Archive for the ‘Inspirational’ Category

Z Nation – Fracking Zombies

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Spoiler alert:  This post contains spoilers for the Z Nation Season 1 Episode 02, “Fracking Zombies”, which aired Friday, Sept 19th on the SyFy Channel. It also feeds my deeply seated narcissistic personality.

The acting for the second episode of Z Nation, “Fracking Zombies” is better than the first episode as Kellita Smith and Tom Everett Scott get more comfortable with their characters and the cast.  There are moments in the middle of the episode where they seem to revert to the “stiff” acting from the first episode, but that’s because these scenes were shot first, with the opening episode scenes shot a bit later on.

Addy Doc Mack Z Nation

Russell Hodgkinson and Michael Welch continue to bring some quality acting, showing that their characterizations in episode 1 were not a fluke.

“if we film a credited actor in episode 1, and then reuse that footage in episode 2, we have to pay them twice.  But with extras, you signed away all your rights, so we can film you and then use you for commercials, opening or closing credits, digitally put you into a scene that needs more zombies, or whatever, and we only have to pay you one time!” –Juan Mas (2nd Unit Director)

I didn’t get a call for the second episode, much to my disappointment.  The call sheet specifically said “slow, skinny zombies” which fits in well with the whole idea in episode 2 of zombies who have been hanging around the oil refinery for years or trapped in the oil tank.  Having said that, the reality is three casting agencies trying to get hundreds of extras on set, and a production team trying to be diverse in their choices (so it’s not too obvious which zombies have been onscreen already), which means I’m not going to get a call back for every episode.  Honestly, getting ANY callback was awesome!  So it was cool to catch glimpses of me and the other Zs from episode 1 running up stairs and down halls, invading Mount Wilson on Citizen Z’s monitors.

Z Nation Oily Fracking Zombies

14 extras were used as zombies at the Jersey Devil Oil Refinery – 8 of them running around the tower and 6 of them slathered in oil.  Kevin was one of the Oily Zombies, and told me this story about episode 2:

Call time was 6:30 in the morning.  We did the usual wardrobe and full zombie makeup, and then they drove us on site where we were met by the fx team.  “The good news is that you’re all going to get some closeup time on camera!  The bad news is we’re going to cover you in this fake oil.”  {I never asked him what the oil was made of}  They then proceeded to smear big handfuls of the oil all over our costumes, hair, face, and hands.  It was pretty chilly.  Initially, we all dipped our hands into the buckets of ‘oil’ to apply it to our butt and groin area, but after the third re-shoot and touch-up, no one cared anymore who walked up and drenched you in oil or where they put it.

The ‘nice’ thing about it all was that the day ended up around 92 degrees by lunch when we finished shooting, but we were all pretty cool and insulated from the heat under all that oil.  The other 8 zombies that ran around the refinery’s metal platforms for the rest of the day had some pretty horrid temperatures to deal with!

The oil pit filled with zombies was CGI.  The zombie hound was played partially by a puppeteer dog and partially by a CGI altered actor dog.  Funny enough, the zombie shoved up in the tire well of the truck was an extra (not a puppet!) who was wedged up under there for almost an hour’s worth of shooting time!

wheel well Zombie incident Z Nation

One of my mates was annoyed with the way Travis (played by new comer Ryan Higgins) talked.  I thought his slow delivery and lilt did well to belie his quick violence and cast him in a character reminiscent of “Deliverance” or “Justified”.  He was annoyed that everyone in the Zombacalypse suddenly turned into swamp people once civilization evaporated.

Rating numbers from episode 2 were higher than those for episode 1 while piracy numbers for the series continue to climb.

Z Nation – First Day Of Shooting

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Spoiler alert:  This post contains spoilers for the Z Nation Season 1 Episode 01, “Puppies and Kittens”, which aired Friday, Sept 12th on the SyFy Channel.  It’s also a very long, and probably very boring blog post.

For starters, Z Nation ep101 didn’t contain a single puppy or kitten – it’s just a term used by Kellita Smith’s character, Warren, to describe zombies.

The coolest thing for me about watching the episode (other than catching glimpses of me and other extras I got to know on set) is to finally see everything coming together!  As an extra on the set, we don’t get copies of the script, the shooting schedule, or the call sheet – we just show up when and where they say and do as we’re told.  And since an episode is shot in parts and pieces by multiple camera units and put together into the final episode in post production and editing, we’re really in the dark as much as first time viewers (except for the occasional spoiler in which you’re involved as shooting for the series progresses).

The casting agency calls, emails, or texts (usually all three) about four days before you’re wanted on site to ensure you’re available.  But you don’t find out what time you are to be on set or where shooting is to occur until about 10:30pm the night before.

ep101BaseCamp

The first day of shooting for Z Nation ep101 was Monday, May 19th in Medical Lake, just west of Spokane.  My call time was 7:45am, and when I wander in at 7:30, there’re already three guys done up in full zombie makeup: massive head wounds and facial damage, and latex buildup/prosthetics.  I later learn these guys (Ron Starlynn, Brandon Arleon, and Kevin) are “Hero Zombies” – zombies who get closeups, or their heads blown apart, or something equally gruesome.  Regular zombie extras come to covet a Hero Zombie role ‘cause it not only means some possible prime air time, but more importantly, that you get to either eat someone or be killed in a gruesome manner – the pinnacle opportunity for a zombie extra (I mean, why else would you want to be a zombie in a zombie film if not to eat someone or die horribly??!)!

Ron Starlynn Hero Zombie First Glimpse

I check in with Jennifer Gatts, the Zombie Wrangler (the onsite person responsible for all the extras), fill out a bunch of forms (“Are you allergic to corn syrup?  Are you willing to wear contacts or full eye covers?” – Yes!), and then wait while others trickle in to the gymnasium where we’re all hanging out.

Lots of waiting.

Brandon Arleon

Throughout the morning, extras are called out to wardrobe and makeup, and reappear in full zombie gear.  The excitement and buzz slowly builds.

dan

At 9:40, I get called to wardrobe (shirt, pants, and shoes), change, and go back to waiting.

An hour later, I get called to makeup.  There’s a long, air conditioned trailer that seats four or five people while makeup artists work on each one.  Corinne Foster (“It’s pronounced ‘Corinn’ – Don’t call me Coreen or I’ll punch you in the dick!”) of Synapse Fx is the lead makeup artists and starts applying makeup with a giant porous sponge in layers of green, blue, yellow, and brown – layer after layer across the face, neck, hands and arms.  Once she’s got the overall effect, they take me outside and spray me down with a sealant, so the makeup doesn’t rub or wear off during the day.  Then it’s back inside, and over to Shawn Shelton for battle scars!

“Your hair is too nice!” he tells me, “Too fine and short which makes it hard to muck up!”  He decides to hide it all with a massive head wound that drips down the front of my face.

Awesome!

The blood is a red dye mixed with corn syrup and something to help it set yet still remain flexible.  Shawn applies it with a tongue depressor and slathers it over my head, down my face, dripping from my ears, and mouth.  Throughout the day, the makeup crew runs around with squirt bottles filled with a thinner version of the stuff that they use for touch ups and to darken your teeth before a scene.

Z Nation ep101 first day of shooting

By 11:30, I’m done and back in the gym in time for lunch.  Zombies that had been out filming earlier that morning arrive on a bus – there are about 14 of us in all.  The catering crew puts out sandwiches and salad and a MASSIVE plate of brownies which never seems to run out.  The brownies are AWESOME!  Chocolatey chocolate fudge brownies with chunks of chocolate… I eat two, and when it’s apparent no one else is having any more, I makes a move on them and eat another dozen.

Z Nation second unit

Half an hour for lunch.  Those that were filming prior to lunch hop back on their bus, and the rest of us jump on a second bus and drive out to a site with the 2nd camera unit directed by Juan Mas and Jade Warpenburg.

first Location

For the next 2 ½ hours, we march, shuffle, run, trample, moan, groan, and pace zombie-like up and down fields, through courtyards, across playgrounds, and over dirt mounds.  Juan runs us through a shot, and then immediately resets us and runs it again because the sun has suddenly ducked behind a cloud to give the scene different lighting or a long shadow is now cast across a piece of playground equipment that he thinks would give a cool effect.  He mixes up the order in which we are arranged, and takes close ups of feet and hands and bodies passing close by the camera.  “You see,” Juan explains with a grin when one of the extras asks what it is we’re doing, “if we film a credited actor in episode 1, and then reuse that footage in episode 2, we have to pay them twice.  But with extras, you signed away all your rights, so we can film you and then use you for commercials, opening or closing credits, digitally put you into a scene that needs more zombies, or whatever, and we only have to pay you one time!”

While you might feel ripped off to hear this in a normal job, as zombie extras, we all pick up on the word “commercials” and brighten up a bit with hope!  One of the guys among us is the only one wearing the bright orange jumpsuit of a convicted criminal, and he is ecstatic when Juan points out that “pretty much every time you see a zombie horde marching through a field, you’ll know that the one wearing orange is you!”

Alex Terzieff Z Nation

This idea of reusing zombies occurs a LOT in Z Nation.  If you look carefully you see Alex Terzieff and his stunt crew reappearing all throughout episode 1 – he’s the zombie in a yellow shirt that sticks his head out of the bus as it passes, and then chases Addy, Mack, and Doc up the hill.  He’s then fourth zombie on the right, waiting for them at the top of the hill, who then gets hit by the truck.  And he’s the second zombie into the room after the zombie soldier attacks the doctors.

truck

Around 2:30 Juan gets a call to bring us all over to the main site, and the excitement levels climb.  We drive to an old psychiatric hospital and march up three flights of stairs and pause at the top to wait while they film Harold Perrineau hunting around the floor and kicking through trash.  You can see these scenes at the end of the episode when Harold’s character, Hammond, is hunting down the zombie baby.  At the time, we had no idea what he was looking for.  That sequence was filmed at two locations – one with patchy walls, and ours with the green striped walls.

second Location

Harold retires to the temporary “Green Room” ahead of us, and as we file past, he nods to one or two of the zombie extras who shout out to him and wave.  An assistant director (AD) tells us “don’t talk to the talent!” and directs us into a room further down the hall that is stacked full of industrial office furniture.  As we are shuffling in, someone walks up and says, “I need 6 zombies”, and then grabs the last six guys in line (Ron, Brandon, Sean Dunn, Donald, and 2 guys whose names I don’t know ) before anyone can volunteer.

The rest of us join the zombie crew that had been out that morning, and we start comparing notes:  “What did you guys film?” they ask us, and we fill them in on our marching.  Most of them say they’ve just been “standing around all morning”, except for one of the guys that was strapped to a hospital gurney.  I realize that the opportunity to get on camera just left with the six other zombies, and I slowly wander out of the room and back down the hallway where we entered.

I can see the other guys down the hall, getting directions, and I have it in my mind to casually wander down and join in the group when a voice to my left asks, “How’s it going?”  I hadn’t noticed the guy standing there, so I’m a bit startled and say, “Hey…  What’s your role in all this?”

“I’m an Assistant Director.” He says.
“That sounds cool – what do you get to do?”
“Mostly, I just keep zombie extras from wandering into shots they aren’t supposed to be in.”

Bummer.

“Sounds like a pretty boring job.” I tell him with a grin, and he allows me to stand next to him while they film the scene off in the distance.

anthony

Watching the episode, I realize this is the scene where Murphy, played by Keith Allen, is strapped to a gurney and can’t escape as the zombies flood into the room and start to eat him alive!  “DON’T LEAVE ME TO THE ZOMBIES!” we hear him scream from down the hall.  “PIKE ME!  PIKE ME OR I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND EAT YOUR BRAINS MOTHER FUAAAAAAUGH!!”  And then the zombies push into the room.

Murphy

They reshoot this scene thirteen times.  Around the sixth retake, the AD comments, “You can hear his voice fading – they should have gone with one of the first three takes, but they will probably grab sound bites of his voice from the first couple takes, and edit it along with the shots they want for the final scene.”  He’s right.  By the final take, Murphy is only screaming obscenities much quieter than the original take, and the zombies burst into the room almost immediately.

With that, the zombies file down the hall, and I join them back in the room with everyone else where we wait for an hour, doing nothing.  Most of us catch quick naps while we can.

Around 3:30, they wake us all up and take us down the hall to walk thru the next scene.  This turns out to be the opening scene of the episode where Hammond and Valdez are chased down a hallway by fast zombies, and slam a prison gate shut, firing into the horde and keeping the zombies at bay.  First Unit shoots Hammond and Valdez a dozen times – camera following them, camera leading them, still camera that they run towards.  Then, Alex (who is not only the stunt coordinator for Z Nation but also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet) walks us through our scene – hero zombies (Ron, Kevin, and Brandon) are put at the front of the horde, and then they arrange the rest of us in two lines to the right and left of the camera.  “Let me get the two tall zombies up front as well – you, and head wound.”  We film the same scene a couple more times, the zombie horde flowing around the camera in pursuit of the actors, before they change camera angles, and film us a couple of times running into the gate and smashing/pressing against it to get through to the actors on the other side.

Z Nation jail

Prior to each “ACTION!” call, the makeup crew walks around with squirt bottles of “blood”.  You pull out your lower lip; they squirt some in; you swish it around like mouthwash, and then burble it over your bottom lip to let it drool down your chin, your neck, and onto your shirt.  The syrup is rootbeer flavored which is okay with the first couple takes, but by the 50th or 60th shot, we all get really sick of it.

We film a front-on shot of the zombies trying to get through the gate for 15-20 minutes solid, no break.  My jaw is sore from growling, and my arm that reaches through the gate no longer has any feeling in my fingers ‘cause everyone(understandably) wants to get on camera, so those in the back push forward, mashing those of us in front against the bars.  It makes for an awesome visual effect of zombies wanting to get their potential victims, but it gets a bit claustrophobic.

Still, we keep growling and reaching and gnashing our teeth.

The camera zooms in for close-ups, and as it pans away from each of us, we take a second to stretch our faces and hands and arms to get blood flowing again before it pans back on us, and we kick back into zombie mode.

Ron as the hero zombie in this scene drops to his knees when he gets shot.  The special fx team replaces him with a mannequin that has a head painted to match his makeup.  One fx guy holds up the head and works the jaw from behind while a second fx guy sits behind him, working a tank of blood that flows through pipes into the dummy’s head.  They smear Vaseline on the bars, and as the camera rolls, push the zombie head through the bars, the skin peeling away from the skull like split citrus skin while blood drenches what’s left of the head as it pushes forward and continues to gnash it’s teeth and growl at the camera.  The shot doesn’t make it into the final episode, and instead, Ron dies by headshot and is edited out of the remainder of the scene.

Ron Starlynn

Finally, Alex turns the door hinge pin upside down, showing us how shaking the door will cause the pin to slowly fall out, to show the door slowly giving way to the zombie horde.  Of course, all the shaking in the world isn’t enough to get it to repeat the process once the camera starts to roll, and they finally move everyone out of the shot except for three of us to shake the door loose from its hinges.  After three more shots, they finally decide to slide the pin 3/4 of the way out and film the scene from there.  Alex rattles the door from just off camera, while we shake it from the far side, and the pin slides the rest of the way out for the shot.

Just after 5pm they call it a wrap and send us back to the waiting room while they replay everything and decide on whether or not they need more footage.  An hour later they decide they’ve got all they need, and they send us back to base camp to turn in wardrobe and get cleaned up.

First day of shooting done.
Z Nation has begun!

First Glimpse Of Z Nation Ep101

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Spoiler alert:  This post contains spoilers for the Z Nation Season 1 Episode 01, “Puppies and Kittens”, which aired Friday, Sept 12th on the SyFy Channel.  As a second disclaimer, I am somewhat biased to the Z Nation franchise having spent my time as a Zombie in the tv series, however, I like to think that doesn’t overly affect my opinions expressed below.

To set the mood, I liked this first glimpse of Z Nation.  While it didn’t contain top notch writing or acting, it was fun and enjoyable and of a higher standard than we’ve come to expect from The Asylum.  Closer to The Last Ship and The Strain than Sharknado 2.  It may have had its plot holes, and its moments of being “over the top”, but it wasn’t camp, and they didn’t jump the shark.

Mack, Garnett, Addy, Warren, Doc, Cassandra, and Murphy - Z Nation

I really enjoyed Michael Welch’s Mack and Russell Hodgkinson’s Doc – not only great characters, but backed up by some really solid acting.  Both actors felt like they already had a handle on their character, and brought that out.  Anastasia Baranova’s Addy has potential, but I feel a lot of that is the ability to play off Welch’s character.  Sketchy and Skeezy, played by locals Mark Carr and Doug Dawson, made an all too quick appearance, and I hope to see more of them as secondary characters, but given the storyline of travelling across the US, I doubt they will reappear.

Sketchy, Skeezy, and Doc - Z Nation

On a behind the scenes side of things, I’m partial to Nat Zang’s 10K even though there isn’t enough exposure for the character in the first episode to validate this opinion – not only is he a nice guy on set the couple of times I’ve run into him, but also the character development that occurs in future episodes really fleshes out his character into a great member of the group puzzle.  I thought it was also a bit early to really make a call on Pisay Pao’s character given this appearance, but as an actress, she did a good job in her first television appearance.

Nat Zang as 10K - Z Nation  Pisay Pao as Cassandra - Z Nation

I think I was hoping for more from the veterans – Kellita Smith, Tom Everett Scott, and Harold Perrineau.  I felt their characters were over-dramatic, but then, that may stem from the expectations I put on them as actors.  Harold would jump in place for about 10 seconds prior to each scene to get pumped up, so his breathy, hurried delivery was a definite decision either on his or the director’s part.

The special effects weren’t over the top, but had a nice level of zombie gore without appearing cheap.  Zombie extras in episode 1 agreed to possibly wearing contacts, but the episode was filmed without them, and all our eyes were CGI enhanced in post-production.  Same with the blood splatters from gunfire, truck collisions, claw hammers, and the infamous Z Whacker!  I say infamous, because having died by Z Whacker is one of the things that is well known among the Zombie extras on set.  As far as status goes, death by Z Whacker or Claw Hammer ranks WELL above gunfire, yet it’s still a gruesome possible ending obtainable by Zombie extras as opposed to something like Death by Automobile which was reserved solely for the series’ stunt team.

Z Whacker - Z Nation

You’re going to hear about the plot holes (What made the baby suddenly turn zombie?  Why did turning zombie instantly dislocate and shred the inmate’s jaw?), but the plot holes in movies such as X-Men 3 weren’t enough to keep me from seeing future X-Men movies, nor keep those films from being better.  Similarly, I enjoyed the first episode of Z Nation enough to continue watching to see how the characters and storyline play out.

Z Nation – Diary Of A Zombie Extra

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

It’s early April, and I’m talking to the Building Manager, Tony, about the 12th man prank and whether or not we want to build another Christmas Elevator this year.  We start discussing my plans for this year’s Haunted House when Tony asks, “Are you going to try out for the new zombie movie they’re filming in Spokane?”

“Wait… What zombie movie??!”

“It’s called ‘Z Nation’ or something.  Like ‘World War Z’ or ‘The Walking Dead’.  Google it – someone’ll have all the details on the web.”

Z Nation promo teaser poster

Sure enough, The Asylum, the film studio that produced such B-Grade movie classics as Mega Piranha, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, and Sharknado (surprisingly, NOT called Mega Shark Hurricane), is looking for extras to be zombies in their upcoming TV series, Z Nation for the SyFy Channel.

Awesome!

Multiple websites have published the same press release and links to Casting Agencies being used to supply extras for the series.  There are three of them that show up again and again.  I apply to all of them, and start texting and emailing local friends to see who’s interested in coming along.

 

It’s late April, and one of the casting agencies emails me about their upcoming “Zombie Camp”.  They have different sign-up times for fast and slow zombies, and to come out and meet with the series’ various directors, producers, and casting director.  There aren’t any other details than location, dates, and times.

I start checking to see who else has gotten a notice, and forwarding it to anyone that hasn’t.  Turns out that while many of my mates are interested in the idea, no one is really interested in making the trip to Spokane except Wren.  We book a fast zombie time slot in the afternoon.

Lincoln Center Spokane

 

It’s early May, and Zombie Camp actually turns out to be tryouts.  Every 45 minutes, from 8am until 5pm with a half hour break for lunch, the production team from The Asylum takes a group of approximately 70 zombie hopefuls and puts them through their zombie paces, looking for that undead “something” that catches the director’s eye and sky rockets the potential undead poster child into fame and stardom.

zombie extras wannabes hopefuls

Wren and I show up at The Lincoln Center in Spokane soon after lunch where we write down our contact details, receive a number, pose for a photo, and wait as other potential extras wander in.  You can hear muffled groans and noises coming from behind the closed double doors behind the sign-up table, and while no one explicitly says we aren’t allowed in to watch the other tryouts, no one attempts to open the doors and watch the competition.  Wren wanders through the building and finds a back stair case to an upper level that oversees the auditorium where the tryouts are being held, and we quietly find a place to sit and watch the other candidates.

Tryouts are “simple”:  After everyone files in and takes a seat, the first five applicants line up perpendicular to a table where the directors and production team sit.  30 feet in front of them stands a woman with a tambourine while a guy with a bodhrán stands immediately behind them.  The woman shakes the tambourine, and the zombie wannabes shuffle towards her in their best, slow zombie impersonation.  As the closest one gets near her, the guy with the bodhrán starts tapping out a beat.  Extras are to stop; look towards the new sound, and when the director shouts “NOW!”, ‘fast zombie’ towards the guy until he stops banging his drum.  The process repeats, and the next five applicants have their turn.

zombie tryouts for Z Nation SyFy channel

Here’s the problem – if you have a higher number, you’re able to sit and watch everyone else, gauge the responses of the production team, and get a better idea of what may work to get you in as a zombie for the Z Nation series.  Lower numbers don’t have that luxury, so they’ve got to go “all in” from the start and hope for the best.

zombie tryouts

My slow zombie sucks.

I’m kind of a moderate shamble (more like “Warm Bodies” than “Walking Dead”), and I reach the tambourine lady WAY before everyone else.

As the casting director shouts “NOW!” for fast zombie, I dead sprint at the drummer, screeching and passing everyone else which has him suddenly screaming, “DON’T TOUCH THE CAMERAMAN!!  DON’T TOUCH THE CAMERAMAN!!”  I reckon the poor guy got tackled by some overzealous zombie wannabe in at least one of the previous auditions.

And then that’s it.
3 minutes, and you’re done.
“Thanks for coming!  We’ll be in touch.”

No coaching or even suggestion of what they’re looking for in their zombies other than the reactions you can glean from the casting group if you happen to have a later number.  Hope you left your best on the floor.

We watch higher numbers shamble and screech and moan and run across the auditorium floor, and I think of so many things I could have done different… better…  I drive home in a mild state of depression.

So it’s surprising to receive a call-back on Monday.

The casting agency asks about “any skills you may have, any previous acting you may have done, your measurements (height, weight, shoe size, shirt size, etc)”, and whether or not I’m available in two weeks time to come back and “do your zombie” in wardrobe in front of the production team again.  Heck yeah!!

I send in my measurements.  Fill out some paperwork.  And the day before I’m to appear on set, I get a call from the agency.  “You’re really this tall?  These are your actual measurements?”  I’m not THAT tall, but it seems there aren’t a lot of extras over 6’ that tried out.  So when I confirm my measurements they simply ask, “Can you just show up on Monday instead for the first day of shooting for episode 1?”

And I have a slight break-down and go nuts!
AWESOME!!
I’M GONNA’ BE A ZOMBIE ON TV!!

And the reality is, the only people that pay attention to the extras in a film are the extras themselves, their friends and family, and the directors who don’t want them to screw up the actual talent being filmed.

(“See that arm hanging out from behind the tree that just flashed past?  THAT WAS MY ARM!!”)

But it’s cool!  And you can’t have a zombie apocalypse film without lots of zombies, so I’m more than happy to be one of them!  And this takes my desire to build and be a part of something big that entertains others to a whole new level and audience!

In 1996, I sat on the roof of the Regent Theatre during my lunch break, watching Jackie Chan film Mr. Nice Guy.  They reshot the same scene over and over and over, trying to get it just right; changing choreography and camera angles.  I thought then that the reality of filming was much more boring than I had imagined, and throughout the 2014 summer, I learn first hand that there is a LOT of standing around, doing nothing on the set of a TV series.

But it’s all worth it.

The first Z Nation TV commercial airs on July 30th during the premiere of Sharknado 2.  It’s the first glimpse I have of the finished production of the show, and it looks MUCH less campy or B-Grade than I had expected it to be – it actually looks GOOD!  A TV series that I’d like to watch!

I catch a flashing glimpse of ME on screen, and have to grab the remote to rewind it and watch it again… and then freak out a little bit when we confirm it is me.  On screen.  As a zombie!

Yes.  One of dozens of zombies that only flash across the screen in the time it takes you to blink.  But there I am!  And for one, brief moment, I think “life doesn’t get much better than THIS!”

 What we all want is to be valued members of a winning team on an inspiring mission.
~ Graham Weston

Bleachers – I Wanna Get Better

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

This one’s about to explode.

Fun’s lead guitarist Jack Antonoff has a lot going for him:

His band, Fun, won the 2013 Grammys for Best New Artist and Song of the Year
His girlfriend, Lena Dunham, is a famous actor and television writer
His new side project band, Bleachers, has attracted some famous and massive social media fans such as Taylor Swift

Not bad.

Bleachers’ first release, I Wanna Get Better, debuted last week and is slowly gaining momentum.  Although the recently released lyric (and official video) version of their song on YouTube is currently hovering at just over 6,000 hits, I expect to see this song scream up the charts within the next two weeks.

Fast paced, driving tempo mixed with off-beat, slightly-retro sounding lead vocals will suck you in until the anthem chorus hooks you, and drags you from the edges of the crowd, headlong into the fist-pumping, head-bopping fanbase and singing along.
Then you’ll press repeat.
And then you’ll do it again.

Antonoff has found the perfect progression from Fun’s music style, evolving it and adding his own touch with Bleachers.  And while “I Wanna Get Better” didn’t scream onto the chart scene, it’s quickly gaining fans and momentum.  The album is scheduled for release this spring, and Antonoff will kick off his concert tours in April after making an appearance at SXSW in March.  While the currently announced venues and ticket prices are still small and affordable, I expect that to change quickly as their fame grows.  Grab yours now while you still can!

So I put a bullet where I should have put a helmet, and I crash my car ’cause I wanna’ get carried away… I didn’t know I was broken till I wanted to change.  I wanna’ get better!
~ I Wanna Get Better, Bleachers

Triumph Of The 12th Man

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

The Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos yesterday 43-8 to win Super Bowl XLVIII (48).  Both the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos had better odds to win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season than the Seahawks, but that didn’t stop Seattle from beating both teams on their way to claim their first franchise Super Bowl trophy as one of the youngest teams in the NFL both age and experience-wise – quarterback Russell Wilson has only been playing in the NFL since the 2012 season, and the average age of the players on the team is 26.5.

Since McCrevis’ Eagles won the NFC East but then lost to the Saints in the playoffs, and since my Buccaneers were never even in the running, we didn’t really have an iron in the fire but were happy to see the Seahawks beat the Broncos (actually, I have no idea if McCrevis was barracking for Denver or Seattle, but since Seattle won, I’m going to say he was on their team all along).  But for our mate Ty, it was a dream come true.

Ty - rabid Seattle Seahawks fan and proud 12th man

Being the only NFL team in the Pacific Northwest US, the Seahawks tend to attract a number of zealous fans, and Ty is no exception.  A proud 12th man since the team was formed in 1976, Ty approached us about a “publicly noticeable celebration idea” that we could help him setup at work “after the Hawks smash the Broncos!”

Despite the short notice, we thought we were up to the challenge.

Ty's office building prior to the Superbowl

 

interior

longShot

after

Ideas are cheap, it’s the passion to make ideas real that’s rare.
~ Scott Berkun

Why not us?
~ Russell Wilson 

The Grammys? Byrd Was Right

Monday, January 27th, 2014

“You can call me Queen B for being so right!” Byrd texts me last night, referring to her prediction in 2013 regarding Lorde’s upcoming greatness.  “Royals” by Lorde took the award for Song of the Year (Byrd: WHO WAS SO RIGHT ABOUT THAT SONG?!  Though I wouldn’t have predicted Song of the Year) and Best Pop Solo Performance at last night’s Grammy Awards, beating musical industry big names Pink, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, and Justin Timberlake.  Who’s a Royal now?

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love” meanwhile, may have lost to Lorde in the Song of the Year category, but that didn’t stop the duo from claiming the awards for Best New Artist (Byrd: Surprising win over Ed Sheeran), Rap Performance, Rap Song, and Rap Album (Byrd: Of course The Heist!  Why do you ever doubt?!) over R&B cornerstone nominees Drake, Jay Z, and Kanye West.  After the success of 2013, I’m looking forward to what 2014 brings for this duo.

With Daft Punk winning Pop/Duo Group Performance, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year, the top awards for the Grammys this year went to foreign or independently produced performers!  As we previously stated here at bighairmonkey, we believe we’ll be seeing more of this trend as the internet allows influences outside the US to be more readily recognizable and makes the world a much smaller place.

Regardless, props to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis who were quick to point out the groundswell from their fans and the duo’s independent work which led to their radio/public “discovery”:

First and foremost, I wanna’ thank our fans, the people that got us on this stage.  Before there was any media, before there was any buzz about us, before there was a story, there was our fans, and it spread organically through them, so without them, there would be no “us”.  Shout out to everybody repping worldwide …and I wanna’ say, we made this album without a record label.  We made it independently, and we appreciate all the support!

That was to you, Byrd.

 

Weighted Companion Cube Christmas Lights Released!

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Valve software weighted companion cube

For those of you who emailed us, asking how you could purchase our Portal Companion Cube Christmas Tree lights, they are now available via the Valve Software online store!! (SO awesome, right??!)

1.5" portal weighted companion cube of clear plastic

After some minor changes to our original 3D printed model, these plastic lights are cast to be lighter-weight and cheaper to mass produce for retail sale.  And even as I type, they are on sale at a 20% discount for the upcoming Christmas holiday!  You still have time to have them delivered (in the US) prior to Christmas!

Portal weighted companion cube Christmas tree lights – for those Christmases when you want to remind yourself of that time you escaped the Aperture Science Enrichment Center after it was taken over by a narcissistic and passive-aggressive Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System that tried to kill you give you cake.

I don’t see there really being a big enough market for this particular product to justify mass production, but it was totally cool to build and print and watch it come together!
~bighairmonkey

We’re Awesome!

Monday, December 9th, 2013

awesome

Haters ignored.
Testing completed.
Requirements fulfilled.
Obstacles, doubts, and ridicule overcome.
Product shipped.
Customer happy!
We’re awesome!!

Spur-of-the-moment-type message outside the CEO’s window, and since I didn’t have my usual lawn sharpies, I had to spell it out in the frost on the lawn.

Not as long lasting, but it still makes the point, and opens up all sorts of possibilities for messages that you don’t want sticking around for more than a day or so.

Amazed me how many people took note and knew it was our team.
Some reputations are worth having!

It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to management than the creation of a new system.  For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones.
~ Niccolò Machiavelli

Remembrance Day

Monday, November 11th, 2013

One day.
Every year.
Take a moment to remember:

laughing little girl in tutu

Remember to giggle and to laugh and to smile – it makes you feel better and lifts the spirits of those around you.  It’s okay to be silly occasionally.  In fact, it’s necessary.  Always remember time to be silly.

Remember to take joy from the little things in life – sometimes, it’s all we have.  Walk in the rain.  Splash in puddles.  Drink hot drinks with whipped cream or foamy milk or marshmallows on cold, foggy mornings.  Wear a tutu or new fuzzy socks or Uggs.  Lie in the middle of a quiet road and enjoy the feel of warm asphalt under your back on a cooling summer night.

splash

Remember to be happy – happiness is a decision, just like anger or sorrow or irritability.  Choose to be happy.

Remember to take walks; to get up from your desk and leave the office, the building, when you take lunch.  Have lunch!  Take smoko breaks throughout the day even though you don’t smoke – why should you miss out on quick breaks from the work and chaos just because you’re not sucking down a nicotine hit?  And on that topic, remember to use your sick days to take time off from work when you aren’t sick so you can enjoy the day!

snowman in your office

Remember to have child like interest in new things; to make new friends and include anyone in the public things you do.  Little kids on the playground make games and create adventures instantly, and everyone is invited to be a part of it.  Share your day with others; talk to those you see constantly whether at work or school or home or walking in public – include them in your adventures.  Invest in people that make you feel of worth.

Remember to make fun and have adventures.

Remember to enjoy the scenery, even if you’ve lived and wandered there all your life.  Lie down in parks on warm, sunny days and read.  Take off your shoes and socks and walk barefoot on the grass – a year should not go by in which you haven’t walked barefoot on grass.  Run through sprinklers, especially if they’re not your own – if you haven’t run through sprinklers recently, you are missing out on one of the pure joys of life.

Remember to write down your ideas, your dreams, your passions so you can act on them when you have time – if you have a book of ideas, you will never be bored.  Make time to act on your ideas.  Make time for you.

no skateboarding

Remember to draw or paint or cook or sew or create!  Remember the talents you used constantly as a child that you haven’t seen in a while – dust them off; drag them out into the light and put them back to use.  They never left you – you left them.  Develop a hobby.  Believe in yourself again.

Remember to ignore the evil comments and criticisms of assholes and trolls – they have no value or sway over you unless you allow it.  You can’t have everything you want or always do everything you feel you should, but that doesn’t mean you are a failure or without worth.  When you make a mistake or things don’t work out as planned, make new plans; learn from the mistake and move on.  Don’t let the little failures drag you down.  Remember to focus on your successes!  Life hasn’t stopped so why should we?  Life is all about moving and progressing and learning and getting better.

memorial day

Remember to let go of the memories and moments that bring you heartache and pain; to let go of the things that have hurt you or continue to hurt you or drag you down.  Lose your sorrow by investing in others.  Be a friend to make friends.  And don’t be afraid to make new friends because old ones left or moved on or stabbed you in the back.

Remember to move and to dance and to sing, without care of the opinions of others nor the audience – you do it for you, not for them.  Who the hell are they anyway?  Ultimately, it’s your life, to do with as you wish, not theirs.

Remember to live in the present.  Good or bad, the past is merely moments gone from which you can learn and grow.  Millions of new moments are waiting to be created by you, for you.  Don’t miss out on what’s coming by keeping too tight a hold on what happened in the past.  Change occurs with every breath you take into your body, so why shouldn’t we expect it in the events of our lives?

One day.
Every year.
Take a moment to remember.