Trish and Harold's Weblog

News, information, and random thoughts from the busy lives of Trish Egan and Harold Phillips.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Company of Thieves Premieres August 21

Hi guys

You long-term readers may remember back to October of 2009, when I mentioned that Trish and I were both going to be working on a new short film by Portland director Shilpa Sunthankar.

The film, Company of Thieves, is finally out of post-production and is going to be playing at Portland's Hollywood Theater on Sunday, August 21 (you can find all the details at  Trish does some voiceover work in the film about a man and his relationship with right and wrong, God and the Devil.  As for me... well, I'm guessing you can tell what part I play from the photo.

I hope you'll all come out to the premiere screening - admission is free, and it's a short film (about 17 minutes or so.)  I plan on being there after finishing the Portland Century ride with my dad... so don't be surprised if I'm just a little sweaty!

Oh, what's that?  You say you want to know a little more about the film than what I've written above?  Well...

The Company of Thieves Clip: Sc 1 & 2 from PushStart Productions on Vimeo.

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Sunday, August 07, 2011

History's Mysteries (or "Geeking Out On Stuff You Don't Care About...")

I've written from time-to-time about how much I enjoy playing my "Online Video Game..." about how it gives me a connection to history I didn't know I had, about how researching the lives of long-gone family members reveals stories that the best authors and screenwriters couldn't have made up, about how delving into my family's stories helps to make connections with people I already had connections with - but didn't necessarily know about.

When I talk about how much time I spend messing around on and how much I enjoy it, a lot of people roll their eyes... but it really is kind of like a video game.  I don't mean a first-person-shooter like Halo, or a "brawler" like Dynasty Warriors though... I mean the RPG-type story-driven investigative video games we loved to play in the 80's and 90's - games like Suspended or Police Quest or Gabriel Knight.  Games where the purpose wasn't to gain points or treasure by defeating aliens and monsters, but to unlock a mystery so a story could be told by the time the player finished the game.  That's the fun of messing around on - solving mysteries and reading stories.

Case in point - I was contacted through the web site by a distant, distant, relative (we're related by a connection about five generations back - I'm sure we share a little DNA, but no more than I share with Louis CK, Prince Charles, or... well, maybe you!)  She had a couple of photos in her possession.  The first was a photo of three Phillips men from, say... 1900 or so.  She knew who they were, and how they were related to my "3rd great grandfather" (after a while, you stop saying "great-great-great..." because, hey, it'd just get ridiculous.)  She had a second photo of three more Phillips men, though, that she couldn't identify... so she asked if I could help.

Here's where the "video game" starts getting interesting.  When I'm doodling around on, I generally work back along my "line" linearly - my dad to my grandfather to his grandfather etc... sure, there are lots of other relatives that "branch off" from that line, but for the most part I don't pay much attention to them - not because their lives aren't interesting, but there's only so much time I can spend on a hobby like this and hey, I have to make a living, too :)

This investigation required me to take a look at some of those branches on my family tree. The first photo gave me a start - my 3rd great grandfather's three boys Alma, John Dee and Joseph.

Now, I don't know anything about these guys... their brother Edward Charles was my 2nd great grandfather, so he's the one I've always focused on. makes looking into people easy, though - all I had to do was add all of my 3rd great grandfather's kids to my family tree (a fairly automatic process where you import information from other people's family trees into yours... you have to pay a monthly fee to do this, but it's not much - and at times like this it's worth it!)  Once I did this, their lives started to take shape - I could find out where they lived from census data, where they were born and where they died, and even some personal details like their professions, newspaper articles about them, and that sort of thing. 

I even found a couple of children that no one else had in their family trees... see, has digital copies of census pages dating back to the 1800's in their system.  If you want, you can go beyond the catalogued data, and see the actual census page the data comes from.  Looking at one page, I discovered John Dee's wife and two children living in Utah in 1910, more than 20 years after John Dee died... so I added them to their records to the system for other people to find.  Look at me - such a trailblazer :)

Anyway... back to the task at hand: the mystery Phillips men that my relative was wondering about.

As you can see from the border, the photo was taken in Idaho... and most of the Phillips' of that generation were based in Utah.   Looking into the details of the three guys in the first photo, however, I discovered Joseph Samuel was born in Utah, but died in Ucon, Idaho... and he had three sons - Edward Christensen, John D and Joseph M.  Two out of the three were born in Idaho, and one of them died in the same town Joseph Samuel died in... so it's not too far a reach to assume that these three are Joseph Samuel's sons.

Figuring all this out took me an afternoon.  That's it.  But the feeling that went along with making these discoveries, putting the pieces together, and figuring out the mystery - well, I'll put that up against any video game on the market.  Or detective novel.  Or police procedural on TV... because just like the audience for all those mediums, I'm doing the detective work as I watch/ read/ play the story.  I'm trying to figure out the mystery.  And that's a whole heck of a lot of entertainment to get out of an afternoon in my back yard on the laptop.

Now for the sequel... what's the story behind those two children that weren't in the system before...

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