My partner currently applies to Los Angeles-based castings for actors. Recently she was scammed by an organization called “Monster Castings”, which uses certain pressure methods to trick hopeful performers into coughing up $295:

  • First, the subject is notified that they are pre-qualified for a spot in a reality television show; these shows are typically high profile — enough notoriety that it would be ridiculous for someone to make up an offer.
  • Second, the subject is told that they are to send in some photos and expect a phone interview once the photos are received.
  • Third, during the phone interview (with a Michael Cole), the subject is told that they have been chosen out of only a few other candidates due to their qualities. They are then informed that they will get back to the subject by phone the next morning if the results went well.
  • Fourth, the next morning, Monster Castings calls the subject to inform them that they are now qualified. They will now offer a workshop that will prepare the subject for television for $295.
  • The subject accepts and over the phone provides their credit or debit card information. They are then emailed a receipt for $295.

Upon reading the fine print of the Monster Castings website, they are not in fact vetting people for these reality television shows, but tentatively creating overpriced photo portfolios. That is not explicitly stated, but instead it’s positioned as “workshop” to prepare the actor for the show.

So here is a brief report on what I’ve seen with Monster Castings and related websites like Nonscripted.tv

Social Media

  • Twitter – reposted content, same exact casting post every few days or months. Must check to see difference in activity between May and August, as well as October 2016.
  • Facebook – two mentions by people, both show no evidence they actually participated in the shows they were celebrating in connection with Monster.
  • Brianna Beatty created a GoFundMe in December 1, 2017 to fund her fee. Exact process as my partner’s. Also done by a Michael Cole (michael@monstercastings.com)
  • Instagram – badly formatted images of reality TV shows. First post January 24, 2017.

Incorporation

  • Incorporation Date: 2015-10-23
  • Dissolution: 2016-10-18 (s. 210)
  • Created by Puneet Kreuger Singh (29 Doddington Drive, Toronto, ON M8Y 1S3, Canada. He is the main character of all these sites.
  • Corporation Status: Dissolved. Open Corp Data

People

  • Michael Cole (Contacting since November 2017)
  • Puneet Kreuger Singh (Founder in 2015) Website
  • Mitch Matthews, Director
  • Zoey Butcher, Web Services
  • Sharon Klienfield, Talent Listing Agent

Address

  • 1154 Warden Avenue, Suite 173, Toronto, ON, M1R 0A1 Canada

MonsterCastings.com Website

  • Created 2015-06-22 (whois.net)
  • Backend by Mindcraft.ca (local rather than premade) – also found on nonscripted.tv.
  • Photos hosted by https://imgbb.com

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 2.41.52 AM

bbb.org Report

  • File opened 17-04-28
  • Problems with Product/Service 18-07-02
  • Advertising / Sales Issues 17-08-14
  • Positive reviews between May and August of 2017 (possibly by “employees” of Monster Castings)
  • Address listed: 210 – 505 Consumers Rd North York, ON M2J 4V8

Business Relations

Fame Talent Agency, Inc.

  • Created: 16-07-2006
  • Corporation #: 9821422
  • Same address as Monster Castings (1154 Warden Avenue, Suite 173, Toronto, ON, M1R 0A1 Canada)

nonscripted.tv

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 1.35.07 AMNonscripted.tv Scam

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 2.54.40 AM

mindcraft.ca

Products of Kreuger Singh:

  • gaiacalendar: a creation of some sort of spiritual calendar.
  • kreuger.me: he makes experimental dance music or something. Site contains several references to individuals connected to Monster Castings and Nonscripted, like the owner of Endless Communications.

It is fascinating to see the inner workings of a scam artist. Singh is a busy guy, not set on just making music or new age calendars: he wants to prey on those looking to make it on a television show because maybe he knows something about those interested in “reality television”: three times over, people announced their association with Monster Castings, how they’re getting up in the world, but suddenly their success becomes surprisingly quiet: they never got on those shows, nor did they ever even leave their hometown, but rather kept on posting their inane lives as usual. The egoism, which becomes so emboldened by Monster Castings call, is too proud to admit they paid $300 into a scam — or at least tried to as the GoFundMe websites suggest.

When someone Googles Monster Castings or Nonscripted, there is no explicit statement that they are a scam. So here it is now.

Most routes that I took to Holton Creek were wide, stress-free, easy. But for those particular stretches, I could only think of impending death as a car approached from behind. 95% of the path of was paved, but 90% of that pavement was stuck on county roads with speeding trucks passing by. At times I would sit on the side of the road and mentally recharge — I can still recall how the force of an 18-wheeler would suck the surrounding air into some vacuum at its axles; only two feet away, the bike would waver and point for just a heart-stopping moment in the direction of those gigantic tires. I felt as if it was the pure will to continue that kept my path straight instead of veering left. A bad day of existentialism and I could have been splattered on the road.

To be trapped on 60-75 mile per hour roads, equipped with a three foot shoulder is to have a crash course in “Aerodynamics 101”: The wind became an oppositional force in several forms: first, the wind rushing through my ear canals were not only inconvenient for my only way to maintain sanity by listening to podcasts, I also felt that my ears have lost a few decibels of dynamic range since then; second, I might as well be scaling a mountain when wind is pressing up against me for miles on end — I can recall several steep hills to head down, yet I needed to pedal just to maintain minimal speed; third, those random bursts of air may arrive just as that pickup truck wanted to pass.

IMG_0680
Near 1900 hours. I would soon realize this road was going to take me 12 miles off track.

The 105 mile trip to Holton Creek Camp was spread over 12 hours — there were brief moments of respite at gas stations and Dollar Generals, but the extended time to reach the century mark can mostly be attributed to repeated trial and errors: realizations that this 12 mile bend actually does not connect to the other side of the river; dogs own the streets in one neighborhood and require re-navigation; some paths are just plain scary, heading into the abyss that only Google Maps may light up.

My threshold for fear may be heightened by constant contact with mobile trains passing me by every few moments, but the irrational, the unseen can still turn me around and make me hide in my tent. The frightening feeling that I may experience when passing through a darkened part of the woods with sunlight running out — only deer may be watching, but my urbanized loneliness is seeking so much more. I arrived at the Holton Creek campground at 9pm and promptly switched on some downloaded television shows so I can have another human voice near me. It was raining that night; heavy drips on dead leaves rendered expectations of nightmarish consequences.

Alone, the weight of nature felt oppressive. I was surrounded by darkness, trapped in a Holton Creek hut due to rain — scarcity is a prime motivator of stress. To know your *in-*capabilities — your clothes will not dry by tomorrow, you will not be able to see into the distance, you have only so much mesh to defend against attacks — is a fearful notion, that must take weeks or months or years to finally accept and celebrate. Before then, every privilege you lose during a several day trek — this was the first segment of around 14 days — turns into indignation, exasperation.  Always seeing a way out — I am surrounded by abundance yet I have chosen this life for this short period of time — is the reason why the will can be so weak. So the challenge by pushing 100 miles out the first day: to reduce escape points, to trap myself in challenge.

It’s been about a year since I last published a new EP or track. For nearly half a decade I have internalized a growing love for the footwork scene, in awe of the unforgiving repetition and harshness that so many classic tracks have. They do not hesitate to delve into obsessions that I could only liken with a poetic madness. Phrases and words are transformed into bits and undecipherable arias. Snares are compressed and crushed into tight sizzles, syncopated in unpredictable ways. Footwork is truly a bridge between studio workmanship and improvisational performance, especially knowing that it’s typically produced on one beat maker and by one producer.

LOQUELA is lo-fi, but higher in production quality than my tablet-based music could ever be (with my workflows). The name is the theme, taken from a chapter in Roland Barthes’ “A Lover’s Discourse.” The beauty of a lover’s self-torment, poking at an oozing wound because of not only curiosity but because of the unspoken irrationality of reliving pain in the first place. Like a spin that could take the dancer to any of the extremes, dizzy and delirious.

You can listen to it here (or buy it!)

It’s also been about a year since I last actively used a tablet as the primary tool for making music. The switch back to a laptop with a full-featured DAW was challenging but gratifying — unlike the small apps of the tablet, the program I was using would provide me skills to use throughout other production suites. I am excited to see what will come next for my sound…

Future Plans

The only music I can play live is with a flute. Live performance hardware and software still feels like such an alien concept to me — I’ve been currently working on new footwork-influenced music with a great beat machine, but the beat making is throwing me. The ability to arrange songs in real-time is a goal that I’m aspiring to this year, and I will achieve it with enough practice.

Be sure to keep up with my uploads over at Soundcloud.

The EP cover.

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I stopped at the Holton Creek River Camp, motivated by its proximity to Gainesville, FL as well as its free-ness, which I prioritized during the trip (though it will become apparent that these priorities don’t seem to hold sway in Georgia). The camp is specifically for Florida Trail hikers and Suwanee River tubers, placed just a few dozen feet from both the river and trail – it also has a sign that deters overnight parking nearby; you will have to earn your way to this area in some shape or form of physical movement.

Reservations

Reservations were very simple: I just had to call the Suwanee River Water Management District and ask if there are any availabilities for the day. Being a Monday, there was absolutely no one looking to reserve either the platforms or the tent sites, so I could easily snag one of the former. For more information, you can also check the WMD’s site out.

Don’t always trust Google.

Google Maps has an issue with directing to the camp: while it identifies exactly where the camp is located, it does not take into account the unpaved roads required to get to the campsite via bicycle – nor the Florida Trail, which would be a huge bonus if it were included in the future.

Google assumes that there is a magical bridge that goes from the south side to the north side; there isn't, just private property.
Google assumes that there is a magical bridge that goes from the south side to the north side; there isn’t, just private property.

It was already past 19:30 when I arrived at the southern end, also called the “Sheriff’s Boys Camp” or something similar. I didn’t realize until then that Holton Creek Camp was located north of the river, not south. For the next hour, I rerouted myself to the 249, adding another 18 miles to the bike trip, and causing me to arrive at the camp after sun had set.

Feeling as if I was gonna get Blair Witch’d

It was a stressful experience to go further and further into the Floridian woods from 20:30 to 21:00. The sunset occurred at 20:36, and I had already passed the highway and a mile or so into the forest. I did not want to be stuck in the forest, in the dark and alone, without something already set up to sleep in. As a child, I put covers over my head when I was afraid that someone was in my room — this has held over into adulthood while camping alone. “If you can’t see them, they can’t see you.”

For the last fifteen minutes I had to turn on my bike light so I can see along the dirt path. The worst horror is to seek the image of something; my light flashed through the trees and into the distance, and the reptile-part of my brain just waited for some darkened silhouette to appear.

Moving along.

Holton River Camp is all that and a bag of chips

I was really suprised by the handicap accessibility.
I was really suprised by the handicap accessibility.

I had seen images of the platform online, and had assumed the five structures were simply well-made bug nets. However, when I arrived, I also found it (and all other buildings) to be handicap accessible, with internal and exterior lights, as well as a ceiling fan. The platforms could comfortably fit three small tents, or up to six people with only bivy sacks or sleeping bags (which I would not recommend: the weakest part of the structure are the small perforations in the otherwise high quality platforms, allowing for a few small bugs to find a way in).

Sleeping bag in the Holton Creek River Camp platform - the wood floors were even well-sealed, but I set up the tarp as a barrier anyway.
Sleeping bag in the Holton Creek River Camp platform – the wood floors were even well-sealed, but I set up the tarp as a barrier anyway.

The rain and the platform

The fifth of June had erratic behavior with regard to weather; earlier in the day I had been soaked by thirty minutes of rain, and then clear skies for the next seven or so hours. But by twelve in the morning, a pattering of rain had started, and would not stop until the afternoon of the next day (which dampened my mood and cycling speed). I worried that the “splash back” of the rain drops would get in through the net, but the roof had covered most of the ramp entrance, keeping drops far enough away from the site – perhaps I take this note because of the possible issues that tarp tenting can produce: torrential rainfall will bounce into the enclosure, causing things to get wet regardless of the roof over one’s head.

The bathrooms and showers

It was only a small trip to the bathrooms, which are segregated into disabilities/non-disabilities and men/women.
It was only a small trip to the bathrooms, which are segregated into disabilities/non-disabilities and men/women.

Only the next morning did I check out the bathrooms, which had lit up at night when I passed them; I thought they were small, rentable houses at first. But to my surprise, the bathrooms were fully furnished: working toilet, hot/cold water shower, and a sink with a mirror, with toilet paper already in place. Also cooled by A/C! I don’t know why they put so much effort into this place, but the Holton Creek River Camp had gone way beyond normal expectations of a free campsite.

Bathroom entrances, fitted with automatic light sensors.
Pretty clean bathrooms.

Conclusion

Overall, Holton Creek Camp is more than I ever expected from a free campsite: electricity, heated water, and a roof over my head. I was really pleased to have such facilities, especially after having to navigate the dirt paths for about forty or so minutes in the near-dark. I am glad certain Floridian wildlife offices are putting the effort and time to make the Florida Trail a real destination rather than a half-assed thing to do “‘cause every other state got it”.

But be careful about Google Maps and attempting to read the official websites PDF map, as the former completely throws you off the correct street, and the latter is not to scale and can be confusing to figure out the actual entrance to the Holton Creek area (you can go along the Florida Trail, which I could not find a trailhead, or via the Northwest entrance).

p-751-senna-leaf-whole

Over the last couple days, I have been drinking an herbal tea that contains Senna Leaf (Cassia Angustifolia), which a roommate had brought in with a large variety of other tea leaves. The front of the box was marked in all caps: REGULAR STRENGTH and DIETARY SUPPLEMENT. I had expected that like many other teas, the latter description was simply a palliative term that attracted individuals looking for anything that mentions “diet” as a means for weight loss.

However, after waking up with intense abdominal pain this morning and several rounds of diarrhea, I realized that I was not shortchanged on the concept of DIETARY SUPPLEMENT.

I have always kept an interest in oral supplements: as a child, I would start ingesting whatever new age pills that my stepmother stocked every few months; St. John’s Wort sticks in my mind. With the odd name and the very ambiguous benefits that the bottle implied (as some kind of treatment for depression), I became an optimistic skeptic for the supplement and others. A few years ago, I found online communities revolving around these treatments and member’s own cocktails for a supposed healthier life. The term was “Nootropics”, a fancy word for cognitive enhancers. Not only was St. John’s Wort the tip of a very large iceberg, it was at times barely registered as a legitimate substance compared to others.

To ingest selected parts of nature and gain physical or mental benefits — is that not the dream of an age (more than two thousand years old) seeking immediate effects over long-term processes? And it continues to be a dream: read into a nootropic substance long enough and all are validated and invalidated at the same time, creating enough doubt that I don’t fly out of my room to purchase a couple bottles, but instead keep reading about new developments in studies and individual stories.

Start from the benefits and drawbacks of St. John’s Wort (via NCIH):

“St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), a plant that grows in the wild, has been used for centuries for mental health conditions. It’s widely prescribed for depression in Europe.”

One starts with validation: “widely prescribed in Europe.” The dream appears! Society has deemed this ingestable substance as worth prescribing, worth speaking of in the same sentence as a treatment for something.

“St. John’s wort isn’t consistently effective for depression. Do not use it to replace conventional care or to postpone seeing your health care provider.”

And then the dream dissipates: “not consistently effective.” For all of its wide acceptance, studies put the supplement just above a placebo. And then:

“St. John’s wort limits the effectiveness of many prescription medicines.”

So at its worst, St. John’s Wort does do something; it can have the surprising effect of dampening the benefits of pharmaceutical medicines. And that’s the magic of nootropics: it does everything and nothing and sometimes exacerbates. It is akin to the old gods and the new: vengeful, merciful, loving, and most of all: ambivalent.

Despite my push-pull relationship with nootropics, I am still fascinated with the dream. So I ingest psyllium husk dietary fiber and take multivitamins and take laxatives: I want that immediate effect, and I know that these do something physical. I can feel my insides crawl and settle, my urine change colors. I am fascinated with my changing self, my changing excretions because of these supplements. They are beyond magic: they are real, passing through my body and taking their toll, positive or negative. They are the elementals of earth, allowing me to have one iota of understanding of the unknowable: my physicality, my mentality.

In mid-May of 2018, an internal video from advertising-technology company Google leaked to the public. Produced by Nick Foster, the design head of Google’s experimental lab X, the video dove into a thought experiment: if all of one’s actions online can be recorded, could they be synthesized to better inform future generations’ own? The video analogized this digital ledger with a genetic organism, which — like the physical gene — may have the inherent drive to reproduce itself. So Google must jump in, ready to guide the digital gene — a supposed template for future digital/physical lives — with advanced tools to point out good behavior in purchasing and daily habits. Essentially, Google may reinvent itself as a morality company, with its advertising division the key to a higher human and better future.

What if the ledger could be given a volition or purpose rather than simply acting as a historical reference? What if we focused on creating a richer ledger by introducing more sources of information? What if we thought of ourselves not as the owners of this information, but as custodians, transient carriers, or caretakers?

Foster appears to ignore that the drive of epistemology and philosophy and betterment is in fact the Historical Reference — that is, the millions of textual and oral histories that are sifted and filtered to produce a certain narrative line, enabling a sequence of events to be intelligible. And doubly ignored: that (the) Historical Reference(s) are ceaselessly given purpose — for better or worse, as we can see in the successes and follies of humankind; the cruelty, breakthroughs, wars, and genius inherent to giving volition to ideas concocted from the Historical Reference. We have never stopped being the custodians, transient carriers, and caretakers of the Purposeful Historical Reference, sweeping away whole histories inconvenient or unintelligible — that we now sit on the Historical Reference, pockmarked with miles-wide and pitch black holes resulting from our faithful — fateful — custodianship over the ugly and bad and beautiful and good.

I find Foster’s willful ignorance admirable and innocent, the musings of an egomaniac that has discovered blessedness in their techno-idealisms. He believes that an advertising-technology company, doing what they do best — selling ads — could unlock the secrets of “depression, health, and poverty.” Who knew that making the Historical Reference — richer — also known as throwing one’s own two cents into the ocean — could finally break open the nut of the silent, the internal afflictions that don’t speak through digital purchases or relationships or movement. With this video, Foster has already contributed a huge insight for future healthcare: depression buys bananas too!