Terminating a Business and Trust

29 September 2014

This article attempts to document the actions that occurred between Frank Gould, Les Stone, Rob Ranck, and the Gigafast team. Rob had originally provided Les and Frank with a contact, the president of Gigafast, to source a specific product that provided a single device that removed the requirement for three power outlet devices, all combined into one: Gigafast PE928-POE HomePlug AV EoP/PoE Adapter.

Since 12 June 2014, Frank worked with Les to test and confirm the EoP/PoE adapter worked and would be a product to offer with the, at the time, only product COP-Systems would offer: YardCam350. Then Les decided that he wanted to be the distributor for the adapter only, and Frank withdrew his work on that product alone.

During this time, Frank spent hours working with the different software products to make sure the YardCam350 would operate to deliver dewarped fisheye lens video for general use and surveillance playback. Les constantly picked at everything Frank provided. From calling Frank an unprofessional windows user and an embarrassment for demonstrations to getting hung in a loop putting down Apple products or “Watts equals Volts times Amps” (W=VA). Constantly complaining about what Frank did or said.

Troy Mueller, Frank’s partner, complained about how much bickering Les and Frank exhibited while working together. Frank then started working to manage Les’s behaviors and after a ballistic phone call that Frank hung up on, Les finally started to calm down. Frank still had to be diligent in stopping Les from getting hung in a loop, arguing about every little detail.

One of the big opportunities that came up with Frank working with Cracker Creek recreational and historical park was a potential YardCam350 order. This was something Frank had shown the part-owner who suggested Frank write up a quote to mount the camera down by the shoreline to watch for returning watercraft rental customers. Frank and Les visited the property during this exercise to gather information and test the power circuits for that quote. Frank mentioned to Les afterwards how well they had worked together solving problems and pushing each other over the technology hurdles. Frank then spent hours putting together a specification and calculating the expenses, permits, and final quote.

One interesting observation about Les was during the permit process after Frank sent the following email to the Port Orange City Permit Office:

I called your office a couple days ago and Julie suggested I send you an email to ask you the questions I was asking her. I’m putting together a proposal for an outdoor webcam at the launch site at Cracker Creek, 1795 Taylor Road. My partner (Les Stone, copied) and I have already installed a similar product in Orlando and we needed different permits for different things. For instance, I’m in the county, not city, and the county required a low-voltage permit. My partner, who is in city limits, had to get the permit just to erect the pole.

So, our question is what permits will we need to install the products described below. We’re in the process of finishing up a proposal for Cracker Creek to consider but we need the final cost for any permits or other requirements. If you have any further questions, please call me at my number below. We appreciate your time.

Camera Installation Configuration:

  • Network into switch off router and into Cracker Creek office network.
  • Wireless Bridge from office LAN to pavilion network switch.
  • Switch provides EoP in pavilion and exits to launch site through power outlet.
  • Launch site power outlet used to provide network connect and PoE power to camera.
  • Outdoor CAT-5 wire underground in conduit from power outlet to DockCam pole near Spruce Creek.

[Cracker Creek map excluded – see on specification]

On a subsequent phone call, Les informed Frank that his email (above) makes no sense to him, the map is confusing, and that one of them will have to call to explain what we are really asking to get. After talking to the permit officer, Frank was happy to write the following email back to Les:

He also said he had no problem understanding what we’re trying to do, so your comment about my email [being incomprehensible] was invalid. He even told me to bring that map for the application submission. I will use the map I sent him since that’s all he knows or has seen.

A little later, Les was sending email about “forward manual,” which only confused Frank with the vague change request Les was attempting to ask. After Les wrote back that he had no idea why Frank couldn’t figure out what he wanted changed, Frank decided to provide the details of what was not making sense. Part of the confusion was the wrong words Les had used and the missing illustrations, mentioned below, showed up in Word for Frank as blank or blacked out boxes.

Writing requires you understand and communicate a concept as concisely as possible and attempt to cover all angles, and that includes clarifying illustrations (which I can’t see). For instance, when the subject of the sentence is singular, all references back to that subject must be singular or the reader cannot understand the sentence. Words also have multiple meanings, such as manual and forward. When you use two ambiguous words together, their meanings get lost and a writer has to add additional words to give it clarity. Otherwise, it’s a failure to communicate, especially for those who don’t speak English as their first language.

From your insistence, I think you’re trying to say “manual foreword,” not “forward.” I assumed you knew the difference, which is why I said it makes no sense.

What ended up happening is that Frank and Les sat down together in front of a PC to edit the final versions for both the COPS-928-POE user manual and the data sheet.

On 10 September, Les sent an email to Gigafast with the product label changed to a different part number than Gigafast and Frank had previously adopted and published. Frank was blind-sided without discussing the change and it made no sense to change from COPS-928-POE to CP-928-POE, as Les proposed in his email. Frank was livid and wrote a furious email asking why he changed it before discussing with him and how it affects multiple systems. Les offered to meet for breakfast the next day to discuss. Here’s the email prior to deciding to meet after Frank’s furious email.

I don’t recall us discussing the part number, you may have told me or mentioned it. You made a random number that’s where it came from not me, and your e-mailed label earlier was when I saw it and went Oh No. I didn’t like what you had, your number was searchable if I remember. I should have picked up the phone as we decided earlier to discuss.

Les had mentioned in past conversations that they hadn’t discussed the part number but Frank didn’t think a discussion was necessary, unless he objected to it, which he didn’t at the times he said we hadn’t discussed the part number. In hindsight, Frank should have realized that Les was saying he objected to the part number, but that was never spoken. Also, Les admits he should have picked up the phone, of course, because Frank had no idea he wanted to change the part number. Then Frank sent him the following examples, one from Gigafast, the other from the store website Frank was in the process of building for COP-Systems.

Gigafast COP-System lable

COP-Systems Store Product

During Frank and Les’s breakfast meeting 12 September, it took Frank a while to calm down from all his pent up anger about the changed part number. Frank asked why and Les replied, “because of the search engine.” Frank was dumbfounded and asked “what the hell does that mean?” Les couldn’t provide any valid reason for the change, and Frank finally said, “You use your company name anywhere you can.” Frank had already used it for all the different brands so users can differentiate the products, like vivo-[existing product number] for Vivotek products, and HP- for Hewlett Packard products.

Because of his insolence and arrogant decisions regarding the part number change, Frank told him he would quit because he can’t have things changing behind his back. There were too many things to do going forward, he didn’t have time to go back to change things, especially things that don’t need to change.

Les finally calmed Frank down to finish discussions about the website and products. Les agreed to call in the future to discuss things with Frank before sending email or making changes. Frank reminded Les that he needs to test market the four Gigafast units on eBay and put together packages and/or kits. Les agreed to make progress on these action items.

Frank continued to research the BigCommerce.com and Ordoro.com to determine what it will take to automate the order and delivery processes. Frank was also working on an interactive infographic as an automated order entry site to capture information from customers who want to do it themselves to install a surveillance camera, from several makes and models, for inside and outside installations.

This was a major potential content marketing tool that would guide the customer through the steps to measure, determine lighting amounts throughout the day, order any new network equipment, and finally place an order using their input. This order would go to Ordoro to complete the packaging, and if the customer needed it to be setup and configured for their network, the ordered products would be sent to COP-Systems to configure the equipment and/or software, customized for the customer.

For the next meeting, the following Wednesday, Les picked up Frank and went into a tirade about Frank thinking COP-Systems was a global corporation with endless funds.

After Les finished, Frank calmly replied, “I have been working on automating the order process so that if we do start selling large quantities, we have a path to solve that problem. I don’t want to be in a position where we can’t deliver products because we’re overloaded with orders and lose business because we can’t deliver. As for corporate thinking, I am working on this as a small business which is why we decided to use BigCommerce for the order entry at a low monthly subscription price without contracts, and Ordoro to deliver the products, some drop-shipped from manufacturers. It may take a while to get Ordoro up and running but we can fulfill the initial orders manually until it’s fully operational.”

Frank also told Les that he had made an appointment with Ordoro in October because they are so busy with other customers (Frank’s assumption). This was not a good start for a company that needs to support their new users, like COP-Systems. Then Les showed Frank his penciled list of packages; however, Frank noticed all the manufacturers were BrickCom, something the two hadn’t discussed. Les was supposed to create packages with the existing COP-Systems products. Frank said nothing about this.

Frank eventually worked on the final version of the installation manual that he edited from the draft Gigafast sent for COP-Systems to edit and distribute. This manual would be included on the CD inside the COPS-928-POE box. Frank had fought for months to exclude the CD and felt the manual should be downloaded from the COP-Systems website, for many reasons.

Les believed the CD was something customers expected but Frank said that the CD is called gold plating. Les didn’t understand that concept so Frank explained it as something that’s included with a product that it doesn’t need, like the CD. Frank also reminded Les that in the past, he had told Frank that he should not use the CD provided with a product but to go directly to the vendor’s website to download the latest version. That advice never persuaded Les.

With the final version of the manual, Frank decided they should get Rob’s opinion about any copyright issues and/or other comments. On 15 September, Frank sent an email to Rob with the draft manual and some final questions about this release, knowing time was running out. Because Rob is a very busy person and had just lost three days due to some kind of a stomach virus after a trip to Paris, France, Frank knew that it would be a stretch for Rob with such a short deadline.

Rob is also a very generous person with his time but this time, he was not able to commit time, anytime soon. The deadline was 19 September but Frank assumed it was delayed until Sunday after Les said Gigafast would not be able to do anything with it at the end of the day on a Friday afternoon but only after returning to work that next Monday when it will be there for them to proceed. Turned out that Les was only saying that hypothetically and he had not changed the deadline to the following Monday.

Of course, if the manual were online along with any other download materials, the deadline would not be as close; it was only because they needed the manual to burn the CDs that were to go into the final product packages. Which brings up the final issue that Les refused to deviate from and that’s a software utility.

For months, Les had been trying to get Gigafast to send the software to test and understand its operability with other HomePlug devices, from other vendors. Frank again said this should be on the website to download, mainly because of the utility software delay from Gigafast and the deadline.

Then Rob replied with an email, on 18 September, containing answers to the list of questions from Frank; the answer that stood out from all the questions was the following:

I don’t see the 928-POE listed in the HomePlug Certified products list. Perhaps Gigafast has done the testing and just hasn’t posted it to the system – you’ll need to check with them. Also, that’s the old certification logo, the official one is shown here: http://www.homeplug.org/products/cert_mark/

This created questions back to Gigafast with the following answer regarding certification, received at 2:29AM, 19 September:

For PE928-POE, this product haven’t apply for HomePlug certification yet. So you may not use HomePlug [certification] logo on this device.

Then later that day, Frank and Les discussed the certification issue above on the phone and decided Frank would draft an email asking more details about this product release. Below is the initial draft version Frank sent to Les:

Greetings all,

It appears we have a bit of a misunderstanding. When we started this transaction, Frank sent the data sheet detailing the product we are purchasing. Now, based on the email below [Randy’s from this morning], it appears the device is not HomePlug certified. We need the product to sell as a certified HomePlug device as it was represented in your data sheet.

The other issue is the PPU software. Since we cannot provide a user manual for our customer’s, it appears that we won’t be including that with this product. Besides, we never received the software to even confirm that it will work for our customers.

At this point, we need to postpone any production plans for our order until these issues are addressed and we know exactly what we’re getting. We do not want to find out any other surprises until we’ve taken time for due diligence regarding the PE928-POE.

Please take a moment to document exactly what we’re NOT going to get that is defined on the attached data sheet. HomePlug is mentioned eight times.

Les called to discuss Frank’s use of certain words that might be interpreted wrong by non-native, English-speaking people, like “surprises.” Frank told Les to work on his own version and then call to discuss. Instead Les sent the following email to Frank:

I’m having an issue with the second sentence that say’s Frank sent the data sheet. That means you sent them back their PE-928POE data sheet attached to one of your correspondence. Were specifications the content of that e-mail? Let me know or send copy so I understand context. I doubt they would remember getting it back maybe we should say ‘they provided us the PE-928POE data sheet and that’s what we bought.’

Later that same day at 2:35PM, Rob called Frank and spent about 26 minutes discussing this product release. He told Frank that they needed to play like the big-boys by putting everything online and use a QR code to guide the users easily to the download site. For the HomePlug certification logo, it cannot be used on any literature, but the “HomePlug AV” can be used because it is compatible, just not certified. He added that with other similar “alliances,” like USB and WiFi, they’re not all certified because of time-to-market and batched certifications. Rob also spent time discussing the manual and suggested it be stripped down excluding all the extraneous information about security and alternate configurations.

Frank immediately called Les at 3:04PM to inform him what Rob said, including all topics in the paragraph immediately above. Frank suggested they take the weekend to think about these issues and not send anything for the next communication to Gigafast until they had discussed all final release changes. Frank also offered to take a shot at Rob’s suggestions about the manual online and QR codes. Les did not say anything different, so Frank assumed he agreed to this plan.

Frank spent the whole day Saturday creating a new installation manual and based it on an example installation manual he had from NetGear. This significantly reduced the number and sizes of the pages and got directly to the point about installation. After creating a landing page and uploading the manual, Frank sent the email below to Les, Saturday afternoon at 3:45PM. NOTE: The links below have been changed to this WordPress.com site to illustrate from this document what was actually on the COP-Systems website, that Frank created. The QR codes included below are the actual links to the original site; click on them below to go to the duplicate destinations. You may alternatively try these codes to go where Frank had originally created them; however, that may have changed over time and these QR code decoded links might not work, today.

Below is the QR code to the temporary website where I created a landing page with a link to the new pdf Installation Manual. I think this is what Rob was talking about, dump the non-important info.

QR-Code-DS-pdf

Below is the QR code that goes directly to the pdf. Keep in mind, we still need to migrate this over to cop-systems.com before the final version.

QR-Code-DS

Sunday morning, 21 September, Frank woke up to a copy of an email from Les to Gigafast sent at 11:33PM the night before. Below is the email Les sent to Gigafast:

Greetings,

It appears we have a bit of a misunderstanding. When we started this transaction, my associate Frank Gould copied back the Gigafast PE-928-POE data sheet which detailed the PE928-POE product we are purchasing, and which we made our decision to OEM our own product. Now, based on Randys email from September 19, 2014 stating “PE928-POE, this product haven’t apply for HomePlug certification yet. So you may not use HomePlug logo on this device.” We need the product to sell as a HomePlug AV Powerline certified device as it was represented in your data sheet.

Since we have not heard a factory schedule at this point, we need to postpone any production plans for our order until these issues are addressed and we know exactly what we are getting. We want to find out if we can get our model certified and if so how long will it take. Also are there any other specifications on the PE928-POE data sheet that are incorrect.

The other issue is the PPU software. Since you cannot provide a user manual for our customer’s, it appears that we won’t be including this software with this product. When we were first asked about getting the PPU software we were told that most customers do not include that software, so maybe acquiring licensing is an issue. I have purchased numerous Powerline devices and every one came with the PPU Privacy software. We never received a copy of the PPU software to even confirm that it will work for our customers.

We need to know about certification of the device and how we can proceed from here.

My best,

Les

Les Stone
COP-Systems
http://www.Cameras-On-Patrol.com
Theft and Vandalism Deterrent Systems

Because Frank believed Les agreed to wait to discuss this next correspondence (above) to Gigafast (since it was pretty serious and significant), besides the fact Frank had sent him a draft copy of the manual with QR codes, Frank was floored and totally angry at what Les wrote to Gigafast. First, Gigafast was doing COP-Systems a favor to supply their product, to a very small business, and through Frank’s close friend. Second, Frank told Les that HomePlug certification wasn’t necessary and the president of HomePlug advised how to handle this, compatibility was still approved and had been tested at Frank’s residence over months for the COP-Systems application. Lastly, Les opposed the use of a web download method that Rob and Frank both recommended and would buy time for the final deliverables.

After all these Les-created and self-imposed barriers to entry, Frank decided that he could no longer trust Les in business. These experiences proved that Les was not aware of his behavior and failed to deliver items he had committed to provide to the team. Frank sent his resignation email, 21 September at 5:41AM, as follows:

From the beginning I said I wasn’t interested in working on getting this product as the only thing we distribute in this country. You then convinced me that it was the corner stone to differentiate our offering from others, which made sense.

Then we found a discrepancy in their data sheet that I brought up with the President of the HomePlug alliance and was told it doesn’t have to be certified to sell as a HomePlug compatible device. No one said we needed to be certified with a HomePlug logo, although it was deceptive in their literature.

Now you have demanded from someone who has offered you an opportunity of a lifetime to demand it be certified, something that makes no difference, costs more money, and time. You were supposed to think about this and consult with me before taking any action. But, in your infinite wisdom, you wrote this email [to Gigafast demanding certification].

Thus, You’re On Your Own now. I am tired of your late night email and stupid single and simple-minded decisions. This is why companies choose to not provide products because the recipient company has no empathy for those competing in a global market, especially as a bottom feeder offering.

For my full evaluation of this project, you have not provided anything that we’ve agreed you’d provide: package kits, camera model offerings, and test market results. Instead, you buy a camera while drunk, try to make me buy it, then send an email without my consent even though it is to a supplier that is intimate with my friend and could damage his relationship.

I had already given up depending on what you say because you constantly write that we’ll meet up tomorrow then nothing happens, no call, no nothing. However, I trusted you as a friend to not do something Jay Rogers would do, but you did. You lied to me. How can anyone depend on someone who does that? What kind of business relationship does that portend? Which is why I shouldn’t be surprised you’d send something behind my back after we agreed to discuss this before taking any action. I guess that’s my stupidity for trusting yet another “friend” to do what he agreed to do.

So, I can only hope that you make it on your own and that you might find the time to write me a check for the items I’ve provided: Hi8 camera [eBay asset dump] and 4 [Gigafast] PE928-POE adapters. No charge for the months of research to build a prototype store website, marketing content, Windows laptop product evaluations, and such. Just another educational expense for me at the price of a friend.

Best of luck.

Frank then sent an email to Rob to give him heads up about his severed business relationship with Les and for any damage control he might need to help with this issue. Rob replied requesting copies of the email Les sent. Frank forwarded that to Rob and included the following email from Gigafast:

Sorry for the miss communication. This product haven’t got the certification yet, we will apply it together with our other models. I just know that the price for getting the certification is the same as you apply for one or for several models. So we will apply for the certification all at once. As you know the certification guarantees their conformity and high level of interoperability with other products on the market. And we are sure PE-928POE is compatible with other devices.

Without the certification, you can still put HomePlug logo on the user manual, because we are the member of HomePlug Alliance. I have confirmed about this issue.

Randy will email you the software for you to confirm shortly.

Les then sent the following email to Frank on 24 September:

Hello,
Hope you’re havening a good week, I have a check for you. Let me know if you want me to just mail it or will you give me a few minutes to review BigComm to see if I can possibly comprehend it. I was on it yesterday for a while and the foundation you have built is a great start. Since I have the framework it will be a lot easier to just monkey see monkey do to remaining products. I have quite a list going I was almost finished with for phase 1 when we stopped.

The main thing I can’t figure out is where do you create a relationship with the vendors to have inventory of the other products on COPS site.

If you want to put me in the I’m done with you, like Jay category just let me know and I’ll mail the check.

Thanks for all you have done for me in the past. Say hello/goodbye to Troy

L

$117 was the take on the Hi8 minus the 10% And $117 for the PE-928POE You paid $35 for wire transfer. So I have a check for $240 if that’s Okay?

Just remembered You have some Brickcoms?

If you are talking to me do you want to test the PPU?

Frank replied with the following email, 25 September:

I had to look up “stupid is as stupid does” and there’s not a lot of information regarding that phrase. In essence, though, it says that intelligent people who do stupid things are actually stupid and not so intelligent. However, I believe it has more to do with emotions than being stupid, just selfishness and arrogance. This has been one of those epiphany years where people with Masters degrees, honorary PhDs, and magna cum laude still make stupid mistakes and decisions.

However, when one of these friends gets into a position that jeopardizes a close friend’s business partner’s relationship because of a stupid decision, I have to honor the friends who are doing me a favor, as I was trying to do for you. I apologized for your decision and insolence but it is the last time. Your behavior has been nothing but grievance and damage control for me. You behave like you want to fail, opposing what we agree to do and my recommendations. What kind of business relationship do you think that is?

I have spent hours trying to work with you and keep you from going ballistic, repressing me, and fighting some demon inside you when it comes to working on this project. I, on the other hand, have tried to show appreciation and respect with positive reinforcement for your accomplishments. The only positive reinforcement I’ve seen or heard from you is the “great start” on my BigCommerce “foundation,” below [in this document, it is in the email above].

Then you don’t even remember my educating you on what I’ve been trying to build. The reason you can’t figure out the product relationship is because it’s not in BigCommerce. Can you remember where it is? Did you listen to anything I’ve said? Apparently not. The answer is in an email I sent you.

Yes, I have both of your Brickcom cameras sitting by the front door. At this point, I am still raging with anger inside for what you did. I don’t see any apology but that’s probably because you have no idea what you did wrong because you don’t listen to me or can’t remember

If you read this far, I would like to give my life some time away from this stupidity so I can resume my posture and emotions. Kindly mail me a check and let me know when you’ll be away so I can drop off the cameras and the keys to your house (and also after I get my car back from Magic Mechanic), while you’re gone.

As for the PPU, I tried to unzip that file from Randy on Windows and mac but it failed. I would like an operating version of it, if you were successful unzipping and running it. The only reason for this is for me to see how this product fully works, after all the time I’ve wasted on it. If you can, put a copy on your camerasonpatrol.com server and I’ll download it from there.

Of course, there was never an apology, remorse, or conciliatory response. He did send an email with the unzipped PPU software link; however, he provided it in DropBox, again not on his camerasonpatrol.com website, showing how he was not following my instructions and not setting it up for a download, for potential customers. Then, on 27 September at 10:25PM, yet another late night email, Les sent the following:

Frank,
I am still staggered that you blew up at me for the e-mail that I sent to Gigafast that you had originally authored. I did not originate that the device needed to sell as certified. You found out from Rob it wasn’t. After I had received your e-mail about Rob saying it wasn’t certified, I called for us to discuss as you asked. You were upset at Gigafast, even used the term fraud.

We talked for 11 minutes then 3 more [minutes,] 10 minutes later. I said I would clean it up, and you said OK I don’t care what you do. I knew better but took you at your word, how could I change what you said to much? You did not say pass it on as the e-mail for you to send to Rob when we talked on the phone. Just send it to Gigafast

The next day you go off your rocker.
Please read below and tell me how my reply is more offensive than what you wrote?? Plus they gave a quick easy answer, no harm no foul other than your foul temper.

Robs relationship was never jeopardized. AND IT WAS YOUR COMMENTS I SENT. I DIDN’T WRITE THAT, YOU DID!!!!!!!!!!.

—–Original Message—–
From: Frank A Gould
Sent: Friday, September 19, 2014 2:14 PM
To: Les Stone
Subject: PE928-POE

I am thinking we send this email to all the parties we’ve worked with so far, including Jay and Rob. I’ll try to contact Rob before we send it so he has a heads up and maybe send him an advanced copy to make sure we’re not missing something else or offend his business partner. Give me a call to discuss.

FRANK YOU WROTE THIS! A

Greetings all,

It appears we have a bit of a misunderstanding. When we started this transaction, Frank sent the data sheet detailing the product we are purchasing. Now, based on the email below [Randy’s from this morning], it appears the device is not HomePlug certified. We need the product to sell as a certified HomePlug device.

The other issue is the PPU software. Since we cannot edit the user manual to meet our customer’s need, it appears that we won’t be including that with this product. Besides, we still have not received the software to even confirm that it will work for our customers.

At this point, we need to postpone any production plans for our order until these issues are addressed and we know exactly what we’re getting. We do not want to find out any other surprises until we’ve taken time for due diligence regarding the PE928-POE.

Please take a moment to document exactly what we’re NOT going to get that is defined on the attached data sheet. HomePlug is mentioned eight times.

I WROTE THIS. All I did was clarify the items and who said what where B

Greetings,

It appears we have a bit of a misunderstanding. When we started this transaction, my associate Frank Gould copied back the Gigafast PE-928-POE data sheet which detailed the PE928-POE product we are purchasing, and which we made our decision to OEM our own product. Now, based on Randys email from September 19, 2014 stating PE928-POE, this product haven’t apply for HomePlug certification yet. So you may not use HomePlug logo on this device. We need the product to sell as a HomePlug AV Powerline certified device as it was represented in your data sheet.

Since we have not heard a factory schedule at this point, we need to postpone any production plans for our order until these issues are addressed and we know exactly what we are getting. We want to find out if we can get our model certified and if so how long will it take. Also are there any other specifications on the PE928-POE data sheet that are incorrect.

The other issue is the PPU software. Since you cannot provide a user manual for our our customer’s, it appears that we won’t be including this software with this product. When we were first asked about getting the PPU software we were told that most customers do not include that software, so maybe acquiring licensing is an issue. I have purchased numerous Powerline devices and every one came with the PPU Privacy software. We never received a copy of the PPU software to even confirm that it will work for our customers.

We need to know about certification of the device and how we can proceed from here.

1. Frank called Les (at 3:04PM on 19 September) for the 11-minute phone call mentioned in the email above to explain what Rob had suggested (in their 26 minute call starting at 2:35PM) about certification, user manual, utility software, and to take time to think about a response and to discuss before sending anything. On this 3:04PM call, they did not discuss the previous email draft (that Frank mentioned as fraud), as Les asserted, other than to wait to discuss before sending any response. From his action of sending the original draft-edited email content without discussion, it appeared that Les either didn’t listen to Frank or decided on his own that he must demand Gigafast certify the device. This is the behavior that Frank didn’t understand but in hindsight, it could be passive aggressive behavior (i.e. Les didn’t understand the instructions/agreements) or inferiority/superiority complex (i.e. Les wasn’t going to follow advice from industry experts: Frank and Rob). Instead of working as a team, Les sent the wrong email at the wrong time without any consultation, just as he had done with the part number. From the email below sent 21 September (same day Frank resigned), it appears he realized his mistake and attempted to reverse directions, yet again (there were no discussions about this email below, after Frank sent his resignation email, above, Frank was not communicating):

Hello,
After further discussion I wanted to let you know that we would accept the product without official HomePlug certification. We are comfortable with the performance of our samples and we know they are compatible devices.

I now understand there may be extra cost on your part to have a product certified. My concern was that the PE-928POE was presented to us as a Homeplug certified device on your data sheet, so we were expecting it.

Please let us know what the status is for our device, and we look forward to proceeding as soon as we get answers to this issue regardless of official certification.

We trust and respect you and your company and look forward to our continued association.

My best,

Les

Les Stone
COP-Systems
http://www.Cameras-On-Patrol.com
Theft and Vandalism Deterrent Systems

2. Frank believed his second call to Les was to assure he does not send anything until they had a plan for the product release (however, he could be wrong on this, it could have been a plethora of other issues and topics or something he forgot to tell Les that Rob had suggested). During this call or the previous call, Les said that QR codes would be dead in 10 years. Frank responded that that didn’t make any difference for this project and the AR Drone 2.0 box has four QR codes for different features for their product and it appears to be a contemporary industry standard.

3. At 3:45PM on 20 September, Frank sent Les a draft manual and QR codes to use instead of a CD, as Rob suggested. Les never acknowledged Rob’s recommendations mentioned in item #1 above, nor that he received the draft manual email. Frank used the most reliable email address for Les, because he has so many email addresses that fail and the one Frank used had been the most repeatedly proven successful.

4. Les had agreed to call before changing or sending any changes, in general, but he failed to do so with his final email bomb demanding certification.

5. On 29 September in the morning, Frank received the following email with no additional details:

Dear value customers,

It is my pleasure to service you during my time at Gigafast. I am sorry to announce that today is my last day at Gigafast. In the future if you need any service or information, please feel free to contact the director of sales team.

Sincerely,
[Gigafast sales rep]

Frank replied to Les’s 27 September email above with a link to this article to explain Frank’s position on all these transactions and behaviors. However, the purpose of this article is to document this business relationship failure.

Epilogue

Around 3 December 2014, Les texted the following to Frank:

I’ve been really pissed at you since yesterday.  Get the feeling that Robs job was your preferred gig and wanted any excuse conscious or not to blow me off. In a dream I see me hand you $6k and you just burn it in front of me. Same difference I guess.

The sad part about this message is that I had told Les in a meeting subsequent to my resignation email that he has no obligation to purchase the products for $6k. I recommended he cancel the order. His response was that it was his moral duty to complete the transaction.

His accusation about Rob’s job was misinformation he dreamed up because I had no idea about Rob’s project until I met with him the first week in October 2014.

Oligarchs or How I Learned Why People are Prejudice of the Rich – Part 2

So the last time I left this issue with Linda, we eventually resolved between us resulting in our continued friendship. It later raised its nasty head after a long-term pushback from me. This time I think it failed the relationship and has terminated.

 Regardless, I’m over it too. I can only repeat the business agreements so many times before she forgets something and breaks the deal. Once again, it was her micro-managing and penny pinching, this time for an illegal request.

 The back story to the email thread below is that Linda continued to ask me to transfer her VHS tapes to DVDs. I told her no for two months (because I had fired her and was not working for her again) and to go to another common friend who is equally adept at this transfer process. But she kept nagging me until I realized it was something good for people and mental health counselor professionals to have for reference and improve their lives. Stupid me.

 So, one day, Linda picks me up and we go to Best Buy to purchase the VHS2DVD product then drove to her office to load me up with about 24 tapes, along with some audiotapes to transfer to CDs. I spent the next couple of days going through and inventorying the tapes while reviewing the quality of each VHS playback.

 Some had unrecoverable noise and others had a persistent band across the bottom or top of the display. These kinds of quality issues I offered to fix for all of them, so she had a clean copy for the future. Again, this is a quality issue for me and believed it was something she wanted and valued. 

Well, that didn’t work. Instead, as I describe below, she reverted back to the thrift store mentality and trying to negotiate with someone who didn’t want to do in her job in the first place.

 This post is also a bit different in that I’m reporting this time through the email exchanges we had in the final days. In the email paragraphs below, I have reversed their order so you read them from the first to the last going down the page.

On 15 Jul 2014, at 8:35 PM, Linda wrote:

Frank,

IDK where my mind was when I said to put the audio tapes onto cd but please put onto stick not onto cd. The vhs I would like on dvd but the audio should be on thumb drive.

thanks,
Linda


On Jul 21, 2014, at 6:50 AM, Frank wrote:

Linda,

I’ve been dreading writing this response because you trapped me.  I told you from the beginning that I fired you and never want to work for you again, other than as a friend without payment.  Then, I find myself back in the same frustrating position of working with you and negotiating a price.

Because you’ve nickel and dimed me about the different prices on this project, you’ve shown again how you take any profit incentive from the tasks you need completed.  We simply start off by dumping a bunch of VHS and audio tapes into a bag and say go digitize them.  Then when I point out the VHS quality issues and how to fix them, you separate them and make the process more work, just to save you money, but you’re rich.  The problem is I DON’T WANT TO WORK FOR YOU, for just this reason.

I also don’t want to profit off you.  I’ve said that from the beginning.  But when I quote you something and then you slice-and-dice it to save you money, it makes more work for me at a lower price.  Then I’m trapped in your low-cost task that I didn’t want to do from the beginning.

At this point, the only thing that will motivate me to work on this mess is a fixed dollar amount.  I’ll offer $500 to do all this and do not report it as an expense, for your protection as well.

I’m still swamped with multiple projects, which is another reason it took so long for me to reply.  I think we need to sit down and discuss this transaction.  Give me a call when you can schedule a meeting with me later this week, starting Wednesday.

Again, I apologize for taking so long to reply.  It’s been an old-technology nagging job, like fixing a leaking roof for cheap, that kept me from replying sooner.

All the best,
Frank

PS:  As you mentioned, “your mind” also makes these transactions difficult and stressful.  Remember, I was the one who typed in all the titles and authors so we could organize and remember what you have.


On 21 Jul 2014, at 6:25 PM, Linda wrote:

Frank,

First I apologize for my part in this misunderstanding.

I did not “trap” you, and I resent you saying that I did.

Next I have not “nickled and dimed” you and I resent your saying that I did.

YOU are the one who said $15 each, then you said later it would take more, then it would take this, and that much more. All I did was respond to you with what I would want AFTER you kept saying it would cost more money than when I had said to go ahead and do it.

I don’t want to profit off of you, either. I asked you where I could get this done and how and told you how I had tried. YOU volunteered to do it.

If you want to talk to me about this, then you will have to apologize for your part in this and for blaming me as if you are totally innocent in this and own up to your part in this misunderstanding. Otherwise I am not willing to talk with you about it as you have insulted me enough in your email. You act like some innocent victim of horrible me taking advantage of you instead of your having OFFERED to do this and told me $15 per tape then kept increasing the price so that I made a new decision when there was a new price.

This part is particularly unfair, unpleasant and unreasonable of you:

Then when I point out the VHS quality issues and how to fix them, you separate them and make the process more work, just to save you money, but you’re rich.  The problem is I DON’T WANT TO WORK FOR YOU, for just this reason.

LIke I should just say yes yes yes and pay more when you keep increasing how much it will cost, and I don’t have the right to say “oh, if it costs more then maybe I won’t do all of them.”

Please let me know when I can pick up the tapes and the VHS/DVD copier (and its box if you still have it) and how much I owe you for anything you might have done to date. I don’t want to use you for anything that you have done for me so of course I will pay whatever you say I owe you for being so insulted by you.

Linda


From: Frank
Subject: Re: Dreading Response
Date: 22 July 2014 at 6:39:32 AM EDT
To: Linda

Linda,

I accept your apology and I understand your memory is fading and not remembering things you don’t write down (which is why I fired you in the first place when you forgot that I said don’t manage my work but you insisted I was doing at&t’s work when I was trying to solve YOUR problem).  That’s why I wanted to let you know how this ended up.  If you will recall you kept saying “make it cheaper.”  That was the nickel and dime thing.  Where you came up with I volunteered, I have no idea.  I fired you and had no interest in working for you.  You don’t seem to remember any of that.

This is an illegal thing you want me to do but I wanted to help you be successful with a backup copy of your work materials, since they’ll be falling apart soon and you’re late to save them.

What you do is good for other people and I admire and want to help you help others.  That was not volunteering, that was solving your frustration in not finding a vendor who could do what you “illegally” wanted.  I never ever thought you were the one trapping me but the situation did.  You just kept getting cheaper and cheaper until it was more work than it was worth for me.  Remember, you have hours of video you wanted digitized and who knows what kind of problems might happen along the way.

As for me apologizing, that’s not going to happen.  When I say I don’t want to work for you, that should be the end of any conversation.  But instead, you kept picking away at me until I finally agreed to help.

I don’t know why you think I’m criticizing or blaming you for things.  I don’t judge people but I do point out their behaviors.  You have to be responsible for your actions and I’ve tried to be Frank and honest (and patient) with you.  That’s why I was dreading sending you the email because I have no idea how you’re going to over-react, like when I’ve asked how your remodel job was going and you went ballistic.  Would you be insulted if I behaved the way you do?  I point out your behavior and you’re insulted.  Wake up.  You’re human and have faults.  What happened to your friends who tried to help you remodel your house? Don’t you see a pattern here?

As for you resenting me saying you nickeled and dimed me, how can you not see that?  Did it really matter that I said a straight transfer was $15 and any edits would make it $30?  All you remembered was $15 and how to make all of them cost that.  Did using the flash drive being “easier and cheaper” not ring a bell?  Maybe this is our difference in the value of a project.  To me, they were very valuable tools you use for your business and helpful for others.  Why wouldn’t that be enough value for you to say, just go do it and send me the bill.

I was not trying to increase the cost.  I was trying to provide you with a quality product without the distraction of VHS NOISE.  You don’t want to learn how the real world calls things, like noise, and how things work.  This email is noise because it is distracting, messy, and a waste of my time.  Cleaning up the noise so your audience can focus on the topic and not the noise is a quality issue.  For that, it costs more time and effort.  You’ve always said you want to pay for quality but when it came to these tapes, that appeared to vanish.  It’s hard to satisfy people when their values change.

Your assets will be waiting for you by our front door.  I’ll be driving to Sarasota this morning if you want to pick them up from Troy.  If you want to compensate me for this waste of my time, leave a check for $200,000.  😉  (I won’t deposit/cash it, it’ll be worth more framed, fucking money).

All the best,
Frank

Later that day, Linda dropped by to pickup her assets, after I returned home from Sarasota. When Troy and I put the bags in the backseat of her car, I told her the receipt was in the bag for the VHS2DVD product and as we parted glances, she rolled her eyes. I chucked.

 

Family Spring Vacation 2014 @ Ponce Inlet

We packed up late the morning of Thursday, 8 May 2014, to take our three dogs to the beach for a day in the sun. We arrived around 10:30 to an empty beach with only a fisherman and his partner. He caught a whiting, released it, and left. The beach was empty for a few minutes then it filled to be sparsely populated.

Layla, Freddie, and Ziggy Arrival Shot

Some visitors just walked the beach while others lasted an hour or so. We stayed there until about 2PM, under the shade of our 10 foot tent.

Empty Ponce Inlet Dog Park

It was a gorgeous day with a nice consistent breeze that reduced the heat index lower than the 90°F actual temp.

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

The Ponce Inlet lighthouse was a minute phallic symbol lurching in the background. Amazing technology for those days. I used my iPhone to take these pictures and a laptop to color correct the images.

End of day photo

Troy top, Layla left top, Freddie right, and Ziggy bottom. Layla and Freddie are ½ brother and sister Rottweilers and Ziggy is a Boston Terrorist (Terrier).

This is our end-of-day photo just before we departed to visit Cracker Creek. When we got home, the dogs were nothing but bags of bones.

Connecting the Dots 2013

As my acquaintances, friends, and family know me, I have a diverse range of skills and talent for creating all kinds of products. From carpentry, to software development, to web design, to project management, to video production, I can produce products that people appreciate and use. Well, a few months ago, I realized that I was missing an important piece that connects all these diverse product sets. Of course, the web is the most important marketing venue these days and the piece I was missing was branding and content marketing.

Well, this Fall, my dear friend Jill Musson Williams asked if I could help her increase her video and written content for her company Cracker Creek. I had no specific ideas what she wanted but had helped in the past and wanted to continue doing so. Besides, she said she wanted to pay for my services.

As it turned out, Jill had discussed increasing sales at Cracker Creek with others in her community and they suggested she increase the online content to market their products, both written and visual. I had an idea what that entailed but I didn’t have any scope for how far to go and exactly what to do.

Along popped up this article from Social Media Today talking about the new Google Hummingbird algorithm that is supposed to comprehend and process a broader range of data and how it “de-emphasizes specific keywords in the search/search results schema in favor of semantic searching.” Then in that same article, it mentions how to use the web to increase marketing channels and connect with web users and buyers. It went as far as to say “content marketing so helpful people would pay you for it.” A book called Youtility appeared on my screen and after downloading a Kindle ebook copy, I read it to learn how to connect all my skills and talents to market a product, online. Cracker Creek was the perfect opportunity for me to build a case study for marketing my skills.

Some of the concepts I learned included charts as displayed below that are from both Youtility and Epic Content Marketing.

Sources of Information ECM Hub of content ownership ECM Content Atomization

From those two books, I was able to create a Marketing Plan and Business Plan for Cracker Creek using an automated prezi presentation. But they needed results and to do that I needed a way to measure traffic with a focus on inbound traffic into Daytona, a much higher recognized brand over Port Orange, where they are located. The Daytona-brand location would increase their exposure and competition, however, target those interested in Old Florida, tropical ecosystems, kayaking and canoeing, and tours. Besides the location, Cracker Creek had created several names such as Cracker Creek Canoeing, crackercreek@oldfloridapioneer.com, and just Cracker Creek.

So, I had my work cut out for me. I needed to expand the Cracker Creek presence on the web and focus the products for search engine optimization. As I had researched the different web services targeting audiences and product marketing sites to learn user popularity, I started putting Cracker Creek on the maps of watercraft launch sites, campgrounds, road trippers, and boat rental sites. I also added links on the Cracker Creek website to different vendor’s mobile apps that were applicable to the Cracker Creek products, such as knot typing apps for campers.

Having tested Google webtools with another friend’s website, I setup Cracker Creek to recognize the Cracker Creek sitemap. Then I installed Google Analytics to start collecting accurate statistics and reporting results. However, since there were no statistics before my changes to the website, we could not see historic results prior to my website updates. Below is the graph directly from the Google Analytics view of the Cracker Creek website.

GoogleAnalyticsDec13

Now being new to the Google world of the internet, I learned that their software still has bugs and on many occasions, I had to wait a few days before Google cleaned up it’s data. For instance, below are two message windows about logging into Google Analytics within seconds of each other.

Attempt to get password sent to email addressAttempt to get password sent to email address  Attempt to create new email addressAttempt to create new email address

This kind of dysfunctional behavior also happened with a file called robot.txt where the “test” resulted in being blocked from analyzing a public website. Another when sitemap couldn’t find the server which became frequent as I setup different aspects of Google web tools. The example below is when trying to setup the Cracker Creek using tags associated with the image and text on the page as part of the semantic algorithm.

TaggingErrorThese kinds of anomalies continued to hit me across the web. Be it a rental site that on a mobile device displaying all prices at hundreds of dollars too high, even to purchase a vessel like displayed in the ad, or fixing driving directions on Google maps where it takes visitors to a residential neighborhood instead of Cracker Creek.

Besides that, I had to have multiple identities to work on Cracker Creek accounts as well as my own personal sites. This created a delay in the creation of a Cracker Creek business account and website on LinkedIn where my first attempts failed to deliver the activation email. Finally solved this one by changing the LinkedIn email address to mine so I could activate and create the Cracker Creek business page.

I have since worked through most of the outstanding issues and we are now linked to the major social media sites with icons prominent on the home and contact pages, as illustrated below. In the lower picture, you can see the floating left social media bar courtesy of a Joomla! plug-in that illuminates the social media icon when the mouse hovers over them. The Zap Weather forecast window shows a week’s predicted. The weather forecast window and the Tide Forecast window, not shown below, are tools to help people decide to go fishing, kayaking, or just a day out canoeing down the creek. That was my attempt to provide “marketing so helpful people would pay for it” by visiting Cracker Creek.

SocialMediaIcons

CrackerCreekLowerHomePage

To measure the website’s improvements, I took a snapshot of the hubspot.com Market Grader application’s analyzer in October and today I took another. You can see in the snapshots below that the website’s marketing score has increased almost double from what it was when I started.

October 2013

October 2013

December 2013

December 2013

And finally, for the sake of content marketing, I just finished adding the voiceover for an online marketing campaign focusing the values of Cracker Creek for elementary students. This video required me to attend two events with local third grade classes and another event to record the different options available for teachers, organizations, and parents. To view a preliminary version, click on the image below.

In closing, this project has connected all the dots in my skills and talents pool. I created a chart to show the different roles and product learning curves I’ve accomplished for this project since September 2013, illustrated below. The difference today versus 5 years ago is now all of these tools are in high definition.

Connecting-the-dots-diagram

As for results, I’ve been credited with increased inbound marketing from Google searches that have brought in customers and created a reservation for 40 visitors in January, from Illinois. Thus, our target market. After two months, Google Analytics shows the site is still getting 80% and more new unique visitors, and we’ve yet to start online transactions that will take some time to integrate into their business operations and management.

Update 24 January 2014:  Over the last month, I’ve worked on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Designated Paddling Map for Spruce Creek. In it was old and misinformation about the area and no mention of Cracker Creek being an access point. Today, they published the new map and copy which now includes links to Cracker Creek and more information about Gamble Place and the Russell Property that share residence on the creek. Click on the image below to see the Volusia County website and scroll down to Spruce Creek to see the full document.

SpruceCreek_guide

Cracker Creek and the Age of Digital Maps

I’ve had an iPhone for several years and during this time I worked as a volunteer for a local 501c3 charity organization called ECO-Action that met weekly at different locations across central Florida. One of my responsibilities was to be the captain and drive a trailer with 11 canoes to the different launch sites.

There were times when I would have been late had I not had a GPS map on my phone. In addition, after I started working on the eco-action.net website, I created pages containing instructions on how to find the different launch sites and best directions for getting there. For this, I used Google Maps and put a large yellow arrow pointing to the area where the canoes would be when the volunteers arrived.

But what’s become a regular storytelling assistance is animating maps to show how we travel in a foreign place. My short animation below is an example of our tour boat traveling from one location to another on the Amazon river.

Cracker Creek uses a similar online map to show its visitors the different directions and distance when renting kayaks, canoes, or hydrobikes as well as their tour boats. Using the automated map below, Cracker Creek shows the path where visitors will be traveling.

In 2011, I also created a map to show the place I’ve traveled. Using Google Maps, I was able to record me spinning the globe to each continent I’ve visited.

Going back to ECO-Action and a Public Service Announcement I made for a contest, I needed a way to show where volunteers attended cleanups over the years. Again using Google Maps, I used the same arrow to show all the different places across Central Florida where we cleaned up the waterways.

Going back to 2002, I have been creating animated maps for my short movies to help communicate where I’ve been and how we got there. It will be interesting to see how many more maps I might make.

(Dis)connect(ed) Critique

Movie Title:  Disconnect

Spoiler Alert:  This page includes a synopsis that describes most of the plot. If you have not seen this movie, you might want to do so before reading this post. Otherwise, feel free to read it and watch it later for any feedback you might want to offer. I would like to advise on this movie about it being a depressing topic and pretty much a tragedy.

As I say in the spoiler alert above, this movie is depressing from the beginning until the end. It has great performances by all of the actors and especially the young kids. After watching the story, I felt it still had arcs that never ended and decided it was more of a pilot or prototype movie. Although not all arcs have to be concluded, it was strange that this movie killed off (a.k.a. comatose) a primary arc about half way through the movie.

Why this movie is so depressing is that it portrays people in our society tightly coupled with their devices and lack social interactions. It seemed like no one had any friends or family outside their online presence. Then as things became complicated, they became more isolated.

This movie starts by introducing three main character arcs:  Young bullied son, an identity-theft victim couple, and a news journalist. The spine arc is about an ex-cop who is in business as a private investigator who helps the identity-theft couple.

The bullied son Ben (Jonah Bobo) starts by seeing two kids, Jason (Colin Ford) and Frye (Adrian Bernstein), who are laughing about a disgusting prank in a mall. They recognize Ben from school and start texting him as a false-identity girl named Jessica Rhony who says she likes his music. We learn that Ben is an introvert and enjoys music and texting Jessica.

While the bully story plays out, the local broadcast news journalist and id-theft couple arcs are interspersed with the above arc. The news journalist Nina (Andrea Riseborough) finds an online camera porn site where she pays a handsome young stud Kyle (Max Thieriot) to talk to her. Obviously, he doesn’t know what she does in life but eventually she gets him to interview for a news story.

In the id-theft arc, the couple has lost a baby son and in her sadness, she goes online with others who are sad and lonely after a loss of a close one. This is where the arcs start to intersect with another when the couple hires the PI who turns out to be one of the bully’s father. The PI does a full online investigation and finds one person who might be the couple’s identity-theft suspect. In a meeting with her husband, he exposes her relationship with this suspect and the husband becomes more distant.

Why I felt depressed is that Ben is being bullied, it keeps getting worse because he believes he has his first girlfriend, the bullies keep digging Ben in deeper, the id theft couple has their furniture repossessed, and the news journalist gets broadcast on CNN and that sparks an FBI investigation into how she got the story. This arc gets thick as Nina becomes closer to Kyle and their two worlds are galaxy’s different.

I’ve drawn a picture below to show how the two fathers, Rich Boyd (Jason Bateman) and Mike Dixon (Frank Grillo), interact with the other arcs.

DisconnectVenn

Mike Dixon is the PI for the id-theft couple and Rich Boyd is the attorney for the local news station who legally advises Nina regarding the FBI.

The only reason I finished this movie was to see how these characters complete their journeys. That was why I decided to call this a tragic love story. The tragedy is that after significant humiliation Ben commits suicide and never wakes up from a coma. The Hull family is the id-theft couple’s love story that resolves at the end by becoming a closer couple, where they had grown apart from the beginning. It is only through human compassion that she is able to stop her husband from killing an innocent man.

The problem I also had with the plot is that the PI felt so compassionate about his son that he erases evidence off of an iPad. I would imagine in real life the victim’s father, Rich, being a lawyer, would sue because of the evidence on his own son’s laptop but I’m not a lawyer. I believe there would be “tampering with evidence” and/or “obstructing justice” charges also against the bully’s father.

The other problem I had was that the father never asked the school if Jessica was enrolled in the school she’s purportedly attending. He figures out who Jason is by looking in the yearbook but doesn’t try to find Jessica, even though “she” is still texting Ben’s father. He also figures out her last name is fabricated from “horny” as “Rhony.”

I’m sure there are those who would enjoy this movie. I just wasn’t impressed with setting up Nina’s successful breakthrough as a journalist then knocking the legal legs out from under her. Then she dumps the homeless stud with whom she had offered to help his future but instead ends up exploiting him for her career. This arc I think should have been thought through more thoroughly so she offered options to get him out of the funk. But instead, she took a hit to the face and cried her way home to her cozy, lonely condo.

So, I think this describes why I think this is a prototype or pilot for a final version or episodic show. The characters are great and these actors do an excellent and believable performance. I just feel it needs a little more work on the arcs and maybe a few more positive accomplishments.

Big Fish – College Critique

Topic:  Lighting & Color
Film:  Big Fish (2003)
Director:  Tim Burton

Spoiler Alert:  This page includes a synopsis that describes most of the plot. If you have not seen this movie, you might want to do so before reading this post. Otherwise, feel free to read it and watch it later for any feedback you might want to offer.

I am a fan of Tim Burton and his style of movies. Big Fish is no exception to his amazing ability to bring a special and fantasy world alive on the big screen. In this film, he uses colors, exposure, and lighting to depict ambiguity separate from the main plot. Because the story is about exaggerating the truth, thus “big fish,” and the son’s acceptance of another reality in his father’s life, Burton uses many formalism techniques to create the special world contrasted with more realistic techniques to represent the current timeline, or reality. In the beginning, the character introductions are primarily as if coming out of the womb where it is mostly warm, dark, wet, and misty, as both father and son become adults.

Burton must have had a great time filming this with a wide variety of camera angles providing the make-it-look-real from the audience’s point of view. There is a giant man character, several midgets, and the short Danny Devito filling in a diversity of character sizes and proportions. This is the magic that Burton brings to the screen, as exemplified by moving the camera up the giant’s body extreme close-up from feet to head then moving 180 degrees to end in an over-the-shoulder shot of the crowd, as depicted in the frame below.

Big Fish 01

The picture above also illustrates a pattern found throughout most of the movie where lights or color spots appear in the upper third of the frame, as these balloons appear in red, blue, and yellow. From the beginning of the film, Burton uses candles, small lights, fireflies, and medium sized lights to add color and depth to the frame. This is a great technique to emphasize a three-dimensional view for the audience and to bring them closer into the story.

Big Fish 02

Burton constantly focuses in tight on images to create a visualization of the voice over and animates them, like shoes growing, whimsical mechanical contraptions, or a swamp witch. In most scenes, the skies are overcast, raining, or night until the main character, Edward Bloom, reaches the town of Spectre where the whole town comes out on the street in broad daylight to greet their new visitor. It is there where time stops in the background while the dialog takes place using medium shots of characters individually framed in short clips – the townspeople stand motionless behind the speakers, as in the photo below.

Big Fish 03

This film appears to be closest to formalism style by exhibiting almost cartoon images then ranging into wide and high angle establishing shots, with lighting symmetry, to further draw the audience into the scene, as in the photo below.

Big Fish 04

In this shot, the townspeople dance bare-foot on the main street framed with lights that diminish into the background giving it the feel of the classicism style of film. In the Edward dying scenes, Burton creates a realistic style that shows warm and tender exchanges between the characters. This can be seen in the photo below of a warm bathroom scene shot at eye-level using monochromatic background contrasting with the blue robe, giving it color dominance.

Big Fish 05

One of the things that Burton creates so well is haunted forests. There are several forest scenes in low lighting that depict the fearful side of life but the lead character always strides through it, declaring his ambition. He gets stung by bees, bitten by jumping spiders, and even sucked by leeches. All of these creatures attack him in low-key lighting, including lots of black, gray, and small light spots dotting the background. As described in Understanding Movies, the author says, “In general, artists have used darkness to suggest fear, evil, the unknown. Light usually suggests security, virtue, truth, joy.”  Burton uses both of these techniques throughout the movie where Edward travels in an out of the forests and into the virtue, truth, and joy of Spectre, as depicted in the shot below.

Big Fish 06

As the film nears the end, all of the characters grow closer together between the special world and into the ordinary world, or the reality of the story. It is here where the audience finds the big fish story coming to reality with Jennifer from Spectre standing in the bright light while Edward’s son, Will, is learning about the truth of his father’s stories, and sits in the dark.

Big Fish 07

The shot above shows Jennifer appearing as if she is descending into the frame from the light above and looking down to Will. This appears to be an attempt to get the audience to understand psychologically that Will represents a journalist’s desire for a “fact-based” history versus the big fish stories his father tells. In this scene, the audience learns that one of Will’s assumptions was wrong about his father’s absence during his younger days. In other words, Will was guilty of a fictitious story about his father and grows to accept that not all of his father’s stories were fictitious.

Big Fish 08

In the final scenes, father and son are in the hospital after Edward has a stroke and appears pale and washed out. The hospital curtains and walls are blue, reminiscent of water, the lights are dim and shoot downwards – like moonlight from above into water, and the two characters look like big fish in a small pond. It is at this point that Will grows out of his “black-and-white” journalistic approach to life and tells a fictional story. After his father asks him, Will tells his father the story about how his father’s life will end and at this point the film transitions into a fictional story of the future.

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During this prescient story, the light in the room brightens and Edward’s face becomes full of color – appearing recovered from death, as exemplified in the picture above. It is here where Edward is full of joy as all of the characters come together in wide angle, long shot views, where truth meets fiction, from Will’s perspective. While Will tells the ending story, the scenes cut back and forth between the fictional story and reality.  Burton contrasts close up shots of the characters in the dark and monochromatic hospital room representing reality against the bright and slightly over-exposed wide shots taking place outside in full sun representing the fictional story. It is here where the big fish story ends.

Big Fish 10As with other scenes in the film, Burton uses wide-angle lenses and extreme long shots to show the large amount of people who were part of Edward’s life. In the funeral scene, the camera is pointing down above the road while a car moves full screen up and drives to the center of the frame. The audience can see on the horizon a large number of cars and people walking around the church. This is the final scene where the two worlds combine into one farewell gathering.

☆ The End ☆

Snatch – College Critique

Topic:  Camera Movement
Film:  Snatch (2000)
Director:  Guy Ritchie

Spoiler Alert:  This page includes a synopsis that describes most of the plot. If you have not seen this movie, you might want to do so before reading this post. Otherwise, feel free to read it and watch it later for any feedback you might want to offer.

The movie Snatch is quite a rollercoaster ride with camera movement. It feels like a movie made for MTV audiences with all the artistic freedom employing almost all possible camera movements and musical interludes – there’s even a swish pan transition, as illustrated in the picture below. Even after the camera stops moving, the camera zooms in and/or tilts into a character making the audiences feel they are actually there. Some of the camera movements are very subtle while others are intense. Guy Ritchie pulls the audience with zoom and character movement into a situation, like fights or in the introduction where the diamonds heist is presented in a chaotic manner. This gives the movie a humorous edge while gangsters negotiate around gambling, fumbling, and chasing the big diamond MacGuffin.

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The camera definitely displays the heinous nature of the characters. For instance, when the lead character Turkish meets with the head gangster Brick Top, the camera pans and tilts down into a concrete pit containing a dead dog following a fight with another live dog still in the pit. Without dialogue, this camera move tells the audience how evil the mob boss is and foreshadows the story. The camera then pans back to the lead character, as if we’re in the room with him. At other times, the camera pans a room to reveal a crowd of gamblers attending a boxing match in a large room.

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An interesting motif that Ritchie continued to employed is the security monitors that appear in several scenes and show a mirror reflection of the character in an over-the-shoulder shot, as illustrated in the picture above. A similar security monitor motif appears at the beginning of the film. As demonstrated in the pictures below, the camera pans across several security monitors and tilts up while displaying the characters passing through the security entrance, riding up the elevator, walking down the halls and into an office where they steal diamonds.

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During the diamonds heist, the camera becomes very active by zooming and twisting in on the characters. As illustrated in the picture below left, the fast action camera twists to show a robber as if we’re looking up at him following their commands to “get down.”  There are also many Mechanical Distortions of Movements in the heist scene where the edits show fast motion frames mixed with regular motion frames repeated in frenzied zoom close-up shots of the robbers and victims. Along with the music, the audience is drawn into the action and the chaos of a robbery that yields the big diamond without fatalities. Also employed in this scene is the use of freeze frame. I believe this technique was used to make it appear like a newspaper article with pictures that gives the audience enough time to focus on the props and characters, as exemplified in the freeze frame from the movie below right with a gun that appears periodically throughout the movie.

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Later in the movie after the first character dies, the camera points down on the dead man and a crane lifts the camera up while turning slowly counter clockwise to reveal the crowd that witnessed the death. During this scene, the characters walk as in a trance around the dead body that eventually disappears in the dark shadows between the characters. It is as if Ritchie is trying to visualize that this story respects the dead, but it’s just a story, silly. Bodies start flying from that point on.

One interesting shot that I found to be difficult to setup was when two characters are walking together down a stairway and are tracked by the camera as they talk. The picture below is a still shot of them walking down the stairs. I believe the crew had to install a track to move the camera on a dolly down the stairs with the actors.

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Once the story gets down to the characters interacting in sets of twos and threes, the camera tends to remain stasis with close-up and medium shots of the characters. Most of the time the characters are framed with out-of-focus backgrounds. I believe this is Ritchie’s way of getting close to allow the actors to talk directly to the audience and express emotions on their faces. In some of these shots, the camera actually tilts down as the character sits and zooms in even tighter, pulling the audience closer to the characters.

In general, I believe Ritchie used the camera to grab the audience’s attention and bring them into and tell the story. From the beginning of the film where the pans and tilts follow the characters in the security monitors and into the initial turning point, the camera helped tell the story. He also utilized Mechanical Distortions of Movements like slow motion following fight scenes to show the victor and his success. Although a gruesome story, Ritchie used the camera to great extremes to present a humorous story about gangsters, gypsies, and revenge.

Frida – College Critique

Topic:  Kinetics & Acting
FilmFrida (2002)
Actor:  Salma Hayek

Spoiler Alert:  This page includes a synopsis that describes most of the plot. If you have not seen this movie, you might want to do so before reading this post. Otherwise, feel free to read it and watch it later for any feedback you might want to offer.

This movie was a turning point for my appreciation of Salma Hayek’s acting skills. I had seen Robert Rodriguez’s Mariachi trilogy and found her comical, dramatic, and seductive. Then a friend recommended Frida and afterwards I purchased a copy to watch again.

Her expressions in this film range from a childlike student to painful patient to seductive romantic. Salma starts in the movie as a child running through the school to gather a group of students then ends up in a sexual encounter with her boyfriend. She giggles, pulls her shoulders together, and exhibits a child’s happy emotions. Later in the character’s life, she has tears streaming down her face in a stasis position where she is bound in a metal medical brace (similar to the picture below), crying, realistically, in severe pain. Then after recovering, she seduces women and exhibits lyrical body motions as she fluidly caresses her sexual partner. From the beginning of the film as a child she goes through several painful encounters and slowly loses her enthusiasm until she becomes an invalid in the end.

FridaOver the past decade and a half, Salma has grown into popular celebrity status in the American Star System by receiving several awards including a nomination from the Academy Awards for best actress in a leading role as Frida Kahlo. In this role, she won a best actress awards from Golden Camera and Imagen Foundation. Back in 1994, she starred in the movie El Callejón de los Milagros with the tagline:  “The Most Awarded Film In Mexican History,” with 49 international awards. As a celebrity, she was chosen in 1996 and 2003 as People magazine’s “one of the most beautiful people in the world,” in 2001 for the Glamour magazine Woman of the Year Award, in 2003 for the Producers Guild of America Celebration of Diversity Award, in 2005 for the Time Magazine 25 Most Influential Hispanics Award, and in 2006 for Harvard Foundation Artist of the Year Award.

In 2007, Forbes.com magazine published an article entitled “Salma Hayek tops sexiest celebs list” that reported a polling firm’s results saying, “Topping the list is shapely Latina Salma Hayek. According to the polling firm, which provides appeal rankings for more than 3,000 celebrities, 65 percent of the U.S. population would use the term ‘sexy’ to describe the 40-year-old star.”

Because Salma has a Spanish accent, which her characters consistently have, expresses strong emotional feelings, both positive and negative, and is a seductive female actress, she is considered a personality star. Her performances are filled with brilliant comedic, romantic, and realistic effects that she tailors to each role. From Antonio Bandera’s partner in the Rodriguez trilogy to the formally abstract Latina soap opera character on Ugly Betty, she portrays a visual style that captivates an audience. In Frida, Salma also shows her diversity by dancing a tango with perfection and sings in a drinking scene. As her mother lays on her deathbed, Salma glides into the room and smoothly lands next to her mother as if becoming joined together and expressing emotional bonds.

As part of her personal projects, she has testified to support reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. She has donated thousands of dollars to a shelter for battered women and anti-domestic violence groups.

My partner couldn’t watch Frida the first time he tried because of all of the emotional abuse and physical suffering but after listening to it, in the background, he became interested and watched it all. I had to question why I hadn’t felt the same during the several times I had watched it. I can only say that Salma’s performance is so expressionistic that the good times exceeded all the pain and suffering. I know it hurts but revolutions – a subplot of this movie – are painful.

China Town – College Critique

Topic:  Art Direction
Film:  Chinatown (1974)
Director:  Roman Polanski
Art Direction:  Stewart Campbell
Set Direction:  Ruby Levitt

Spoiler Alert:  This page includes a synopsis that describes most of the plot. If you have not seen this movie, you might want to do so before reading this post. Otherwise, feel free to read it and watch it later for any feedback you might want to offer.

“Water and Power” would have been an appropriate subtitle for this dustbowl era film set in the late 1930s. As a who-done-it suspense movie, clues emerge slowly as the plot unfolds to reveal a powerful Los Angeles man named Noah Cross who gets away with criminal acts of murder, fraud, and incest. His daughter, Evelyn Mulwray, is a protagonist who is trying to keep her daughter/sister, Catherine, away from him and his evil life. The Private Investigator hero, Jake Gettis, has the job of finding the killer and bringing him to justice.

All of the costumes, sets, location shots, and props work well together to create a sense of reality. Chinatown continuously shows water and dry riverbeds in the Los Angeles area during a drought-stricken period. The plot eventually reveals the villain indirectly buying large tracts of land to convert them into a large saltwater treatment and retention pond to sell the converted freshwater back to the citizens. This same character started and sold the Water and Power Company to amass his wealth.

The movie was nominated for eleven Oscar categories including Best Picture and Art Direction. It won for Best Original Screenplay by Robert Towne. The overall tone of the picture is portrayed in monochromatic earth tone browns and grays with heavily subdued blue and other bright colors. The following set and costume analysis attempts to describe how they embody the essence of the story materials.

Exterior or Interior:  The film includes scenes both exterior and interior. The primary focus is on the sprawling Mulwray mansion that is a California-style home extending from the inside to the outside with a saltwater pond. To me, the mood felt like a web womb where the mother is attempting to take her daughter away from her dry father.

Style:  The sets appear to be very realistic for the Great Depression era when the story takes place. Several scenes appear to be set in the style of Erté with long curves and sharp angles, most exemplified by the Evelyn character.

Studio or location:  It doesn’t appear to have any studio shots but instead set inside California homes and exterior locations. Most exterior shots show how much water is at stake contrasted with the lack of water in dry riverbeds. To show the fraud during a drought, overflow water is dumped into the sea.

Period:  The period is during the Great Depression and contrasts the rich from the poor with the rich as water and the poor as dry. The props and costumes appear to match the period exquisitely. As Vanity 100 describes the sets in an article dated 9 June 1974, “There’s absolutely no offensive showoff of the nostalgia; the clothes, cars, houses, etc. are simply part of the scenes.”

Class:  This film displays a large amount of wealth with very little attention to the poor. It turns out that the poor attempt to help Evelyn with her flight; however, the rich and powerful win over the fight for justice with their corruption.

Size:  As mentioned above, the sets are large and sprawling, indicative of rich people. Water is depicted in large outdoor vistas of sea and restraining waterways contrasted with dry riverbeds.

Decoration:  There are not a lot of decorations but appear to be more functional by design. Hollis Mulwray appears to have the most lavishly decorated office with plaques on the walls indicating his accomplishments and how they are removed after his death.

Symbolic function:  Again, large and sprawling exterior and interior shots show the contrast of the rich versus the poor. The rich have captured the water resources and the poor are reflected in the dry riverbeds.

Costume Analysis

Period:  The movie takes place during the Great Depression and appears to be a realistic depiction of the period.

Class:  Definitely a high-class emphasis in the costume designs. Evelyn is clearly a high-class figure in her designer fashion outfits. As the movie progresses, her clothes become less sophisticated and more functionally relaxed.

Sex:  Evelyn appears in soft and fluffy undergarments with a tight fitting overcoat. Her figure shows her bodyline as a restrained sex object.

Age:  All of the characters appear to be wearing the correct costumes for their age with the exception of Catherine who appears to be wearing clothes of a younger girl.

Silhouette:  Gittes’s clothes are loose with the most emphasis on his baggy pants. Some of his jackets have cuts on the back, down the spine, possibly indicating his strong backbone in the story with some restrictions around his waist by a horizontal fabric belt.

Fabric:  The fabric appears to be all cotton and silk. Evelyn has the most diverse costumes ranging from the fluffy undergarments to a flowing silk gown she wears after a nude scene with Gittes.

Accessories:  Evelyn starts with a framed broche on her chest surrounded by her tight fitting jacket and advances to a fur wrap over her jacket with a netted veil floating over her head that creates interesting shadows on her face as she moves. Gittes wears a fedora throughout most of the film and, during a quarter of the film, has a large bandage across his nose covering a knife wound. Noah depends on a cane to show his age and fragility. Evelyn ends up wearing a simple black dress possibly foreshadowing her death.

Color:  The costumes are very subdued in colors that are mostly browns, blacks, and grays.

Body exposure:  There is little body exposure with only one nude scene of Evelyn and Gittes.

Function:  For the most part, this film shows work clothes on all of the characters until the end when Evelyn’s outfits loosen up and become more leisurely.

Body Attitude:  All characters stand tall and upright with the exception of Noah who hunches over his cane.

Image:  The overall impression of the costumes creates an elegant working environment of middle- and upper-class characters. Only the poorer characters wear single layered and cheaper clothing.