Posted by terrance | Filed under Random Musings
I prefer a woman with sexy syntax, a voluptuous command of language, and a mature tongue and hand(writing). Bring that buxom spelling bee brain over here… ’cause I’ve been a bad, bad speller.
Is speller even a word? It feels wrong, doesn’t it? I’ve heard people use it in sentences, but those folks are usually calling on the word as a way of declaring their lack of spelling prowess… so, if their orthographic skills are wanting and flaccid, why would their vocabulary be any better? There’s but one way to find out. To the dictionary!
As a writer, I find myself constantly referencing online glossaries, thesauri, rhyming dictionaries, historical resources, and the like. There is so much free information—and so many great writing tools readily available—that these easy-click services sometimes feel like a crutch. On the other hand, they often save souls with mediocre spelling skills, like yours truly, hoping to verify the authenticity of alleged words, like speller.
As it turns out, speller IS a word.
Speller (noun): a person who spells words.
I’m sure you’re asking yourself, why is this guy who plays devils in film, raises cockroaches, and rides motorcycles lecturing to me about spelling? Recently, I’ve been asking myself a similar question, which is what sparked the idea for this blog.
Over the past few years, one of my unofficial duties has been proofreading… reams and reams and readings to proof. I never asked for the job. I don’t get paid for it. I don’t particularly enjoy it. And I’m certainly no authority on English, yet I’m habitually tasked with this charge.
I think it’s because I’m thorough by way of vanity—i.e. I’m too vain to endure the notion that materials associated with my name might be perceived as illiterate. I’m also humble enough to seek answers to things I do not know, like the word speller.
In spite of being cocky enough to be careful, and modest enough to be curious, typographical errors sometimes still slip through the cracks, like this undetected typo that made it’s way into print on the third issue of my comic book series, The Molting.
Can you CAKE me to school? Really? I proofread the chapter a dozen times and somehow missed this glaring mistake. Luckily, I’m reminded of it every few months by a well-meaning fan who sends me a message informing me of the misprint, often with a photo of the page attached as evidence.
Notwithstanding intermittent spelling misCAKEs, I get by. In fact, most folks assume me alphabetically cultivated even though I was raised in an environment where linguistics—and academics in general—were less than encouraged. Stranger still, my colleagues routinely look to me for copy editing, despite the fact that if called upon to represent them in a spelldown, I would most certainly fail. More curiously, i find that the text presented to me to repair often comes from well-educated, so-called professionals in their fields, and their writing is usually a nightmarish butchering of the English language.
Sometime ago, I read a book about the BTK serial killer who notoriously wrote taunting poems about his kills to media and law enforcement. The poems were trite and riddled with misspellings and poor grammar. The author of the BTK book described instances where the killer, Dennis Rader, would pause while penning his death notes, realizing that something wasn’t quite right with the words he’d chosen. These realizations were quickly dismissed by Rader who lacked the intellectual curiosity to further examine his work—or himself—when something felt wrong. In other words, BTK wasn’t stupid, just lazy and surface. The author went on to say that even when Radar was shown the correct usage of his incorrect words, it never translated into a personal connection that then resulted in a change in spelling habit.
I’ve seen a handful of humorous captions bandied about cyberspace stating things like “Before the internet, I assumed my friends knew the difference between to, too, and two.” I wonder if the word wrongdoers that are the butts of these sorts of viral jokes, recognize their shortcomings when they read captions like the example above? Or, like BTK, do they fail to make any personal connection? Or do they simply not care?
I’m not trying to draw a comparison between poor spelling and grammar and serial murder, nor am I attempting to marginalize those with clinical reading disorders like dyslexia. I’m also not writing a post about words to pat myself on the back. No, I composed this blog because I’m curious. What is it that makes some of us inquisitive enough to learn from our linguistic misdeeds while others don’t? Especially with the amazing access to information that we presently enjoy? And the fact that so many of our written words are now public?
Obviously, education—and therefore economics—play a huge factor in “book smarts”, but opportunity and memorization are different than curiosity… and I think curiosity… is SEXY.
By writing this blog, I realize that I’ve opened myself up to the red pen of any English teacher who may stumble upon this post, which I welcome… in the “Comments” section below. I also welcome comments from you, dear readers. Please share your own spelling sagas, embarrassing typos, favorite words, and titillating parlance tips and tricks.
Read more | Comments (36) | Feb 27, 2014
Last month, a good friend celebrated his 40th birthday at a cabin on a lake. Thirteen adventurous souls—including yours truly—ventured some 250 miles to spend a weekend at a vacation rental near Yosemite National Park. Since I was not the only motorcyclist amongst our merry band of boarders, a handful of us endeavored to make the trip a biker’s pilgrimage. Rolling five deep, we packed up our motorbikes, slid on our riding gear, and shot towards Bass Lake to observe our friend’s milestone holiday.
Like the birthday bloke, my motorcycle was also passing a a significant milepost: the odometer on my Ural creaked past 6,660 kilometers on the first leg of our trip. Knowing that this evil distance marker was worthy of memorial, I planned my fuel accordingly so that we’d have to stop for gas just in time for a photograph.
Yes, that’s right; I said kilometers. My stubborn Russian bike vill not conform to American standard of wehicular distance.
As you can imagine, this took some getting used to. My inadequate kilometer-to-miles conversion skills were the cause of a minor panic attack on the highway when I first took up the motorcycle.
Unlike cars and trucks, most motorbikes do not have gas gages to alert you when your tank’s low. Instead, they have a small fuel reserve. This reservoir exists to spirit choking, fuel-thirsty engines to nearby filling stations for salvation. So, as motorcyclists, you can either figure out your per gallon road requirements in advance of traveling, and refill accordingly, or wait ’til your bike putters out of gas and then use the reserve tank to make your way to the nearest petrol pump.
I prefer the gasoline pre-calculation method, but on my first long motorcycle trip, being accustomed to American mileometers, I’d forgotten to account for the kilometer discrepancy. Thankfully, the error caused me to UNDERestimate the amount of fuel in my tank. At the time, however, I was certain I was going to run out of gas on a twenty mile stretch of station-less highway.
Anxiety aside, one of the things I’m enjoying most about riding a motorcycle is the constant learning experience of how your vehicle and body responds to various road and weather conditions.
Last November, for example, I journaled about my first experience with rain on a motorcycle in the post “The Road Less Traveled” and how I was ill-prepared. Luckily, it rains a total of maybe eight days annually in California, but I still made a point of being better equipped for the Bass Lake Birthday Ride and upgraded my gear to include biker thermals, warmer gloves, and a full-face helmet. I also purchased a snazzy pair of kevlar-lined jeans and waterproof biker boots.
This trip was my first experience with riding in a group and it served as a crash course on the road etiquette and tactics required to keep cars from breaking up one’s motorcycle pack. It’s harder than it seems—our group was separated on more than one occasion—but the basic philosophy is to stay close and in a staggered lane formation.
Blasting up the highway with four other motorcyclists, I couldn’t help but imagine the theme song from Sons Of Anarchy blaring. “Ridin’ over squirrels and lizard bones…”
The ride was both challenging and exhilarating and the weekend getaway was a blast, replete with a boat ride around the lake, bad magic, and a ridiculous lineup of booze bottles for a night of whiskey tasting.
Read more | Comments (7) | Feb 6, 2014
Posted by terrance | Filed under Random Musings
This blog post cost me $200.
In the spring of last year, I received a letter from the legal department at Getty Images. It was regarding the use of a photograph featured in my blog some six months earlier. Getty owned the image—well, part of the image—and was demanding that I pay $875 smackers as a settlement for the unauthorized use of their property.
Taking in the ten plus pages of legalese and corporate jargon, I was stung with a shot of conflicted feelings. On the one hand, $875 simoleons for the use of one low-res image on a personal blog that doesn’t generate money seemed like highway robbery. On the other hand, I had been caught using something that wasn’t mine.
I considered my options: ignore, pay, or fight.
Option One: Ignore. Instinct told me that if I disregarded the letter, the case would disappear.
Considering the hotbed of copyright infringements that is the internet, I figured that a third party collections agency, working on commission for Getty Images, had probably sent out thousands of identical letters. The aim: shake easy money from the cyber tree. In other words, based on the law of averages, the agency would bank on a handful of recipients, businesses mostly, forking over the ordered cash, no questions asked. As such, they weren’t going to waste extra time or resources chasing down broke individuals like me. No, I could just remove the evidence from my blog (even though the settlement stated that ceasing use of the image didn’t release me from payment responsibilities) and act like the whole affair never happened.
Option One seemed an easy scenario, but something about it didn’t sit right, so I considered the next alternative.
Option Two: Pay. As an artist trying to scratch out a living, who feels the crippling effect of internet piracy on his industry, a part of me said it was my duty to atone.
I strongly agree with Getty Images’ stance that just because something’s online does not make it free. To that end, unlike much of our generation, I pay for music and movies and am happy to do so… but then again, $875 big ones is a lot to demand for the limited use of a single photograph. I’ve spent less dough on entire professional shoots.
Even if the sticker price was reasonable, however, it’d be irksome to fork over that kind of moolah knowing that most of it, if any, would not be going to the photographer, but rather some bottom-feeding collection agency; the sort of firms that care only about infringements on intellectual property when it earns them an easy buck. Sure, they’ll go after individuals, but I doubt we’ll see them serving likeminded legal papers to any of the major image and video-sharing sites who generate billions of dollars hosting other people’s content without their consent, and for free. A wise friend of mine compared these sorts of collection opportunists to looters during the L.A. Riots who paid lip service to civil unrest over social injustice, but really just wanted an excuse to steal TVs.
Even if I had near a thousand extra dollars lying around to spend on a photo, indignation wouldn’t allow me to stomach such a transaction… so I explored my third, final option.
Option Three: Fight. After much soul-searching, it became clear that my issue with Getty Images was that the settlement demand seemed incommensurate with not only the crime, but with the times in which we live.
The fact of the case was, in September of 2012 I used an unauthorized image to illustrate a point on a free blog in the same way that so many of us do whenever we hit a “share” button. To that end, I initially found the image in question on somebody else’s blog, and this version of the picture—unbeknownst to me at the time—was considerably altered from the one that Getty Images had claim over: the JPEG was a collage of two photographs, each photograph covering half of the other. As such, was Getty Images entitled to a 50% judgment?
Photographic rights have always been complicated to me. I believe the law states that if you took the photo, you own the photo. But, as a hypothetical, let’s say a photograph features a dog, wearing a handsome scarf, standing in front of a tall building. Presumably the photographer didn’t design the skyscraper, or the stole wrapped around the dog’s neck, and may not even own the pooch. Would the architect, fashionista, and gay pet owner also have title to the theoretical photo? If so, how much? Further: in a modern context, portable devices and downloadable photo-filters and image-sweeteners have turned everyone into armchair paparazzi. With single-click gizmos dramatically shaping most photographs, what percentage of any modern image can truly be called proprietary?
I reached out to Chris Bonifay, an attorney friend, for advise. He recommended I offer Getty Images a reduced sum to have them close the case. Based on cursory research, he felt that $200 shekels would satisfy them and protect me from future bindings. Even though I felt that $200 was over four times what the use of the image was worth, I made the offer. Getty accepted, and my surly solicitor made sure my ass was covered—thanks, Chris!
I chalked the experience up as a costly reminder to be more conscientious when it came to circulating online imagery. The $200 purchased not only piece of mind, but the ability to write freely about what I knew would make for a compelling online story. So, yes…. this blog post cost me $200.
I should state that the goal of this entry is not to undervalue or marginalize the practice of professional photography. Many of my friends are photographers, and I love the art form. In fact, I’m in the developmental stages of major site renovations to TZ.com. This remodeling will include provocative new photographs of me and my work… so, if there are interested, potential shutterbug collaborators in the Los Angeles area reading this post, feel free to share portfolio links in the “Comments” section below.
More importantly, I’m interested in hearing opinions from photographers in cyberspace on the subject of this blog. Have you had your images stolen? What do you do to protect yourself while trying to make a living in the current, digital marketplace? Non-photographers: how would you have handled the situation if you received a likeminded letter from Getty Images? All opinions are welcomed.
Read more | Comments (11) | Jan 16, 2014
As 2013 winds to an end, it’s tempting to reflect on all the things we’d hoped to have accomplished this year, but didn’t. Broken New Year’s resolutions. Career stalemates. Neglected relationships. As cliché as it is to say, it’s easier to dwell on our failures rather than recognize our achievements.
This time last year, I was certain that my colleagues and I would be in production on The Devil’s Carnival: Episode 2 by now. I put a lot of things on hold based on this assumption—other projects, like my in-limbo comic book series, The Molting, and even some partnerships. In many ways, the looming calendar-reseting makes it feel like we’re starting from scratch on TDC, a project that’s already consumed over three years of my life.
I’m being dramatic, of course, but the slow process of songwriting and fundraising has caused me a lot of dismay, especially these last few months. Adding to this dread, I also feel responsible to the others who are just as anxious for TDC2 as I am: the cast, crew, and you, the fans. As such, it’s difficult to field the influx of Episode 2 inquiries I receive at live events and through social media.
When I’m feeling down, I try to remember the many positive aspects of even difficult journeys and how truly fortunate I am (what with my teeth mostly pointing in the right direction, being the lucky brother that ma didn’t feed to the hogs, and that somewhere, right now, a gal with black nail polish and tattoos is dancing for dollars to “Zydrate Anatomy”).
Yes, I’m a lucky son of a bitch: a working artist who’s somehow managed to inspire others with his craft. I’m reminded of this weekly by way of correspondences from strangers sharing how they’ve been affected by something that I’ve created. To those who’ve reached out to me in this way, thank you. Even though, it’s impossible to personally respond to each and every one of you, your kind words (and artwork) are always much appreciated.
In the spirit of seeing the silver lining instead of the gloom clouds, TDC‘s director, Darren Lynn Bousman, and I used this year-end lull—when the rest of our industry all but shuts down—to actively move the project forward by updating our promotional materials.
Collaborating with TDC‘s graphic designer Sean Scoffield and behind-the-scenes editor Brian Smith, we’ve set a holiday deadline to build a sexy, new TDC sales brochure and sizzle reel. These materials will be used not only to demonstrate our unique brand of cult horror-musical filmmaking to potential producers and investors, but to spotlight our batshit awesome fanbase: YOU, the loyal folks that allow us to continue making our art.
In the process of collecting materials to give Sean and Brian, I spent a few days organizing five-plus-years worth of photographs and press clippings from Repo! and TDC. Part of these efforts included creating folders for the thousands of images of fan art, cosplayers, tattoos, and shadowcasts surrounding the projects.
It’s humbling to think that our fans are so dedicated that a screening of our films where the audience wasn’t wearing costumes and singing at the screen would feel like a failure. Going through the scores of files, I’m reminded of this. I’m also reminded how special it was to witness the evolution of the community that embraces Repo! and TDC, and how cool it is to see characters I dreamt being play-acted by strangers all over the world.
Clicking through the images, I relived the rush of first seeing Repo! shadowcasts, where even the most obscure roles were represented—from Rotti Largo’s limo driver to the strange, popcorn-eating bird-man in the background of GeneCo’s Sanitarium Square.
Last month, I was fortunate to be in attendance for one of the first live shadowcastings of The Devil’s Carnival. The performance was in Phoenix and was part of Repo!‘s five year anniversary in movie theatres. Arizona’s “Missing Sheep” were the featured troupe.
Watching the performers shadow-act in front of the movie screen as the film projected behind them was a real treat. Like with Repo! shadowcasts, I was floored by the level of care and detail put into Missing Sheep’s costumes and props and tickled by the gender-bending nature of some of the roles, including a young woman with realistic facial hair glued to her chin playing The Tamer.
Like with the many shadow-GraveRobbers I’ve seen over the years, I was also honored by the shadow-portrayal of Lucifer. The actor captured all the slices of cheese and carvings of ham present in my initial performance as the character. Also present were the reenactments of every minor part, including the role of Tamara’s murderous boyfriend, originally played by none other than TDC‘s makeup effects coordinator, George Frangadakis.
Lastly, what shadowcast would be complete without irreverent audience callbacks. Can someone please get Hobo Clown a few panties more… a few panties more?
I hope Missing Sheep will be one of many likeminded TDC shadowcasts (cast booking inquires can be directed here), but whatever the future holds, I’m honored to be along for the ride. Thank you all for your continued support and patience as we work to bring TDC2 to fruition. We look forward to seeing all of you wonderful lunatics in 2014!
Read more | Comments (15) | Dec 18, 2013
I read a statistic that over fifty percent of adult Americans never move further than fifty miles from the house they grew up in. While I’m not amongst the report’s majority, this lifelong residential propinquity makes sense. Most families—even dysfunctional ones—tend to stay close to one another, and I’m sure there are evolutionary advantages to not wandering too far from your tribe’s nest.
On the other hand, this stick-with-where-you-know behavior surely limits potential life adventures and must also bleed into other social habits. For example, I live in Los Angeles and have noticed that most Angelenos seldom travel to the end of the city opposite where they work and reside. Sure, miserable traffic conditions are a factor in avoiding vehicular wayfaring, but lazy traditions and passiveness are also huge considerations. In fact, unless you’re one of LA’s denizens residing plum along the beach, most locals all but forget the beauty and majesty of California’s coastline, including yours truly.
Last week, on the heels of completing the songwriting process for The Devil’s Carnival: Episode Two and a mini-five-year movie anniversary tour for Repo! The Genetic Opera, I decided to venture beyond my residential routines and take an impromptu motorcycle trip up the state’s coastline.
The plan was simple and twofold: 1.) take the scenic route up Pacific Coast Highway from Malibu to San Simeon, visit a historical landmark, spend the night, and then drive back the following day; and; 2.) be open to any and all adventures along the way. I was not prepared for what followed.
I should start by saying that I’m a relatively new motorcycle driver. I’ve had my Ural since early July and while I’ve come a long way in the past four-and-a-half months, I’d yet to experience many of the road and weather obstacles that I’ve heard other motorcyclists bemoan—experiences that became front and center on my coastal escapades.
In advance of the trip, I purchased a few motorcycle gear upgrades, including a rear luggage rack, spare tire and mount, waterproof sidecar cover, and retractable cup holders. Yes, cup holders: the hallmark of any luxury sidecar experience.
The adventure began on a late Tuesday afternoon without a hitch. The ocean views, crisp coastal air, and winding waterfront roads reminded me that it was more than gold that lured people westward in the country’s formative years. In addition to picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean, there are also stretches of croplands, ranches, mountainous regions, and quaint towns no more than a block or two in length.
The trip took a challenging turn midway, however, when the sun and temperature dramatically dipped as my travel companion and I detoured for dinner to the Danish-style town of Solvang. With its thatched roofs, windmills, and village-style atmosphere, Solvang looks like something out of a Disney cartoon. It’s cheerfully-lit storefronts and facades appeared warm in every sense of the word, but with the coastal night air, increased altitudes, and pre-winter chill, it was anything but.
Accustomed to SoCal’s yearlong moderate weather, I was ill-prepared for the experience climate can play on the seat of a motorcycle. By the time we reached our dinner destination—a Viking themed pub—my hands were completely numb from the cold, so much so that I struggled with the simple and routine act of dismounting the bike and putting my vehicle’s keys into my pants pocket.
Inside the heated restaurant, with my hands wrapped around a hot cup of tea, it took a half-hour for normal feelings to return to my fingers… but the true test of the adventure wouldn’t come until the following day on the return trip home.
Day two started off great with a visit to Hearst Castle—the famed former mansion and expansive art collection of deceased newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. I had visited Hearst Castle once before as a child. Walking through the grounds, memories of my childhood sojourn came flashing back, especially recollections of a certain nude statue that in “hind” sight may have helped cement some of the perversities that carried over into my adult life.
Leaving Hearst’s historic estate, the weather took an unfortunate change for the worse. It started to rain. No, pour. Without rain gear or a backup plan, the motorcycle ride that followed demonstrated that it was not only uncomfortable to be on the road in the rain, but unwise due to safety concerns.
In an open-faced, three-quarter shell helmet, riding into the rain felt like sharp pebbles beating against my face. I’d glance down between face pelts to see tiny, sizzling pocks beneath my legs as drops of rain made contact with the bike’s hot exhaust pipes. Worse, in a matter of moments, I was completely soaked—socks, underwear, everywhere.
We pulled off the road at the first restaurant we saw and went inside to dry off and wait for the storm to pass. Two hours later, we were still wet, and still waiting. That’s when the drinking began.
Our bartender—sympathetic to our situation after witnessing us roll up, dismount, and drippingly make our way to his barstools—spoke with the manager of the restaurant (which was fortuitously attached to a hotel). The manager, because it was the establishment’s off-season, offered us a room to shower and crash in until the rains lifted for thirty bucks. We took it.
It rained all night, but by morning the sun peeked through the clouds and the skies cleared. We got back on the road for the final leg of the adventure and made it home, safe and sound, by evening.
Weather snags included, the three-day expedition was a blast—an experience certainly worthy of a blog post. It also left me with a better understanding of how to prepare for the next motorcycle voyage… but I could use your help.
If there are any motorcyclists amongst you, fair readers, please share in the “Comments” section below any tips or tricks of the trade that you’ve learned for navigating cold and rainy weather conditions. Feel free to to share some of your own two, three, or four wheeled adventures as well.
Read more | Comments (11) | Nov 26, 2013