Archive for January, 2009

5 Questions with Steve

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Every Saturdayish I will be answering five questions from my readers.  To send me a question, comment here or email it to steve@stevegast.com

Today’s lesson

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Never drink and drive.  But if you do, don’t write about it in a blog your mom reads.

Thank god I stayed quiet about my last heroin binge.

Friday fill ins!

Friday, January 30th, 2009

1. I’d really like my brain to stop hurting right now.

2. Glarghnmpmph is the word you’d most often hear me say if I stubbed my toe.

3. Possession is is a perfume by Jessica Simpson…or was it Bea Arthur?.

4. I have a poster on my bedroom ceiling of Captain Jack Sparrow.

5. Marshmallows and fire go together like Peeps and microwave.

6. Celine Dion’s heart will go on and on.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to my Tylenol kicking in, tomorrow my plans include a possible video post or “VLOG” if you don’t date much and Sunday, I want to watch the Lions win the SuperBowl! (cue the song Dreamweaver)!

Happy Birthday Firggy!

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Today is my awesome sister’s birthday.  She has championed hundreds of people over the years and is one of the most generous people I know.  Today her friend Janine returned the love:

http://janinealogy.blogspot.com/2009/01/its-firggy-friday.html

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Happy Birthday Sis!

Love,

Bro

25 Random Things About Me

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I am reposting this for my one reader who is not on Facebook. You know who you are.

1. I have five cats that I know of.

2. I once jumped out of a perfectly good airplane.

3. I can play three instruments: the kazoo, the triangle, and the tambourine.

4. I eat too much salsa.

5. I am on steroids. No really.

6. I don’t miss working for The Man.

7. I would walk 500 miles just to be the man who shows up at your door. Also I don’t have a car.

8. I joined Facebook just to check out my friend Nathan’s history of haircuts.

9. I now believe the mullet will be making a comeback very soon.

10. I once lived with a sloppy gay nazi, a germophobic Jew, a giant sociopath who was also my best friend, and his stoner girlfriend who I was in love with. Nathan can confirm I am not making this up.

11. I once crashed my friend Mark’s snowmobile into a mailbox and later my friend Chris’s snowmobile into a tree. They don’t let me drive anymore.

12. I was run over by Mark with a snowmobile. He is still allowed to drive for some reason.

13. I have delivered papers, flipped burgers, loaded lumber, telesurveyed, sold kitchen knives, wrote radio commercials, and shipped chemicals. And they say a Liberal Arts degree won’t take you anywhere.

14. I appear shallow at first, but when you dig deeper you will realize I have a nice ass.

15. I think “Spock’s Brain” is the worst Star Trek episode ever. Also I didn’t lose my virginity till I was 25.

16. I DJ’d an all Chinese wedding. I was still the shortest man there.

17. I once received a customer complaint that the truck driver showed up wearing his pajamas.

18. I owe my existence to Lean Pockets and Wheat Thins.

19. I can’t do the Mississippi Slide, but with the right amount of Crown Royal I can fake it.

20. I was tackled by a bench during football practice. I didn’t see much playing time.

21. I once shorted out the electricity to my entire apartment building while trying to fix a cordless phone.

22. I am getting hungry for lunch and my cat Jack is starting to look delicious.

23. I own four houses. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

24. I think Guantanamo Bay would make a fine boarding school for the neighbor kids.

25. I am above shameless promotions. Also I will grant you 25 years of good luck if you check out these websites:

http://wendyseye.com

http://www.djryanrousseau.com

http://markbierlein.com

http://designbyfirgs.com

http://www.frugalvillage.com

Automotively Challenged (Part II)

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

The night of the break down, Ryan emailed his friend Trevor who manages the local repo lot. Trevor arranged to have the Jeep towed back to Saginaw by 10am the following morning. He charged me $20 for freezing his driver’s nuts off. Fair deal.

Ryan called, waking me up from amnesia dreams in which I drove all over the country care free. He said to get ready so we could go to the lot and get the full report. It was a safe bet though that I would need a new car. I got dressed and then made a preliminary call to my credit union. They told me they could take the car loan application over the phone, but I would still need to come in the next day with a check stub showing proof of employment. I told them “Thanks, that’s all I need for now.” and quickly hung up.

This credit union had processed loans on my last three cars. I thought they would be thrilled to have me back. “Mr. Gast, it’s an honor to give you our money. In fact if you apply today we’ll throw in free gas for a year and a Pepperidge Farm gift box.” Which would be awesome because I love cheese and crackers. But no, they want me to have a job. How unreasonable is that?

Ryan showed up and took me over to the lot. We went to see the resident mechanic Lowell who was running an engine on a vehicle with most of the garage doors shut. We made our way through a cloud of carbon monoxide to Lowell. Ryan then suggested opening another door before we all died. Lowell agreed it was probably a good idea.

I asked Lowell for the verdict on my Jeep. He confirmed Ryan’s first assessment. A piston ring blew and wiped out the whole engine. Game over. Ryan asked if he could put in a cheap motor so we could resell it for something. Lowell looked up the engine and placed a call to a dealer. He was told they only had one and it would be close to two grand. Lowell said he would call elsewhere and the dealer said “Good luck.” Not too encouraging.

We went over to see Trevor and I paid him the $20. He said he could sell me a SUV off the lot for about $10,000. I told him about my financing woes and asked if I could just put a new engine in the Jeep. His exact reply was “You’d be putting money in a dead horse.” At 200,000 miles it was only a matter of time before the transmission and back end dropped out, sinking me another $7000 into it. At this point the walls of the office began to close in on me.

The rest of that day is fuzzy. Once I told Ryan he still needed to get gas. He asked if I remembered when we stopped at the gas station in Carrolton twenty minutes earlier. It became clear at that point that I wasn’t accomplishing anything and raised the white flag. Take me home.

The next day I awoke with a new sense of determination. I went through my credit folders and found a letter from a bank to my LLC. They were offering $100,000 in equipment lease credit, but I never followed up for lack of need. I called them and spoke to a man named Roman. He asked me a few questions about my business and I responded with my well practiced generic answers. He looked up my LLC on Dunn and Bradstreet, saw the 80 Paydex score and said I was approved for the $100K. The clouds parted and the sun began to shine.

That is until the next day, when Roman emailed to inform me that the credit department was declining my application. An explanation would be in the mail. Haven’t received the letter yet, but I imagine it will be something along the lines of a company policy against financing deadbeats.

And now I face a world without money for wheels.

January 15th Detroit Film Meetings

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

From an email to the Mid-Michigan Filmmakers group:

All,
I will attempt to summarize Thursday, but I apoligize now for being brief and factually questionable. My main focus when I attend these meetings or even training seminars is to network before and afterwards. I tend to only hear every 15th word or so during the meeting and am also the worst note taker I know. All that being said, here is what I have.

The morning meeting was held by the Michigan Film Office (http://www.michigan.gov/filmoffice). It was standing room only by the time I got there. The Film Council had no microphones and it was almost impossible to hear speakers from the back of the room. The few highlights:

* Tick Tock Studios (http://www.tictockstudios.com/) outlined the educational programs they are rolling out in Grand Rapids. They will be 40 hour classes starting with the basics of working on the set, followed by advanced classes focused on specific departments. They are partnering with local schools to facilitate this. (I would love to see something similar here with Delta or SVSU, so hopefully Tick Tock grows beyond the west side of the state soon.)

* Tony Wenson from the Film Office addressed the rumors of studios being built in Michigan. He basically repeated what he said last year. Anything you hear now, even in the press, is just a rumor. However, there are “serious parties” interested right now. There are several factors that go into building a studio, but he optimistically hopes to have something concrete to report in two to three months. He stated that Michigan is very serious about getting them built as it will lead to year round employment.

* Gran Torino: Everyone is praying it gets several Academy nominations/awards so Michigan can toot its horn. Janet Lockwood said they only thing she didn’t like about the movie is that it showed the blight of Detroit and asked if there was any way to put a positive spin on that. (I mentally kicked her in the knee at that point.)

The second meeting was held that evening by the Michigan Production Alliance (http://www.mpami.org/). The MPA “strives to promote and enhance the community of Michigan media professionals, both union and non-union, by providing resources such as crew and equipment contacts, seminars, workshops and various other industry related support” (quoted from their website). They backed this statement up that night with a very informative seminar on Location Scouting/Managing. They brought in three very experienced Location Mangers from both Commercial and Feature Film Work to discuss everything required for the position. I learned there is a great deal more than just finding a location with the right look. You need to know what it looks like at all hours of the day, what it looks like from reverse, what day the garbage man picks up, what is the air traffic like, etc. They definitely were able to demonstrate the extrodinary work that goes into locating and managing locations for any project.

The MPA has several more training seminars coming up, starting with a PA Boot Camp at Madonna University in early February. I will be the first to tell you working as a PA requires the skills of a doorknob, but I am still considering attending. There is always something you can learn and more importantly as I mentioned earlier, these are phenomonal networking opportunities. I am not saying you need to join the MPA, but definitely tag their website and keep an eye on what they have coming up.

I’ll end with a belated Happy New Year to the group! Let’s rock and roll in 2009 :)

Steve

Automotively Challenged

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

There are a few problems with my car. The leather is ripped on the passenger seat. The steering wheel is out of alignment. The driver’s side tire seems to have a slow leak. Aside from that though, it’s a solid vehicle. A solid, massive, heavy paperweight. It can take you from Point A to Point A. 0 to 0 in 60 seconds. Farfignogo. Jeep Cherokant. It’s a dead car.

I spent all of Thursday in Detroit, networking with the film community and other Southfield business owners. I forced myself to talk to strangers and tackled scary Detroit rush hour traffic without a map. It was all way out of my comfort zone but a complete rush. I was finally out in the world, taking a real step towards starting a new life. My Jeep however decided that it had seen enough of this world.

There was knocking sound from the engine. Then a flash of flames followed by a plume of smoke from under the hood. I should have been panicked or shocked, but all I felt was resigned. The Jeep had endured the endless commute to Midland and five summers of DJ trailer hauling. I knew this day was coming.

I eased over to the side of the road and and called  Ryan. He said to sit tight as he just had to get some water in Birch Run and then he would be back to get me. “YOU COME GET ME NOW!!” I replied calmly.

Ryan was kind enough to scrap plans for water and found the closest turn around.  It didn’t even bother me when he came in too hot and slammed into the back of my car. Ironically there wasn’t a scratch on the Jeep, but my trailer hitch did about $500 in damage to his bumper cover. It was just a rough night for all involved.

Ryan turned my ignition and listened briefly to the engine. “Yep, you swallowed a valve. The engine’s shot.” There was no time to mourn though as we had to quickly exit the scene. I scrambled to get the valuables out of the car, but it was dark. I left behind one leather glove, one rollerblade wrist guard, a book of stamps, a brand new bottle of Zyrtec, and several CD’s. I’m sure there are more items that I don’t miss yet but will soon.

A car is just a thing. An object with no emotions. I’ve had several and I’ve never thought of myself as attached or connected to them. Yet leaving my car abandoned on the side of the road was a horrible feeling. All alone. Out in the coldest night of the year. I’m sorry man!!!

It could have been worse though. I drove it all over Southfield earlier that day. If it had popped in the middle of Detroit traffic, it would have been a very very bad scene. Instead it managed to hold out till the roads were clear and Ryan was close by. I am truly grateful for this. I thank my car for going the distance, putting in mile after brutal mile. You will be missed.

And now I face a world without wheels.

We’ve got Spirit, yes we do

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

“SAGINAW!!!” shouted Ryan.

“SPIRIT!!!” blasted the crowd. The Dow Event center was rocking as Ryan filled the arena with energy. It was the best we possibly could have hoped for. It was also nothing short of a complete clusterfuck.

Ryan had been telling me about this job for months. Somehow he had convinced the promotional director to let him conduct a dance contest on the ice. I imagine this idea was conceived after several Crown and Sevens. This is when Ryan’s mouth either propels him to greatness or gets him in trouble. Often both.

He was smart enough to realize if he simply walked on the ice and did a dance contest, the fans would not know who he was or care what he was doing. He needed a big introduction and a grand entrance. He envisioned a blacked out arena with laser lights as a video played introducing him like Kid Rock. Impressively, the Spirit saw his point and agreed to give him complete control. In theory. Kind of like the weather man giving you permission to control a hurricane.

Ryan needed to someone to run the music while he was on the ice, so I volunteered. The day of the game I went down to the center and waited for him in the lobby. There I saw Maxine from Toastmasters. Apparently she supports a women’s hockey team and was there to run a raffle during the game. She asked what I was doing and I proudly told her I was going to help Ryan run the “halftime” show. Maxine gave me a bit of a strange look but was too nice to tell me hockey had two period breaks, not halftime. Yes I am a hockeytard.

Ryan retrieved me and showed me the thirty page script that been handed to him. He had been planning the event since August but just now learned that he would be responsible for every single announcement of the game. Fortunately the anxiety this caused was short lived. The sound booth operator, Romero, grabbed the script and threw it in the trash. He said their announcer would handle that, so all Ryan had to worry about was his show. That was the plan anyway.

We ran a rehearsal without any glitches. Ryan tested his microphone out on the ice along with music playing. Everything sounded great. Then he ran the intro video he and a friend had put together. Gold letters flashed across a purple screen accompanied by a robotic voice telling fans to get on their feet and make some noise. The volume was a little low, so Romero ordered the booth to crank it up. It rocked. There was nothing more that could be done, so Ryan smiled at me and said, “Whatever happens, happens.” And happen it did.

The first thing that happened was the computer in the sound booth crashed just minutes before the game. A panicked booth assistant told Ryan he would need to play a different song every time the puck was not in play. Hey no problem, the clock never stops for hockey right? Ryan and I had watched maybe three games between us ever and were a bit surprised how many times the whistle blew. In five minutes we had wiped out a good twenty songs. Each only played for a couple seconds, but once you used it, you had to move on. Ryan is Captain Multitasker though and I think it helped get him into the flow of the night.

Before we knew it the first period was over and it was time to kick off the show. Unfortunately it was not the Kid Rock intro Ryan had dreamed of. The Dow has gymnasium lights that can’t be shut on and off quickly. Everything stayed lit making the laser lights worthless. The video played but at a fraction of the volume from rehearsal so no one could hear it. Ryan was also told at the last minute that his headset microphone was causing feedback and he would have to use the house microphone.

Ryan went the edge of the rink with his dance contestants, most of whom were six years old. He had specifically asked for all ages, especially middle schoolers, but was instead delivered a throng of kneebiters. He would have been screwed if one of his friend’s daughters along with her friends hadn’t showed at the last second. Surrounded by kids he asked the staff if they should go on the ice first, or if he should be Mother Goose.

The staff rolled carpet on to the rink and Ryan went to center ice followed by his mini-minions. He quickly explained the rules of the dance contest, went over the moves required to perform the Cupid Shuffle, then told me to hit the music. What came out of the speakers was a distorted mess. The kids attempted to follow Ryan in the dance but he quickly told me to cut the music. The fans stared at him with glazed eyes. He announced they would bring back the dance finalists in the second break and quickly retreated off the ice. The first contest was in short, a complete disaster.

On the bright side there was still two thirds of a game to go and things got better from there. Romero got the computer working and took over music duty for the rest of the night. Then the staff turned the camera on Ryan during a stop in play. He had nothing to lose and wound himself up to maximum Ryanness. “Ok we’re going to try something new,” he said over the microphone, “When I say Saginaw, you say Spirit. SAGINAW,”

“Spirit” meekly replied about a third of the fans. I think the rest were too stunned. But there was no turning back now and Ryan went for it balls out, “SAGINAW” he blasted.

“Spirit!” cried out more fans. “SAGINAW” Ryan cried out giving it everything he had.

“SPIRIT!!!” roared all the fans. The ice had finally been broken. Game on.

The second period break came and Ryan’s video played again. This time Romero made sure it played with volume and also corrected the distortion issues we had earlier. Ryan was instructed to start the second dance contest right away. He ignored those instructions, opting instead to get each side of the arena competing against each other for the loudest “SPIRIT”. The staff freaked out and told me to get the show on the road. I shrugged and apologized as there was no way to communicate with him when he was out on the ice.

Eventually Ryan started the dance contest, going with the simplest possible, The Twist. It worked great and the kids had a blast. So did the fans. They cheered for the winner, and the whole arena was rocking. This time Ryan walked off the ice a hero.

Ryan continued to get on camera and work up the crowd for the last period. He only tripped up once when the staff asked him to sing “Let’s go Spirit.”. Ryan has a multitude of talents. Singing is not one of them. He bombed miserably but quickly recovered with the old DJ standby “MAKE SOME NOISE!!!”.

The Spirit ended up losing the game, but Ryan had won hands down. The staff reported that the team owners who had originally opposed hiring him were ecstatic. By morning the Spirit had been flooded with emails inquiring about Ryan. His website which normally get five hits on a good day had over two hundred and fifty hits. Despite all the glitches and catastrophe Ryan had shown what a true entertainer can do for a live event. And if he has his way, Saginaw hockey is about to get a lot more interesting.