Emerald City Comicon sued for not paying ‘volunteers’

Jerry Brooks is initiating a class action suit against Emerald City Comicon. He alleges the convention broke Washington state employment laws. They used volunteers to do tasks normally performed by paid employees. The convention referred to these volunteers as “minions.”

Emerald City Comicon did not pay minions.
Emerald City Comicon sued for not paying 'volunteers' - Bent CornerLegally, they were not in a position where they could take advantage of an unpaid volunteer labor force. They are not a non-profit organization. If they applied for and were granted non-profit status from the IRS, they could have used volunteers as workers.

They didn’t do that.

Emerald City Comicon is now owned by ReedPop. ReedPop paid Emerald City Comicon minions at this year’s event.

I think paying volunteers for the 2106 event is troublesome for the defendants. If Emerald City Comicon paid 2016 minions for the work they performed, why didn’t they pay their earlier minion workforce? I also have to think at least some of the minions paid in 2016 were minions in past conventions doing the same duties.

Something else that may be trouble for the defendants is the plaintiff. There’s a Linkedin profile for a Jerry Brooks who listed volunteer work for Emerald City Comicon, specifically, that he supervised over 100 volunteers. If this is the same Jerry Brooks who filed the lawsuit, he may have detailed records of the work done by the minions.

In retrospect, I wonder if the creators of the con wish they called their employees something other than “minions.” I doubt that term would go over real well in a courtroom. It’s probably related to the animated movie Despicable Me, but it sounds extremely pejorative. This is especially true if you’ve never watched Despicable Me. 

Free Comic Book Day 2016

Didn’t you bring a can of soup? No free comic book for you!

Jen King, owner of Texas comic book shop Space Cadets Collection Collection, wrote an op-ed published on Bleeding Cool in which she complained about Free Comic Book Day and the people who show up at her store expecting to receive free comic books. Imagine that.

From Bleeding Cool:

It seems to happen every year. A customer comes in and wants to pick up 20 copies of one of the FCBD titles being offered. When they are informed that they are limited to one per customer, they loudly yell that the comics are supposed to be free and how dare we limit the amount they can grab. What’s even worse, in my mind, is that even though we clearly advertise our FCBD as a charity fundraising event (and have been doing it this way for 6 years), there are still attendees who get red-faced mad when we ask them to donate a canned good or one dollar for every 3 titles that they pick up.  These donations go directly to a food pantry a block away from our store and directly benefit our community.

It seems hard to believe that every year, someone comes into the store and tries to take 20 copies of a single book and when they are denied, they then begin yelling. That seems a bit hyperbolic to me. Then again, this is Texas. Hyperbole is as common in Texas as armadillo roadkill or inaccurate license plates.

I didn’t realize shops participating in Free Comic Book Day could require people to donate canned goods or money in exchange for books. According to the official website for Free Comic Book Day, participating comic book shops give comic books “absolutely free to anyone who comes into their shops.” It’s Free Comic Book Day, not Exchange a Can of Soup for Comics Day.

That’s not to say collecting canned goods for a food pantry is necessarily a bad thing. Just don’t make it a requirement for Free Comic Book Day. That’s not what the day is supposed to be about.

I want to meet the person who would buy this

Anovos, a company that produces high-end science fiction and fantasy movie related prop replicas, is promoting its upcoming Captain Phasma 1:1 scale helmet prop. It’s made from fiberglass (not metal) and it will cost a whopping $799.99.

It will not be available until late this year, but you can pre-order one now from Entertainment Earth.

I am curious about the person who would buy something like this. What do they do for a living that would allow them to drop eight hundred bucks on a fake metal helmet from a Star Wars movie? Do they own their own home? What type of car do they drive? How much debt do they have? Have they ever been late on an electric bill?

Don’t get me wrong. I like Star Wars. I especially liked the latest movie from the franchise. I also liked the character of Captain Phasma. I thought she looked pretty bad-ass in her metal stormtrooper get-up. When I first saw this replica helmet, I thought it would be something nice to have. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted a replica stormtrooper helmet. Not a flimsy toy helmet, but something indistinguishable from the real thing. This Captain Phasma helmet appealed to me.

I then saw the price.

I can afford the helmet, but I wouldn’t even think of spending that much money on something that would only sit on the shelf, look awesome, and collect dust.

Knowing the Star Wars collecting community like I think I do, I am sure some people will buy this expensive prop even though they are not yet in a station in life that would make buying something like this economically feasible.

I have seen people spend thousands of dollars on nerd-centric collectible, yet they live with their parents even though they were making enough money that they could afford to live on their own. I used to work with a guy who was 30-years-old, lived with his mother, and would spend hundreds of dollars each month on original comic book art. Art he would place in special binders and keep in his closet. At least that is what he told me.

Years ago I used to frequent a Usenet message board dedicated to collecting Hot Wheels. An active member on the board posted a plea for financial help. He had a large electric bill that he could not pay and was facing the prospect of having his electric cut off. He asked the rest of the group for money to let him keep his lights on. Of course he had children and he made sure to mention them in his appeal for free money.

I did not give him any money, but lots of people did.

About two weeks later, this same person asked on the same Usenet message board if anyone had some specific Treasure Hunts Hot Wheels for sale, cars in the $30 dollar range.

People began to question how he could ask people to pay his electric bill and then later, buy $30 Hot Wheels. I didn’t chime in because I didn’t give him any free money. Plus, I assumed from the beginning he was going to do this. I remember finding the whole thing to be highly entertaining.

It is fine to collect things, but just make sure you can afford the things you collect. Make sure you are not taking money that you should be spending on necessities and blowing it on crap you do not need.

Brianna Wu had blogger removed from RavenCon panel for taking her picture

RavenCon, a science fiction and fantasy convention, is taking place this weekend in Richmond, Virginia. One of the guests is Brianna Wu, iPhone game developer and vocal critic of GamerGate, the leaderless consumer revolt against unethical behavior in the video games industry. Wu claims GamerGate is a hate group and that she has received over 80 death threats from members of GamerGate.

That’s what she claims.

Brianna Wu conducted a panel Friday night at RavenCon called GamerGate 101. Before the panel officially began, she ordered event organizers to remove a prominent GamerGate blogger, Ethan Ralph of The Ralph Retort, from the panel. The reason? Because she discovered that he had taken her photo and posted it to Twitter.

She ordered convention organizers to remove him from the GamerGate 101 panel audience and to also have him removed from the convention. The organizers removed him from the panel, but not the convention. One of the organizers then announced to the remaining guests that there would be no recording or pictures taken during the GamerGate 101 panel.

I’ve never heard of photos not being allowed during a panel at a convention. I have taken photos at convention panels many times. The opportunity to take photos has always been one of the reasons I like to go to comic book and science fiction conventions.

If this no-photo rule was in place for the GamerGate 101 panel, why wasn’t it announced ahead of time?

RavenCon has no rules against taking photos. In fact, they have a rule that states they may use photos and other media recordings taken at RavenCon:

ravencon_photos

 

The rule seems to imply that attendees are more than welcome to take photographs at RavenCon. If the GamerGate 101 panel was under different rules, rules different from everywhere else within the confines of RavenCon, than they owed it to everyone involved to make this rule known.

I can understand that Brianna Wu doesn’t like Ethan Ralph. I totally get that. He’s been very critical of her and her positions on his blog. One might argue that he has been as critical of her as she has been about GamerGate. That doesn’t mean she should have the right to have him removed from a panel. Having someone removed from a panel because you don’t like things they have said, seems inconsistent with free speech. If I didn’t know better, I’d think Brianna Wu doesn’t believe Ethan Ralph has the right to express his views and opinions on his blog.

Instead of kicking Ethan Ralph out of the panel, imagine how much more educational the GamerGate 101 panel would have been if Brianna Wu had invited him to take part. If the goal was to educate the audience on GamerGate, something the name of the panel certainly implied, what better way than to have one of the more prominent GamerGate bloggers, someone who even lives there in Richmond, share his views and opinions too?

What a wasted opportunity.

Ethan Ralph has posted a video of the incident on YouTube.  Check it out if this is something you’d like to see.

Don’t tell me ‘Birdman’ was the best movie of 2014

I guess the 2015 Oscars had a real anti-superhero vibe to it. I wouldn’t know first-hand because I didn’t watch it. The Oscars have become totally irrelevant to me. I think they’ve always been a poor indicator of greatness, it just took me a while to realize it. For instance, according to the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization whose members vote for Oscar winners, the movie Shakespeare in Love was a better movie than Saving Private Ryan.

There’s a term for people who believe things like that, they’re called crack addicts.

This year’s batch of Best Picture nominees was a real head-scratcher. Missing from the nominations was Guardians of the Galaxy, by far the best movie I watched last year. I’m not alone. A lot of people went to the theaters to see Guardians of the Galaxy. It has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It grossed $774.2 million worldwide. Guardians of the Galaxy was a well-crafted and highly entertaining movie. The movie’s director, James Gunn, was able to bring life to a CGI talking racoon and a giant walking, sort-of-talking tree. The fact that it couldn’t even get a nomination for Best Picture speaks more about the absurdity of the Oscars than it does the greatness of Guardians of the Galaxy.

What’s even worse, Birdman, a terrible movie about a washed-up actor made famous for playing a superhero “birdman” in movies, trying to put on a Broadway play based on a short story by Raymond Carver, was not only nominated for Best Picture, it actually won.

Huh?

I thought Birdman was an overly pretentious, unnecessary middle finger to the genre of comic book movies. It was filmed in a way that made it look like one long continuous camera shot. At times, I was paying more attention to this stupid camera trick than I was to the performance of the actors in the scene, which is unfortunate because as awful as Birdman was, it had a great cast.

I’ll freely admit that Birdman was not for me. I was not its intended audience. To enjoy Birdman, you must hate superhero movies. I enjoy superhero movies, the ones that are well made. I enjoy a lot of movie genres.  Just don’t tell me that Birdman was the best movie of 2014. Because it wasn’t.

If you think Birdman was great, wait five years. In five years, even pretentious snobs will have forgotten about Birdman, just like they have already forgotten about 2011’s Best Picture Oscar winner The Artist.

the-artist-2011-a21

That didn’t even take five years.

Turns out eBay is kind of a rip-off

I don’t sell a lot of stuff on eBay, but when I do, I’m fairly ignorant when it comes to how much I pay eBay and PayPal to facilitate the transaction. Normally I sell low to medium value stuff. They take their fees out of my PayPal balance and I’ve never really paid much attention to it.

Early last month, I sold 44 comic book issues of the The Walking Dead in a single lot. The auction ended at $554.65. That was by far the the most expensive thing I’ve sold in 16 years on eBay. Yesterday I received an email from eBay informing me that my August statement was available.

I owe eBay $57.18.

Of that, $55.47 represents a Final Value Fee for the actual item. That looks like a flat ten percent, rounded up. Then there’s $1.72 added on as another Final Value Fee for the shipping of $17.18. This too looks to be ten percent, rounded up.

I don’t understand why I have to pay a fee on the shipping when I created the auction so the seller pays the actual amount of the shipping. I had already boxed the comics up and weighed the box so that I could list it with the initial auction. The weight along with my zip code, would allow anyone bidding on it to know exactly what they were paying for shipping.

At least in theory.

For some reason, when I listed the auction, I must have selected UPS instead of the regular US Postal Service. I didn’t even know that eBay offered UPS shipping. The buyer was charged $17.18 for UPS shipping, but when I went to PayPal to pay for the shipping through UPS, I was charged a total of $37.11 for shipping the package from Maryland to California. It would seem that eBay’s shipping calculator is a little off when it comes to UPS. I, not eBay had to eat the difference.

Speaking of PayPal, they charged me $16.88 on the transaction of $571.83, the action’s final winning bid and the incorrect shipping price. That worked out to be 2.95 percent. Not bad, but it’s not great, especially when you figure that eBay owns PayPal and is basically forcing you to use their payment gateway.

So what did it cost me in total to sell my 44 The Walking Dead comics to a stranger in California? Here’s a breakdown and a total:

eBay: -$57.18
Shipping: -$19.93
PayPal: -$16.88
TOTAL: -93.99

That left me with $460.66 in profit. I see why people sell stuff on Craigslist or Facebook yard sale groups. Going that route, you have to actually meet up with the person to make the exchange. There’s a whole lot of reasons that is less than ideal.

I feel like eBay is charging too much money, mostly because they are.

I’m not really complaining. I had these comics in a box in the garage. I was never going to read them again. If I took them to the Hagerstown 2nd & Charles, some hipster covered with ironic tats and wearing a knitted beanie, would have probably only offered me $43 in store credit. Instead of dealing with that, I was able to take the money and spend it on a new iPad Air at Target. They had them on sale for $50 off shortly after the auction was complete. I already had an iPad, but it was the first generation model. I got it the first day they were available. It was slow and I couldn’t install any of the newer, current apps.

I’m glad I sold my comics, but I’ll think twice before selling something expensive again on eBay.