netflix was still doing well. When people are down and out you don't raise prices just because you are doing good business. You have to be extra careful in these situations and watch your company's performance and NOT rape you customers.

Anyway Netflix is going to charge you separate prices if you want both streaming and DVD by mail services. This mean if you continue to get both services your bill will go up about one quarter.

Understandably people are getting pissed. So much so that the co-founder sent out an email to customer trying to explain why they are doing what they are doing. They don't win any points with their email which sounds like it's going to be an apology but turns out to just tell you grin and bear it, we're fuckin' Netflix and we will do what we want. The explanation in the email looks to me like they are getting ready to be able to sell their DVD by mail service to some other company.

This decision to divide up their services is loosing them customers. I am about to be one of those. I am going to Blockbuster's DVD rental program. I am sure they will be more than happy to have me as a loyal customer now. Netflix must remember that they still have competitors and by getting greedy they are only making their competitors stronger.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

2011 Hangman's Commercial Shoot

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

On Thursday September 15th Miguel and I went to Hangman's House of Horrors to shoot the 2011 season commercial. It will be a short video just like last years was. The 2011 theme is: 'The Haunted Library'. One of the volunteers came up with an idea for a promo video that takes place in a library where all the books start coming to life. The owner D'Ann sent us all an email a few weeks back with the initial idea and we shot ideas back and forth and finally decided on a script and a date to shoot it.

We arrived at 4pm on the first day the haunted house was open. It was 'test night'.... basically the first night where guests got free tickets to be the guinea pigs so the actors (many new each year) could get used to their jobs and try new ways to scare people in the house. We decided to shoot on this day because we could get there early (since they didn't open until 8pm) and have plenty of shooting time, have actors available already in makeup, and do it early enough in the season so the video would be topical and useful to the charity.

Our short script takes place in one room of the house. The first room is made to look like a library. This is the room guests start out in. They are given the general theme then move on into the madness. We were going to use a real library at first but no one seemed to want to bother dealing with all that mess so we opted to use the haunted house's room (which is just fine). The video is basically a shot of the room where horror stories 'come to life'. Monsters come out of the books to scare the crap out of you. My idea for the video was just that. A non-speaking montage of monsters coming out of book cases, etc. Miguel had an idea that required 2 victims. They would basically be there when the monsters start coming out and fail to escape. The great thing is that both video use most of the same footage (just no victims in my version).

I got there a few minutes earlier than Miguel so I started setting up lights and such. When Miguel got there we began shooting from a script that had the parts divided up with what we needed to shoot that had actors and parts that didn't have actors. We planned on shooting all the non-actor parts for the first two hours then have the actors show up and shoot the rest in the remaining two hours.

We got almost everything we needed that didn't involve actors then gathered about eight people in costume to do all the monster and victim parts. Miguel's camera is DOA at the moment so he did most of the shooting on mine. I did a lot of light holding (which is fine with me). The shots looked fine when we did them so I am hoping we will get the desired results. Several of the shots have effects so I will have to spend some time on those as well.

Our two victims were girls (one from last year's video) and more of a newbie who had a hard time acting. Miguel will get what he needs out of the footage though. I am sure it will come out just fine. My shots were much easier and I am only worried about the apex of my video, a shot that reveals the Hangman sitting in the library's chair. It didn't look so good so I am not sure what I am going to do about it yet.

After we shot everything (about thirty minutes before 8pm) we packed up and I had Miguel take my camera home to do the encoding. I told him I would just get a copy of the footage from him sometime in the coming week. One thing we are bad at is putting stuff off so I hope we get out butts in gear and get this video rolled out quickly.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Thirty-Seven - Chris Abandoned Us!

(by the AccordingToWhim crew)

(Part One by Nathan Stout)

[EXT – STUCKEY'S – DAY]

NATHAN: We’ve been driving for eight hours, and you never once looked in the back of the van to check on anyone?!

CHRIS: I thought everyone was asleep.

NATHAN: You are getting as forgetful as I am lately.

CHRIS: I don’t know...

NATHAN: For me, it’s the artificial sweetener that is making me absentminded. I don’t know what in the world is causing you to forget.

CHRIS: You know, I have been drinking nothing but cases of pure cane sugar Dr. Peeper lately. Maybe I need the high fructose corn syrup to put things right?

(Chris marches off inside the Stuckey’s. After filling the van up, Nathan runs to the restroom then back out, impatiently waiting for Chris. Nathan is staring at the floor trying to figure out what to do when he hears a fumbling at the passenger door. Chris is grunting outside.)

CHRIS: ...need help.

(Nathan reaches across and opens the door. A Dr. Peeper branded mug the size of a half keg gets into the van followed by Chris.)

CHRIS: Only sixty-nine ninety-nine!

NATHAN: Great.

CHRIS: Refills only forty nine cents! This is my lucky day.

(Nathan starts the van and turns around, heading back to Oliver’s.)

NATHAN: I wonder what they did.

(When there is no reply from Chris, Nathan looks around the mug to see Chris carefully tipping it into a funnel into cans of Dr. Peeper. Chris notices Nathan.)

CHRIS: I’m dividing it up. I didn’t bother with ice, so there is eighty-two cans worth in here!

(Chris pats the massive mug.)

NATHAN: So I’ve been thinking about COBALT. Why did they show up when they did? Someone tipped them off. It obviously wasn’t the Professor, and I doubt it was Dentre or Shag. Larry shows up at about the same time. Seems suspicious.

CHRIS: Reece saved us multiple times.

NATHAN: Perfect cover.

CHRIS: Somehow I doubt it. Who wants us anyway? By the way, why don’t you just call one of the guys... maybe they already found a way home?

(Nathan holds up his phone.)

NATHAN: Dead battery.

(There is a bump on the road and the van swiftly rolls over it.)

CHRIS: Just smoothing out plot points.

NATHAN: I think COBALT wanted one of us, but they didn’t know which one, so they captured us all.

CHRIS: Well, Reece and Miguel are the only one with powers now.

NATHAN: Except Shag's power Cliché.

CHRIS: Except that.

NATHAN: Let’s face it, Miguel’s power sucks just about as much as Miguel does.

CHRIS: No he doesn’t. He’s a homophobe.

NATHAN: They must be after Larry.

CHRIS: He can alter reality. I’d say that was a pretty useful power to people like Eric or the Professor.

NATHAN: But the Professor has known about Eric from day one... when he was interested in you.

CHRIS: Funny how things change.

NATHAN: Yeah, my life used to be so quiet. Remember that? I used to have to ask you about all the little sordid details of your life just to see what an exciting life was like.

CHRIS: Yeah...

NATHAN: In just a few days my life has been turned upside down and inside out.

CHRIS: It’s great isn’t it!?

(Nathan looks at Chris around the mug.)

(End of Part One)

(Part Two by Chris McGinty)

[INT – VAN – DAY]

(Nathan is driving. Chris is sleeping. There is a drip feed rigged up for the remaining contents of the mug that Chris didn’t pour into can. It drips one drop of Dr. Pepper into Chris’s mouth every five seconds. Chris’s snoring is normal for the most part, but occasionally he sounds like Mer-man from He-Man. It is at this point that Nathan reaches around the mug, punches Chris in the arm and orders him to swallow. Chris mysteriously tells Miguel that it’s not his birthday yet, and then slips back into a deep sleep.)

[EXT – DAINTY PINES ASSISTED CARE LIVING CENTER – DAY]

(The rest of the group is playing a game of Monopoly with Stan and Oliver.)

SHAG: I remember we used to play this where you could remove an article of clothing in trade for a property you needed.

OLIVER: Well, we ain’t doin’ dat here, boy.

SHAG: No, not at this sausage fest. But the game always went faster. And the winner was almost always a woman.

MIGUEL: I sense a great disturbance in the Force.

STAN: Through the common area, only hall on the left, third door on the right.

MIGUEL: Thank you.

(Miguel stands to go to the bathroom. He tells Larry to play his turn until he gets back.)

DENTRE: Think he’d notice if you traded a couple of his properties?

LARRY: I’m not sure that it would matter whether he noticed or not. I don’t think he would care.

DENTRE: Well in that case…

(They hear a horrible sound from behind them. They look and see Stubby finally waking up. He makes noises as he wakes that ensure that he will never marry anyone whose ears work.)

STUBBY: What the hell happened?

LARRY: Well, some guy named Eric showed up, leading some group named COBALT, and took us onto a C-130. Then some guy named Garrett said that he was trying to make sure no one dropped us out of the back of the C-130, and then that same guy named Garrett dropped us out of the back of the C-130. I had to create a dream state and hope that it would save us, and it did. Then Chris and Nathan drove off and forgot to take us with them, so we’ve been having a game day. My mom is on the way to get me, cos I have school to go to.

STUBBY: Chris and Nathan are idiots. I got a little sidetracked on my evil plot, oh yes, but I will manage to rise up again and…

LARRY: That’s interesting, sir.

DENTRE: So anyway, about that Park Place that Miguel has…

SHAG: Let me ask you something, Larry. You have this ability to retain lots of knowledge. Do you know anything about COBALT, or anything else that is going on?

(An orderly approaches their game.)

ORDERLY: Larry, your mother is here to pick you up.

LARRY: Oh, well then I guess you’ll all have to auction my properties. It was fun hanging with you guys for a while. I’ve got to get back to earning my third PHD.

STAN: You have two PHDs?

LARRY: I should clarify. I’m earning my third PHD this year.

OLIVER: And still coun’t beat an ol’ man at Backgammon.

LARRY (laughing): I still have an open invitation to come back for a rematch, right.

OLIVER: Course, son.

STAN: See you soon, Larry.

SHAG: He didn’t answer my question.

STAN: He was probably excited that his mom was here.

(Larry leaves and they start to auction Larry’s properties, only to realize that they have no proxy for Miguel. They wait, and eventually Miguel comes back.)

MIGUEL: Oh boy. When do we eat?

DENTRE: Oh good. We were waiting on you to auction Larry’s properties. His mom finally arrived to take him home.

MIGUEL: Mom? He left with Angelina. I saw him getting in the black van with her when I was walking back from unloading my bowels.

STUBBY: What a terrible visual.

MIGUEL: Oh, you finally woke up? So when do we eat?

[INT – VAN – DAY]

NATHAN: Hey Chris.

CHRIS: What?

NATHAN: I didn’t hear you snoring, so I was seeing if you were awake.

CHRIS: Yep. Physically. But spiritually, I think we’re both asleep.

NATHAN: What are you talking about?

CHRIS: Can I interest you in the good news from the Watchtower Tract Society?

NATHAN: I think the caffeine has gotten to your head. We’re almost there. We can get the others, if they’re still there, and get the hell out of here. I’ll need you to drive when we leave though.

(Chris suddenly pushes the oversized mug back a couple of feet and grabs the steering wheel. The van turns an anything but smooth U-turn, as Nathan screams, and thinks about Miguel’s panic attack pill stash.)

NATHAN: I meant when we left the home with everyone in the van!

(Chris straightens the van, and Nathan takes the wheel back.)

CHRIS: Follow that van. Angelina was in it.

NATHAN: Angelina? What the hell? Oh, and next time…

CHRIS: Yes?

NATHAN: JUST TELL ME TO TURN AROUND!!!

CHRIS: Chill out! Your ALL CAPS is hurting my ears.

(Nathan presses down on the accelerator pedal and starts to catch up to Angelina’s van.)

NATHAN: What the hell are we going to do when we catch up? She won’t pull over just because we yell at her.

CHRIS: She won’t? Well, then I don’t know what we’re going to do.

(Nathan looks at the speedometer. It seems to be crying.)

NATHAN: I guess I’ll just have to time between mile markers to estimate my speed.

(Nathan looks at the road. He notices that the mile marker signs are candy canes. The exit signs are posters of various Disney movies. The hitchhiking parrot is dressed as Long John Silver. Hitchhiking parrot?)

NATHAN: Holy shit! Holy fuck! Chris, what’s happening?

CHRIS: If I didn’t know better I would say that we’re entering a Reece dream state. Oh, and we’re about to drive right into that river of Dr. Pepper that has appeared between us and Angelina’s van. Not that I’d mind too much.

(End Episode Thirty-Seven)

Friday, September 16, 2011

CTFU: Super Mega Edition (Part Four) - Tax Returns and Brainstorming

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Welcome to part four of ten… thousand. In Part One, I said that I was looking at a ten part give or take. I’m still not sure how many parts there will be. I just know that we’re on Part Four now, and seem to have a lot of ground to cover still, but as I go through the file I think the topics will have less that I want to write about… that was a terrible sentence. I hope got what I was saying though.

This was the next topic:

[4. Danny Elfman Movie vs. Boingo songs

I once read that when Danny Elfman does movie scores he divides the number of days he has to do the work into how many minutes the movie is. But when he works on (The Mystic Knights of the (Oingo)) Boingo songs, he composes more by feel and inspiration. A blog post about how that might apply in my life and my projects.]

I started to think about how I could write this topic as a “things I’ve learned from reading interviews” essay. I actually listed it later under the topic “Wisdom of Famous People.” I’ll deal with this when I get there. See, now you have something to look forward to. This is the next listed topic:

[5. Tax Returns

Even though I haven’t really seen a tax return for a long while, I do have a thought about how they should be used. First of all, obviously, it’s better if you don’t have much of a tax return, because it means they were withholding high enough and you had use of your money to invest. But when you get a tax return you should divide it by 12 and use it over the course of the next year, just in time for your next tax return.]

I actually dealt with this a little bit in an article about really thinking about your money before spending any of it. It was called “Maintaining Your Lifestyle (Part One).” The idea behind that article was that in any given case you should pay your bills first and on time. Then you should look into setting yourself up for emergencies. Then you should be very intent about luxury purchases.

In the article, I discussed tax returns. What I mean in that paragraph about not seeing a tax return is that I owe back child support, so my tax return goes to that. That’s fine because I’m ok with my financial obligation to my children. I haven’t always made enough to pay it though. The weird truth is that I should still be doing my best to avoid having a tax return, but if I had that money, I’d probably pay it toward my back child support anyway, so I don’t mess with it.

The idea here is that sometimes people who don’t save money tend to use their tax bill as a savings account. They don’t adjust the amount of taxes withheld so that they actually owe the IRS at the end of the year. The idea here is that if you don’t overpay during the year that you can save the money in investment accounts and have use of your money until it’s owed at tax time. For those of us who have trouble saving anything, whether it’s because it’s not a habit or we just don’t make enough, doing this would seem somewhat extraneous because a tax bill come April would just be another bill we’re not prepared for.

So the next best thing to do with your tax return is not to spend it as quickly as possible. Let’s just say that you get $1,200 back. If you only use $100 of it a month, you have a little better buffer with your monthly bills. You will also spend the money on typically more important things, even if you still spend it on luxury items. It will tend to be the luxury items that you still want months down the road.

Have you ever bought something only to realize a few weeks later that it’s not as entertaining as you thought it would be? Usually when that happens to me, it was something I wasn’t fully convinced that I wanted in the first place. Delaying the time between thinking you want something and the time you purchase it tends to weed out the buyer’s remorse a little more.

One thing I don’t think I dealt with in the other article is that this is really the way to handle any bulk money. In the article, I speak about saving those “extra” paychecks you sometimes get when you get paid weekly or biweekly. The reason is so that you don’t burn through the paycheck like found money. It’s amazing how well you spend your money when you pretend you don’t have money that you have. Fuck it. I’m just going to have to become a millionaire so that people believe what I’m saying. Yep. Now you’ve done it. I’m just going to have to become financially successful. You could have just let it go, but no.

I’m not sure what I’m talking about now. I should move on to the next topic. Here it is:

[6. No Holds Barred Brainstorming

This is actually something I do quite often. I will just start writing down ideas. It doesn’t matter what the ideas are about, what project they’re for, or if they’ll ever get used. It’s a very useful tool for a number of reasons. You always have something to write, and even if you think you don’t, you’re writing while you’re brainstorming. There are many upsides that I’ll have to list. There are also potential downsides, including using the activity as a crutch and not letting go of the ideas that don’t work. I can discuss the downsides too. This is why it’s not too hard for me to make these lists each day, even if the hit and miss ratio favours the miss side a bit.]

It almost seems like there isn’t much of a miss ratio in all of this so far. I’m getting a lot of mileage out of these topics. And so many of them seemed like dead end topics at the time. I know a few of them later will be dead ends though.

The upsides that I mention there are somewhat obvious, I think. You never have writers block if you just sit down and write about things you could be writing about. Sometimes your thoughts might go in a direction they normally wouldn’t and give you great ideas. I don’t think many people would argue with the upside potential of brainstorming. It’s one of those activities that seem to have become more widely used in the information age, but it seems to hold its own better than many of the other self-help staples.

This is probably the best article to deal with this topic in. What we have here is me scouring a file that resulted from large amounts of brainstorming and discussing what I wrote, what I didn’t write, and what the hell I was thinking. This is a downside that I may have turned into an upside this time.

The problem with brainstorming is that not all of your ideas are meant to be used, and if you hold onto them just in case you find a use for them, they start to get unruly and unorganized. In this case, I have an angle that I can use to unpack the mess, but it’s not always this easy. In this case, I have a bunch of topics that I thought I could maybe use as topics for a daily blog, these articles allow me to use them as topics for a daily blog, and since it’s a daily blog I can always come back to the topic if I feel like it.

Not all brainstorming can be so easily cleaned up. For instance, I often write more potential poetry verses and phrases than I actually use. What I’ve found is that if I read through my notes somewhat frequently, I’ll find a good use for some of it as I write. The problem is that eventually I’ve accumulated way too much to review frequently. I have notebooks with phrases that might have done well in some of my work, but that are long forgotten until I read them again.

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, and someone I’ll be discussing in a later part, said in his book “The Joy of Work” that he doesn’t maintain a record of rejected brainstorming ideas. I often wonder if that would be the better way for me to go. The thing is that the ideas that I record that aren’t immediately useful, but that I like, tend to achieve relevance at the oddest times. When they do, they usually end up used to good effect, so I don’t ever get rid of anything. Even my writing life is clutter filled.

I wrote an article discussing the seeming tragedy that Duran Duran has a number of demo quality songs out there that were never fully developed in favour of other tracks that they felt worked better. It’s hard for the hyper-creative personality to accept that sometimes that’s exactly what you have to do. The hyper-creative personality wants to be able to fully develop every idea that it likes that comes across the mental desk.

I think that brainstorming is important to show that you don’t really have writers block. You often have more ideas than you could ever write. At the same time, there are times when you have to realize that some ideas have to die. There are times that you have to prioritize what ideas to give your attention. There are times that you have to stop brainstorming and write, because brainstorming can be a terrible crutch when you use it to take the place of real writing.

My last thought, before I sign off for this part, is that in a way I’m glad I maintained this record of my brainstormed ideas. I came to a point where I felt I needed to get ahead on my daily blog writing to help improve my output, which was starting to lack a little. An examination of the ideas I never got around to writing about is a great way to write an abundance of material quickly, so that on the other side of writing it all out, I have more time in my week to focus on my current ideas.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chris McGinty - Enemy of Debt - Episode Ten

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Welcome to Episode Ten of: Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt

For an explanation of this feature, and disclaimers that talk about how I’m not a professional money anything, go to Episode One. If you are caught up to speed though, we’ll begin discussing my friend who called me in financial desperation on July 10, 2011. Out of some, perhaps slight respect for his privacy, I’m not using his real name. I am instead referring to him as Genghis Condoleezza Rice.

There are some unfortunate circumstances to report. Genghis’s daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes since I last wrote. That has very little relevance to the circumstances of his debt, but it did affect a couple of things.

The main one being that Genghis’s mother-in-law put a rush order on getting the vehicle she planned to give them down here so he could get back and forth to the hospital, though there had been talk of her husband bringing it down prior to that. If there is any real problem here, it’s that it’s a gas guzzler. I’ve loaned him $60 for gas since he got it, and apparently his wife has to also put gas in the tank.

He had to take some time off work, but in this case it’s understandable, and that’s what “paid time off” days are supposed to be for. He was unable to work the guard job though because of having no vehicle, but is on the schedule now that he has a vehicle again.

He’s pulling some shit too, but I don’t know what the circumstances are. All I know is that I gave him that cheap pack of cigarettes and told him they had to last him until Friday. He didn’t ask me for cigarettes until Saturday, which was five days later. He had his wife’s bank card and bought lunch with it while he was at the hospital. I’m doubting that’s all he got. But I’m not so much worried about that. I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I just need to get my money back from him, and then he can pull this shit all he wants. I don’t care if he fucks himself over because of cigarettes as long as he doesn’t owe me money while he does it.

When I leave work, I will be going to his apartment to go up to the bank to get his main paycheck. The problem is that it will be short because of the bank loan he had out. It’s the last payment on that loan, but it also means that after that is taken out there will barely be enough left to deal with everything else. I’m hoping it’s a little more than expected, because I really want to get out of the way of his erratic behaviour, before it injures me in the process of flailing. I have to admit that I’m seriously considering having him get another loan from his bank just to attack some of these other debts, and to get me paid back. And because I really feel like he’s going to get a loan anyway if I don’t have him do it. Because the bank payments come right out of his check, I imagine that he might think I won’t notice if he gets one. If he got another payday loan, he couldn’t deal with it without telling me the way we’re doing things.

I was thinking about this earlier. I can’t really believe how much he can’t be trusted on the issue of money. He’s basically pretty trustworthy in most other cases, as far as I know, but when it comes to money, he can’t be trusted. He can’t even trust himself, or he wouldn’t be in this circumstance, but I hate being in this circumstance where I can’t effectively help him out because I keep looking at the situation and seeing ways that he can manipulate things. Like I said, he can fuck himself over, but I want to get my money back before he does. I’ll write more after I’ve dealt with him tomorrow.

And now it’s two weeks later.

He gets his main paycheck again tomorrow. I figure that I should probably write about what has gone on before I have more to write. Luckily, I think the drama is subsiding a little. Who knows? But at least the day we got his main check, two weeks ago, the drama was in full swing.

I started by taking the $365 he owed me back. Then we got into a heavy discussion about the cigarette smoking, and how in my opinion he had practically quit having only smoked two packs in nine days. He tried to claim that he found a pack in his room that he didn’t know he had. I told him that was very unbelievable, and that was still only three in nine days. He then said that he did use his wife’s debit card to buy a pack, but only one. I pressed him about the “found pack” because I still didn’t believe him. He finally admitted that he sold some DVDs to a pawn shop to buy cigarettes. I told him that if he was going to sell anything that it needed to be to pay off his debt, especially if he was expecting to continue going into debt with me as I helped him.

It was at this point that he brought up the nicotine lozenges he had tried before. The problem with these is that when he used them to quit smoking before, he probably gave himself a worse nicotine addiction, because he was popping them like candy rather than taking one every two to four hours like he was supposed to. He said that he wanted to quit, but he didn’t have the willpower. I told him we would buy the lozenges, but he wasn’t going to smoke even another cigarette, which he of course tried to convince me that he had to have one last one to commemorate the last. I told him no. If he was serious about quitting, he had to be fully serious about quitting. He agreed.

We went in and bought a box. I came to the realization very quickly that the way they suggested quitting was going to be very expensive, so I started thinking how to cut the costs. I’ll deal with that next time though.

What I want to end this with is the exchange we had in my truck on the way home. He of course had to have one immediately. Before we were to his apartment, I told him to give me the box, and he got pissy. “So you won’t even trust me to only take seven a day. This is going to be a big control issue like the cigarettes.” I told him that I was doing it for his own good, because he couldn’t afford more for two weeks. If he burned through them, he would be out.

I want you to realize that I hate having to “control” him in that way. It means that I have to make special trips, initially to drop off cigarettes, and now to drop off lozenges. And the more days in advance I gave him cigarettes, the more likely he was to binge, so I can’t give him more than a couple of days of lozenges. It’s a pain in the ass. But I’m over my word count now, so I’ll pick this up next week.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Buying a new truck (Ford)

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

On last Thursday I finally broke down and bought a new truck. This blog will cover how that went. Of course I am going to bitch but know that I am fairly happy with my purchase.

I have been looking for a new truck for several months now. I had a 2002 Ford Ranger which I bought new and have enjoyed thoroughly. It had been fairly trouble free until the last year or so. Something happened to the engine and 2 of the heads had to be replaced. Chris had talked me into the repair and the virtue of not having a payment. I got behind the whole notion with gusto. I got the truck fixed and the repair job was lacking... after a couple of weeks the Oil Pressure gauge starting going crazy. No biggie. There were so many issues with the truck that I could handle this one. One day my boss with riding with me and he said I had better check the oil level. I had just had the oil changed and that's why I hadn't bothered to check it before. I went ahead and checked it and the truck was bone dry. Whatever they did during the repair was causing the truck to burn off the oil. It was then that I reverted back to my original argument for buying a new vehicle. I'd be much happier with a vehicle that I could trust than with no payment and vehicle that might cause me much sorrow.

I spent months looking at Rangers. I liked my little truck and decided to get another one. I learned that this (2011) was the last year because Ford was going to redesign the body in some new and drastic way. As it turns out they are only going to sell the new body style in Europe, not in the US. So Ranger is going away forever. I wanted to get this last model so I looked and looked. I never understood why Rangers were so expensive. I couldn't fine a really good deal even though this was the end of the model year.

In August I got a pre approval certificate from my bank and went shopping. I kept emailing and emailing and no one had a great deal. I wasn't going to pay 18,000 for a tiny pickup. The pre approval certificate was only good for 30 days and I was running out of time. I was getting disheartened with the whole process when I saw an email for September Specials from Grapevine Ford. It had an F150 for 18,500 which was about a thousand more than a Ranger I had been looking at at Cleburne Ford. I had 5,000 to put down down and if I traded my Ranger in I should have enough to keep the payment low.

I drove there and arrived at 5:30pm. I walked out of there at 9:20pm. I didn't do anything special and I already had financing. It was a total beat down. I made sure I let Ford know that too. Vehicle buying should not be a half a day torture session. I got a black F150 (MSRP 22,500) for 18,200 then traded my Ranger in for 1,300 and put 5,000 down so I have a loan for 13,400. At the 2.85% APR that brings my payment to 238 a month. Not bad. Now I will try to do split payment with my bank so I can pay it off a little faster as well as put a little more each month towards it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Movie Project 2011: So Far

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

What is the Project?

A couple of months ago, I spoke with my friend, Jessica, who I’d not seen for about a decade. Her life love is acting. She is a creative person who Miguel and I had worked with a little bit at one point. Jessica and I spoke of what we’d been doing over the last decade, and I told her I would attempt to introduce her to Nathan. So far as yet, they haven’t met face to face. Jessica and I did shoot a sketch with Miguel that Miguel might one day edit together and post.

The idea was to get to work on something that got us together as a group. It could be According To Whim sketches or another project of some form. A little time passed after we first spoke and there was nothing happening until one night she sent me an outline for a script. Based on this, I explained to Nathan and Miguel that we should start looking at a feature length. It was soon after this that Miguel and I did the sketch with Jessica.

Since the sketch we shot with Miguel, I’m not entirely sure what we’re doing. I’ll deal with what has been done later in this article. What I know is that I want to get together and work on a movie, and that is basically the project: Get everyone together and work on some sketches, a short movie, an episodic movie, or a feature length. While I’m hoping for a feature length movie at this point to get that goal out of the way, I simply want to work collaboratively with the people I respect.

What is My Intent?

I’ve wanted to do a feature length movie since around 1996. Depending on whether you count “ATW: Season Two” as a feature or an episodic story arc; it is now 2011, and I still want to do a feature length movie. I’ve heard that it’s what moviemakers do. They make movies. It feels like that’s what we should be doing.

We’ve done stuff in the last few years. We have a blog devoted to the stuff we’ve done. You’re reading it right now. Lately, Nathan has talked about how tough it has been to come up with topics, and I’m feeling the same way. As you can see in my CTFU series, I have no real problem with brainstorming topics, but we typically have had a mix of project topics and general topics. We have very few project topics lately.

I’ve been working a lot this year. It’s been nice for two reasons. I’m not struggling financially as much as I once was. I’ve had a lot of time to write. The problem is that I was always expecting the hours to dry up a little bit. So far as yet, they haven’t. I’m still working basically two full time jobs. The last time I worked two full time jobs, I had so much trouble maintaining 65 hours a week that I actually started to look into taxi driving to have better control over my work hours (as in working enough hours to pay my bills). I figured that this time around I would have the same issue of not getting enough hours, and I haven’t.

If I had a band or if we’d had a schedule here for project completion, I would have asked time off, but in lieu of all of that, I’ve just been working. I’m grateful for the hours, but it’s wearing thin. I always have a lot of personal projects going, and it’s been nice to work on them, but I miss collaborative efforts. I like collaborating with people. I like stepping away from the world of Chris’s ideas from time to time.

This movie is an attempt to get my cohorts together to work on something as a group. It hardly matters to me what it is. I just want it to be something that I can justify missing out on money on my paychecks to do. I’m not looking to make Chris’s movie, or for this to be Chris’s project. I simply want to do something, and in the process, we will have some blog material that has to do with the project work we’re doing. The problem is that while we’re doing some stuff on our own, “I sat down and I wrote for a few hours,” doesn’t make for a compelling blog post.

Writing and Assisting

So then what of the, “I sat down and I wrote for a few hours,” work that has been done?

Jessica presented a script outline. I asked her some questions to get a better idea of what her vision for the story is. Next, I asked her what she felt were the most important scenes and told her that those scenes might be a good place to start. She said she has done some writing on the script, but then she said a movie was just released that was a little too similar to her plot, so she wishes to rework her script.

Miguel, Jessica, and I arranged to get together to shoot a sketch one night after Nathan, Miguel, and I did some work on “ATW: Season Two.” I brainstormed but I only came up with one idea that we could shoot that day. When Miguel didn’t like my script I made suggestions. One of my suggestions was to start developing a short movie to do or a longer project to be done as webisodes. We shot the sketch in spite of Miguel’s misgivings.

Jessica called me up with two ideas for webisodes. We decided that she would develop one and I would develop the other. I’m not sure what work she has done on hers. I’ve done no work on mine. By the time she’d made these suggestions, Miguel was distracted by his life, and when I brought up doing a movie to Nathan, he had little to say.

Jessica called me wanting to meet and figure out what was going on with the project. I told her that at that point I figured we should each write a script for a feature length and schedule to get started in September. She agreed. I told Miguel and Nathan. I started working on two scripts, after brainstorming a number of ideas; more about these in a moment.

Nathan came up with a script idea and started writing the opening to it. He told me very little about it, hoping to get a first impression opinion when I read it.

I brought up the idea of doing a couple of short scripts that Nathan and I wrote a few years ago. Miguel told me that he had used Nathan’s idea as a jumping off point for his own script. He sent me the outline for it, but told me that he probably wouldn’t try to write it as a full script. He said that I could write it if I wanted to.

Nathan presented us with the opening for his script. He wrote eight and a half pages, as well as some ideas for how the plot would unfold, and then asked for help from Miguel and me. I’ve since asked him questions and then presented five possibilities for character development. I also put together a rough outline based on Nathan’s notes. I’m currently waiting for him to tell me what direction he feels the story should go. Once I understand his full vision, I can start helping him write if he still needs help.

As all of these things were happening, I have been working on scripts as well. I’ve written a 34 page script that translates to a 2 hour and 40 minute movie. I still need to fill in some more dialogue, because most of the movie has no dialogue, which is why it’s so short page wise. I will be presenting this to the group near the end of this week when I have it better completed. I don’t expect them to want to do my script because it is what Miguel calls a “two people talking” script, and it’s not even meant to have a whole lot of talking either.

I’ve written five and a half pages on an idea that I had a long while back, which is a short cyberpunk style movie that should be mostly in our budget range. I will finish writing that as soon as my feature length rough draft is done.

I brainstormed ten ideas (of varying quality) for short movies based around having a pregnant woman in the movie, as Jessica is five months pregnant (I didn’t do it!) at the moment. I also have about 1,000 words of five other basic ideas that I might work on while we’re shooting whatever we shoot.

I wrote a five and a half page script for a fourteen minute short, based on one of the brainstormed ideas with a pregnant woman. It’s not great, but it will be sufficient to get us started working together.

At this point, I’m simply waiting for a better idea of what Nathan and Jessica wish to do with their scripts, and if they want help, I’ll do some writing on those. I intend to continue working on my own ideas for possible future projects. I also intend to try to further develop Miguel’s script outline, as well as do the second draft of a feature length script he wrote in 1999.

Meetings

We will be having our first pre-production meetings on September 24 & 25, 2011, and three weekends in October. My original hope was that we would have scripts completed and read prior to the meetings and that we would have an idea what we would be working on. As it stands, the first few meetings might be script development, and discussion of what will need to be done to shoot one or more of the three short scripts we have ready (the two Nathan and I wrote a few years ago, and the one I wrote last week). I will write about the meetings as blog posts to the extent of any legwork we do.

Looking for Others

A while back, Nathan decided to look for other actors. He posted to Craigslist, and received two packets from actors who are clearly more professional than we are. Nathan was a little intimidated by this, because we do public access/You Tube stuff. I’ve discussed going to drama departments of the different colleges locally to find people interested in acting. Sometime in the next few weeks we will need to start gathering contacts for people we can call to audition when we start shooting projects that require actors that we can’t already gather. For instance, my short script requires three people. Jessica and Nathan could play two of the characters. The third character is a woman, so we would need to find someone to play her part. If it’s possible that Stacy, who played the landlady in Season Two, could play the role, or if Nathan’s wife could play the role, we would not need to audition anyone. If neither of these two can do it, we would need to find someone.

All for Now

This is all the blog topic I can get out of the project so far, and this has been since late June. Hopefully, in the next month and a half, we will have plenty to talk about as far as work we’ve done on the project.