More NP1 Productions news

Soon enough, is gonna look a lot different.  I don’t know how soon or how different, but I know that the time is coming.  I need more time to sit down and work it out, including figuring out hosting and stuff like that.  I mean, I just set up a Facebook page for NP1 Productions and I had to sleep on it halfway through, so rebuilding the website with a new mission will take some more time.  Besides, I’m waist-deep in video work right now.

Speaking of which, check this out: here’s a playlist of examples of what the NP1 Productions hustle has been mostly about – the local theater scene.  If you know me, you know that theater in Central Mass is one of my biggest passions, and now I’m going to put that together with my love of filmmaking and photography.  Check these videos out if you haven’t seen me post them already.

A long-needed update

Good evening, everyone.  It’s been too long.

I’d like to just take a moment to say that changes might be afoot at, eventually, anyway.  I’m looking to redesign the site and change the mission.  The mission has changed plenty over the years since I started “New Page One” on Geocities.  That was nearly FIFTEEN years ago.  And I’m still not famous, how about that?  Besides, when it started, I wanted to “keep my desktop publishing skills sharp.”  Then I just wanted to be an online smartass, which led to the genesis of blogging (which I was already doing), and so on.  Nowadays, getting someone to commit to reading your blog posts on a regular basis is nigh impossible since we are constantly churning out content via Facebook, Twitter, and the rest.  Who wants a meal when you can snack all day?

Anyway, it’s time I start using NP1 as a place to promote myself as an entrepreneur.  I’ve been making videos for years (before even YouTube I’d host stuff on this site myself), and those skills are the ones I truly believe in.  So I’d like to ask you to check out my favorite self-made content in the playlist below, plus let you know that I plan on a major overhaul of the site.  The blog may still exist somehow, who knows, but things will go back to basics like it was in the old days, just that now we’re doing it for money.

I’m a filmmaker.  I’m gonna make films for money.  It’s time.

A Mad Men Super Bowl Special

Last year, just before kickoff of Super Bowl XLVII, I sat by my computer thinking of the game and more importantly to me, the commercials.  The thought of the Super Bowl and advertising led me to thinking, of course, about Mad Men.  I got on Twitter and before I knew it, I managed to come up with my own little Mad Men episode centered on the cast of characters all watching Super Bowl III.  I thought I’d post those tweets here, and I hope you enjoy.

What? Since when does Seattle have a football team?

Gone Home is a beautiful puzzle

Remember how in 1995 we thought that by 2013 video games would involve putting on big helmets and living out adventures in virtual reality?  We expected huge leaps in technology that would eventually give us experiences seen in The Lawnmower Man, eXistenZ, Virtuosity, and plenty of other bad-to-okay science fiction films.

Well, here we are now, and even though Oculus is getting funding, it’s still a long way off.  No matter.  Nobody really needs 3D goggles to have an immersive experience, just new ways of approaching the medium.  The ability to interact with an environment and effect an outcome has been the main advantage video games have in telling a story over books, TV, and movies, and developers are still trying to figure out new ways to take advantage of this simple fact.  The Fullbright Company’s debut, Gone Home, tells a story through exploration and examination, much like older LucasArts games pioneered in the 80s, and does a fantastic job of it.

I’m a sucker for a good idea, and Gone Home took one and ran.  In the game, you play the part of Katie Greenbriar, a 20 year old girl coming home from a year abroad  in 1995 to the house your family moved into while you were away.  Upon arrival in a terrible thunderstorm, there’s nobody there – no Mom, no Dad, and your younger sister Samantha has left a note on the front door that she’s gone and that she’ll “see you again, someday.”  It’s now on you to explore a large old house all by yourself to figure out why no one’s home and where they’ve gone.  By searching through drawers, reading letters and notes, and discovering new things about your family, the story evolves.  It’s all narrated by Sam, whose diary serves as a sort of long-form letter to Katie, and as the game’s main storyline.

Sam’s story is the focus, and it got me hooked rather quickly.  I don’t want to spoil the experience of a playthrough, but it doesn’t hurt to at least mention that Sam is recounting to you the story of her budding friendship with a girl named Lonnie.  Before you know it, though, this friendship turns into romance.  It’s a love story that thankfully never feels forced, both as one in a video game and as a gay love story.  This is an important point to make, as romance in games never seems to work organically.  Gone Home plays so well and presents the details of Sam and Lonnie’s love so beautifully that it never seems to be trying to push an envelope or make a statement, even if recent strides in gay rights might make it seem like a topical move.  Fullbright needs to be commended for this, as is already happening only a week after the game’s release.  It’s also worth noting that the game does take place eighteen years ago, and you can see how far we’ve come since then.

Pizza: Check. Pillow fort: Check. Party: Started!

The story is made even more real by the authenticity of the game’s setting.  The house you’re exploring has a lot of character to it.  If you ever lived in a house where electricity was an afterthought, you’ll really appreciate it.  Having lived in an old Victorian once, I felt like I instinctively knew where to look for a lot of things.  Being set in 1995 was also a great decision on the developers’ part.  The house is full of VHS tapes – taped off of TV! – and studying the hand-written labels will probably make you wonder if they’d taken a look at your own old collection.  References to The X-Files and Beverly Hills, 90210 abound.  And the music: Lonnie has gotten Sam into Riot Grrl acts like Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy, and mixtapes can be found throughout the house – as well as played in stereos you find.  Another point to bring up about the time period is the fact that 1995, as the developers have noted, was just before the boom of cellphones and the World Wide Web.  There’s no phone call or email you can make or send that will clear all of this up for you.

Along your journey, other storylines unfold.  Your father is a struggling writer, Mom moved the family to the new house to be closer to work, and the house belonged to an uncle with a blemish on his past.  I only have bits and pieces from my first playthrough, but there are hints at other issues that may be lurking in the shadows.  Is Mom having an affair?  Does Dad have more unresolved family issues than you think?  The first time I played, I overlooked a lot of clues as to these stories, and I can’t help but think I owe it to the makers of the game, and even the characters, to go back and look again.

Hope the Greenbriars have flood insurance.

It’s been a couple of days now since I played Gone Home and I still can’t stop thinking about it.  It’s immersive simply by using the tried and true method of keyboard and mouse, no helmet and VR suit required.  It’ll cost you $20 at most on Steam, and a couple of hours to play through.  It’s well worth it, not just for the experience but also to support Fullbright and the possibility of future games from this great team.

The Steve Caputo Project starts on YouTube

A week ago, I posted a new video on YouTube, which will be the first in a series. Here, check it out:

So there’s Episode 1, which I guess is  a decent start.  I’ve finished writing Episode 2, but need to shoot it, and I’ve got a subject for a third.  After that, I guess that whatever I’ve learned so far will translate into future episodes.  I’m hoping to get on some sort of regular schedule with making these, but as you probably would guess, I might not be all that good at keeping that promise. And that’s what the next video will be about.

The idea behind this thing, though, is to get me back into the process of shooting and editing, something that I love doing and have not had the drive to do.  I’ve decided that, in the words of Jack Black, I must manufacture inspirado.  To start with, the Project will be about my creativity process, but I’m hoping that it becomes a sort of video diary/vlog sort of thing.  In the meantime, other video stuff might come along.  There’s a lot of possibilities here.

I hope you enjoyed that video, and I’m hoping you’ll check out further updates as I go along.

Shane Carruth is back with UPSTREAM COLOR

I’ve talked about filmmaker Shane Carruth here on NP1 at least once, maybe twice. Somewhere way back in the archives. It’s been a very long time since Shane made his first film, Primer. For the uninitiated, Primer is probably the most practical time travel film ever made, and quite certainly the most confusing. It follows two friends who unwittingly invent a time machine in their garage. An attempt to use the technology to get a leg up on the stock market almost immediately unravels thanks to unforeseen consequences. Going into detail would ruin the thrill of discovery your first go-round… and when I say the first go-round, I mean you’re probably going to watch this film three times in a row to start to understand it. That’s where Carruth’s skill as a filmmaker and storyteller really shine through. Not only does he make a confusing subject exciting to watch (think season five of LOST), he constructs an intriguing series of events that make it a thrill.  The film is only about 80 minutes long, which helps to make re-watching tempting. But best of all, Primer only cost about $7000 to make. This is in the pre-digital days in 2004 where people were still shooting features on film, mind you. If he’d had access to today’s DSLRs, it might’ve cost half as much.

I’m not really here to gush over this movie again, but I do think you should know that it’s FINALLY available to stream on Netflix, if you’ve got it. I highly suggest that if the above paragraph sounded intriguing to you that you add it to your queue now.

The real reason I’m here is to say that Carruth’s follow up, Upstream Color, is awaiting theatrical release. I had no idea that this film was in the making – in fact, I was under the impression that Carruth’s somewhat meandering but very cool A Topiary screenplay was going to be his next project. Having just finished reading it (but not understanding it for the most part), I figured we’d essentially seen the last of the Austin native. NOPE:

I DON’T KNOW WHAT THIS IS BUT I LIKE IT. I saw a couple of brief “synopses” of Upstream Color but decided not to read into them much. It looks like a romantic sci-fi vehicle of some sort. After reading A Topiary I got more of an idea of how Carruth’s mind works when he’s writing – he puts ideas and concepts out there for the audience but doesn’t quite like to fully explain them. This sort of thing worked in Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain and I’m assuming Solaris, although I have yet to make it through that from start to finish.

We need more stuff like this, I think, and more of it from Shane Carruth. Here’s hoping that this gets him more notoriety. Who knows… maybe that batshit crazy stuff in A Topiary will make its way to the screen next?

Still Smooth after all these years

Do you have a account? I’ve got one. I love it. It keeps track of all of the music I listen to on my computer and my iPod, and being a bit of a weird fan of statistics, it helps me keep track of where my musical taste has gone over the past couple of years. I often wish that it had existed back when I was in college or even high school, just to see if my favorite music has really stood the test of time or if I’m as open to new stuff as I like to think I am. Since I’ve been using it, I have started listening to the likes of Steely Dan, Why?, The Killers, and plenty of others, and they’ve all stacked up in intriguing ways against my usual staples.

But again, that’s just for what I listen to on the computer or the iPod. What if you could keep track of every single song you’ve ever heard in your life, either on the radio, TV, in movies, etc? I happen to believe that the song I’ve heard more times than any other in my nearly 30 years on this planet is “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. What if we could narrow that down, though, to the last decade and a half? Well, that’s easy. The answer is “Smooth” by Santana, featuring Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas. And it’s never been on my iPod.

HAHAHAHAHA even in 1999 people were still buying singles in a physical format

“Smooth” was the inescapable Number One Jam of the Summer in 1999. It was on the radio constantly, was in super-heavy rotation on MTV, the whole deal. The thing is, it’s STILL played on the radio constantly. Any station that plays in 99% of offices in the United States is still playing this song, and doing so enough to make you think that it’s still new. I’ll admit, it’s not a terrible song. I love Carlos Santana and his hot guitar skills. This song is what relauched his career for a couple more albums and got people to rediscover his early stuff. I was considering saying something silly about Rob Thomas but then I remembered that he had a very funny cameo on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and that Matchbox 20’s first single, “Push,” is still one of my favorite 90’s radio hits.

So there’s 400 words justifying why I decided to make my first test of my home green-screen skills into a joke on this modern radio favorite.

A close call

Well, that was… interesting.

Earlier today I effectively killed again while trying to fix it. Here’s a short rundown of what happened:

  1. Noticed that comments had disappeared from the site and were no longer coming in.
  2. Looked up documentation on WordPress sites and tried to solve the problem.
  3. WordPress Codex made it apparent that I needed to repair my databases, but I did not have the tools to do such a thing installed on my server.
  4. Accidentally installed PHP/database tools in the directory where I have my blog set up.
  5. Panic.
  6. Call Yahoo support straight away and talk with Jason for two hours.
  7. Fix comment problem while creating a whole new one, essentially isolating the front page from the rest of the site.
  8. Jason technically can’t give me WordPress support, so he leaves me with suggestions and I go to it on my own.
  9. I ignore all of the new database information I’ve just learned and just export/import XML of all of my posts like I did the last time the site went down. I do this after deactivating my WordPress blog, starting a new one, and importing a nice big XML file with all of the site’s previous information.
  10. Plugging the XML in and fixing plugins/widgets now. If I didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t know.

The reason the comments went down in the first place is because I get so much Spam that it crashes the comment database if I don’t clear it out every so often. Lesson learned!

Watermelon Cat Returns

Hey, kids, look who’s back!

They see me rollin...

Indeed, Watermelon Cat is here to herald some site issues. In an effort to fix the disappearance of all of the site’s comments, I managed to make a bigger mess of things. You can currently read the most recent posts on the front page, but anything else within the site is out of commission. Thanks to Jason at Yahoo Small Business Web Hosting tech support for helping me out with some issues and showing me a thing or two that I didn’t know about databases and PHP and whatnot.

Hopefully we’ll have this stuff back up and running soon.

Jose Canseco will complete us

“I am and will always be just simply a baseball player,my tomb stone will just say. Baseball.” – Jose Canseco, via Twitter

It was announced yesterday that the Worcester Tornadoes, my local Can-Am League baseball team, had just made the biggest signing in their history. In fact, this could have been the biggest signing in the league’s short history. Bigger than Brockton getting Bill “Spaceman” Lee to toss a couple of games to sell some tickets, bigger than Quebec signing former Cy Young-winning closer Eric Gagne to help him try to find his edge again. The Tornadoes signed one of the most polarizing figures in the modern game at the age of 47 – none other than Jose Canseco.

"@SHAQ we gonna fight or what"

If you’re unfamiliar, here’s a brief rundown of Canseco’s career as I remember it. Jose exploded onto the scene with the Oakland Athletics in the mid-eighties, where, along with Mark McGwire, he would become the first-ever player to hit 40 home runs and steal 4o bases in one season. The A’s went on to win the World Series in 1989 thanks to Canseco. It’s not that he was the one doing all the heavy lifting, though. Jose had become the first truly successful steroid-using ballplayer, a seemingly late-bloomer who went from being good to godlike. After leaving the A’s, he’d play for Texas, the Red Sox, Oakland again, and then sort of started to bounce around from team to team as he became lost in the shuffle of other players who had the same amount of success in transforming themselves into supermen on the field. As baseball finally started to take the whole thing seriously, Canseco was made an example of, especially after his book Juiced hit shelves and detailed the rise of performance enhancers in the game. Jose was effectively out of baseball at the age of 37, even after getting himself clean of steroids and still being able to at the very least hit the ball.

Canseco sort of faded into obscurity after that, the way guys like Dennis Rodman and Mickey Rourke do these days. Instead of disappearing, he ended up on a parade of reality TV shows and went into boxing. And then, the public rediscovers them, and an overwhelming wave of love shines down upon them – whether genuine or ironic. Or maybe a bit of both.

I had been falling into this trap with Canseco myself, thanks to joining Twitter last summer. I had heard that Canseco was a curious case on Twitter, and started following him a few months ago. Although he has a tendency to ramble about “liars” and express the desire to “slap a hater” every now and then, Canseco also comes across as a guy who can’t leave what he loves alone. Baseball is it for Canseco, his on-again-off-again girlfriend Leila being a close second. After that, “class is in session” when Jose wakes up in the morning and drops some serious science on all of us with nuggets like “If you haters don’t stop hating I am going to kill myself and haunt you.”

Read that tweet again. He sounds crazy – but it just comes across like that in print. He’s got a good sense of humor and his crazier statements on the state of the game and steroids just don’t come across well when he’s confined to 140 characters. I watched late one night as he was invited to come join Neal Brennan, Moshe Kasher, and Doug Lussenhop on The Champs Podcast (my favorite podcast, fyi), and waited with baited breath to hear it. Canseco is well-spoken and even humble enough to sound quite normal. I think that half of his sillier tweets are just there as a joke. I think.


So how did I feel when I found out that Canseco had signed on with my local team? I am personally pretty pumped. Not just in the sense that we’ll have a big celebrity in our midst in Worcester, but that we’ll have someone capable of hitting a home run over Route 290 and onto the roof of Rotman’s. I’m excited that this little team, one that I love for being who they are, will sell tickets like nobody’s business for this season. This guy could be our next folk hero, and we really haven’t had one in ages.

So, to celebrate, I immediately whipped up a plan to create a t-shirt. This is not a 900-word post designed to sell t-shirts, mind you, I just thought it might be fun.

Click it to go to the NP1 Store. Wheeeeeeeee

There it is, in the Tornadoes’ orange and black, emblazoned with one of Jose’s catchphrases. On the back is his signature number 33, proudly displayed. Wear one to Fitton Field this summer and show Jose your support. Give him a hug and thank him for saving the game of baseball. If I get him to sign the one I’ve sent away for, I might be rich, at least in Bitcoins. Keep an eye out, I am going to have to make another t-shirt ad for this one.

So when the Tornadoes get started for the 2012 season, I hope to see a lot of you there in those bargain seats while Professor Canseco shows you all that he can still hit good pitches. Hugs for everybody. Jose Canseco will complete you.