Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Storage Wars

I honestly can't explain it to you, but if I find that there's an episode of this show on that I haven't seen, I can't make myself change the channel.

I know, most of us all want to think we're more "high brow" than that or something, but honestly, there's just something about Storage Wars that somehow manages to surpass most "guilty pleasure" reality tv stuff. Maybe it's all Barry's fault.

First, let me go ahead and get this out of the way: yes, I realize it's all pretty fake. Or at the very least they use a LOT of editing tricks in order to create a narrative that may not exist. I don't know if the producers actually put more interesting stuff in the lockers or not, but yeah, this isn't all that "real."

Which is fine, because you know, that's not really why I watch it. First, the opening credits are actually extremely well made, some of the best in the genre in my opinion. Most reality show opening credits are really terrible, and done with really cheap effects. But these work, and they give you a real sense of the characters and the show right off the bat. It's pretty impressive.

I recently was in a situation where I ended up chatting with the owner of a storage facility. We ended up talking about the show (he brought it up, but I admit I loved the chance to talk to him about it so I jumped on it). He said that on the one hand, he appreciates the show because their auctions were more heavily attended and bringing in higher dollar amounts now that everybody has this bug to buy old lockers. It means that he no longer has to pay to clean out unsold units because all of them go for something.

On the other hand, he said that everybody buys these units expecting to find something amazing and make a ton of money, which just flat out doesn't happen. It reminds me of when "flipping" homes became really popular and everybody thought that they would start buying properties for cheap, slap a coat of paint on them, and sell them at a profit. Without too many details, let's just say I know somebody who decided to go pretty heavily into that plan and it was pretty sketchy. Because the root of it is always a "money for nothing" kind of motivation. "I'll just buy this unit and sell off all the stuff and make a ton of money!"

Listen, here's my one tiny experience with that kind of thing. I was at an auction where the only rule was if you put something up for auction you couldn't set a reserve price. Ever item started at a dollar, no matter what. Someone I knew was in a bad spot and was selling his entire comic book collection, thousands of issues, as one lot. The bidding was ridiculously low, and I knew he needed the money so I tossed out a bid to try to help him out. The other two bidders owned comic book shops and I recognized them from the dealers room as people who sold comics at conventions.

I probably should have contemplated the situation and wondered what they knew that I didn't. But yes, you guessed it, I ended up with the comic books. What I discovered is that there's something to be said for the time and effort it takes to even just prepare things for sale. It took me days just to sort all the comics and list them in a database. And then because I wasn't careful about keeping my inventory updated, I ended up recently having to do it all over again because I wasn't sure what I had anymore.

On top of that, if you don't have an actual store, selling items isn't all that easy. It becomes a full time job just to list stuff on eBay or Craigslist, and even then you can end up paying fees without actually selling anything. At this point I've had these comics for seven years, and I'm still trying to sell them. Yes, I've made a profit off of them already. But has it been enough to make up for the time and effort? I don't know.

I imagine buying a storage unit when you don't own a thrift store is pretty much exactly the same thing. And on top of that, what they do on the show is a bit ridiculous because they just let the buyer talk about how much they think they can sell something for and consider that it's value. On Collection Intervention, they pointed out that there are different values to consider for every item. One is the price it would go for if you could just sit it on a shelf in a store and you're able to leave it there until it sells. Another is the price you'd get for it if you need to sell it now and find a willing buyer. But within that, there's probably two different price points because a re-seller and a collector will offer two different prices too because a re-seller needs to make a profit.

So when I see them declaring that a box of old random books is worth $100, I laugh. Because I've tried to sell old books before, and for the most part you can't even get a quarter for them unless you find one that's got a high demand, and those are few and far between. I'm not a thrift store owner, of course, but I've had enough yard sales and sold enough of my old stuff that I highly doubt almost any of the values they throw out are close to realistic. I guess part of it is location, maybe people just pay more for junk in California. I have always noticed they sell things for a lot more than I think they would on Clean House.

So if the show doesn't really represent reality in any way, why do I even watch it? I think at the end of the day it's all voyeurism. We want to look in other people's medicine cabinets. We want to know what other people do, and see what's behind the door. I want to know what other people put in their storage lockers. I want to know what they think is cool, and start making guesses about what kind of person would have that particular set of stuff. There's an episode of Castle where he ends up buying a locker and they try to solve the case and piece together information about the victim by going through the stuff inside and it pretty much lays it all out there. I just want to be a nosy parker and know what other people are up to.

Project Runway All Stars S2

I actually had ever intention of going back to doing my weekly recaps when this All Star season started. Why didn't I?

Because like last season, I was so bored. I know, how lame, the same excuse as last time! But I felt like I was watching the same show as last time so I was even MORE bored.

I don't know what it is. Could it be that part of the thrill of a season of reality tv is getting to know the new contestants? Because these people are already known to us, what drama are they bringing to the table? What are we learning about them? Aside from Ivy, I can't think of a single new piece of information/character development I got form anybody this season.

Maybe it's that the storyline is already obvious, partially because we know these people. I think everybody that watched any of the previous seasons knew exactly how most of the eliminations would shake out. Maybe you thought Ivy would go home before Laura Kathleen but really, what sort of surprise is there? Uli and Emilio were guaranteed final three, it's not even interesting anymore. I can't really come up with any "shocking" eliminations either.

There's also the small factor of the host. As I mentioned when I reviewed Hot Set, your host is going to make or break your show. And while I had no really specific problem with Carolyn Murphy, I just didn't really get into the personality she was presenting. Part of what makes Heidi a great host is that she's just a little bit wacky and always rather outspoken and silly. She brings a sense of levity to the show, and she makes you remember just how ridiculous the whole thing kind of is anyway. Murphy was being very respectful and professional, which would be fantastic in a lot of situations but doesn't really work for what I want Project Runway to be.

And let's face it, nobody else in the world is Tim Gunn and he's an absolutely vital piece to why Project Runway works. So any iteration of the show without him is lesser for it.

But yeah, to be honest I was so bored with this season of the show that I actually forgot to watch the finale and still haven't gotten around to it. I got spoiled for who the winner was accidentally and since it was so obvious and expected, I just haven't cared to figure out how they got there. Blah.

Then the new season of the regular show has already started again, and while I'm intrigued by a lot of the new designers, this team thing is not working for me so far. We'll see, I'll be trying to get back into doing my recaps again if life doesn't get in the way, but obviously I've already missed a week so I'll have to catch up.

Anyway, I really want the producers of All-Stars to sit back and think about the entire show before they produce another season. For one thing, Top Chef did one season that was an All-Stars season, not an entire new show. And it worked well, so maybe they need to think about that and just not do this anymore, but fold in an All-Stars season every five regular seasons or so.

Or just go back to doing spin-off shows. Can we get more Austin and Santino instead?

What NOT to do when you get engaged: become a "bride"

So I'm reading this list of "things to do as soon as you get engaged" because somebody somewhere linked to it (probably on Pinterest.

So, because I'm amused, how stupid this list is:

1. Get a manicure! Because you're now not a human being with a face or eyes, you are only a hand on which to display the ring. Listen, if you want to get a manicure, that's cool, I think having nice looking nails is a good thing. But the reasoning, which is basically "you're going to be showing your ring off and taking pictures of your hand A LOT" is just stupid because it's part of this ridiculous notion that an engagement is about the ring and not the two people becoming a family/partners and committing to help and support each other for the rest of their lives.

Which is what leads to the kind of stuff I talked about last week where a woman was saying her own mother was being rude to her and telling her she needs to force her fiance to buy her a better/bigger engagement ring.

Like almost all things, the answer is to just be yourself. If you like having nice nails/hands then do it! If you don't give a flip then don't! But seriously, you're a human being with a life and hobbies and activities, not a jewelry display case. You aren't your ring, and nobody should act like it including you.

2. Insure your ring! You know, this would be totally great advice except for the fact that it's completely dripping with the aforementioned assumption that a man's worth as a husband is tied up in the worth of the ring. My engagement ring cost less than $100, nobody is going to write an insurance policy for that.

But whatever, my point is that this isn't something that every single person should do when they get engaged because in my opinion, people need to stop being so tied up in super expensive gaudy engagement rings. Again, if you love expensive jewelry and it's within your means, I'm not telling you that you shouldn't.

I'm saying that going into debt to buy a pricey ring that you have to have insured seems a little stupid if you don't have the money to do it and/or you aren't the type of woman who wears a lot of jewelry regularly. If you have expensive possessions, you should insure them, absolutely.

But there's no requirement that you need a ring worth insuring.

3. Settle on a Budget: This is, in some ways, good advice, but not in others. Because the fact is before you can talk numbers or any of that, you need to talk expectations, ideas, and other generalities. You can't make a budget without knowing what you're budgeting. Were you wanting to invite a few close friends and he wants to invite the world? Are your parents going to insist that you have a catered dinner when you were thinking buffet? Yes, you probably have a general idea of how much money you can spend, but specific numbers? Not on your life. That's going to take part of the planning and research before you can do that. Unless you are a wedding planner, or just helped your friend get married or something then you don't really know what things cost when you get engaged.

Also, this line: "keep all familial relationships in tact by minding this budget down to the last red cent."

HA. The money and the budget is what STARTS almost all wedding arguments, and it's largely brides who are trying to "mind this budget down to the last red cent" that are the most screwed.

Seriously though, do a bit of research before you come to the table with whoever is footing the bill because otherwise you're just going to end up with bad estimates for everything and your budget will be messed up from day one. Honestly I would suggest coming up with ball park figures on your own after a discussion with your fiance about what type of wedding you both want. There's no use having a meeting without information.

4. Pick a date: Another thing that's good advice but not exactly once they elaborate. First, this should come before the budget because the season/month you get married in can change your budget immensely. This is exactly what I was talking about.

Second, their reasons? Because it will influence a lot of important decisions like "picking your gown, theme, bridesmaids dresses, etc." Okay, you know what all those things are? Things you should have in mind before you make your budget. They're also things that could be season specific if you want them to be, but depending on your venue, might not matter.

There was literally nothing about my actual ceremony that wouldn't work in any season, because it was inside a church. And because this whole "you can't do X at a winter wedding!" stuff is stupid. Plus, you should probably pick your venue before you can pick your date or season. Because what if you pick a date but the church is booked?

Your date will impact some things, but your venue is more important to picking your dress, bridesmaid's gowns, and probably also your "theme." And your venue also will affect your date. Pick a couple possible dates, in case you can't get the one you want.

5. Choose a diet plan and start it: The response I have to this advice is actually too vulgar for this particular blog. Let's just say it's a word that you're only allowed to say once in a PG-13 setting.

The fact that it's REQUIRED for bride's to try to lose weight and make themselves into something they aren't for their wedding day is a sign of a much, much greater problem with our entire society and I just don't have time to break that down.

If you aren't healthy and you want to be, great, it's always a good time to start being HEALTHY. But focusing on your weight and your perceived flaws is a really terrible way to start your life with your new spouse.

6. Sign up for Pinterest: Okay, yeah, that's probably a good idea but geeze do people go freakin' overboard with it all the time. First of all, roughly half the single/unmarried women I know already have wedding boards on Pinterest. Second, they pin EVERYTHING.

But it is just a technology advancement on what I did, which was go to the bookstore and buy a stack of wedding magazines and tear out the stuff I liked. Personally I still need the tactile aspect of physical pictures for that kind of thing, but yeah, Pinterest is probably going to be pretty helpful.

7. Pick a location: You know, if they had suggested this was a freeform list, maybe I'd still be on board. But the implication was that this was in order, and you're way past the time to pick a location. I mean, they're saying it's the most significant decision, but it's 7th? Then they say that you should consider the season, theme, and budget to pick a location, which seems completely backwards to me for the reasons I pointed out above. It is significant, because it will affect your season, theme, and budget not the other way around.

I mean, you could do it this way, but I don't see why you would. You certainly can't even begin to make a budget until you know about the venue, because you don't know if there will be a cost. And you can't get the cost for your venue until you know when it's available. And sometimes it'll be a lot cheaper in a certain season, so why pick a season until you know that?

8.Adopt better beauty habits: Okay, you are going to be in a lot of pictures and stuff, but seriously? Do we need yet another thing piling on to the "women-you don't look right no matter what you do so get to fixing yourself PRONTO" bandwagon?

One of the things I hate most about weddings is that they are all about becoming "a bride" instead of about the actual woman.

9. Hire a planner: Oh for Pete's sake. Hire a planner IF YOU NEED ONE. Also, IF YOU CAN AFFORD ONE. Planning a wedding is a bit stressful but it's actually kind of fun, and while I have the fuzziness of mine being seven years ago, I don't remember it being all that hard. It's certainly not nearly as difficult as a lot of the stuff I've done since. You try planning a film shoot, then a wedding feels like organizing a brunch date.

Not to mention the fact that this is one more thing that's telling you that you HAVE to do certain things and your wedding HAS to include this, that, and the other. You HAVE to be complicated. You HAVE to have place cards and favors and something quirky at the reception like Mad Libs or whatever. You HAVE to spend X amount of dollars. You HAVE to have a DJ and toasts, and dancing, and an open bar.

Listen, here's the most important rule of weddings and getting engaged: what you have to do is only governed by the laws of your municipality and your religion. Otherwise? It's all optional.


A wedding planner, 9 times out of 10, is probably going to try to make you have all the requirements. So if you want the straight up traditional exactly as everybody else experience, then sure, whatever, get a planner.

If you're a busy career woman who doesn't have time for the annoying aspects and the paperwork, then sure, have a helping hand.

But you don't NEED a wedding planner anymore than you NEED a wedding. Have the day you want to have. End of story.

10. Sign up for sale alerts: Again, good advice for the wrong reasons. This one is because the gown is apparently worth splurging for but the accessories are not.

Listen: you will not wear your gown again. It is a one time thing, and while you will likely see your pictures often so you should be happy with it, at the same time, your accessories can be paired with other things and worn for the rest of your life (except your veil, that really isn't going to work with anything else).

Yes, you should absolutely save money where you can, including on the gown. Sale alerts probably aren't a bad idea. But there are other ways to save on your gown, like, oh, not going with a designer label? Not spending $6,000 on it in the first place?

Again, this entire list was basically the "how to have a standard cookie cutter wedding 101." So here's my best advice for you for what to do as soon a you get engaged:

Take a deep breath. Think about yourself for a little while. Think about your fiance. Think about your lives together, both before and in the future. Think about who you are, outside the wedding, without the trappings.

And keep that in your mind, as clear as you can make it, through the whole process. Your wedding isn't about what other people think you have to have or what other people want. It's about two people standing together, not just for one day but forever.

Your wedding day is just the start of your marriage, and a milestone in your life up to that point. It's about you, and your fiance, and the two of you together. It's about celebrating a great moment in your life with the people you love most, and them wanting to wish you well and enjoy the moment with you. It's about families coming together, and creating a new family.

If you can keep that in mind, then the rest will fall into place and you'll enjoy every minute.