Producer, Director, Editor.
Co-host of Double Feature.
Eric Thirteen
Director's Cut
The Birthday Massacre Concert Film

Piracy and the Used Market

I play a lot of thought experiments out in my head. I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t think “what would I do in X situation? Then what if Y happened?” For me these little experiments have become a large part of how I determine right from wrong. I think about what is true or right in a situation, what I feel strongly about, and try to apply that to something else to determine how I feel about that thing.

Piracy has always been an odd one for me. I make stuff in my free time, and I have a great amount of respect and appreciation for people who create things. Musicians, film makers, game designers, all of them. I think when someone comes up with an idea or works on some kind of content, they should be payed for it (if that’s what they want). I know I’ve written before about how I would urge artists to put out their music for free, but that was as part of an overall marketing strategy. It’s not force.

Angelina Joie Speaking at ConferenceSo to be clear here, I don’t believe:

  • Artists make too much money
  • Famous people are greedy and have enough cash!
  • Music should be free, therefore stealing is ok

    Instead I believe:

  • If an artist makes money, great!
  • People are entitled to any wealth fairly earned.
  • If an artist wants money for their content, they should be able to charge.
  • If your blog already has too many pictures of Ayn Rand, just start substituting Angelina Jolie in her place.

    I’m a free market guy. If an artist charges too much / uses a bad distribution method / makes shitty art / is too famous or popular for you, don’t endorse them. The answer is to tell them to fuck off, not to go ahead and steal their product. Avatar looks like a shit film, so I didn’t watch it. I think the radio is an embarrassment, so I don’t listen to or buy the crap on it. The things I DO like I enjoy enough to want to support monetarily. If I don’t quite like them that much, I don’t buy them. Because of this, I don’t really have anything I’m not REALLY excited about.

    Where this gets tricky is the used market.

    I’ve established that I purchase things to support an artist. I’m not really concerned with legality so much as ethicacy, which is why the used market stumps me. I’m generally a pretty cheap person. I look for deals like it’s a hobby. I’ll spend an extra week trying to find a deal where something is a dollar off. Very often you’ll find these deals in the used market. You can buy used for far less than new! Here’s the question then:

    How is the used market any different from outright stealing?

    Ken Levine Creator of Bioshock in ChicagoTo look at legality for just a second, of course you have the right to purchase and resell goods. You can buy a used film and no one can sue you. You won’t get in trouble. It isn’t wrong in any legal sense. You can do it. On the other hand, why would you? When you purchase Bioshock in shrink-wrap, Ken Levine and 2K Games get some cash. Microsoft gets some cash. They brought it to you, and you told them it was well worth it. The market sees the popularity of Bioshock, and you basically help insure the creators are successful and that games like it get made in the future.

    When you buy a game used, the impact of your purchase is so diminished it’s essentially like it never happened at all. Who benefits from a used game purchase? GameStop, eBay, and the dude who bought it in the first place. You’re supporting vendors, not creators. Frankly I don’t really care about vendors nearly as much as creators. It’s great that they’re there, but I don’t think they don’t deserve to earn as much as (and certainly not at the expense of) the creators.

    Some might also argue that you’re increasing the implied demand on the used market which increases the price and confidence of goods of the new market. While that’s true, the effects are once again so marginal. Are we more willing to purchase a good if we know we can resell it later? Yeah, sure. Would that good sell anyways? Yes. Does your dollar have a much greater impact when you buy new? Exponentially.

    Game StopA lot of people in my generation don’t know what it’s like to purchase goods. Music especially, but even movies and games are commonly stolen now. If you were going to buy used (and the creators weren’t going to see any money anyhow), why not just steal? At the end of the day, putting the law aside what’s the real difference? I mean, we’d certainly never make it illegal to sell or buy used goods. The only difference between purchasing Bioshock used or downloading it without paying is that GameStop might go out of business. Not even the people working there would miss it.

    I would rather purchase something and show my support than steal it, but then again I’m a nut job. I do things in black and white. Most people who don’t steal don’t have a problem buying used. Why is that? Is legality the only reason they spend their money? What makes it different for them? Are there better arguments for the used market that I’m not thinking of? Do people really just love supporting eBay Inc?

  • How I’m Saving LOST

    After six long years, LOST has finally ended. I’ve been thinking a lot about the ending…trying to convince myself it wasn’t a huge waste of time. Unfortunately there’s no real way to do that. While the episode was emotionally satisfying, it was intellectually offensive. The “flash sideways” in each episode of the last season was all building up to this huge cliche. It was a writing gimmick that would allow the show to end with a lot of hugging and pseudo-religious nonsense. I could never re-watch the show, knowing that’s what it all came down to.

    Some people were pissed about the lack of answers. I get that, but personally I wasn’t expecting any real answers. I’d come to terms with that. I just wanted the show to be as creative as it used to be. A lot of people have rejected the flash sideways – this site has even edited them out of the last season. I applaud that, but I still don’t think that makes the last season very compelling. It fixes its most obnoxious flaw, but it doesn’t make me want to watch it.

    So now that it’s all over, what do I do? The first few seasons stand as some of the best television ever made, but the last few are mediocre – and the final is downright offensive. Should I purge it all from my AppleTV? I’ve got a solution.

    I’m going to pretend season three was the last season.

    The Best Ending

    Right away I know the season three finale was pound for pound better than the season six finale. All that church bound hug stuff was nice, but that was never why I liked the show. I liked it for the mystery and the writing…something the shows producers claimed was never the top priority, The end of season three (We have to go back, Kate!) was probably the biggest WTF moment of the show. They never had a comparable mind fuck scene after that. It’s as if they forgot that was part of the show. At the end of season three, you know they get off the island but wonder if thats what was best. Its pretty much the same conclusion you get at the end of season six, but without all the sloppy heavy handed stuff. The show just wasted the last three seasons telling you it didn’t matter – they were just going to end up getting off like they did in season three.


    The biggest problem with pretending season three was the last season is that there are tons of unanswered questions. There’s two reasons that doesn’t bother me. The first is that seasons 4-6 brought up plenty of questions that were never answered as well. I actually think there’s about as many unanswered questions at the end of season six as there are at season three. The questions are just different. the other reason it doesn’t bother me is that it turns out I didn’t want to know the answers to a lot of those questions. Once I found out the whispers were trapped island ghosts, I knew somethings were better left to the imagination.

    What does it all mean?

    By the end of season six, you find out there is a magic light at the center of the island. You’re told not to ask exactly what it is, or where it came from. Jacob is explained, but you’re told not to ask what mother is or where she came from. That’s fine…going back too far would just lead to a creation myth. Ask yourself though…how is the cave light any different than what we thought Jacob was in season 3? There’s a magical man at the center of it all. We don’t know who he is or where he came from, but people fight over him the same they do the light. If were going to end up with no solid answer either way, why not stick with the undeniably cooler memory of that first encounter in Jacob’s cabin?

    This is OK

    This is the cleanest out. It doesn’t require any special edits or “looking the other way.” It’ll be as if LOST went out in its prime. At three seasons, it’s short enough that I can still show it to people AND I wont have to feel guilty knowing they inevitably jerk the audience around for three more seasons only to pretty much come to the same conclusion. Rather than hitting the audience over the head, season three’s finale invites a great dialogue and much speculation…something season six failed to do when they forced the fans to get caught up in lame conversations about purgatory.

    I mean, we all just pretend Matrix 2 and 3 never happened, right?

    New Bright Falls Blog

    The other day I found this spectacular short film series called Bright Falls. It’s a six episode viral series that’s been compared to David Lynch’s work (specifically Twin Peaks) as well as the X-Files and the creepier moments of Lost. Noticing there wasn’t a very comprehensive place to figure out exactly what Bright Falls is, I took a day off from my other nonsense and made a site.

    Bright Falls Blog

    As I wrote on the site, it’s the best of everything I enjoy about the above mentioned films and shows…that seedy underbelly feeling of the small woodland town. A looming darkness so heavy and otherworldly that it’s oppressive. A driving mystery that challenges the audience to watch again and again.

    Although it clearly draws a lot of inspiration from those works, it’s also unique in how dark and often terrifying it is. You always know somethings not right, and occasionally that something becomes very threatening. It’s a six part series (two parts have been released thus far) and if it’s going to continue the way it’s been going, you’ll nearly have a heart attack approximately once per episode.

    I can’t say enough good things about it. I feel like I’m usually surrounded by mediocre films…this was a reminder that there’s some incredible stuff waiting for you in the strangest places. It’s independent, it’s free, and for me it’s really inspirational. Go check out and watch the first and second episode. It’ll really hook you.

    I’d love to make something like this.

    Final Season of Lost

    I’ve been on a long beak from everything. I haven’t touched anything even bordering on artistic (besides Double Feature?) since I started a mad dash to pay off my student loan. Yesterday I wrote my lender a huge check, and long boring story short – I’m finally free of student debt. The repercussions of my worthless bachelors degree are now behind me. From here, it’s on to better planned and more lucrative decisions. Let’s see if I can’t get back to doing something interesting.

    Lost Season 6 Poster

    As if Mass Effect 2 wasn’t going to be enough of a distraction from that, the final season of Lost begins tonight.

    Eric Thirteen on Killer Reviews

    Eric Thirteen on Killer ReviewsEpisode 37: Top Ten Horror Movies of 2009

    Butcher and special guest Eric Thirteen, from the Double Feature podcast, team up to discuss this years Best and Worst Horror Films of 2009. Other discussions include Hatchet 2 news, the upcoming DVD release of Cabin Fever 2 : Spring Fever and James Cameron’s Avatar. Hosts also give site announcements and dig through mail casket. It’s all hear and it’s only one click away!

    I often talk on Double Feature about how we don’t do a review show. We’re strive to make our show less about us and more about the films we’re talking about. We’ve trained ourselves to suppress our opinions when they aren’t directly relevant to the notability of a film. Even after each show, I painstakingly edit out the terrible review jargon like that snuck it’s way into our conversation. Reviews just aren’t the niche we’re going for.

    This week some friends of ours over at KillerReviews needed a last second co-host, so I have to admit that I was actually really excited to indulge. It was great to have a really opinionated conversation in that kind of forum. It’s a much different kind of show, it’s all about the personality of the hosts. They’re listens love to know what they think, and that works really well in the context of their overall site. After years of bottling up all these review-type-feels I dove head first into the most icon form of review – the top ten list.

    Music Box Massacre 5 Overview

    UPDATE: There’s an hour long podcast episode about Music Box Massacre 5 on Double Feature.

    Just now recovering from Music Box Massacre 5. Overall the movies were great this year – although the actual “lineup” was a terrible idea. The moral of the crowd was really down and I talked to a lot of people who were having an over all bad time. I’ll get to the fiasco that is“Rusty Nails” in a second, but let me explain myself on the lineup. Here was the order:

    The Hunchback of Notre Dame
    Isle of the Dead
    (Trailer) Hobo with a Shotgun
    Bucket of Blood
    The Black Cat
    The Brood
    (Short) The Alphabet
    From Beyond
    Dark Night of the Scarecrow
    (Short) Paranoia
    Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
    Blood Feast
    Maximum Overdrive

    While each film stood on it’s own merits, the pairing and the order in which they were arranged was mostly a failure. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was an odd way to start (as well as an odd inclusion, not nearly as well thought out as last year’s Old Dark House). Sticking The Black Cat (essentially a Masters of Horror TV episode) in as the third Stuart Gordon pick was a bad move, even though I love Stuart Gordon. The worst choice of the whole thing was Dark Night of the Scarecrow – I felt so bad for the creator, who showed up for a Q&A. You stick his film right after Pontypool? And up against other the other big-guns? It was the wrong format to show an ’81 made-for-TV movie anyways, but putting it that late at night was just incompetent.

    None of that actually maters compared to what actually ruined the evening for a lot of people – they had this guy who calls himself Rusty Nails introducing each movie. I don’t even know where to start on him. He likes to think of himself as a Chicago film personality. You’ll see him around film events in the city. He’s kind of an egotistical douche bag, but he’s fairly easily ignored. Well, usually anyways. Not last night.

    This guy would go on an on through the credits of each film about how people shouldn’t talk, twitter, use their cellphone, whatever. I mean, I get a reminder every few films or whatever, but this was literally before every film. The worst part was that he would actually talk OVER THE BEGINNING CREDITS of the film to tell people this. I would have almost enjoyed the irony it wasn’t actually detracting from the experience. You could tell the crowd was annoyed, I was almost worried about a riot breaking out. Half way through the massacre, people were starting to heckle him. They’d yell “I paid to get in here!” or “Thanks mom!”

    I’ve grown to expect really bad jokes, a complete lack of real enthusiasm, and these embarrassing costumes. I know that when he “interviews” someone, it feels like watching an awkward middle school presentation…but I can usually ignore that. I mean, I feel embarrassed for the guests (who’s time is totally wasted…you should have seen how Art Hindle reacted to his questions!) How awesome the Music Box is generally outweighs everything this guy does to ruin the experience every year.

    This year was just too much. It was just way too obnoxious. What was especially sad is to see that NO ONE was bidding on the charity stuff because the overall moral of the crowd was so low. I mean, you could feel how much everyone hated this guy! With each movie, more and more people around me were mumbling “jesus, enough already” under their breath. Had they gotten someone the crowd actually liked (and not someone who talked through the important dialogue at the end credits of Ponypool or someone who invited audience members to scream shrill heavy metal noises into the mic) the Music Box would have raised a lot more money.

    Anyways, that kind of turned into a rant. It was good to see everyone who came out…but if that guy’s around next year, I won’t be there and therefore I don’t see Double Feature hyping the event again. Music Box Massacre 5 will be our last Music Box episode.

    Introduction to Slashers with David Stieve

    We had a very last minute interview with David Stieve from Behind the Mask on Double Feature. It’s for our primer on slasher films, Black Christmas + Behind the Mask. David was a lot of fun to talk to – he knew his stuff, he had some great stories, and he wasn’t afraid to go on the offensive. I’ve always been a fan of cruel dark humor, and David wasn’t on our show five seconds before he started making fun of us. Well, me, more specially.

    Listen to the Interview with David Stieve.

    If you never watched a slasher film (or don’t get why people like them) I think this episode is a great place to start. We also have a reoccurring slasher feature called Killapalooza where we talk about a particular series (Freddy, Jason, etc) so you can figure out what those are all about too. These films may appear cheap and simple on the surface, but there are strong elements of mythology and cannon that make them really satisfying. It’s like a good graphic novel or serialized TV drama. Most of them have a strong feministic bent to them as well, which I’m a huge fan of.

    Brand New Double Feature Website

    In an effort to get search engines promoting our show for us, I’ve redesigned the Double Feature Website!

    The first thing you’ll notice is that you feel personally cheated by the term “redesigned”. In fact, you probably just feel like I’m flat out lying to you. I mean, look at it! It’s practically the same thing, right? The important differences are subtle. Before I get to those, here’s the new surface features:

    Double Feature Old

  • Search the entire site.
  • See every episode on one page.
  • Pop-up Player for Instant Listening
  • View Year 1 or Year 2 episode seperatly.
  • A page just showing Killapaloozas, Interviews, or Documentaries.
  • A page for all Terminator/Prophecy episodes.
  • A page with a list of every film on the show (and a link to that episode).
  • Flexible page length

    That’s cute and everything, but here’s the real power: The entire site is now hosted on Blogger (the same place this project blog is hosted). The old site was something I made from scratch. It used php to pull information out of a WordPress database and throw it up on the site. The code was messy and confused search engines. The new website is actually a blogger theme, designed to look just like the old site. It took a lot of work, but it now manages the feat of being on Blogger while looking like a real website (and not a typical shitty blog). Why move to Blogger? Under the surface, the blog infrastructure helps accomplish something amazing.

    The basic function of the new site is to use search engine optimization as a promotional tool. Google will now evangelize our podcast in the same way they would for…say…a marketing blog. For example – someone searches for The Attic Expeditions, and that episode’s page on our website pops right up. Given that we covered over 125 films on the show last year, this will give search engines that many movies to say “Were you interested in film x? Check out this show!” to. I think this is where the future of advertising is. No bullshit legwork for us. We make a show, search engines helps people find it. It’s not only easier, but it brings in more traffic than we ever could the old way. Hundreds of hours of handing out flyers is now accomplished in a fraction of a second. Literally.

  • Zombie March Chicago 2009

    UPDATE: Info and photos from the 2009 March!

    The date for Chicago’s 2009 Zombie March has finally been set! It’s going to be June 13th at Millennium Park. Last year it went on for a few hours and ended at the ABC News station where the zombies were put on live TV. I went with Laura last year and we had a blast. The zombies were a little hard to find at first, but if you wander around Millennium Park at about 2 or 2:30 there’s no way you can miss them. There were a few hundred last year, and will probably be even more this year.

    I’m going to be doing photography again this year. My shots from last year got picked up in a bunch of places (including Wired magazine) and I’ll be publishing this years stuff under creative commons free usage again. I’m considering video too, but I’m not sure. If you want to see my photos from the last year’s zombie march they’re up on Flickr.

    You can join the Facebook event Chicago Zombie March 2009 for more info. Let me know if you’re going! I’ll see you there.