Archive for May, 2008

Adventures in Television

Friday, May 30th, 2008

I had a little adventure on Wednesday … a weird adventure, but it was interesting.

In addition to my job hunting efforts on the regular sites, my wife combs CraigsList for job listings. One day last week she found something that wasn’t a job exactly (though it did offer $20), but rather a chance to be in the audience of a pilot episode of a local talk show. I thought, Hey, I’d like to see how those are made, plus it’s 20 bucks, so I applied and got accepted.

Here are the high points:

1. They made us leave our cell phones and cameras in our cars! It’s Communism! I took my phone back, but kept my camera.

2. While we waited in the atrium of the building (with access to cold water and a wide variety of snack treats), I looked around at the facilities as best as I could. Apparently the place where the show taped produces a whole line of training and educational videos, specializing in the areas of security and first response. Near the entrance was a big, circular war-room type area, with lots of ceiling mounted monitors in a circle in the center, surrounded by curved desks for computer workers, and open to the waiting area via a glass wall. Also off the atrium was a small CNN type newsroom, also with the requisite wall of newsroom monitors in the background (one of the stories they were tracking apparently involved The Price Is Right) and the word NEWS in the mandatory Times Roman font repeated on the wall over the TV screens.

There were also some editing booths lining the atrium and visible via windows, one of which was in use, and a young woman was apparently trying to overlay the audio of a woman being interviewed (her video was on the right screen) with footage of an SUV pictured on the left screen.

Needless to say, I was in video-hobbyist heaven.

3, There were some delays, apparently due to not having enough audience members show up, so we were soon shuttled off to Audience Holding Pen #2, which seemed to be some kind of classroom area and which also doubled as the Toastmaster meeting room.

(Hey, I went to a Toastmasters meeting one time, and boy was I disappointed — not one damn piece of toast in the whole place!)

(Sorry, comedian’s reflex.)

ANYWAY: Got to talking to one guy named Dan — Hi, Dan, in case you’re reading this! (I gave him my blog card, of course) — and we got into a discussion of the future of free vs. premium content.

(My argument for free content is that in this Age of Bits, as opposed to the old Age of Atoms, value is determined not by scarcity but by abundance. This was outlined, of course, by Kevin Kelly in his seminal Wired article 10 years ago, and we’re still seeing that principle, The Law of Plentitude, unfold.)

And again we had water and snacks, with the addition this time of bananas.

(PS: Dan didn’t laugh at my Toastmasters joke either, just like you didn’t laugh at it.

4. Finally we were herded like the cattle we are into the taping studio — except that cattle aren’t scanned with metal detectors on the way into the corral.

That’s right, the bastards found my camera, and I had to take it back to the car.

We ended up sitting in the studio for about an hour before anything happened, and even then it was just warmup — but still, it was interesting. It started with local comic Craig Frasier (who I think worked with us in Comics On Tap about 10 years ago), getting the audience loose and laughing, and then the director came out to get sound levels, and a few fake reaction shots.

That was probably the wildest part: The got shots of the audience faking reactions. They had us laugh, and boo, and shake our heads in disgust — keep that in mind when you watch one of those talk shows.

5. Anyway, let’s cut to the chase:

They told us it would be a talk show on the order of Jerry Springer or Maury Povich, but, long story short, it turned out to be more like The Jamie Kennedy Experiment (or Punk’d, or Candid Camera) — in other words, an outlandish situation was put on and our reactions were caught on camera.

Except that several of us figured out that something wasn’t quite right early on: The set that was too small, the first guest who was barely controversial at all, the fact that the lines of the second guest (the setup, the actor posing as the outrageous individual) were on the teleprompter, the fact that the actor’s fake foreign accent was far from convincing …

In fact, when he first came out, he looked to me exactly like Michael McDonald — no, not the mush-mouthed lead “singer” that killed the Doobie Brothers, but rather the MadTV actor. He looked just like McDonald’s character of Stewart, the creepie overgrown child.

In fact, here’s some video of Stewart in actin, in case you’re unfamiliar:

ANYWAY: I don’t think it was actually Michael McDonald that I saw, because I think this guy was too young. I also think he wasn’t ugly enough to be Jamie Kennedy (hey, I’m just saying), although the nose was almost big enough.

But it was certainly the kind of thing Kennedy used to do on his show, and all his lines had over-the-top comedy writing all over them.

So it absolutely was not the real thing, but some of the other folks in the audience didn’t seem to catch on.

The only thing is, they didn’t even tell us, “You’ve been X’ed!” or “You’ve Been Punk’d!” or anything else to that effect. That’s probably because they had to retape that night, and wanted all different audience members (they sent me another email, saying that people who weren’t at the first one were desperately needed for the night taping). Maybe too many of us caught on, or maybe they weren’t satisfied with the actor’s lack of convincingness, or maybe they wanted a version without the audience fanning themselves because it was so miserably hot in the studio.

But anyway, it was a great experience, and I made some new contacts I can use with my job search.

Plus I got 20 bucks.

Birthday Notes

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

First off, thanks to everybody for the birthday greetings! Kim, Pam and Renny were the first to check in, even though I had given them a pass on having to remember anything this week. Then Todn8r commented, then The Spook, 2 days fashionably late, then Gigglechick.

The gang’s all here!

Also, my wonderful ex-co-worker Misty sent me an email and an Amazon gift card, and my former supervisor (Elma, the good one — not Daffy, the blithering idiot) sent me a birthday card AND called me.

As the family goes, I got cards from my mom, my wife’s mom, and my Aunt Lucille.

And then there’s the automated emails I got from the various message boards and other organizations I’m registered with: KDGE-FM, FileFront Network, My Coke Rewards, BuddyTV Forums, SlickDeals.net, Family Tree DNA, Tech Support Guy Forums, and Ubuntu Forums (those Linux folk were the first I heard from).

Of course, it could be said that the robo-greetings don’t mean as much as the personal ones, but seeing them all at once makes for an interesting portrait of my interests.

Plus, it’s better than no greeting at all, which what I got from a lot of the humans I know, almost a whole week after announcing it.

But it was a good birthday, my wife always works hard to make sure of that. We went to see Iron Man (excellent movie, more about that later), and took some pictures of the promotional stuff in the lobby (my wife is seen here with her new special friend), then we went to the Outback Steakhouse (overpriced, but we had a gift card that someone had given her a couple of years ago, and that we wanted to use before it unexpectedly expired, as those things tend to do).

The only downer to the birthday was that I had a bit of a sunburn from our two-day pre-birthday yard sale (pictures of that some other time) that we had with our friends Stephen and Deb. Even my scalp was sunburned, and I hadn’t sunburned in years.

But on the up side of the yard sale: You know how when you have a yard sale with other people, you always end up with each other’s stuff? Well, we mostly refrained from that, with one notable exception. Stephen was getting rid of a slightly defective bike, and since nobody expressed interest, they gave it to me as an early birthday present (don’t worry, we’ll make it up to them).

So: Instead of my nightly power walks, I’ve been cutting my time in half by biking around the neighborhood. Of course, having not been on a bike in something like 18 years, I’ve got a minor case of bike-seat butt, but the bike is easier on my tendonitis.

And lastly, on my birthday night some of my Second Life acquaintances came up with a simulated birthday cake on the dance floor, and the let me win two best-dressed contests, so that was a nice end to the day. I think I’ve got screenshots of that somewhere too.

Anyway, that was this year’s birthday, and thanks to everyone for your wishes!

Just one thing

Monday, May 19th, 2008

It’s my birthday!

More later, but for now, I gotta crash …

Miscellaneous Things for May 14th

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

My wife says I need to post, but there’s not really any one thing worth posting. So here’s bunches:

1. Since the job I interviewed for is so contingent on my web networking skills, I’ve been spending even more time on those types of sites, including Second Life. If you’ve never experienced Second Life (and I’m really shocked at the number of friends of mine who have never heard of it, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s free, and surprisingly it’s not very hardware intensive. He’s a screenshot of one of my favorite hangouts:

2. The new Iron Man movie looks cool, but we’re waiting until Monday (5/19) to go see it.

3. Since I still can’t get my Creative Zen up and running, I got a temporary solution of a 2 GB Sansa Clip (that was on sale) for my evening power walks … except that the music I’m loading on it doesn’t show up. The troubleshooting guide suggests that it might be some DRM crap stopping the files from showing up.

So that’s still up in the air.

4. Lately I’ve gotten hooked on the Discovery Channel’s taxicab quiz show, Cash Cab. It’s amazing how little knowledge New Yorkers can get away with having and still survive in the big city …

Still though, it’s nice to see a game show where the contestants weren’t hand-picked by some control freak producers who thought they would look appropriate on the show. These are just ordinary people who needed a cab ride, and happened to pick the one with the rolling quiz show on board. Bonus points: On today’s show, they had two Nixon related questions. One was about who replaced Agnew as Vice President (duh!), and the other was the name of the cocker spaniel (again: duh!) that Nixon talked about in a televised 1952 speech to try to get public support for his place on the Republican ballot.

5. Oh, and speaking of Nixon’s historically significant dog, I’ll probably be finally giving the links to my RPM Challenge songs very soon. (What does one have to do with the other? Some of you already know, the rest of you will soon see.

Anyway, go to the Cash Cab link above and try your knowledge against some sample questions.

6. My friends will be tested in the next week. I can’t say what the test is, because that would defeat the purpose, but I dropped a subtle hint somewhere above. (I’m hereby exempting Kim, Pam and RennyBA from this test, because they’ve already proven their loyalty by posting comments here on a regular basis. I’m also exempting my wife, of course. But the rest of you are walking a thin line …)

7. And finally: Here’s something new you can try, just in case you haven’t already seen it: When you’re reading a message board, or you’re in a chatroom, and somebody says something incredibly stupid, all you have to say in response is:

[facepalm]

People who know what it means will know that you’re hip and smart, and those who don’t can just Google it.

You’re welcome.

I had saved this video some time ago, but YouTube is on the fritz tonight, so it might or might not be visible when you’re reading this. At any rate, it’s pretty funny, and cleverly illustrates the facepalm phenomenom:

“Down-Town, Everything’s Waiting for You … “

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Big old building!There once was a time — it seems a million years ago — I was having to drive in downtown Dallas all the time, finding this office or that, navigating the maze of busy, narrow one-way streets and somehow getting where I needed to be. Visiting friends and relatives would marvel at my calm ability to pilot a car through the urban labyrinth while at the same time avoiding the violent death of everyone in the car.

But, as I said, that was another lifetime, and since then I have enjoyed a peaceful, sheltered existence in the far suburbs. The hazards of the asphalt gauntlet have become but a distant, hazy dream — until today.

Today I found it necessary to brave the city’s gaping maw once more, as I was tasked with one of the seven Holy Quests: Interview for the Job.

======================================

But seriously: Recently a corporate H.R. specialist that we know, the daughter of my wife’s co-worker, was giving me some pointers on how to polish my resume in order to better get a job, or at least an interview.

Her chief recommendation: Make no mention, ever, that I have a blog. If the word “blog” comes up in conversation, I’m supposed to say, “What’s a blog?”

She said something along the lines that not only have blogs never helped anyone get a job, but that merely bringing up the subject of blogs would cause most Human Resources people to accuse me of being a witch or some other kind of creature with unsavory ties to the supernatural.

Okay, maybe that’s not quite what she said, but that’s how I remember it.

I usually try to downplay my blogging on my resume anyway, unless communications skills are somehow part of the job requirement, but either way it hasn’t seemed to help.

The reason I bring this up is because my interview today was for a job in which not only did I not have to hide my five-year track record of blogging, but it was actually an integral part of why they wanted me!

Even more interesting is the fact that the interview was not for a blogging or writing job, but for a corporate job in which social networking played an integral part.

Suddenly all these years of rattling on about trivial stuff, of posting pictures of mundane things, of posting on forums about Lost and Survivor and Elder Scrolls, of playing a wood elf druid, and, more recently, churning out quirky videos and music and dog pictures, have finally reached a critical mass and are considered to be a web presence.

‘Bout freaking time.

As for the interview itself, it was exhilarating to be, for once, elaborating on my blogging techniques and on web theory as it applies to social networks. This was the first time ever in my life that a boss or potential boss was listening to what I knew on the subject and actually understood the words coming out of my mouth.

I’m not sure a work authority figure has ever actually achieved the listening part of that equation with me before, much less tried for understanding.

Whether I actually impressed the interviewer to a sufficient degree is still to be seen, but I’m just thrilled that we were able to have that particular conversation without him looking at me like I just flew in from Mars and said, “Must kill all humans!”

Sometimes the little victories are the sweetest.

I’m Still Back!

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

I’m so thrilled to be able to blog again that I’m at it again after just five hours.

First of all I’d like to thank my friends Kim and Pam for already noticing I’m back without me even telling them, and to Renny, who didn’t know I was having problems, but who kept checking back anyway, and left two comments during the month while I couldn’t post anything.

And also a big thanks to Joni of WordPress forums for helping me troubleshoot and get back online.

I had more to post, but I have to go get ready for a job interview tomorrow (did I mention that?), so here’s what I don’t have time to talk about tonight: My adventures in Second Life, my music getting circulated around (I have my own ringtones! Woo-hoo!), developments in various shows, and my job interview tomorrow.

Bet you can’t wait.

I’M BACK!!!!!

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

Well, after a whole #$%@%&$# month of not being able to blog for no apparent #*&$*&$%# reason … now, all of a sudden, I CAN!!!!

And again, for no apparent reason.

%$@#.

SO anyway, I’m back, and have a few things to post, and hopefully I will, assuming I don’t get %$@#ed around again.