Sunday, August 31, 2014

You be the judge: Are home warranties scams?

In July of this year, I had a problem with my garage. The door wouldn't open with the clicker, and when I tried to open it manually, it felt heavy. I spoke with a maintenance technician over the phone for advice, and he stated that whenever a door felt heavy it was usually because the cables had come loose. With some help from my parents, I was able to pry open the unusually heavy door, and I saw that my side cables had popped off, just like the maintenance technician had predicted.

Soon, I contacted my home warranty company, First American Home Warranty (AKA
First American Home Buyers Protection). I placed a service request, and I listed that my door was stuck and I indicated that it was due to the cables having popped off. (See below.) First American arranged for a garage technician to come to my home.

For those unfamiliar with home warranties, a customer pays a yearly fee to have covered problems with his or her home fixed. However, each time a service call is completed, the company charges a fee. In First American's case, they charge a yearly fee of $384, and their service fees cost $60. I was aware of this pay structure, but I was not aware of their policy of sending out repairmen, knowing that they will not cover the problems but still charging the $60 fee. 

The day that the garage repairman came, he assessed that my hinge needed to be replaced and that the cables needed to be redone. He informed me that First American did not cover these issues, and he had me speak with a First American representative who confirmed this and said I had a right not to use his services. The repairman told me that my repair and part would cost $165 plus I had to pay the First American service charge--total $225. I asked him how much I would have had to pay if I had called him directly for service. He said he would have charged me the same--$165. I would not have had to pay a service fee. I told him that I refused to pay the service fee because I had to pay full price for repairs. He said that if I refused to pay the service fee I would have to speak with First American later. 

When the repairman finished his work, I paid him for his service and for the part. Then I contacted First American, and I told them what happened. They said even if my repairs were not covered by First American that I still owed the $60 because they had sent someone out on a service call.  I asked them why they had fulfilled the request since I had explicitly stated in my service request that I was having problems due to my cables, which were not covered by First American. They refused to answer this question directly. I then asked for the statistic of how often they send out requests knowing they would not fulfill the requests. They also ignored this question. Finally after nearly one month of back and forth nonsense, I paid the $60 and chose to not renew with this company that has received hundreds of negative reviews on blogs such as Pissed Off Consumer and on review sites such as Yelp.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Darth Vader surfing and a mermaid riding a unicorn--welcome to the world of artist Sean Boyce

Wandering around the 626 Night Market on August 16th, I was impressed by many of the artists who had set up booths. For instance, I was attracted to the chic sexiness of Eddy Lee's female portrait work, and I liked the hyper energy of the watercolors of Geoff Pascual. A third artist who caught my eye was Boston-native Sean Boyce. His paintings, which included Darth Vader surfing and a mermaid riding a unicorn as angry Godzilla looked on, was brightly colored, psychedelic, and influenced by surfer and pop culture. It was as if Lisa Frank was on mushrooms while strolling on Venice Beach. I loved it.

"Since my arrival at Los Angeles, my work has become much more fanciful and whimsical," Boyce said. "I have taken the mermaid motif that I picked up first in the nautical lore of my hometown Cape Cod and have rode with it quite far to expand the mythology to Martians, unicorns, sea monsters, Godzilla, all kinds of pop surrealistic subjects."
"Dream at Point Dume" by Sean Boyce
After the 626 Night Market, I connected with Boyce through Instagram. He has a portfolio of his artwork on the site, and Instagram is one of his many tools he uses to get his work out there. In addition to social media, Boyce often exhibits at Venice Beach, usually on the weekends. He has also exhibited his work at galleries, art fairs, art walks, cafes, bookstores, and libraries.
"Duxter Skates Venice" by Sean Boyce
Boyce started drawing at a young age. According to his biography, he studied culinary arts and worked as a chef in the 1990s to support his family. When the time was right, he left the cooking world to become a full time artist.

"I started drawing at age five, my dad and mom taught me how," Boyce said. "I read h.w. Hanson's history of art when I was young and became obsessed with Michalangelo's Statue of David. I then got into Spiderman and was obsessed with comic books. My mom took me to two comic book conventions in New York City when I was seven and eight years old. I have been avidly studying artists, filmmakers and musicians my whole life. I am self taught, but an artist can never avoid being taught something by his peers through the course of his travels."
"The Kiss" by Sean Boyce
Boyce takes his influences from various disciplines: paintings, music, and film, for instance. Some painters that have influenced his style include Salvador Dali, Van Gogh, and Eddy Lee (check out my interview with Lee here.), and musicians include Kiss, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Gucci Mane, and Far East Movement, among others. Films include Blade Runner, Monty Python and The Holy Grail, and Repo Man.
"Lucky Surfing" by Sean Boyce
Boyce's next project is inspired by his experience at the 626 Night Market. "I  will begin a horse racing painting now inspired by my times at 626 Night Market at Santa Anita Racetrack. It's also inspired by the fabulous horse racing paintings of Degas," Boyce said. Additionally, he plans to do a yachting painting "with a bunch of men involved in various nautical actions."

To connect with Boyce or to purchase his paintings or prints, you can find him on Facebook or Instagram.
"Darth" by Sean Boyce

Friday, August 29, 2014

My review of The Black List script listing and coverage service

Approximately one year ago, I paid $25 to use The Black List script hosting service for a month. Like Inktip, The Black List service allows writers to upload a script so that industry professionals can find it based upon whatever tags they choose. What distinguishes The Black List from Inktip, however, is that you (the writer), other users, and industry members can find and rate scripts. The ratings of the scripts can be made public or private based on what you decide, and the public ratings are only determined by industry members or paid readers. (That means your fellow writers can't be haters and bash your work to lower your score.) All scripts with a rating of 8 out of 10 or better from a script reader would be promoted through the company's email blasts.

The last bonus for The Black List site is that it partners with groups such as the Writers Guild of America (WGA), Warner Brothers, and Disney; and writers can submit to these partners' writing opportunities for free if their work is listed for at least a week. When I hosted my script, I submitted for one of these fellowships, and the submission process was easy.

When I used The Black List service a year ago, I paid for a one month listing and $50 coverage for my horror script THE LADDER. THE LADDER centered around a desperate young woman who moved  in with her sister's strange, sadistic family. My script was viewed fifteen times, but no one ended up contacting me. I concluded that my viewing rate was low for two reasons. 1) One month was not enough time to give my script time to be found, but I did not want to pay for multiple months because of the cost 2) My script received an average rating from only one user, the paid reader. No one else had read or reviewed my script, and my average score meant that it would not receive promotion on the site.  Fair enough.

If someone were to ask me if I recommend The Black List hosting service, I would tell them to be aware of the amount of time necessary to get noticed on a site (3 months to a year), and to calculate that with the overall cost when making a decision. However, the $25/month is worth it if you think of the $25 fee as an application fee for the The Black List partners' fellowships. It is noted that WGA writers are allowed to list log lines and information about their scripts for free.

Although I am neutral when it comes to the site's listing service for aspiring screenwriters, I do highly recommend its coverage. When it came to THE LADDER, I liked the script overall, especially its ending, but I sensed there were story problems. I was hitting a wall when it came to pinpointing what those problems were specifically, and my coverage from The Black List did a good job of outlining the good and bad parts of my story. Although my coverage was only one page, it was concise, and it put me on the right path to a rewrite. Even though a year has passed, I have not done any new work on that script, but maybe after a rewrite, I'll try to list my work again. We'll see what happens if my script actually achieved a score worthy of promotion.

Has anyone else had experience using The Black List services? If so, please leave a comment below, or you can connect with me through Facebook or Twitter

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The hilarious wonder of the Lo Bridge--Thanks to @ed_the_honest

My Twitter comrade Edward Ditmars informed me on Tuesday that a bridge was named after me. He then shared a video of the infamous Low (Lo) Bridge, and it's hilarious. Thanks, Ed!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Changes to the blog starting September 1

As previously mentioned on the blog, I will be prepping for National Novel Writing Month starting September 1, 2014. This endeavor will take up a large portion of my writing time so I will be changing the schedule of the blog. Instead of The Daily T.Lo being published daily, new posts will be published weekly (What a misnomer. Sorry, all.) The daily posts will resume December 1, 2014.