Friday, October 5, 2012

Hangman's House of Gifs

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)
 
Sometimes hard work just isn't appreciated... Boo hoo hoo.
 
Last year I thought I'd redesign the web page for Hangman's House of Horrors, the big Charity haunted house in Fort Worth, Texas. Miguel and I (with some help from Chris) began helping out the charity the year before with video work. I expressed my interest in helping in any way I could and quickly found out that they didn't have any help as far as their website was concerned. I jumped on it since I could do a little bit with websites (nothing too modern but enough to get me by).
 
I started by making a bunch of animated GIFs with the cool artwork that they have each year (which changes with the house's theme). I was asked to make one so they could give to some website that wanted to give them a little advertising space. I've never made fancy animated GIFs before so it was kinda experimental. I started with these so that the owner of the house could pick the one she liked.
 
 
This one was a fast montage of several of the art works for previous years.
 
 
 
This GIF is just the fading Hangman with his eyes still glowing.

 
Same as the previous one but with the full title.

 
This was more of an 'eye catcher' type GIF so your eye would be drawn to it.

 
Same as above but with a fuzzy background.

 
This is like the top GIF but with more art and the title at the bottom.

 
This final one is only one art work but made to look like the woman is dropping in.
 
After I submitted them all (excitedly) to them I promptly never heard back again. Now, the owner is a VERY busy person. She runs not only this charity but another one and does a lot of other civic stuff on the side. I understand that she is hard to get a hold of so I didn't press the matter. I delivered and that was that.
 
2011 rolled around with a new theme and at the same time I offered to build a new website since the old one was very out of date. They also asked me to make a new animated GIF with the new art. 2011's theme was 'The Haunted Library'. I took the original art:
 
... and added the animation. Here are 3 different ones I made with it:
 



Once again I was proud of myself but in the end I never heard a peep out of anyone saying 'thanks' or 'it was good' or even 'it sucked'. Nothing. Once again I figured they were just too busy.

While I was working on my revamp of the website I found the older GIFs that someone made. Ahhhhhhhhhh! This is why I probably received such a luke warm reception for my GIFs:




Those kick ass! The simple GIF maker I used couldn't do this stuff. They are great and I see why they didn't give two farts for my stuff.

In the mean time I worked on a alternate website for her to look at. I used another popular haunted house in the DFW area as a template for the page I built. Here is the current Hangman's page. Here is the new 'test' page I built. Not bad. It's got all the link right there, no menu bull. It looks similar to the Cutting Edge haunted house page (which I think looks too cluttered).

After she looked at my test page she said she didn't want to confuse patrons so close to the season (it was September at the time). I think she didn't like it but didn't want to tell me that. That's OK, it was just a suggestion anyway.

You could say I'm being whiny about the whole thing but my original intent for this blog was to get my animated GIFs out here since they have never seen the light of day and it took me a while to work on them. I'm sorry I couldn't produce stuff of previous caliber but I tried!

Friday, September 14, 2012

My AnimeFest 2012 Weekend

By Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Weekend before last was AnimeFest 2012 in Dallas Texas. AnimeFest is one of the many Anime conventions in the US where young (sometimes awkward kids) spend a weekend of madness, reveling in their favorite past-time... Anime!

As you may or may not know I have a business called Renegade Anime where I sell Anime model kits. I focus on Starblazers/Space Battleship Yamato, Macross, and Gundam. I sell them off the website, Ebay (sometimes), and mainly at conventions.

This was the first AnimeFest I have been to and I set up there as a vendor, selling my model kits. I haven't been to an 'all Anime' convention before. I setup at Comicons so I get good business from all ages. At the AnimeFest I found that 85-90% of my customers were under 21 years of age. This shifted most of my sales to the Gundam models I carried. I had a lot of Starblazers kits but those kids didn't even know what series that was. Needless to say I had most of my Starblazers models left at the end of the convention with requests for more (and larger) Gundam kits for next time.

The convention lasted from Friday until Monday and it was a beating. The convention itself was the same as most conventions, the beating came from the drive to and from there, it's location (downtown Dallas), and the length of the convention.

This was a big convention. Something like 9,000 people pre-registered and who knows how many people just showed up to attend without pre-registering. It was very busy at my booth and as a whole I did about 2,500 business (which isn't bad) but I do around 2,000 over just 2 days at the Dallas Comicon.

On the 3rd day of the show one of the guests was setup to sign autographs in the dealer room. It was none other than Robert Axelrod. You may know that he is was the voice in a bunch of stuff including Finster and Lord Zed in Power Rangers. I knew him more for his role in Robotech as Rico, the Zentraedi spy. The poor old guy was just sitting there, no one at his table so I grabbed the Robotech novel I am currently reading (Force of Arms) and had him sign it!

AnimeFest just moved to the Dallas Sheraton where the more famous A-Kon was held. A-Kon is now moving to the Anatole hotel (which apparently is bigger). I have been on the vendor waiting list for A-Kon for 3 years now and perhaps with the increase in size I will get a spot.

As far as AnimeFest 2013, I'm not 100% sure yet. It is a money making convention it just takes so much time and effort to get there and run it. I didn't have to put a deposit down on it so I have some time to think about setting up at it next year...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fuck you Ebay

by Nathan Stout (of According To Whim.com)

Why such vitriol Nathan?
I'll tell you why... Ebay needs it. They have gotten too big for their pants and need to understand that without sellers they don't have a business.

Ebay has been implementing a lot of changes over the last several months in an effort to make themselves look like Amazon or some such bullshit. Basically they are putting more and more restrictions on their sellers in an effort to 'give buyers more confidence' and other crap. Ebay is nothing more than a giant garage sale and they want to make it into Macy's.

More than a year ago Ebay hit their sellers with the first in a salvo of annoyance and greed by making every seller pay more for end of auction fees. When an auction ends Ebay gets a portion of the sale price (not including shipping). Well, Ebay decided that the end of auction fee would now include the shipping fee. That's right, more money! They claim that it stops sellers from getting extra money though unnecessarily higher shipping fees but if you take a look today you will still see outrageous shipping fees from seller... it did nothing to stop this... just made more money for Ebay.

Next Ebay started sending out emails to seller telling them that their Power Seller discounts were about to be in jeopardy if they didn't start doing several things...

First off let me fill you in on Power Seller status. Ebay says that if you have a lot of sales (so many per month) and you have a great feedback rating (basically people like dealing with you), you get Power Seller status and you end of auction fees get a 20% discount.

Ebay starting saying that in order for you to keep you 20% discount and status you have to start:
  1. Offering returns (really? you can't take crap back to a garage sale).
  2. Entering tracking information for 75% of your sales (are they in cahoots with the USPS?).
  3. Some other BS I can't remember.
More efforts to try to make a yard sale into a Macy's.

Next they have notified everyone (not just Power Sellers) that they will soon start requiring photos in your auctions and they must be real photos (not stock).

So all this junk is just the base of the cake of crap... here is the icing...

I use Turbo Lister. It's a program by Ebay that lets you make and manage auctions. You have the created auctions saved to the program so you can go back later and alter them and make new ones out of them. I have a lot of auctions saved here. Well, back in the day Ebay let you put actual links inside your auctions. Then they got greedy and didn't want anyone advertising any other site so they banned the practice. If there is one in your auction their systems will automatically cancel the auction and notify you. I have had this happen several times since I reuse old auctions saved in Turbo Lister.

This happened again a few days ago when I used some old auctions I had saved in Turbo Lister. I get the usual notice that Ebay has canceled the auctions... no biggie. I'll correct the issues and re-upload.

BUT THEN....

I get another email from Ebay stating that they have suspended my account for 3 days because of the issue.

REALLY EBAY?

You are going to stop me from putting up some more auctions (which MAKE YOU MONEY)???

This has finally pushed me over the edge. I have accepted all the restraints and the extra money I have had to shell out to Ebay while they try to 'be more than a yard sale' but this is it.

I realize that I am a VERY small cog in the massive machine that is Ebay and my passing will not even be a blip on their radar or bottom line but I do what I feel I must.

I will be closing my auctions down after all my current transactions are finished and then shutting down my account. I will do no business of any kind with them again.

It's time to look at their competitors and see where I can make up this part of my business.

Always remember that you are the consumer and YOU have the power in your wallet. Stand up and use your power to make a statement.

Monday, March 19, 2012

An Interview with David Zed

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Today we are bringing you an interview with (if I may be sold bold to say International Star) David Zed (David Kirk Traylor)! Back in March of 2011 I posted a blog about my discovery of David Zed thanks to YouTube's 'suggested videos' whilst rocking out to some Kraftwerk. David recently left a message on the blog so I jumped at the chance to connect and get this interview.

1.) Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions David. My first one is a simple need to be nosey... Did you Google yourself and find the 2011 blog post that way?

Yes, I have been working on updating my website and so I thought I'd see what people were saying about me behind my front. Your blog made me realize that it wasn't easy to put all the pieces of my story together, but I was impressed by your research. You might want to check out my website  http://www.mrzed.com .

2.) My post did a lot of generalizing in regards to your career simply because I didn't have much to work with. Can you give us a very quick run down of the general time frame in which you started your career (presumably in Italy) then moved here then back there again?

I don't really know where my career began. I did my first professional theater gig in 1967 as part of the Royal Danish Ballet. I did my first stand up gig in 1973 in a coffee house in Quakertown Pennsylvania.  In 1976 I had a comedy radio program in Philadelphia. But nothing compared to the big mainstream audience I found in Italy.  In January of 1979 I came to Italy to study abroad. But then I got a load of the local girls. I was only supposed to be there for a semester.  With in a year I had a hit TV show and a hit record. I would go on to star in another hit series from 1983-85. So the 80's saw me touring Italy for almost the entire ten years. In 88-89 I did a highbrow theater tour for "La Scala" but the critics only cared about what I had done on TV years before. I realized I had gone as far as I would be allowed so once it was over I moved to L.A. and started over from scratch.  In 91' I married my Italian girlfriend and she joined me in LA. Things went well. I became a paid regular at the Comedy Store on the sunset strip. I toured. I played Vegas. In 93' I was the first new comedian Jay Leno had on his new Tonight show. Things were going great guns. Dick Clark and I had put together a proposal for a sit com for ABC. Things seemed to be happening when, in January of 94', we were wiped out and almost killed in the Northridge earthquake. My first daughter, Sara, was born 9 months later. Whether this was the cause or the effect of the earthquake has never been established, but we are all breathing easier now that the statute of limitations is up. With the earthquake all of my work dried up.   The Vegas gigs went south. The sit com died. Even some minor work I had set up in TV and movies all died.  
My wife was getting too pregnant to fly so we took some of the frequent flier miles I had accumulated touring and went to visit her folks in Rome. While there I got an offer to do my own TV show, in English, of an International satellite network that had just opened in Rome. And so the Mr. Zed show was born. The first comedy program shot entirely on digital video, it was a hit for the network from the first episode. So much so they also ran it free to air to gain subscribers.   At the same time the Japanese and the Brits came a knocking on my door. My first TV show for the Japanese was the night my daughter was born in November of 94. The show for the BBC was a hit too. Now Tokyo is the same distance from LA as it is from Rome. London is a lot closer. So we moved back to Rome.  As you know, I still do the odd program in America, but Rome is a much saner place to raise kids than LA. My second daughter Marina was born in Rome in 98.

3.) One of the very first videos I clicked on that featured you was Balla Robot 'with English subtitles'. Someone typed out on the screen what they were 'hearing' when you sang. If you haven't seen it take a look, it's infectious and borders on being an Internet Meme. Have you seen it and if so what do you think about it? Do you mind having your original work being altered in that way?

I think it's very funny. This is the Internet!  There is another little Internet anomaly on youtube. Someone took a recording of one of my stand up bits in America and replaced the sound track with beeps and boops. The surprising thing to me is that it still got a lot of viewers.   I can't find it anymore but here is one where they put one of my Italian records from the 80's over an American stand up routine. 

4.) I saw one video which someone is talking about your encounter with the Pope John Paul II. Please tell the story as to how you came to be at a Pope 'meet and greet'. I noticed that the Pope didn't seem to pay much attention to you in the clip. Did he do his best to 'look beyond' you to avoid the awkwardness of the moment or did we just not get to see the actual encounter? I must give you props for staying in your robot character infront of the most influential people in the whole world!

With the Pope it was kind of a tender situation. I was the comic relief on a popular Italian talk show at the time. I am not Catholic and I did not want to seem disrespectful, so I thought I'd just hang in the back, but the guards at the Vatican were big Zed fans and they brought me right down front.  The woman who's show it was was, Raffaella CarrĂ  was insanely jealous, but she was powerless as the guards brought me down front. She was not however powerless once the footage got back to the network. What you see here is a specially edited version to play down the fact that the Pope and I had a long friendly chat while he virtually ignored her. In Italy this went out live.  There was no denying what had happened. CNN got in touch right away and did a special report on the incident and the success of the Zed character.  But I had made a powerful enemy that day.  To this day official references to that program cut me out and I am artfully photoshopped out of all the photographs. It's kind of like having been in Stalin's Russia. It was one of the reasons I left Italy in 89. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. I really appreciate it and thanks for all the fun!

That's all Mr. Traylor had time for this go-round. He is very busy on tour in Italy and I REALLY appreciate that he spent so much time filling in all those details. I have a few more questions for him so perhaps when his schedule permits in the near future he can continue giving us the low down!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Where the Blogs Are – January 2012

by Chris McGinty (AccordingToWhim.com)

I’m going to start a feature here on the According To Whim blog that will have links to the writing that we’ve done during a given month. I might post it earlier in the month, and then move it to the last day of the month when it is fully populated. As this blog is meant to report the work we do, I figure a report on what we’ve written makes sense. I will likely ask Nathan for a little help with this feature if it becomes too hard to keep up with on my own. My thanks in advance for his help.

The reason for this is that we have created a number of blogs with the hope of attracting people who are looking for a specific topic, rather than putting everything on a catch all blog. So far, Nathan has been the prolific writer. I will pick it up soon. I have been writing, but I have incomplete posts. In the parentheses after the date will be the blog the article appears on.

Nathan’s Posts

Jan. 1 (Robotech Now) – Robotech for 2012!

Nathan explains the goal of the Robotech blog for 2012.

Jan. 2 (According To Whim) – Doodad Part 3

Nathan tells you about his latest actions with his VW Beetle hobby.

Jan. 3 (Robotech Now) – The Robotech 2012 Reading/Watching Order

Nathan discusses a true fan’s dedication to make the chronological reading of Robotech easy for the rest of us.

Jan. 6 (Robotech Now) – The Legend of Zor: Issues 1-6

Nathan discusses a comic book prequel mini-series from 1992.

Jan. 9 (Robotech Now) – Robotech: The Graphic Novel

Nathan discusses a comic book prequel mini-series from 1986.

Jan. 9 (Whim Movies) – Review: Demolition Man

Nathan stands up for a movie that not everyone gets. I get it, brother!

Jan. 13 (Robotech Now) – Book 1: Robotech Genesis - Prologue Through Chapter 2

Nathan continues his reading of Robotech by picking up one of the novels for a little bit.

Jan. 16 (Robotech Now) – Return To Macross: Issues 1-6

Nathan discusses another comic book series in the Robotech universe.

Jan. 16 (Net Runner CCG) – Net Runner - A very light overview and some memories...

Nathan’s repost of a Net Runner article he did on this blog.

Chris’s Posts

Jan. 10 (Robotech Now) – What’s So Special about Special Editions?

Chris discusses the possible upsides of special edition releases of movies and TV shows.

Jan. 11 (Robotech Now) – Reading and Viewing Experience: Robotech Genesis-The Legend Of Zor?

Chris’s take on the prequel mini-series.

Jan. 17 (Whim Movies) – Times (and TV) Have Changed

Chris talks about how he would run a TV network.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Doodad Part 3

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Welcome to the 3rd post in my Doodad series of blogs. Here is part 1 & 2.These blogs are about my Volkswagen Beetles and my attempt to get them looking and running great (and possibly sell one or both of them).
Today's update is due to the nice weather. Over the New Years weekend the temperatures here were in the low 70's in the afternoons (Friday and Saturday) with sun and mild temperatures on Sunday. I started working on the cars last week when I got the guy who sold me the 70 Beetle to come over and adjust the carb to keep it running. He came over and adjusted it and the Super Beetle so it wouldn't idle so high. It wasn't a perfect fix for both but it did help.

Last week I drove the Super around a bit and bought some Sea Foam on his advice for both cars. You can get it at Walmart or Autozone. It is a gas additive that is supposed to do some great stuff for older engines. Anyway I got the Super ready to take into Decatur to get the inspection and get new tags. I didn't remember getting the notice in the mail to renew the tags so I read on the Texas DPS site to just bring in the old receipt and they can issue you new tags with it.

The first day I tried to take it to work (which is in Decatur as well) the key wouldn't turn in the ignition. I tired and tried and bent the key a bit and finally gave up. After work I played with it some more and put some graphite in the key hole and got it to work.

The next morning I got out there and pulled out into the street and felt the car pull to the right. I got out and sure enough one of the front tires was flat. I know that 3 of the 4 tires have slow leaks but they are REALLY slow and the tire was fine the day before. I pulled back in and gave up on that day. After work I pulled the tire off, aired it up and poured water on it to see if I could see any bubbles. Nothing... I put it back on and decided to try yet again the next day.
On Friday I got it to work without any mishaps. At lunch I went to the inspection place and waited forever there. The guy who owns it does a lot of business and works alone. While looking in the glove box for the insurance paper I found an envelope. Lo and behold there was the tags. I HAD gotten them back in May but I never put them on the car. I just shoved the envelope in the glove box. Once I got the inspection I put the tag sticker on as well. Finally! The Super is now street legal again. It's a fun car to drive but there is still alot of work that needs to be done for it to be a 'daily driver'.

On Saturday and Sunday I worked on the Beetle. I beld the brakes and they tightened right up! The brake fluid that came out was really dark though, almost looked like oil so I might have an issue in there (or maybe I just need to flush it all). I took out the stereo that was in there and put the tape deck I had just bought before I traded in the Ranger. Once I got it hooked up I found out that the speaker wires were all backwards so I put played with them until I got them all in the right spots.

I also adjusted the driver seat belt retractor. It was all loose and the seat belt wouldn't retract but now it does. I also cleaned off the little add-on console that was originally in the car when bought it and reinstalled it so I could have a place to put sodas and other junk. I cleaned the car out again and used some Armor All on parts inside to get it extra nice looking.

I drove it to work today and it was fine (after it warmed up). I will attempt to get it inspected and then I will have a daily driving car that will be a lot more pocket book friendly at nearly 30 miles per gallon.