Archive for the 'Geek Matters' Category

“Remember … “

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

In the wake of Leonard Nimoy’s passing this week, the internet is filled with Star Trek video clips, but those alone don’t do justice to the actor’s legacy.

With the memory of Star Trek being so strong, it’s easy to forget that he was well-established as a TV actor for years before being discovered by Gene Roddenberry. Here he is on Gunsmoke — as was often the case (see the Mission Impossible clip further down), in full ethnic regalia!

And of course, most of the Trek main cast “auditioned” on Perry Mason. Here’s Nimoy’s episode:

And speaking of his Star Trek co-stars, this episode of Man From UNCLE shows Kirk and Spock working together for the first time (Shatner as a drunken jackass, Nimoy as a Russian spy). Bonus points: Colonel Klink!

Like a lot of celebrities, as soon as Nimoy had a good bit of fame, he was allowed to try to leverage that into record sales — and one of the most notorious pieces was this novelty song based on The Hobbit. (And keep in mind that “hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” were not household terms back then. Long before the blockbuster movies, the only people to have heard of Tolkien were the ones who had read the books — and for the most part, that was limited to stoned college students. This song was actually groundbreaking in that regard.)

According to a Wikipedia entry, “When the single was originally released, Nimoy lip-synched to the recording during a guest appearance on the July 28, 1967 episode of Malibu U, a short-lived variety television series [and] survives as a ‘music video’.”

In addition to the occasional original tune, his singing career was mostly propped up using that time-honored (though hardly proven) route of the cover song, in this case of CCR’s Proud Mary. (Listen as your own risk, it’s kind of pitiful. Your level of respect for Mr. Spock might never recover.) Bonus points: As if it weren’t bad enough that he sings “toinin'” and “boinin'” at one point in the song (but not always), he sings “Pumped a lot of pain down in New Orleans”.

Nimoy’s next career move was as a regular for two seasons of Mission Impossible after the departure of Martin Landau, as “master of disguise” Paris. Shown here is surely his finest hour, in full Kabuki makeup!

And finally: Nimoy’s post-Trek career has been dominated with re-hashing Star Trek (including several feature films), but he did occasionally find work in other films, such as 1978’s remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with Donald Sutherland:

(Thanks to For the Win for some of these links!)

9 Years!

Friday, December 30th, 2011

9!Nine years ago tonight I took the blogging plunge … and, well, it was an entirely different blogosphere. Back in 2002, blogging was just a stampede of dorks who finally had an outlet for all of our dorky thoughts. We huddled together on sites like Mandarin Design (here’s an archive of the site, since, sadly, Meg passed away in 2006) for HTML and graphics tips, and traded links and idea. Desperate for anything to feed our blogs’ daily cravings for content, we took pictures of our lunches and clothes and lawnmowers and TV screens and neighborhoods (and actually had to hook our cameras up to our computers to transfer the pictures!), and in the process, ended up giving the world a glimpse into our lives. Photo and video sites sprung up to help house some of this content, until finally social networking came into its own. Anybody who wants to do what we were doing in the early days of blogging (which was just a page for general expression) can do it any number of way, but usually just Facebook and Twitter, but also Flickr, YouTube, Instagram, FourSquare, and on and on.

And now, here we are, on the cusp of 2012, and blogging isn’t what it used to be. If somebody these days identifies themselves as a blogger, they’re usually focused on a topic — and an agenda, be it profit or propoganda. The word has become synonymous with Gawker and Gizmodo and Huffington Post — sanitized, soulless, bloodless, professional, churned out several times a day by people you’ll never chat with. The Wild West Frontier of blogging is over, but I like to think that there’s a little of blogger spirit in everybody that posts on Facebook every day.

And even corporations are catching on: The national company I work for started an internal social network a couple of months ago, where each employee can start a “blog” of sorts, so today, on the ninth anniversary of this blog, I started my blog, and thus launched myself into our corporate blogosphere, and immediately felt the familiarity rush over me, like I was once again behind the wheel of a machine that had years ago become an extension of myself.

So look out, Corporate Social Network: The Bryk is back.

And for the future of BrykMantra.com, I resolve in the coming year to better integrate my blog into my other social sites and media projects (and vice versa). For starters, I think that surely there must be a way to have my Facebook posts automatically publish to WordPress, or the other way around … anybody out there know how to do this? Anyway, I’ll find a way to harness all the energies I’ve got going on, and then … well, I don’t know what then, but I figure that out when it happens.

And in closing, I don’t think I can say it better than I did last year:

Yes, it was eight years ago that I started my blog on Blogspot: I wrote an initial post that was something like, “I started a blog! I’ll post more tomorrow”, then I went to the local laundromat to dry my wife’s beauty shop towels (our dryer was on the fritz). While at the laundry, I hand-wrote a two-page post (while fighting against carpal tunnel syndrome), which I typed in and posted the next day.

It was a humble beginning, but the start of a major phase in my life. That next year, 2003, was when blogging really began to take off (Bloggers were named People of the Year by ABC News), and I was there on the ground floor. I had readers from all over the world, I made several friends among my fellow bloggers, at least four of whom (Gigglechick, RennyBA, Pamibe, Kim Novak) I’m still in contact with (mostly through Facebook), and I even got some measure of recognition for my blogging. More importantly, I felt part of a huge movement that was bringing the power mass communication to everyday people.

Now, though, the Golden Age of blogging is over, replaced by the shallower but more pervasive medium of social networking. I still keep my blog around, partly to anchor what I like to call the Brykmantra Content Network — my videos, photos and music — and partly as a base through which to channel a feed of my social networking posts.

A lot has happened in the eight years since I started blogging: The tumor and its removal, my establishinment of the brykMantra.com domain in 2005, the beginning of my ventures into music, the loss of three dogs and the acquisition of the two we have now, my job loss and subsequent new career (such as it is), and, most recemtly, my struggles with a detached retina. And, through it all, I have a record of my thoughts for each event.

And that alone makes it all worth it.

PS: Just in case I don’t get my Facebook page channeled through here, you can check it out here.

First Day of Autumn!

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Okay, okay, I haven’t posted a real post since July 4th, but it’s one of my favorite days of the year – the day that the hellish Texas summer is given its eviction notice – so I’m going to try to get a wrap-up posted without murdering 30 minutes to do it:

I actually have been posting on my blog — if you’ll look in my sidebar you’ll see my Twitter feed, which also includes my Blip.fm posts, which are also routed through Facebook. Those things are mostly how I blog these days, so if you want to follow me on those, click each of the links in this paragraph.

But keep coming back here too, of course. Not all of my thoughts fit into 140 characters.

All summer they’ve been tearing up the street in front of our house, but it hasn’t been as bad as I’ve feared (like it was on another street 3 years ago) and the end may finally be in sight. Still, it’s been awfully blasted inconvenient.

I made Employee of the Month for August at my job! Not bad, considering I’m just part-time and I’ve only been there 8 months.

The astounding thing is that this is the first job I’ve had where at least some level of management doesn’t have their head up it. Seriously: first job EVER. I was at the point where I didn’t realize it was possible for management NOT to have their head up it.

At this one place I worked once upon a time, the person who kept getting Employee of the Month was the one who was occasionally known to sit on the assistant manager’s lap. I’m not saying there was any connection between those two facts — hey, maybe it was statistical clustering — but I do know that she was lazy, incompetent and tended to spend all day playing on the computer, so …

But I digress: My point is that I’m amazed and thrilled that my skills and my diligent efforts were actually noticed – and shocked that they were rewarded! Wow. A small sliver of Life actually makes sense.

And for the record, I didn’t have to sit on anybody’s lap.

Another reason I haven’t posted much is because I’ve tried to dedicate September to try to get to the next plateau in my music projects. I haven’t been totally successful so far, but I’ve brainstormed more lyrics in the past 30 days than in all the years since I was in a garage band in Lubbock.

And by “brainstormed”, I mean “come up with a lot of stupid crap that I would never want anybody to see or hear”, but if you don’t do that when you’re brainstorming, then you’re not doing it right.

But there is one musical advance I hope to get out of this month: Tomorrow I start my piano lessons! Yes, yes, old dog, new tricks, shut up. I’ve been piddling around on keyboards for some time now, but this will be my first exposure to actual educated training. I’ve found a music teacher that’s looking for some very basic computer lessons, so we’re doing a swap.

I’m still occasionally Djing in Second Life, including tomorrow night at Belar Inshan Social Club. Drop in at 8 Central if you’re in the Metaverse at the time!

Our big screen TV went out in early August, so we were without it for like 3 weeks, but fortunately it was still under extended warranty, and of course we DO have other TVs in the house.

But that was the BIG one.

Anyway it’s back now and we can breathe again.

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OK, that’s all for now, and I ended up slaughtering MORE than 30 minutes.

But now you’re fed. So follow me on the other things, and keep coming back here.

Music Blogs

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

A couple of music blogs I just discovered on Twitter: Blalock’s Indie Rock Playlist, and Whisper All the Notes in My Ears.

Over the past year, DJing in Second Life, I’ve been exposed to a lot of Indie & Alternative music, and I’m liking a lot of it (especially the girl bands) every bit as much as my native classic rock. And blogs like these are a great place to dive into the subject, especially Blalock’s, since he has huge lists of recommended music.

So check ‘em out.

Various things

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

No one thing worth posting, so here’s a bunch:

Thanks everybody who welcomed me back in my comments! I’ll really try to post more.

It’s June in Dallas, so of course it’s HOT AS HELL, plus it’s miserably humid.

Just worked six days in a row, finally get one day off tomorrow.

Last night I rented “He’s Just Not That Into You” for The Wife to watch while I was at work today, but I didn’t watch it.

I repeat, I DID NOT WATCH IT.

If you want to see more of my posts, friend me on Facebook, because I got my screen name now: facebook.com/brykmantra , of course.

And the only reason I’m active at all on Facebook and Twitter is because I got a widget to make my Twitter posts show up on Facebook. Two birds, one stone, no waiting.

But as it turns out, thanks to Facebook I’m in touch with old high school friends and acquaintances, most of them for the first time in MANY MANY years.

But not many relatives, for some reason, just my cousin’s daughter Sherilynn.

That reminds me, my wife said that my cousin (Sherilynn’s aunt) left me a message today, something about a bunch of other cousins getting together in the Dallas area. I guess I need to listen to the message …

Speaking of cousins, our old blogging pal Gigglechick has been having some intense cousin problems

Anyway, here’s a cool video I discovered during the winter when my blog was busted. Put on your headphones, turn off the lights, and enjoy!

I’m Back! Again!

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Okay, I finally got my WordPress upgraded to version 2.7.1, which means my blog FINALLY shows up again! As you’ll recall, I couldn’t even edit anything on my blog for 6 months, and for much of that time, the thing wasn’t even readable. The folks at Lunarpages helped me fix it, but just over 6 weeks later, all that was showing up was my shamrock background and the photo of my cool metal logo at the top of the page.

This time they told me that it was because I was using a really, really old version of WordPress … and, well, BUSTED! Yeah, I haven’t upgraded my WordPress since my first installation, which was, oh, about 4 years ago. So I guess I was due for a change. But backups and file replacing makes me nervous, so I’ve been putting it off.

So I finally did it. So shut up. And so maybe it’ll be a while before my blog fails to show up again.

Or not: As soon as I got 2.7.1 installed and I logged in, the admin page says, “WordPress 2.8 is available! Please update now.”

Sheesh. There’s no stopping this damnable treadmill of blog “progress”.

The Mother’s Day Gift Conundrum

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

Like most people, I find Mother’s Day to be a source of annual consternation: My mom doesn’t need anything, but I can’t let that stop me from getting her something. On top of that, she doesn’t want us spending anything on her since I was out of work so long.

This year, though, I’ve found a nice solution: I’ve discovered that Staples does 24″ by 36″ black and white poster prints for only $2.99!

And as luck would have it, I scanned a lot of my mom’s old family pictures — most of them in black and white, conveniently enough — so it occurred to me to put together a collage of some of those photos and print it out at a mind-boggling two feet by three feet, and the results are seen here.

Also, she recently sent me her favorite picture of my dad, in his Army uniform from WWII, so I scanned it in, fixed all the cracks, creases and holes, and made a huge poster of that one as well.

I think she just might enjoy this more than something she could put on her shelf to gather dust.

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.

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.

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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.