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Monthly Archives: June 2012

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On this day 100 years ago, the costume shop that has made the clothing for some of your favorite movies and television shows opened. Western Costumes was formed on June 30, 1912 by L.L. Burns and Harry Revier to supply Hollywood, which was just getting into the motion picture business, with costumes, stages and props for its films.

The story behind its formation is remarkable. A Western was being filmed in Hollywood and Burns, a former Indian trader living in Los Angeles, remarked to the man in charge about how awful the Indian costumes looked. William S. Hart, the director and great cowboy actor that Burns spoke with, ended up hiring him to outfit the Indians. Soon, Burns had a growing business as word spread and the Western Costume Company was formed. And the rest was history.

Over the years, Western Costume would be involved in providing pieces for numerous shows, including classics like the Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind, and modern shows like Mad Men. The story of Western Costumes is recapped in this Los Angeles Times article and need not be repeated in full here.

Funtober readers with grand costume plans, take note. You do not have to limit yourself to the costumes mass produced by national costume manufacturers. If you have a sketch and the money, Western will make your idea into a costume for you to wear. Isn’t that cool? It might be a bit more expensive, but you too can have a costume made by the people who provide the wardrobe for Hollywood movies.

Or, should you want to implement your idea at a more reasonable price, you can probably find someone on the internet who is willing to make your made-to-order costume and ship it to you. Hopefully, one day, such a person will leave their website address in the comments and in return find a thriving business filled with orders from Funtober readers.

Indian Chief

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I started adding content related to costumes over the weekend. There’s less than 90 days until Funtober begins, so I’m probably behind schedule in that regard. But I’ve also decided to close down some of my niche Halloween costume sites and move the content over here to Funtober. So hopefully it will go a bit quicker than I had planned. I won’t have the store ready for purchases until September, so until then you’ll just have to treat the content as a massive list of halloween costume ideas.

I then tried to figure out a blog post that would be appropriate for the middle of summer. And it wasn’t an easy task. Until I realized that costumes are all around us – even during summer!

One of the primary places that you’ll see costumes during June is at the movies. This weekend, for Father’s Day, I went with my dad to see Snow White and the Huntsman. For years, the Snow White Costume has been based off the famous Disney film. For Snow White and the Huntsman, costume designer Colleen Atwood got her chance to put a modern spin on the outfits worn by Snow White and the other characters. She talks about designing the costumes in this video:

But I’m not relying solely on a movie that has been out three weeks to provide an example of how there is breaking costume news around us. The Man of Steel costume for the new Superman movie coming in 2013 was also revealed at the 2012 Licensing Expo. Now that’s cool. I’ll bet that you could fill a blog with the reveals of movie costumes.

Movies aren’t the only place that you will see costumes during summer. How about your local baseball stadium? The manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, Joe Maddon, ditched the traditional dress code for away trips about five years ago and replaced it with costumes. The baseball players dress in costumes with a theme (nerds was a recent one) and raise money for charity. I love it!

I’m sure you are thinking that there’s no way you ever see the Tampa Bay Rays traveling in costume. So you are asking yourself where you will really see someone in costume during the summer. How about at a July Fourth fireworks gathering? If you go to a big public event, I’m sure that you will see someone who has decided to wear a patriotic costume like Uncle Sam.

See. It’s not so strange to have a post about costumes in the middle of summer. You can wait another couple months before you start thinking about what Halloween costume you will wear this year. However, I bet you encounter someone in costume between now and then.

Superman

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When I compiled the Funtober haunted house directory this winter, I anticipated that I would receive word from a few people associated with haunted houses that had been accidentally overlooked during my search.  But I have to admit that I never looked into the possibility that a toy company would create a haunted house.  So, of course, it happened.  World famous toy maker Lego decided to build a haunted house as part of its Monster Fighters line of Legos.  The Lego haunted house will be available in September.  You can read more about it at CNET.

You’ve already seen Lego once here on Funtober.  LegoLand Deutschland, the theme park one hour west of Munich that is filled with reproductions and kids’ rides, is listed in the section of things to do in Munich with kids.

This is the first official haunted house from Lego.  But it isn’t the first haunted house made of Legos.  Mike Doyle put together this Lego haunted house to photograph in 2011.  It’s super cool and worth taking a look at the spooky photographs that he took of it again.  I also found the below photo of a Haunted Church from Puriri Devry on Flickr.

Haunted Church

If Lego sends me a photo, I’ll add it to the post later so that you can see what it looks like.  Or you can just click on some of the news links I’ve provided here.  Gizmodo has already oh so delicately referred to the new Lego haunted house as the Munsters’ House.  In reality, it is a frighteningly complex 2,000+ piece Victorian house that opens up to display a three level interior where you can put the Vampyre, bride, butler, Zombie chef and 2 glow in the dark ghosts that come with it.

I’ve saved the scariest detail for last: the price tag.  The Lego haunted house will retail for $180.  You and your family could go to a real haunted house for an evening for that price!  But then you wouldn’t have the joy of sitting down with the family and putting it together piece-by-piece.  I had a lot of fun as a kid playing with my Legos and recreating the pictures from the boxes.  I think it would be interesting to spend an evening putting one together as an adult.

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If you tried to access Funtober from 10 pm until midnight, you would have reached a blank page.  The site has been down.  Why?  I was playing with the WP E-Commerce plugin on the live site and it crashed big time.  I could access the admin dashboard but the actual website showed up as a blank screen.  Ugh.

It took me a little while to diagnose the problem and correct it.  I had to delete my theme and reinstall a clean version of it from the WordPress theme directory in order to get it working.  Then I copied my old theme files back from Dropbox and Funtober loads normally again.  But I would have lost all of my customizations if I hadn’t backed up my WordPress files earlier this afternoon (prior to installing the plugin).

I don’t normally backup my files.  When I started working on Funtober, I decided that I would occasionally back up the files on my laptop about Funtober to a small USB drive that I had lying around from law school – just in case something happened to my laptop.  But in four months, I never backed up my WordPress theme files or the database.

The warnings all over the WP E-Commerce plugin instructions to backup your database and only work in a test environment convinced me that they really meant it.  So I looked into backup solutions.  Signed up for Dropbox.  Installed the WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin.  Verified my Dropbox account.  And performed an immediate backup.  Just to be safe.  It paid off.

I might have been able to salvage the files that I had customized from my theme.  But it was much easier to replace the new download of the theme with all of my old theme files.  Thank you Dropbox and the WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin!

Now.  For those of you interested in what I did to cause everything to go haywire, here it is:  I changed the permissions on the wpsc_products_page.php file to 777 and uploaded a new version that switched the html link on the images on the category page to the product page rather than a photo of the product/lightbox.  The errors were something to the effect of “argument 1 is not an array in” along with some functions or php files specified.  I can’t remember which it was but the errors specified at least two different functions as I navigated the site/admin panel.

When I switched to a different theme, WordPress very kindly informed me that my previous theme was broken and that “Themes must have a stylesheet and a template.”  It also told me that style.css was missing or corrupted.  But style.css showed up just fine through my ftp program.  I guess it was corrupted?  I’m sure someone with a programming background could explain what happened.  But that isn’t me.  I know just enough php and html to be dangerous and destroy my website accidentally.

So if you are stuck in this situation.  Switch to a new theme.  Rename the old theme to a new name.  Install a new copy of the old theme.  And then copy whatever files you’ve changed from the old theme to the new copy of it.  And you’re website will be working again.  Oh, prior to switching to the new theme, I renamed the file folder for WP e-Commerce in order to deactivate the plugin and then deleted it.  I doubt that was an important step in the recovery problem, but I figured that I would mention it in case you are struggling with my above solution and it isn’t working.  I had tried to take the offending files out of the occasion already, obviously.

I don’t really want to setup a testing environment for WP e-Commerce on my laptop.  Hopefully this was just a fluke accident and my customizations will work fine tomorrow.  I don’t want to be forced to take more drastic measures:

IMG_3180

The exciting news, which you can infer from the fact that I’m trying to setup an ecommerce store, is that I’ve found a company to dropship costumes.  And I will be selling Halloween costumes here this Fall. I talked a bit about the benefits of dropshipping in a blog post earlier.  So it is an exciting time for me here at Funtober.  Good night!

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I spent the evening researching how to make a Katniss Everdeen costume. The only costumes that I have found to purchase for the blockbuster movie are for sale on Etsy. Were costume manufacturers caught off guard by the popularity of the movie based on Suzanne Collins’ trilogy? Or did they decide instead that the outfits could be too easily replicated? Either way, when I was asked by a few colleagues what costumes I thought would be popular this year, I included the Hunger Games costumes among my top choices. If the movie was released closer to Halloween, say in August instead of March, then I would expect it to be an overwhelming favorite among women. But now, we will have to see how it does. It still should be a popular costume – there’s just more time for something else to be on the nation’s pop culture radar between now and October. When I called it quits for the night, I thought I would write a quick post with five other movies that I think will inspire costumes at Halloween 2012.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Even though the movie was released in December 2011, the trilogy by Stieg Larsson has the popularity to carry itself over into October. I expect to see a few Lisbeth Salander’s walking around this Halloween, but not an overwhelming number since the movie release of The Girl Who Played With Fire is scheduled for late-2013.

Snow White & the Huntsman
I haven’t seen the remake of this fairy tale yet, but it had nearly twice the number of ticket sales that were expected on opening weekend. So you should probably prepare yourself for more than one sexy snow white in costume this Halloween.

The Amazing Spider-Man
Always a favorite among boys, this movie is set for release the weekend of July 4th. The only thing that will decrease the number of spiderman costumes that you see this Halloween is that many of those that will go see the movie have probably already dressed up as Spider-Man.

The Dark Knight Rises
There was so much buzz around the last Batman movie that I expect this movie release to generate a similar number of costumes in October. Who doesn’t love Batman? And with Catwoman joining the cast of characters in the film, there’s a fantastic option for women as well.

Avengers
The Avengers had the biggest opening weekend of ticket sales in North America, smashing the record set by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. It ultimately did more than a half billion dollars in ticket revenue worldwide. I think that means the whole world saw the movie and I expect that a large number of Avengers costumes will show up for Halloween 2012. Plus, there are some fantastic comic book characters to dress up as in the movie, including Captain America, the Hulk, Iron Man and the Black Widow.

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While the rest of us are enjoying the long days and warm weather of summer, there’s a class of people in this country who are eagerly preparing for fall.  When the weather turns chilly and the shadows of darkness encroach upon the daylight, rest assured, they’ll be there to scare you half to death.

Each year, while they are preparing their haunted houses for the upcoming scare season, haunters, as they are called, get together to see the latest industry technology and share tips with their fellow haunters for a few days.  Two of the bigger conventions have just passed: the West Coast Haunters Convention and the Midwest Haunters Convention.  If you would like to read more about them, you can do so in the Portland Mercury and the Columbus Post Dispatch.

If you are interested in learning more about the creation of a haunted house, you should definitely check out one of these gatherings.  There are still a few left in 2012.  And, of course, they will be coming back in 2013 if you can wait that long.  Here is a list of the names, dates and locations of the rest of the 2012 Haunted House Conventions:

UPCOMING IN 2012

Rocky Mountain Haunters Gathering
Lindon, Utah
June 15-17, 2012

Indy Haunt Fest
Indianapolis, IN
June 23-24, 2012

Frightfest Northwest
July 18-20, 2012

New England haunter’s Gathering XII
Manchester, NY
August 4, 2012

Kreepfest
Harrisonville, MO
August 10-12, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vykrasivy/4023034884/

2013 HAUNTED HOUSE CONVENTIONS
You may have missed them this year but it is never too early to start planning to attend one. Here are the names, dates and websites for some of the conventions that we missed in 2012 but can expect to be back around in 2013.

Transworld Halloween & Attractions Show
March 7-10, 2013
St. Louis, MO

National Haunters Convention
May 3-5, 2013
Philadelphia, PA

HAuNTcon
April 25 – 28, 2013
Dallas, Texas

Midwest Haunters Convention
Columbus, OH
June 7 – 9, 2013

West Coast Haunters

Virginia Haunt Fest

Great Lakes Frightfest

I’ve been busy building out Funtober and finding information to put on it, so I haven’t attended one yet. But you can expect to see my frightened face at several in 2013. I look forward to seeing you too!

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After publishing my corn maze update yesterday, I realized that I haven’t yet examined how this year’s pumpkin and apple crops are progressing.  My singular focus on the corn crop stems from the fact that I have completed my corn maze directory but haven’t yet begun to compile my apple orchard and pumpkin patch directories.  I know that Funtober visitors this fall will be itching to pick their own apples and pumpkins, so I had better get cracking on my coverage of these two important crops.  Here’s the first update.

Unfortunately, the apple crop this year has been devastated by the spring weather.  Unusually warm temperatures in March caused the apple trees to blossom earlier than they would normally.  But the weather turned cold in April and the frost severely damaged crops in the eastern half of the United States.  Freezing temperatures overnight impacted the blooms at a critical stage.  As a result, some orchards have already declared that they will not open this fall.  And other farms may not allow you to pick your own apples from the trees.

How bad is it?  The crop of apples is expected to be down by 50 percent overall in NY.  The situation for some farmers is so bad that New York State politicians have proposed the Family Farmers and Apple Growers Relief Act to provide a tax credit to New York farmers.  The news articles that I’ve read indicate it is pretty grim in Michigan as well.  Minnesota, which is believed to have managed to fare pretty well through the April frost, may lose just 15 percent.

Apple Orchard

At the moment, it’s hard to tell how big the apple crop will be.  The impact of the weather varied from region to region and farm to farm within regions.  So it is possible that an orchard could be facing the prospect of an extremely small crop while another farm a few miles away could still have a decent harvest.  And some farms may ultimately decide that it is better to close the orchard this year than continue to spend time and money on what is expected to be a minimal harvest of apples.  Others will import apples from Western states or buy from neighboring farms to meet demand at their stores.

The good news is that I haven’t discovered any problems with the pumpkin crop yet!  In 2011, wet weather damaged the pumpkin crop on the East Coast and created a smaller than expected selection of pumpkins.  But there have been so many reports of pumpkin shortages over the past few years that you can now find a number of articles from 2011 discussing the media reports of phantom pumpkin shortages.

The pumpkin crop has just been planted at a number of pumpkin patches according to reports on the internet.  Bill’s Berry Farm in Washington planted their pumpkins the last week of May.  May Farms in Colorado planted their pumpkin patch over the past week.  And volunteers planted the pumpkin seeds at the Mount Bleak Farm in Sky Meadows State Park in Virginia yesterday.  So it is far too early to declare a 2012 pumpkin shortage. ;)

Pumpkin Patch 100_9297

While some are just planting their pumpkins, others have been carefully nurturing their pumpkins for months.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer published a story about Jerry Rose yesterday.  He has been growing giant pumpkins for over 30 years.  In 2010, he grew a pumpkin that weighed in at 1,554 pounds.  It’s the second story in a series that they are publishing about Rose’s quest to grow this year’s largest pumpkin (here is the first).  It is an interesting story and the series is definitely worth reading.  How can you not want to learn about growing giant pumpkins?

Giant Pumpkin at NYBG

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The unusually warm winter allowed many American farmers to plant their farmland with corn ahead of schedule.  They in turn planted a record amount of farmland with corn.  For those farmers who are going to cut a maze in their crop, they’ve planned the design of the corn maze by now.  They are probably at the stage where they are marking or cutting the field with the design before the crop has grown too much.  For those who are interested in the process, Treinen Farm has been blogging about the design of their corn maze.

But Mother Nature isn’t cooperating in many parts of the country.  There just hasn’t been enough rain to support the corn.  In northern Colorado, Glen Fritzler of the Fritzler corn maze spoke to reporters about a request to the Colorado Governor by local farmers to allow them to supplement surface water with irrigation from underground wells.  A recent status update on Twitter indicates that they are cutting the corn for the maze so hopefully all will be well there.

Colorado isn’t the only area that is worried about the lack of rain.  If you visit the U.S. Drought Monitor, you can see that a larger portion of the country is either suffering from drought or abnormally dry.  There have also been a number of news reports about the situation across the country as well.

If the dry conditions continue,  you can expect that the corn at corn mazes in affected areas will be shorter than usual this fall.  They’ll probably also be smaller (less acreage) and thinner (more space between corn stalks).  That’s based on my research from past corn mazes who opened after facing droughts.  Farms with irrigation systems will do the best.  So my guess is that profitable corn mazes have spent the money to have them installed in order to ensure that they can open.

In the future, farmers may be using drought tolerant corn that has been developed by biotechnology companies.  Although presently controversial, I suspect that more genetically modified crops will be planted in the future in order to deal with the variations in weather from year to year.

In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for rain so that we’ll all be able to get lost in a beautiful field of cornstalks when September rolls around.

corn stalks

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I’ve made a few small changes to Funtober this morning that I thought I would share with you quickly.

First, I’ve integrated the blog with my twitter account and facebook page.  So if you are following Funtober via Twitter or Facebook, you should be notified of future posts if I have it setup properly.  *Fingers Crossed*

Second, I’ve added social sharing buttons at the bottom of the website so that you can easily let your friends know if you found something on this website valuable and want to share it with them.  You should feel free to use those buttons as much as you want. ;)  If you would like to see different buttons, please let me know.

Hopefully, when I hit publish, everything will work.  You can officially write this off as a test post now.

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You may wonder how I plan to make money on Funtober.com.  At least that’s one of the first questions that my parents and friends ask about the website.  It’s a legitimate question.  In the past, I’ve generally used affiliate marketing offers to generate revenue on my websites.  But I’ve convinced myself that it is time to operate the shopping cart myself.  So this will be my first ecommerce website.  The obvious next question is how I will be fulfilling the orders since this is a one person operation without a lot of money in the bank to buy merchandise to resell.  The answer is simple: dropshipping.

Dropshippers buy inventory from the manufacturer and store it in a warehouse.  They receive orders from online retailers and then send the product directly to the consumer.  There are a number of benefits to signing up with a drop shipper rather than purchase the merchandise at wholesale myself.

1. Low initial cost/risk – If I were to order the comstumes myself, I would have the upfront expense of paying for the merchandise.  By using a dropshipper, I don’t have to worry about funding the inventory.  I can order only what my customers have already purchased.  I’ll have zero extra inventory at the end of the Halloween season regardless of whether I sell 1 costume or a 1000.

2. Extensive product selection – Using a drop shipper gives me access to a larger selection of customers than I would have if I were to buy and store the costumes myself.

3. Storage and Shipping – If I were to buy the costumes up front as a wholesaler, I would have to get a storage facility to house them.  I would also be responsible for packing them up and shipping them out.  So instead, I would probably pay an order fulfillment company with a warehouse to manage storage and ship directly to my customers.  A drop shipper takes on this role for me. Once they have my order, they pull the merchandise from their inventory and ship it out to the costumer address rather than my own.  It greatly simplifies the sales process for me.

Fedex

Dealing with a dropshipper isn’t as easy as I’ve made it sound so far.  It has the potential for some pretty serious problems.  I won’t have as much control of product selection, inventory, and shipping as I would if I were managing the process directly.  The major drawbacks and pitfalls I’ve read about online are:

1. Profit margin – Since there is another company between the manufacturer and consumer, this cuts into my potential profit.  Even if I find a drop shipping company that doesn’t markup the price of goods from wholesale, there will be fees involved.  So it will be more expensive on a per costume sold basis.

2. Competition – Other companies and websites will have access to the same products that I do.  I expect that this competition between online retailers will make the profit less than if I were selling exclusive/unique products or ones that were not stocked by drop shippers.

3. Reliability – If there are problems with inventory or shipping, I’ll be at the mercy of the dropshipper as I don’t have the merchandise myself to send.  If they do a good job, there’s no problem.  If their service is poor, it will reflect poorly on Funtober and there won’t be much that I can do about it other than complain or switch to another avenue of order fulfillment such as wholesaling or affiliate marketing.

I’ve started the application process with a specialty Halloween/costume wholesaler and dropshipper.  I didn’t hear back this week, but it was an off-season holiday week.  Hopefully, I’ll be approved soon and can take a look at their prices compared to where the products are priced in the marketplace so that I can determine whether I can make any money selling costumes using them.  If I can, I’ll be hard at work on my shopping cart soon.  I’ve already started looking into ecommerce software such as Magento and Shopify.

If you have experience as a retailer dealing with dropship aggregators or manufacturers who drop ship, I’d love to pick your brain sometime.  And if you are an internet marketer who is just breaking into the world of drop shipping like I am, you should feel free to contact me as well.  We should keep in touch as I’m sure we will learn faster together.