Ashley Richards

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Iz in your tea cup writin ur blogs

October 5th, 2008 Posted in Business, Fun, Writing

This weekend I “soft launched” Ch.ai. It’s a tea blog. Basically I drink so much tea, find so many little tid bits related to tea, that I could fill a whole blog talking about it. And I don’t put it all here otherwise it would become rather clear just how crazy I am when it comes to tea. I don’t claim to be an expert on it. I’ll leave that to the professionals that go to Asia, India, Sri Lanka and Africa to source the tea, but I hope to entertain other tea lovers with my finds.

There are about a dozen posts over on my tea blog – stuff that I’ve been bookmarking for a while now.I’m slowly getting through it all.

So remember: Tea solves all.

Flickr Photo Download: Ra Tea

Blogher: guías para la discusión en la conferencia en español

August 10th, 2005 Posted in Writing

Fernando Flores está traduciendo las guías para la discusión en la conferencia de Blogher a español.

That was with the help of Mr. Flores’ blog and Google Translate, and it’s probably still horrendous to native Spanish speakers.

Fernando Flores, a senator in Chile with a rather interesting bio, is translating the Blogher Discussion Guidelines into Spanish.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

To help make them easier to find, I’ll update this list as he posts the parts.

The Internet Lost in Translation

August 10th, 2005 Posted in Writing

Tonight I went to the BayChi presentation on Web 2.0. The panelist/presentors were Stewart Butterfield from Flickr, David Sifry from Technorati, Paul Rodemacher from HousingMaps, and Thomas Vander Wal from Personal Infocloud.

The topics of tags and tagging came up since Flickr and Technorati use them. Sifry mentioned that only 33% of the tags in Technorati are in English. (That leaves 67% that are not). That’s a lot of information that I can’t read since my Spanish and French are embarassingly poor.

Vander Wal talked about how tags would be helpful in identifying the different “information clouds”. Then you could categorize the information into clusters to get a better idea of what that information is really about without having to go into the pages to see exactly what’s there. Flickr already has clusters of photos that you can browse. Tags could help you find information not only in your personal or local infocloud but also in the global infocloud.

That got me thinking.

English tags comprise only 33% of all tags on Technorati, and Sifry said that the Chinese are starting to adopt it. That’s potentially a lot of tags I can’t read. Everyday at work I take into consideration how easy or difficult it might be to translate something that I write in English because there are many localized versions of the site. But most people don’t have their sites translated into 20 different languages and don’t think of translation issues. So there are volumes of information out there that people aren’t seeing when they search.

Right now, there’s no real point to show the search results in foreign languages because most people couldn’t read them anyway. But what if you could because there was on-the-fly translation. Granted it would be rather poor translations, but you could get the gist of it. And those information clusters would be a truer representation of information out there in the entire world.

The ideal application to try this out on is Flickr. There’s nothing really to translate except the caption. It’s visual and most photos cross cultural boundries.

So I went to Flickr to see what the search differences would be if I entered “Tokyo” and “東京” (Babelfish’s translation for Tokyo). Well, I got a very strange search result for “東京”: There aren’t any photos available to you tagged with “2140723487”. Well my only guess is that Flickr’s search function cannot handle the characters, which is a shame because I’d probably get a better representation of Tokyo through the eyes of locals rather than through the eyes of a tourist.

Butterfield indirectly touched on this issue when talking about how tags depend on the user. He said that if you type in Tokyo you probably wouldn’t get a photo of skyscrapers and neon signs because most tourists will take a picture of their hotel room (and massaging toilet because we do not have them here). Now if in the background they translated tags into various languages, we would get a better view of the world. Literally.

I pasted “東京” into Technorati and got results back in Japanese. But again, the translation issue. Yahoo and MSN actually return some English results, but that’s probably because of the site owner’s SEO and not the search engine. Google returns all Japanese. But what if I was Italian – I don’t want to read English.

It might be a huge undertaking, or it might not. If you speak more than one language, try the Google Language Tools to translate this site. How close is it? Is it enough to understand what I’m writing? If so, then maybe we’re not that far away from having a true global internet where everyone can read what anyone else on the planet is saying. And then we’d be able to find information no matter what language it’s tagged in.

BlogHer Discussion Guidelines

August 6th, 2005 Posted in Writing

People had asked me to make the BlogHer Discussion Guidelines available online. It wasn’t until after Beth Kanter sent me an email today that I realized I’ve been remiss in my duties. So here you go – the BlogHer Discussion Guidelines in a pdf.

It’s not exactly what was handed out at the conference. I’m a copy editor, so I couldn’t let another editing pass go by. Also, I’ve added a list of references. However, I couldn’t have written it at all if it wasn’t for the BlogHer women (organizers and advisory board) giving me fantastic ideas and feedback on the various drafts. Thank you.

En espa?±ol

The Mrs. Robinson Syndrome

August 4th, 2005 Posted in Writing

I was watching Good Morning America before leaving for work yesterday, and they had yet another report of a female teachers having sex with their students. I have to admit I was only half listening to it, so I might have missed a few points they touched on.

But what is the media’s obsession with it? I call it an obsession because when one incident happens they seem to scour the country for additional instances. Why haven’t we heard about any male teachers having sex with their students? I doubt that it’s not happening. My guess is that in their eyes it’s not as sensational or not as much as an oddity; women just aren’t supposed to do those things.

Women aren’t supposed to be violent or attracted to teenaged boys, but ironically the media has been treating these events much differently than if they were perpetrated by men. You’d think that to make it even more sensational they would emphasize the violent act that these women are charged with.

In this ABC article 42-year-old woman is “arrested for having sex” with 16 and 17 year-old male students. The official charges are “rape and endangering the welfare of a child.” If we were talking about a male teacher and a female student, the headline would probably be NY Teacher Charged With Raping Student instead of “NY Teacher Allegedly Had Sex Wth Male Students”. In this ABC article from 2004, the headline is “Queens Teacher Facing Statutory Rape Charges”, although in the article they say “he began a consensual sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl last summer.” They go with the sensational headline – it’s what sells.

Having sex and raping someone are complete opposites. One implies consent while the other is violent. Why aren’t we applying the same standards to the women arrested for the same crime? Is it that women are supposed to be inherently gentler and therefore it couldn’t be rape? Is it that there’s a perception that these boys aren’t being raped? (FYI, unless the New Jersey law has been rewritten since I took my women’s studies class, women cannot be charged for raping a man 18 or older. They are charged with seduction. ). Or is the media just feeding us what we want? Maybe it’s a bit of all of those questions. I don’t have the answers since I don’t have the time or money to research it. But the media needs to be more aware of how they’re approaching these stories. If any reporters or editors read my lowly little blog, perhaps they’ll think twice about the headlines they’re writing and present a more balanced view of what is really going on.

Blogher – My To-Do List

July 30th, 2005 Posted in Writing

I just got home from Blogher, and here’s my To-Do list.

  1. Enble Comments – I keep meaning to, but I just can’t bring myself to futz around with the code.
  2. Ethics Manifesto – The idea for this was spawned from the Citizen Journalist Birds-of-a-Feather session. It was suggested that we look at Jay Rosen’s Q&A page to develop our own.
  3. Link to Women Bloggers – We kvetch that more women need to be in the Technorati Top 100 but we’re not linking to each other. I’ve already added the Blogher roll.
  4. Create My A-List – I don’t read all of the Technorati Top 100 blogs and don’t like them all. In the morning discussion it was said that we should be defining what our top 100 list is.
  5. Ask for LinksHalley Suit said to just ask for someone to link to you and to ask 3 times. (Kinda the same logic if you’re trying to get someone to go on a date with you.) It was suggested that we also read Women Don’t Ask, a book about how women can negotiate more effectively (I think)
  6. Upgrade Blogging Software – After trying to implement comments, I’ve realized that I have an ancient version of MoveableType – 2.11. added 7/31

Also on my To-Do List that has nothing to do with Blogher – read the next volume of Y: The Last Man – a futuristic feminist sci-fi comic. I bought the first volume, was hook, but see no point in buying the individual comics when I prefer them all in a book version, but I digress.

BlogHerCon

March 14th, 2005 Posted in Writing

A group of women are getting together to start of conference to address issues about women and blogging – Bloghercon. It’s like BloggerCon, but focused on women.

Now the question is : Should we invite men to Bloghercon or not?

Neither – Do not advertise it as a women only or men invited conference. You’re probably saying “Huh? That’s not an answer!” Just advertise it as what it is – A conference that focuses on women’s issues in blogging.

Having attended an all female college and been involved in feminist organizations, when you advertise a women-focused event, most men assume that it’s a women-only event. Opening the conference to males but framing it in such a way that we *will* focus on women’s issues in blogging, what it means to be a woman and a blogger and in a male-dominated tech environment may just in and of itself separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. The men that are interested in the subject and want to make a contribution will attend. The others won’t. From reading Dave Winer’s comments on Lisa Stone posing this question , it seems that the fear of women bloggers getting together en-masse is that valuable information and progress will exclude any male bloggers who wants to be a part of understanding the issues and making the blogosphere a better place. But it’s also a very powerful act. Maybe that’s the objection to it?

There are male feminists who help to give a different view of the issues and have valuable knowledge that enriches a discussion. I say feminist because a feminist is one who believes women should have equal rights. There’s no mention of gender in the definition. And I bring up the “F” word because the state of women in blogging is a feminist issue.

Dave Winer doesn’t like the idea of a women-only event, or, if I’m reading it correctly, a women’s issues only event. (I’m picking on him because he’s the lone male voice in this so far.) I understand part of his point of view. The only true advancements in gender issues can only happen when men and women work together, and we should be working on the human race as a whole. But I have concern that his comment is an indicator that men do not see that women still do not have an equal say in our society. Yes there are lots of women saying things, but actually influencing things, not so much. And you can’t expect BloggerCon to transcend this inequality and be able to comfortably and effectively discuss women’s issues in blogging. It’s not that the women aren’t ready for it. It’s that the men aren’t comfortable with it.

So Elle has a valid point in saying “No boys!” I do like the idea of a women’s only event. It’s powerful. It’s comforting. It’s encouraging. But I think of the one guy that was in my women’s studies class. He might have felt isolated, but when it came to questions like “Well what do guys think about this?” – we had a voice. And how can we enlighten men on what we see if we’re not even letting them into the conference. If a man is interested in a conference like this, he’ll come and hopefully will not be intimidated and will contribute. If you’re worried about sexists, my experience is that they’ll avoid it.

The conversation about allowing men could turn into a whole long discussion on the communication and group behavior differences between men and women and how the mere presence of a man in the room will oftentimes make a women censor herself if she feels she is not in an environment where the mere mention of the “F” word will get her labeled as a femi-nazi. (Ah.. how I miss those discussions in college.) And that’s why we need a conference! And to build a community of women.

Essentially, when blogging you’re communicating and forming online communities of people who read a particular blog. We’re creating groups when we form linking rings or creating a loyal audience. By having this women-focused conference we’re examining the natural progression of this medium, its place in society and the women’s issues around it. (Women’s issues run the whole gamut from childcare and healthcare to sexuality and religion.)

Just because a group of women get together does not mean that it will automatically turn into a She-woman man-haters club bitch fest. Why do people automatically assume that male-bashing will be tolerated when the ground rules and framework of the conference have yet to be established? And just because Shelley makes certain comments on her personal blog that can be taken the wrong way by the opposite sex, does not mean she’ll bitch and bash men at the conference. I thought it was a hilarious tongue-in-cheek look at linking.

For blogs that sound like they’re male-bashing, maybe the tone of the author has been misunderstood. But there are women out there that are harsh on the male sex. However it’s not like there aren’t men who harsh on the female sex. And if you can’t understand why there’s a need for a women and blogging conference, perhaps you just need to walk in my shoes for a day and know the feeling of having someone assume you don’t know a technology or issue just because you’re “a girl”, when in actuality you know more about than they do. Then you may understand why some women are getting a bit passionate about this subject.

Oh and if the men want to devote time to men’s issues and blogging, go for it.

That was Then, This is Now

August 19th, 2004 Posted in Writing

Remember S.E. Hinton? She wrote “The Outsiders”, “That was Then, This is Now”, “Rumble Fish” and “Tex”. Well, it seems she no longer has writers block, and Tor is releasing her new novel, “Hawkes Harbor“. And this one is aimed at us adults who read her books as teenagers!

Yahoo! News has a little story about why it’s taken her so long to put out another novel. She says that she didn’t know what to write, i.e. writers block. But I wonder if it has anything to do with the pressures of having to write another successful novel that could later be turned into a movie. Or perhaps she just got sick of Matt Dillion portraying her characters.

Not Listed on Google?

August 3rd, 2004 Posted in Writing

Last week I got a phone call from a small businessman in a rather niche market. Seems his site was no longer listed in Google. Without giving away his identity I thought I’d share what he was going through and some advice as I understand the frustration when your site completely drops off Google.

Let’s say that this man sells Acme Widgets. He used to be in the top 10 when you searched for “Acme Widgets” on Google. Now he’s not even in the top 200. What went wrong? Google changed its algorithm this past winter. This happened to many sites after the Google shake-up that happened when they changed the way they rank pages. Site that are “spammy” are no longer weighted as highly as they were before, and the information that you provide on your site (visable to the reader) seems to be more imporatant. Most likely people who have “dropped off Google” for specific key phrases do not have enough key-phrase-rich copy on their sites. So I’m offering some advise to people out there that are still dealing with this.

Good news was that Google did have his site in their system and he was NOT blacklisted. You can figure this out yourself simply by putting in a whole swack of text from your site or entering the site’s url. If your site comes up, then you’re not blacklisted. You’re still in their system.

After looking at the Acme Widgets’ site my suspicion that he just didn’t have enough copy/words on his pages seemed to be correct. The general consensus amongst SEO copywriters is that you need at least 250 words on each page and it must be key-phrase-rich. So put your key phrase in there as many times as you can without it sounding repetitive and spammy. Look at your competitors. They probably have much more words/information on their pages. In this case Acme Widgets only had 100 words per page. One of his competitors had 450 words of information on each page. Another had 3000 words! That’s too much for one page. Best to keep it easy to read and short enough so that you only have to scroll 2 times.

Another thing that seemed to have changed is that any links that Acme Widgets had prior to the Google shake-up are no long seen as important by the Googlebot, so it seems. Here’s what I think happened. Like I said before Google changed the way they weight links from certain sites. The reason they did that is because some shadey SEO firms, unfortunately, just list a link to your site on other sites that Google considers “spammy”. They’re considered spammy because their sole purpose is to be a link farm that just lists links rather than give helpful information on a topic. So once Google revamped their algorithm (how they weigh links), the Googlebot no longer considers the link farm sites as a valuable link. You wouldn’t go to someone who was not an authority on Acme Widgets for advice on what sites are best for Acme Widgets information, so why should the Googlebot? Therefore you lose any benefit from being listed on the link farm sites. I don’t believe that they’re harming you (I could be wrong), but they don’t help you at all now.

I compared Acme Widgets’ Google and Yahoo results and this seems to be the case for him. To do this just put in your URL on Yahoo. On Yahoo I could see that his site is listed on certain pages. Using my Google Toolbar, I could see that Google was not counting the link that I saw on Yahoo as a backward link, so it must consider it an non-authorative site. The only link it is counting is from another eCommerce site, which seems to be a valid consumer site and therefore a “good” link. How’d his site get listed on a spammy site? He used a shady SEO company rather than a good SEO company. I’m sure there were other sites that the other SEO company submitted his site to. Before the Google shake-up I’m sure those links on “spammy” sites bolstered his ranking. Without the benefits of those links, his ranking went down, and now unfortunately his ranking is not in the top 200.

If this sounds like your site, good news is that you can work on getting your site back on the first page. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Add More Words – Like I said before you should have at least 250 key-phrase-rich words on each page. And make sure it reads well to the person visiting your site. Don’t just cram as many key phrases in there as you can because if it sounds “spammy”. It’s the equivalent of a sales person pestering you. In “real life” you would walk away from them in the store. Online, your customer will go on to another site.
  2. Choose Only 1 or 2 Key Phrases – You should focus on having only 1 or 2 key phrases per page. More than that and you wind up diluting the strength of your copy on the search engine robot. The easiest way to do this is to divide your site into sections by topic. Focus the content on the page on the section and the key phrase associated with it.
  3. Title Tags – Make sure that for each page the title that appears in the browser’s title bar describes what’s on the page and uses your most important key phrase for that page. Do not jam pack it with key phrases. It dilutes its effectiveness and could be considered spam.
  4. Image Alt Tags – Check to see if your images have mouseover alt tags. Here’s a definition for them if you do not know what they are: http://www.marketingterms.com/dictionary/alt_tag/ . If your images contain text key phrases, so should your alt tags on these images. Search engine robots read this text, so it gives you the perfect chance to add another key phrase on your page. Do not stuff key phrases in here, because it’s considered spam. The alt tag should describe the image.
  5. Reduce Code – I’ve noticed that people tend to put a number of Meta tags in the html code that do not need to be in there. Take it out. And see if your JavaScript can be moved to a separate file. The reason to reduce extraneous code on the page is to make it easier for the search engine robots to read your content as they crawl through your site. If the robots see too much code at the beginning of the page they will think there’s no content on the page and go on to the next one. If all your pages are like this, well then they might think there is no content on the site. Reducing unnecessary code can never hurt.
  6. Get Valued Links – You may want to start a reciprocal links page and see if you can get your site listed on pages that are not spammy, but do have something to do with the products you’re selling. Also try to find an appropriate category on http://dmoz.org/ where you can submit your site. DMOZ is run by volunteers and it may take a while to get listed in a category. I believe I’m still waiting to be listed.
  7. Check if Site has been Down – Talk to whomever is hosting your site and make sure the site hasn’t been experiencing any downtime. If the site is down and a bot comes by, then the search engines can’t see it or log it.
  8. Once you do these changes it can take anywhere from 1 to 3 months to see results. The reason is that it depends on how often the Googlebot comes to your site and when Google does its next in-depth crawl of the web. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. You can submit your site to Google, but rumor is that they don’t even consider it anymore. It just goes into a blackhole. http://www.google.com/addurl.html

    In the mean time I highly suggest starting a Google Adwords Campaign, so that you aren’t completely off the radar when people search for your key phrases. It probably won’t cost too much money unless you’re in a highly competitive category. You should check out to https://adwords.google.com/select/ .

    Also you should familiarize yourself with the SEO world and check out http://www.highrankings.com/archives.htm . This site is run by Jill Whelan who is considered one of the foremost SEO experts. I read her newsletter every week and have gotten most of my SEO knowledge from it

    If you need more content/information/copy for your site and don’t know what to add look at what your competitors have on their site. You might also want to add a news section where you add press releases, industry news, and things that you or the company is doing. The more you update your site the more the Googlebot will visit it. It will consider it an active site and therefore worth visiting more often. That is a good thing. If you’re talking about what is going on within your realm, people may start to see you as an authority on the topic and link to you. These links will be valuable and probably weighted more by Google. Also in addition to having a news page you might want to have a synopsis of the latest news on your homepage so that page is frequently updated as well. One way to easily enable a news section would be to add a blog using software such as MoveableType.

    Hopefully by following this advice it puts you in the right direction on getting your site back onto Google. I cannot make any guarantees when it comes to rankings as it is not an exact science. If only we knew exactly what the Googlebot was looking for! But if we did, then the spammers would win.

The Art of the Story

June 15th, 2004 Posted in Movie Reviews, Writing

Coppola, Lucas, Spielberg, DreamWorks, Pixar, and at one time Disney. What do all of these things have in common? They all had highly successful, well-received films because they know how to tell a good story well.

Think about the types of films that they’ve all created. Many of them had fantastic special effects and featured cutting-edge technology. But that’s not why people love them. Audiences get caught up in the struggle of a little fish trying to find his son. They feel the heartache and frustration of a giant green ogre that’s trying to impress his in-laws. Audiences cried when Wilson the volleyball gets swept out to sea – granted a lot of that had to do with the acting, but there was a heartfelt story behind it. The audience becomes a part of the action that is going on up on the screen, because the directors can tell a story. And that is why people love the films.

I wonder if young filmmakers are truly grasping this concept.

Reason I ask is that last week I caught a free screening of Napoleon Dynamite from Fox Searchlight. It’s a quirky little story about a social outcast in high school. Created by a husband and wife team, Jared and Jerusha Hess, out of Bingham Young University, it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for a Dramatic Film at Sundance and won the Film Discovery Jury Award for Best Feature at the U.S. Comedy Festival. However, I don’t see what all the fuss is about over this movie. We love it because it’s different. It’s not the same vein of lackluster comedy that’s being spewed out of Hollywood. Yes it has some great funny bits. Yes the actor playing Napoleon, Jon Heder, does a good job at deadpan comedy. But it doesn’t all come together they way it could.

I hate to see what could be a great little movie turn into a flop. There were a number of times throughout the film that I wasn’t engaged in the story. That was mainly in the beginning, which droned on for what seemed like an hour, before we know what this story is about. Once you get to the story it is very sweet and funny. It reminded me to some extent of the Royal Tenenbaum ( especially the beginning titles) in that it’s a reflection back on a childhood that was awkward, a bit strange, and weird. But it seemed the Hesses were more concerned about getting all those funny skits that they thought up into the movie rather than telling the story.

There are lots of little skits/scenes that are precious. Yet, there seems to be a disconnect between them sometimes that resulted in a number of lulls in the movie. And there were scenes that we were laughing at not because it was funny but because it was awkwardly stupid. Luckily I had a great group of guys sitting next to me that that didn’t follow the convention of not talking during the movie. There were some times I was laughing because of this group of guys sitting next were making little comments and well, you can’t recreate that at every showing. Also, since it was a free screening there’s a bit of the “well it’s a free showing and since I didn’t pay for it I’m not as invested in it, demanding that it’s up to my standards of what funny is”.

If I were in charge, I would suggest going back and editing this movie. This is what I think would help make it even better:

Establish location in the beginning – We need to know that this is Idaho. I shouldn’t have to read a synopsis of the film to know where it takes place. It’s not clear in the beginning. To me it looks like the mountains in California. Reason that we need to know where we are is that we’re questioning what year this is. Is it the 80’s? If we think that then we’re nit-picking at what is wrong with the movie: Glamour Shots weren’t popular until the 90’s, the ring tones are too modern, and the Internet was still in it’s baby stages, no one used the word cyberspace, went in chat rooms or bought things online. Also the chicken farm and milk testing scenes then make sense. If we’re supposed to not know, well, it doesn’t work. Establishing that it’s Idaho explains everything, because Idaho is perceived by the general public as being completely backassward.

What is the Story? The central conflict? – We don’t know what to root for until we know that the kid’s interested in the girl and even then we lose that somewhere in the middle. We start getting concerned about the presidential race and the girl kinda takes a back seat. I would have liked to have seen just a bit more of her. If it’s not the girl, then I’ve left that theater not really knowing what this story is about.

What’s his Internal Conflict? – What is going on in this kid’s head? Yes we’ve all known this kid when we were in school and maybe we were him in some ways. Hell, we certainly laugh at times because some of us have done things that he’s doing – “My girlfriend is a model and can’t make it to the dance” However, there are times, mainly in the beginning, I was asking “is it that the actor can’t act, or is the character supposed to be this way.” I know that in some ways we’re not supposed to understand this kid, but we should know what’s motivating him? Could be solved with speeding up the pacing or adding voiceover if you must.

Speed up the Pacing – The beginning needs to be cut down. Although there are a number of very funny and cute scenes in there, the story doesn’t really seems to start until we’re concerned about the boys getting dates for the dance. You could take some of those funny little scenes and move them elsewhere in the movie. Loved having the 80s music at the dance, but for the length of the movie cut the dance scene is just a tad. Also, I left the movie not really remembering what happened in the beginning.

Cow Shooting Scene – Loved it. This is one of those great little random scenes in the beginning that could be moved elsewhere in the film. Juxtapose it with the milk tasting scene later on in the film. However you can see fishing line attached to the rifle. Breaks the suspension of disbelief.

Too many characters – There’s a bit of a theme in my comments that I can’t remember characters. Shows that perhaps there are too many, audience attention is divided. Could have combined some.

Summer – Played by Hillary Duff’s sister, Hailey, we need to hate her more. Just because she’s the popular girl is not enough of a reason to hate her. I would have had her be the one that is made to go to the dance with Napoleon. Combining characters many times can fix a story.

Summer’s boyfriend – We should see more of him. I would have combined this character with all the other school bullies. It makes us hate him and hate Summer even more because she’s dating him.

Rex the karate guy – By the time Napoleon’s Uncle Rico was in Rex’s girlfriends house towards the end of the movie, I had forgotten about Rex and that she was Rex’s girlfriend. She looked familiar, but I couldn’t remember how she was connected to other people in the movie. Probably if you speed up the pacing then it isn’t an issue. Definitely keep it in. We want to see Rico get beat up.

Uncle Rico – We hate this guy. I don’t feel sorry for him. He’s a bastard of an uncle to Napoleon. So why have him find his soul mate at the end.? Who cares! He deserves to be alone for being such a jerk to Napoleon and screwing up his love life. And who is that woman that pulls up on her bike? She’s in the middle of nowhere and there’s a loner-guy living in his van, throwing footballs at a camera? No normal, nice looking woman would go anywhere near him.

Pedro – The Napoleon/Pedro friendship was true to life. When thrown into an awkward situation (being in high school and an outcast) with someone else, you usually become friends with that person out of convenience, and it was what you’d expect a typical teenage boys’ friendship would be.

Pedro’s relatives – loved these guys in the car. I would have liked to have seen more instances of their “protection services”. They’re thrown in there at one point and then forgotten about until the family picnic where we see them in the background.

Ending – Napoleon’s dance skit on stage – we loved it, felt embarrassed for him, rooted for him, were amazed that he could dance that way, and proud that he got them all on their feet (with help from the girl he likes). The last scene is perfect the way it is, and it’s probably due to the Mormon influence here. Do not change it. Do not have Napoleon and the girl kiss. (I can’t remember her name, which says to me she’s not in it enough). I could see MTV(the producers) wanting to change it.

Music – There needs to be more mood/background music. There’s so much feeling that music can add to a film. I liked the instrumental soundtrack and would have liked to have heard it fill in some of the slower scenes . Might have helped me connect to the film more.

Tina – Did he still feed the llama throughout this time period? We don’t see that he still has to take care of her. Somewhere in the back of my head I’m thinking, “Did he starve the llama?”

I can see this film becoming a cult favorite mainly because it’s a stupid story told in a quirky way. But imagine what the Hesses could have accomplished if they just stayed true to the story