TWITTER: @sirbacon123

29 June 2010

Direct Hit

At approximately 1:54am local time last night/this morning, we were putting the final touches on a commercial I was producing.
For those of you who would like to work in TV, we started shooting at 3:00pm -- nearly eleven hours earlier.
We had our production meeting three hours before that.
The commercial is 30 seconds.
You do the math.
And that was just the shooting.  
The editing comes next, followed by the nitpicking.
But if you love the art, you need to love the trip to Home Depot to buy the paint.
I think it was... me, who just said that.
As the Producer, sometimes it is my role to drive the bus and make sure that everyone is on that bus with me.
Sometimes it is my job to just be a passenger and to make sure we are driving in the right direction.

In this case, there was no problem with the direction.
For this project, there was another freelance employee who jumped in behind the wheel and hit the accelerator.
He was the Director and Cameraman, Editor and Visionary.
One of the many former bosses that I worked for in my career always said there are two steps to success.
Have a plan.
And don’t suck.
Usually the second part is more important than the first, but without the plan, you’ve got big problems.
This was my first real venture with the Dir/Cam/Edit/Visionary guy, but I could tell right away he definitely had a plan.
And we really needed one.
The sponsor of the commercial flew in from across the country to oversee this shoot.
This was a such a big deal for our company that the employees got three different emails to make sure that they cleaned up their work area and dressed up for the visitors.
As for the commercial, we shot four scenes in three different locations.
After EVERY shot, the Director showed the sponsor what it looked like to make sure they approved, which they did.
There is no doubt they were impressed with the quality of the shoots and all of the thought that the Director had put into it.
It was a very long day for every one, but it was an especially long day for the guy who had been carrying the gear around, making sure that EVERY shot passed his high standards and more importantly adjusted to any and all input from the sponsor.
We started our final scene at around Midnight, about two hours later than we had hoped, but considering how well everything had gone, nobody was complaining.
His attention to detail was incredible, but his open-minded positive attitude was even better.
Until about 1:30am.
That’s when he got a little cranky -- nothing new in this business.
But when I say a little cranky, I mean a LITTLE cranky.
Unlike MANY temper tantrums I have witnessed first hand, this was more of a man who was getting frustrated that his perfect shoot was no longer going perfect.
... at 1:30 in the morning, 10+ hours after it started.
There was no screaming or yelling, but everyone could tell that this was not the same guy we had spent the day with.
Finally at 2:18am, we heard him belt out the three words we had all been waiting for.
As the new day had started, our long day had finally ended.
After the shoot was over, a handful of us, including the sponsor gathered around to talk about the commercial.
But it wasn’t the commercial that we ended up talking about.
Before we even got going, the Director apologized for getting cranky.
If that was cranky, there was no need to apologize.
Then he explained that about an hour earlier he had taken a late bathroom break and during that break, he checked his voice mail.
On his machine were two messages.
The first was from a 36-year old friend of his.
A friend who has been suffering through stomach cancer, going to chemo on a regular basis.
His friend said that she was really hoping that he could stop by as soon as possible.
He got another call 30 minutes later.
His friend had died.
As you might imagine, we were all in shock with this revelation.
This was the first we had heard of any of this. 
At no point did we have ANY idea that he was carrying around more on his back than just the video camera.

28 June 2010

The Speed Of Lightning

I spent much of my Saturday afternoon writing this blog.
Only I wasn’t at a computer, I didn't have an iPad or even a pad of paper.
Rather I was on a bike trail with my brother-in-law and one of my neighbors.
When the weather is nice, as it is now, there are a ton of trails near my house where you can hike or walk or as we prefer, ride a mountain bike.
I am far from an expert, but I do enjoy the opportunity to get out and burn some calories.
I’m not sure we are ever going to run into Lance Armstrong, but some of these trails can be quite challenging.
We started uphill, as we always do, then made a choice to head east, down a series of trails, which leads to an area where we could really push the limits.
Well that was the plan.
About five minutes later, or halfway towards our destination, it looked like someone from the paparazzi was taking our picture.
Flash!  Boom!  Flash!
Enter Mother Nature.
And as our luck would have it, we were located right next to an area were a bunch of power lines called home base.
Not the ideal place to be during a thunder and lightning storm.
Considering we had no other option, we kept going – as quickly as possible.
At times too quick.   
I took one corner too fast, which became my first spill of the day.
Fortunately it came on a dirt trail that had been softened up by the drops of rain.
I got up right away and kept going.
The good news is my iPod didn’t skip a beat.
The other good news was our path was taking us in the direction away from the storm, so as long as we moved faster than the speed of light, we would be fine.
Eventually -- probably five minutes, but it felt like fifty -- we got to the challenging area of trails we were looking for.
At that point, we saw another bolt of lightning.  
This time it was so close you could see the little lettering on the bolt that showed how many volts it was.

It was definitely time to head home.
We waited for the thunder to follow to see how far away the lightning really was.
We counted to four, so my biking buddies said that meant the lightning was still eight miles away.
One of the comedians I was riding with joked, “it’s a good thing, because we only live 7.8 miles away.”
Stick to the comedy guys, because your math and science sucks.
According to
  • When you see the flash, count the seconds until you hear the thunder. 
  • Divide this number by 5. 
  • The number you get is the approximate distance of the lightning in miles.
So based on that information and my 700 score on the SAT math, I can now tell you that at that exact moment, the lightning was...
... carry the one...
Holy Electrical Storm Batman...
Eight-tenths of a mile away!  That's like 4,224 feet.
I’m glad I didn’t figure that out until I got home.
Of course, I didn’t get home for a while.  At that point we were still a good 15 minutes away.
All I kept thinking was, if I get killed by lightning, who is going to write this blog?
We headed down the trail towards home, made it to a local middle school, then a local high school, then a local elementary school -- lotsa schools in my neighborhood.
At one point, we were cutting through a parking lot and I zigged when I should’ve zagged and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground.
Fortunately I landed on the most padded part of my body,  if you know what I mean.
And once again, my iPod didn’t stop.
Hey Apple, if you need me for a commercial, call my agent.
Well eventually I got back on course, pumping as quick as I could, as the rain got stronger.
Fortunately, the lightning became less frequent, or perhaps the anxiety in my head blocked out the flashes of light.
Then it was left here, right there, up that hill, cut through that street, yada yada yada... we made it home.
Well I’m guessing you figured out by this point that I made it home safe.
Kinda like the movie Apollo 13.  

Did they really need to put on the opening credits that the movie was based on a book by one of the Apollo 13 astronauts?
Thanks for ruining the ending before the movie even started.
Now in case you were wondering, and I was, what do you do when you are riding a bicycle during a lightning storm?
The quick answer is, DON’T.

According to the experts:
  • Avoid any metal objects such as bicycles and golf clubs, fishing rods, tennis rackets or tools.
  • If on a bicycle and lightning is within 5 miles, STOP riding, get off of your bicycle, find a ditch or other low spot and sit down. 
  • There is no safe place in the mountains during lightning.
In the baseball world, that would be referred to as Strike 1, Strike 2 and Strike 3.
I think I got off pretty easy with a sore behind.

27 June 2010

Ghana With The Win(d)

Like many kids 13 and under, I grew up playing soccer.
And like most kids 14 and over, it stopped there.
I did play on my fraternity’s intramural soccer team in college, but I probably did it to give me one more excuse to avoid going to class.
In my town growing up, we had a team from the North American Soccer League, the NASL.
The NASL was THE professional outdoor soccer league in this country from 1968 to 1984.

We went to quite a few games, which were played in the same stadium where our NFL team played its games.
The only difference was the NFL team would sell out the 60,000 plus seats, while the NASL soccer team would draw about 3,000.
So if you chewed too loud on your popcorn at the soccer game, the goalie could hear it.
We were told in the 70’s that with the amount of kids playing soccer it would be the next great sport in the United States.
We were told in the 80’s that with the amount of kids playing soccer it would be the next great sport in the United States.
We were told in the 90’s that with the amount of kids playing soccer it would be the next great sport in the United States.
We were told in the 2000‘s that with the amount of kids playing soccer it would be the next great sport in the United States.
This is not a recording.
The bottom line is that tons of kids, including my youngest one, are still playing soccer.
And it still hasn’t meant very much to the popularity of grown up soccer in this country.
Every four years, 32 countries compete in the World Cup -- imagine if the Super Bowl had a baby with the Olympics.
It’s the biggest event for the world’s most popular sport. 
The United States team has never won the month-long tournament, but we did finish in 3rd place.
In 1930.
Well the tournament is going on right now in South Africa and Saturday the U.S. met the country of Ghana in an elimination game.
The loser goes home.
The winner advances to the quarterfinals to face Uruguay, a country with a population of 3.3 million, approximately the same size as Chicago + Tucson.
My son’s baseball team also had a game on Saturday, about an hour away from our home.
They won with five runs in the top of the last inning, including a go-ahead two-run single by my son.
I had to mention that, right?
Well after the game, we stopped a local watering hole for a bite to eat.   
When we got there the USA-Ghana game was on TV.
Three TV’s actually -- two in English and one in Spanish.
For whatever reason, the Spanish broadcast was actually a second ahead.
By the time we sat down, the US was losing 2-1 in the first overtime.
Unlike the NFL, it’s not sudden death.  If the game is tied after 90 minutes of regulation, you play two 15-minute overtime periods.
If the game is tied after overtime, you go to a shootout.
If you can’t tell, I know a little something about soccer.
Not a lot, but a little.
But you would’ve thought that Pele was sitting there.
When I explained the overtime to my son, the questions started flying from across the room:
  •   What’s the deal with injury time?
  •   How many substitutes do you get?
  •   What time is Happy Hour?
Fortunately there was a guy at the bar who knew more than I did, so I let him answer all the questions.
As we watched the rest of the game, my son informed me that Ghana had a home field advantage.
Why is that I said...
...Well at least they are on the same continent as South Africa.
That’s better analysis than I got on the Spanish channel.
I did learn from the English broadcast that Ghana is the size of Oregon.
I also learned from Wikipedia that Ghana has 24 million people, the same as Texas.
But with all due respect to the fine people of Ghana, we should not lose to Ghana in any sport.
I realize that sounds very ignorant on my part -- and I would very much agree -- but really?
We are going to lose to Ghana?   With a chance to play Uruguay?
With a chance to go to a World Cup Semi-final?
For the first time since... 1930.
Oh, I guess we are not much of a soccer powerhouse. 
Of course, we lost to Ghana four years ago in the 2006 World Cup to get eliminated, so there goes that theory.
But really?
Well, sure enough, we lost again.
We played 90+ minutes of regulation and 30+ minutes of extra time and when it was all over, we lost 2-1.
To Ghana.
Prompting my son to say, U.S. is a Ghana (goner).

Oh well, at least it's time for Happy Hour.

25 June 2010

The Time Machine

Technology is a fantastic thing.
If you don't believe me, maybe I can tweet you from my iPhone or poke your Blackberry from my Facebook.
I must admit that as hard as I try and as much as I think I know, I'm still behind the curve.
At least when you compare me to all humans 13 years and under.
If I need any computer assistance, I don't need the Geek Squad, I just ask my kids.
But it's really not my fault.   My parents should've birthed me 40 years later.
Of course there are some advantages to being an antique.
To me SPAM was a junky food, before it was a junky email.
I remember when Macintosh was an apple.   Apple was a fruit.   Java was a cup of coffee.  A cookie was a treat.
Those computer guys have more of a food addiction than I do.
When I was young if you Google your Dongle too much, you’d go blind.
Password was a game show.
A virus made you feel sick.
Oh, some things haven’t changed.
In sixth grade our school got its first computer, a brand new TRS-80.
That was so cool.
And so slow.
Pong was the greatest video game of all-time.
Try to play it now.  I dare you.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) the kids of today will never know what life was like before YouTube.
Recently my 11-year old son and I were driving in the car of a friend of mine when my friend ejected a cassette from his dash.
"WHAT IS THAT?” my son said, as if he had seen a dinosaur.
A few days ago, I was grabbing a quick bite at home with the kids, enjoying one of my favorite meals -- Cereal Surprise.
The concoction du jour was one part Honeycomb, one part Sugar Smacks and one part Grape Nuts.
You gotta hit all the food groups.
My son and daughter each threw a french bread pizza into the microwave.
While we were waiting, I informed the youngsters "when I was your age, we didn't have a microwave."
Now who's the dinosaur?
Of course the conversation didn't stop there.
I told them we got water from the sink, not the dispenser on the refrigerator.
If you wanted to change the channel on the TV, you had to get up and do it yourself.  
Remote control?   What a concept.
From time-to-time, one of our three or four channels would go out and a graphic would pop up.
"Please Stand By."
So I'd get off the couch, go stand RIGHT next to the TV.
And within seconds the picture would always come back.
It worked EVERY time.
I told my 13-year old daughter that we never had a VCR player and that DVD were the initials of Mary Tyler Moore's husband.
Mary who?
In part fear and part curiosity, my daughter asked, "how did you watch movies?"
"The movie theatre," I said.
"What happens if you want to see it again?"
"You went to the movies."
I honestly cannot remember my first cordless phone, but that had to be one of the great moments of my life.
As someone with some serious pockets of ADD, the ability to talk on the phone while doing something else was a real recipe for success.
And to think that someday they’d invent a cordless phone that you can use from the car.
Or the street.
Or the Starbucks.
What's Starbucks?
As if I didn't feel a million years old already, my son asked what types of pets we had when I was his age.
Well there was Sparky, my little Wooly Mammoth and Bubbles, my adorable Rhamphorhynchus.
How old do they think I am?
I gotta go.
The Golden Girls is on.

23 June 2010

On A Role

Today marks the beginning of my fourth week back at work.
I hope they have a cake waiting for me.
The job has been my opportunity to get back into the world of TV, creating and producing shows during a seven-week freelance gig.
I’ve still got a month left and PLENTY of work to do.
I suppose that’s the good news.
The bad news is the best way to describe my mood these days is, miserable.
I've been hired to produce a series of shows that involve a subject matter I know nothing about.
But that’s not the problem.
In my 25 years in the TV biz, I worked on many shows that have introduced me to a new world.   
I found that challenge to not only be... challenging, but also a great way to expand my mind. 
The people who were kind enough to hire me for my current job are getting 100% of me 100% of the time I am there.
But this is definitely not what the doctor ordered.
I show up to work on time everyday.   
And I leave at the same time.

And once I’m out of the parking lot, I’m gone.
I don’t put one second of thought into the job from the moment I leave until the moment I get back.
Fred Durst may have done it for the nookie, but I'm doing it for the money.
I have officially become a worker.
Hold on...
Before you send me hate mail, please keep in mind this blog is about expressing my real feelings and I'm just trying to keep it real.
I am in NO WAY knocking the millions of great people in this great country who go to work every morning, work all day and then go home.
In a way, I guess I’m jealous.
But I gotta be honest, that’s not me.
I became very happy as a stay-at-home dad.
I would be very happy to start my career over again.
But this life in limbo thing flat out sucks.
I spent all of my professional life putting my heart and soul into every project I have ever worked on.   
There was never a clock ticking in my head.
I left it all on the table.
Pick a cliche, any cliche.
It was a labor of love.
I never worked a day in my life.
Until now.
I have absolutely no investment into this job other than doing the best job I can for seven weeks.
Which I am.
Considering the shows they do and my lack of interest in doing the shows they do, I don’t see this becoming a full-time job.
In my last full-time job, I managed 50 people.
I had real people with real questions and real problems coming into my office every day looking for a grown up to guide them through life.

It was an honor to play that role for them.
Now I live on the other side of the tracks.
Every manager knows that every employee believes every manager is stupid.
Those conversations used to go on behind my back.
Now they are happening in front of my cubicle.
Despite what you may be thinking at this exact second, this is not about power.
I have never had the desire to be the President of the World.
I have never had the drive to be a famous movie director. 
In fact, I drifted more into management than I ever would’ve expected.
I got into TV because it was cool.
I stayed in TV because it was creative.
I’m now in TV for a paycheck.
It probably doesn’t help that I spent the entire school year at home by myself and now that my wife and kids are out of school, I’m leaving for work at 8:00am every day.
It probably doesn’t help that I spent the last six months going to the gym every day and now I haven’t worked out since May.
It definitely doesn't help that the one lead I thought I had on a GREAT job now seems to be more of a mirage.
I guess it's back to the drawing board.
Does anyone have a pen?

22 June 2010

Good Job, Good Job, Good Job

If you’ve read more than one of my blogs, you probably have a pretty good idea that I love food, I love music and I really LOVE sports.
Pick any restaurant, concert or game.  I’m in.
Well, ALMOST any game.
I realize I won’t be getting any votes for father of the year for this blog, especially in my own house, but here goes...
Six-year old girls tee ball sucks.
I mean, it really SUCKS!
Don’t get me wrong, I would watch my kids perform in an opera if that is what they want to do.
But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t fall asleep.
With three kids, my wife and I have moved into the zone defense when it comes to their activities.
So far this year, I’ve made it to most tee ball practices, but this past Saturday was the first game I attended.
First, can we talk about the rules.
Everybody hits.  Every inning.  Nobody gets out.  
Not that anybody on defense can actually make an out.
The last batter in every inning gets to run all the bases after they hit the ball to give the impression that they did something right.
After every swing, hit or miss, you hear -- good job.
After every play, good or bad, you hear good job, good job.
Then at the end, while the girls are fighting for juice boxes and oreo cookies, the whole reason they came anyway, you hear it again.
Good Job, Good Job, Good Job.  
See you at practice.
Saturday, I coached third base in each of the three innings.
It was on me to somehow convince the runner on second base to put one leg in front of the other without getting distracted.
When they eventually got to third base, I became a stand-up comedian.
Keep them entertained until the next batter dribbles one six feet off the tee.
It usually starts with a high five.  Followed by a joke about racing them to home plate.
“That’s the base you are running to next sweetie.”

These kids have the attention span of a, six-year old.
Then ask if they want me to pour water over their head to keep them cool.
That’s always worth a chuckle and a smile.
Oh, and of course, Good Job.
Hopefully by this point, the next girl would have put a ball in play, which means I can cue up the same comedy set for the next runner.
If I sound like a sports snob.   Guilty as charged.
Excuse me for not finding a game between the T-Ball Chicks and Fire Flys as riveting as the Yankees and Dodgers.
Even if my daughter is playing.
The highlight of the game for me was when one of the hitters (on the other team) threw her bat and her coach had to jump out of the way.
The highlight wasn’t the first time she did it, but the second and third times.
Since we don’t keep score -- and everybody scores anyway -- there are no losers, just the kids who get this false impression that they are all winners.
At the end of the year each girl is going to get a trophy with their name on it to help them remember this most important season.
The coach will come up with some line about how little Susie improved or what a great attitude Hannah has or that hilarious moment when Jessie ran to third base instead of first.
And then everyone will giggle before we eat cake.
The truth is the kids are more interested in picking up grass than picking up grounders.
And the parents.  Oh, the parents.
They have basically hired a one-hour nanny to give them sixty uninterrupted minutes on their iPhone.
And if Saturday’s game wasn’t bad enough, the coach informed me that he was going to be out of town on a business trip and he needed me to run the next practice.
I went in with an open mind, but that open mind closed about three seconds after we started.
Can I play pitcher?  
Can I play shortstop?
Where is shortstop?  
I’m thirsty.  
I want to hit.   
Where is the Coach?  
I’m thirsty.   
Why do I need to wear a helmet?
The entire time the parents are slouched over their lawn chair texting away:
  • can u b-leave i found another jack azz to watch molly for an hour?  lol.
Well text away Mr. and Mrs. Doe, the joke is on you.
My daughter had a blast and she went to bed tonight thinking that her father loves tee ball.
Good Job Dad!