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It’s Official: Yard Sale Season is Upon Us

yard sale sign

Ahoy, there be treasure hidden here.

In the Northeastern US, the yard sale season starts during Memorial Day Weekend and ends over Labor Day weekend. I love yard sales for many reasons:

  • find stuff you need for cheaper
  • keep stuff out of landfills a little longer
  • discover items from your childhood or things you’ve only heard about but never seen in person
  • interact with (mostly) nice folks

Some folks love yardsaling like I do, and others just hate it. And there are those who wonder what it’s all about. For those in the last group, I’ve listed some pointers and guidelines to maximize your yard sale experience.

Finding Yard Sales

I usually grab a copy of the local paper and look in the classifieds for upcoming yard sale listings. For those who live in a more populated area, I’ve heard that craigslist is a pretty good source too. IMO though, stick with the local paper; the local paper probably has a website that lists their classifieds too, and whatever route you create from the local listings will suffice, as you’ll most likely run across unlisted sales, neighbors taking advantage of the free advertising. With the local classifieds in hand, I mark the ones that sound promising (e.g., “electronics” or “old photography” ) and avoid others (e.g., “baby clothes”; baby clothes are everywhere ,  of course except when you actually need to find baby clothes). Then I enter the addresses into Google Map and see where the yard sales are relative to one another, plan a route, and print it out.

Around this time I also email friends if they’re interested in going. In addition to being a lot more fun than yardsaling solo, yardsaling with others also increases your chances of finding something you’re looking for as you have more pair of eyes scanning each sale, improves your negotiation (more on this later), and acts as a reality check (“are you really going to use that scythe to mow the lawn?” True story).

Day of the Sale

Early birds are annoying, but you do want to start your yard saling around the start time, which typically starts at either 8 or 9am. Here’s a list of stuff I recommend having on hand for a yard sale session:

  • small change. Easier to pay for stuff and doesn’t look as bad compared to getting change for a $20 for an item you haggled down to $2.
  • water bottle. Depending on the area you live in, you’ll get dehydrated quickly. Coffee is a common alternative.
  • list of things you would like to get. This helps keep your searches more focused and reduces the chances that you missed something at a yard sale.
  • hand sanitizer. You will be picking up and inspecting a lot of stuff of which you rarely know where it has been. Baby wipes are a good alternative too.

Depending on how big your list is, you’ll want to spend the first couple of minutes at a sale scanning the piles. If your initial impression is that it’s a bunch of crap, leave and get to the next sale. You can always come back if you regret it.

Haggling Guidelines

So you found an item or a couple of items that you’re interested in buying. Here are some guidelines:

  • think whether you will actually use the item. This is where having a list comes in handy because if it’s on the list, you’ve already thought about it.
  • think about what’s the most you would pay for it. Unless you ABSOLUTELY need that item, you should always be willing to walk away from the sale. You may have pangs of regret –I know I have on several occasions– but also know that you saved money and it’s one less item in your place. It also helps that you can usually find the same item at another sale.
  • in general, you can reasonably start at half of the asking price. Anything below that significantly decreases your odds of getting the item and may also insult the seller. Exceptions to this are items that are listed for $1 or less. There’s an alternative to getting a lower price:
  • see if there’s anything else at that particular yard sale that you’re interested in. Sometimes you can get a cheaper price per item if you offer to buy more items, as most sellers are most interested in getting rid of stuff rather than making a profit (more on this in another post on hosting a yard sale). This is where having friends along helps a lot, as you can pool the items that the group is interested in.
  • be nice. (Most) Sellers put a lot of effort into running a yard sale, so be respectful. Even if their stuff is crap and/or the sellers are douchebags, be courteous, at least until you get into the car and drive off.  An aside to this is if you offer a reasonable price (i.e., at least half of the asking price) and they get mad about it, just walk away. It’s not worth it and more power to the seller.

Release the Hounds…

There are many sites that focus on yard sales with a ton of tips and how-to’s, but if you follow the suggestions listed above, you and your friends will have a productive and hopefully enjoyable yard sale experience. And if you do go yardsaling enough, you’ll most likely need to have a yard sale yourself, which I’ll talk about in another post. Until then, happy yardsaling!


Taipei International Animation Festival – Part 3

I’ve been kinda slow, but I’ll be catching up with the review posts on the over 10 shows I went to during the Festival(!). My hope is that it may help somebody find more information about a film they’re going to see, or give people some titles of things to go look for.

Taipei Competition 3
Taiwan Competition 3

The Sword into Tomorrow
This is also known as Tomorrow Step on the Sword in the full program guide, which is fantastic Engrish right off the bat. Basically, this is a very detailed, very well lit and polished 3D CG short about a tubby, smily ninja guy who wants to steal a scroll from some tomb, and has to fight a skeleton demon. The action is great as are the effects, but the whole film comes off as kind of dull as it has no real story to it. Well, okay, it has a story, but it’s so forgettable that it does nothing to support the rest of the work done on the piece and leaves it flaccid.

mommo
I liked this a lot – it’s about a boy who tries to help a rabbit fly across a chasm to get to a field of carrots. A lot of why I liked this is the fact that while it uses a paper-cutout/handicraft appearance to the animation, it still manages to be humorously bloody with its comedy. In other words, the appearance and feel lends itself to kids animation, but the content isn’t. Awesome.

The City of Oblivion
The first artsy piece of the show, it’s about an umbrella thrown away by a girl who has purchased a new one, and its nighmarish descent into awkward parallax animation and a world of discarded object creatures that work hand in hand with the loud music to give you a feeling of uncertainty and unease. It’s interesting, but I wouldn’t watch this before going to bed – you’ll dream some bizarre shit. Oh yeah, it’s supposed to be an environmental message too, so stop throwing away creepy umbrellas with buckets for heads, ok?

On a Diet
This was a hand drawn animation that was both detailed and stylized in a fat sort of way about the different things people do to lose weight and what they do when they diet. Short, focused, not bad. Kinda Plympton-y in some ways.

The Woman with Pearls
ARTSY FARTSY GET! This was a surreal piece about a woman who continuously splits pearls from her body, and the bird creatures that covet her pearls and stalk her as a result. This was a long piece, and was (from the following interview) intended to symbolize women’s fear of growing old. I would suggest knowing this before watching it, as you’ll get more out of it this way and you’ll be less creeped out by it.

Secret Piano
Another piece from Word Fisher Animation Studios (like the 2 in the last show), this one is about a boy who loves to play on his toy piano. His mother notices this, and buys a real piano for him, but there’s something about it that scares him. I liked this one a lot as it had a memorable story, sound that worked to enhance the story, and the animation style is both cute and expressive at the same time.

Grandpa & Bicycle
I saw this one previously in the animation segment of the Taipei Film Festival earlier, and it still retains its badassness – it’s simply a cute story about a Grandpa who goes apeshit on a bike trying to deliver his granddaughter’s forgotten wallet to her. The animation style is like cut out pieces of paper layered on top of one another, and it’s very well done. One thing I liked is that during the interview, the director said that his goal for the film was simply to tell a story. He’s done that, and I’d recommend looking for this short.

Childish Love
Though this film was kind of rough in terms of animation and general appearance, not to mention the fact that the kid’s face looks MESSED UP, it’s very good in delivering its message about domestic abuse, which is a problem in Taiwan right now to boot.

2007 The Auntie Tiger
This is an animated interpretation of a Chinese folk story called “Tiger Aunt”, which apparently goes like this: “There is a tiger aunt that visits children from time to time, and when the children go to sleep, she eats their fingers.” Kinda like a Candyman story for kids or something. Well, this animation shows a girl baiting and then savagely beating Auntie Tiger, mercilessly, enough to make you feel sorry for Auntie Tiger. I think this is pretty much like if you become vegetarian, then somebody waves a perfectly done filet in your face then beats you about the face and neck with a Datsun. Well animated, but kind of messed up.

Reminiscence
Another long, kind of artsy piece. The character’s faces are kind of rough, and the animation is a bit rough as well, but everything seems put together reasonably well. This is one of those “coming to terms with the death of {important person}” shorts. A bit long, but I’d say it was good.

Beaver
This is a short short about shaving…..HEY! NO! NO! BAD READER! BAD! How could you think of something like that! Look, so it’s named “Beaver” for some Engrish reason, but it has NOTHING TO DO WITH THAT! JEEZUS! Look, it’s about a guy whose facial hair keeps growing and he…hey, are you even listening? WTF? HELLO, MCFLY! Ok, it’s about his repeated efforts to shave his ever growing face, and it has a nice 70′s sparkle-fresh design to it, it looks like it’s too smooth, and it’s kind of short and a bit forgettable aside from the graphic design. Did you get that? Good.

Black Scissors
This one was pretty awesome, though I take issue with some of implied meaning of the short, in terms of “well, why the hell’d he do that?!”. Basically, a boy discovers a film reel that shows the events of his recent life in it, and a pair of scissors. Whenever he cuts a frame from the reel, that event becomes erased from history – it never happened. The look of the film is quite good, and the story’s put together pretty well – I like the concept, and I’d suggest looking for it.

Nian
Imagine taking a cel-shaded animation, and then thickening the lines by about 5-50 times and then giving everything a watercolor appearance, which also means that you remove almost all disernable detail from a shape. I know this was done to make the animation look like old Chinese watercolor paintings, but it’s kind of overdone. Also, the frame rate is too high, making the animation too smooth(looks “computery”), and doesn’t jive with the feel of the film. It’s okay in a cultural-neat sort of way though.

That’s all for now! I’ll post more later, including stuff on the Q&A session that followed this show.

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Taipei International Animation Festival – Part 2

Not in Taipei? Sucks to be you, but here is the chef lowdown on what was up on the screen. Chances are you may be able to find the stuff on YouTube or elsewhere depending on how the artist distributes the work.

Taipei Competition 2
program schedule for Taipei Competition 2

The Ringmaster
This is the first of several films by Word Fisher Animation Studios, which is mainly a guy named Wenchung Lu. This one was pretty cool, though a bit long, and the audio was kinda distorted. It was also kind of dark at the beginning, and there is a scene where the boy hangs himself from a tree. At this time, they put a large message up on the left side of the screen, which I’m guessing meant “Don’t do this at home”, probably because Taiwan’s already had problems with people committing suicide, particularly in a copycat fashion to news events. Nothing says “THIS FESTIVAL IS AWESOME” like opening with a little-boy-suicide scene. It gets happier later I think.

The Whistle Stops
This is the first Taiwanese Taiwanesey film, which gets into stuff with symbolism and indirect hatred of the Japanese. I only say this because it clearly focuses around a retro toy robot that is both a toy from a now dead father, a troop stomping death machine, and a empathetic automaton all in the film. Also, because during the Q&A, the director wanted to focus on the fact that it was the Japanese that started this shit way back when. Kinda long for me, but it was pretty high quality and the train scenes were very Taiwanesey feelin’.

P Lee Frog
What happens when you take Crazy Frog and have him(well, I’m pretty sure Crazy Frog’s a him, with his nubbin’ ‘n all) in 4th wall breaking scenarios between film strip frames, much like the Chuck Jones classic Duck Amuck? I wouldn’t know, since what I saw was a blatant ripoff of Crazy Frog doing generally uninspired “antics” between movie frames for barely a minute. Shiny crap, basically. The filmmaker is apparently an industry veteran of 8ish years working on commercial stuff, which may explain why this will appeal to two groups of people: A) corporate people, and B) people who can’t tell this is in fact, not Crazy Frog, and paw at shiny objects.

Claw Tropolis
This was the first film I was actually impressed by, mainly due to the design of the “claw bus” in the film. It has a distinctive look and has good character design and story flow. Also, it’s about a guy who does bad things to good people because he got cheated out of going to an event he’d been waiting for – something we can all relate to.

The Shoes
This was the second film from that Word Fisher group. You know that it must be a good film if it opens with 8 or 9 different “IT WON AN AWARD” and “IT OPENED SOME FILM FESTIVAL” statements, all with pretentious wings by the statement to let you know that it’s super-film-festival-ly. And yet, the film was something like twice as long as the “OMG AWARDZ EVRYWR!”. Good, short, predictable.

Popa Family
If you could vote a film for failed potential, this would be it. I say this mainly because it has parts that come AMAZINGLY CLOSE to shoving it into a Sick & Twisted show, but ends up being super kid friendly in a drooling toddler approved sort of way. This section was super long because it was three shorts, all of which followed an episode formula of crisis, let’s see what the asshole daughter does and laugh at her cruelty, and then let’s have the wise father come up with an idea and save the day.

Joke Series
I doubt this will be a prize winner, but it was really good nonetheless. All it was was 3 jokes (kinda like “a guy walks into a bar” jokes) with animations to illustrate/explain the joke. The second one, which was about an oversexed rooster, was chock full of awesome.

The Mosquito Effect
Apparently, this was based on “The Butterfly Effect” of chaos theory, which states that “it is possible through a chain of events for a butterfly flapping its wings to cause a typhoon across the world”. In this one, they say they examine “how one mosquito can change the fate of a man”. What you get is something more akin to reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book with two fingers to hold your place so you can try a different path later. Note that this has less to do with chaos theory and more to do with what ifs. Okay film, but the “Mosquito Effect” copycatting of the “Butterfly Effect” gives it +15 to Pretentiousness and a -10% To Hit Credibility.

It’s also notable that this, like The Whistle Stops, seems to use character models that seem like they’re pulled out of Poser or some other “stock human” 3D model pack. They look good, but it looks like a higher quality version of what the news programs use to make a “re-enactment” scene of a murder, gangland killing, rape, etc. I must say though, that this film did a REALLY good job of recreating a Taipei apartment and street, from the windows to the Taiwan Beer can a drunk is holding.

Cutting
Super short, super cool. Blends real-life video with realistic computer animation that’s hard to detect at first, so it looks really nifty and artsy.

Movement and Stillness
Meh. Didn’t care much for this one, which shows a still room with a piece of paper that comes to life with fishes ‘n shit. Looks like a student demo reel, what with all the wireframe fishes in an animation building layers to a fully textures and lit fish doing said animation.

Love Plug Love
Male plug tries to hook up with female outlet. Antics ensue. Short, funny.

13months
I loved this one and wouldn’t mind seeing it again – it’s an animation going through the animals of the Chinese Zodiac, but it uses a very expressive animation style that looks like a cross between watercolors and particles(like sand). It reminds me of the fucking amazing animation The Bead Game, which is a product of Canada’s Film Board. Not as expansive or badass as The Bead Game, but similar in animation style and flow that are both playful and mesmerizing, one form evolving into another while never losing the viewer’s attention, interest, or understanding. You can’t help but be fascinated by experimental animation like this.


Taipei International Animation Festival – Part 1

The Taipei International Animation Festival is in full swing, and right after work I zoomed down to the Shin Kong Cineplex (the map is a lie – it’s on the south side of that road) to catch 2 shows: Taiwan Competition 2 and Taiwan Competition 3. These are Taiwanese animations submitted for this year’s competition, for which the award ceremony is tomorrow. I’m guessing today was the main showing, seeing as they had Q&A after each show with the film’s directors(not all of them though). Most of the filmmakers were students and did this work while at their respective universities.

I got a 10 ticket superpack for 1600NT, which comes out to a little less than $5 a show, each ticket redeemable for any show(except invite only…harumph) in the Festival. Apparently it came with 3 little mini-tickets redeemable for other stuff.

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One was for a discount on the catalog-sized program guide, making it $6. Full color, good paper, nice stuff, and it came with a complimentary copy of last year’s guide, which was sold out when I tried to buy it. It’s nicer than the freebie small program guide, though that one is amazingly nice for a freebie.

Another ticket was for a free coffee mug with the festival logo or something on it, but it hadn’t arrived yet, so they gave me a piece of paper with secret instructions to go to a website and redeem my mug of the future for whenever it comes out.

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The last ticket, which surprised the hell out of me, was for a ginormous Collector’s Edition copy of World of Warcraft which weighs more than two kilograms. It’s big enough to kill babies with a glance, or at least intimidate the really tough ones. Blizzard’s a part of this year’s festival, and one of the shows is a reel of their CG movies from Diablo II and Starcraft up through Starcraft 2. Because of this, it kinda makes sense that they’re trying to whore out WoW to patrons to get them hooked if they weren’t already. That, and they know how to find the right audience for their games.

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They also had a giant inflatable orc from WoW at the cineplex, which they seem to give out to some of the net cafes here. Kinda fug fug.

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