Saturday, May 30, 2009

Crazy? Yeah, crazy like a coyote.

What am I going to do for work when I get there? That's probably the most asked question I get when people hear of my plans.

To be honest, I still don't have much of an answer. And that worries me quite a bit.

But I stumbled across this today and it picked me up a little bit. Yeah okay, it did so mostly at the expense of you people here in the States. Nevertheless, maybe there's some hope for me. Suddenly I'd like to think I know what I am doing.

Your's truly,

Wile E. Coyote
Super Genius

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A quick update and a quick rant

Again, for you "Produce Department" fans, all episodes have been located as well as some great extras for the DVD. No idea when it'll be completed, but hang in there. It is everything you ever thought it was and worse. I think I have a temporary neck spasm from all the cringing I've done watching these tapes.

Completely unrelated, check out this article from the New York Times Magazine that a friend passed along.

I'm not in any position yet to agree or disagree with anything the writer said. Heck, I won't even be in the same country. But for those of you worried about our increasingly "socialist" tendancies here in the US, you ought to give this article a serious look and consider the following point:

There is another historical base to the Dutch social-welfare system, which curiously has been overlooked by American conservatives in their insistence on seeing such a system as a threat to their values. It is rooted in religion. “These were deeply religious people, who had a real commitment to looking after the poor,” Mak said of his ancestors. “They built orphanages and hospitals. The churches had a system of relief, which eventually was taken over by the state. So Americans should get over ‘socialism.’ This system developed not after Karl Marx, but after Martin Luther and Francis of Assisi.”

I am constantly irritated with this rush to label increased social-welfare as "socialism." Call it what you will, but refusing to help your fellow man strikes of serious hypocrisy from a group often (but not always) associated with "Christian values."

I am on the verge of a serious rant here. But it is late and I need some sleep. I also don't want to alienate anyone. At least not yet, anyway. If you get a chance to read that article, feel free to share your thoughts here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I might be getting the hang of this after all

Ok, I'm finally starting to find some empty boxes here. I spent a good part of this holiday weekend emptying out old boxes and files. At the same time, I've created a monster project for myself somewhere down the road. I finally went through several boxes of old video tapes. These tapes were full of school projects and family events. Of all the tapes I gathered up, I found I could pitch about 1/3 without hesitation. Others needed a quick scan to see if the label was actually correct. The rest, however, are completely unlabled. That is so like me to do that. This evening I drove in to work and started digitizing some of tapes. Some are keepers, but a lot of the more cringe-worthy performances are now relagated to the scrap pile.

For those of you familiar with the legendary MUTV program "The Produce Department," expect the long-awaited DVD sometime in the next year, complete with bonus footage. I have yet to find Episode 2 which features the infamous (although rather appropriate) bathroom sketch as well as the teacher sketch. I hope that it is on one of the unlabeled tapes. If not, the project may be in jeopardy. If anyone has any information on this video, please let me know.

By the way, for those of you following along, drop me a note sometime and let me know where you're from and what you do. Any of you go through a similar move? Any tips on preparing?

And finally, here's one for you "Produce Department" fans. It isn't the original Young-Holt Unlimited cut, but it'll have to do for now.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Impossible Germany

It has been a while since I've posted. I can't say I've accomplished much more since dropping the news at work last week. I still have furniture and a bicycle to get rid of. I am still surrounded by a whole lot of useless stuff. And I still can't stomach throwing away so many things. I hope this is easier when She arrives in 2 weeks. I will truly be putting her German efficiency (her words) to the test. The point of this blog isn't to rant about my stuff. I really look forward to settling in after the move and writing about my experiences abroad.

As I mentioned, She arrives on the 4th of June. During that time, I'll wrap up work and we'll do our best to get my things down to the barest of essentials. In the middle of June we'll head out to California to visit family, attend a friend's wedding and enjoy some vacation time alone. Not knowing when I'll be working again, it may be a while before we have a real vacation. It will be a bittersweet time, saying goodbye to friends and family and favorite haunts. I guess this is just a preemptive apology for what will probably be a small amount of posts during that period.

To Her: I know I will never master the language but I will try my best. I know I will occasionally be overwhelmed or confused with certain customs. And I know I will get frustrated. I just hope that you have the patience to deal with me during these periods. I will listen to you. Please listen to me. Help me when I need it but let me learn from my mistakes as well.
This is what love is for
To be out of place
Gorgeous and alone
Face to face
With no larger problems
That need to be erased
Nothing more important
Than to know someone's listening
Now I know you'll be listening
-Wilco "Impossible Germany"

In the meantime, check out the music player from Seems like a cool site for my purposes. At the very least, it'll allow me to post up songs legally. I only intend to add to it when there's something relevant to the blog. Let me know what you think. If I could, I'd rather just post an mp3 for you to download, but I'm pretty sure that's a big no-no. If you know of a better solution than Lala or the yahoo music player let me know.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Painting by Numbers

Cross another one off the list. I just gave my one month's notice at work. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to this day. I think most people I work with would tell you I haven't been happy there for quite some time. Over the past few months the job has felt more and more like factory work. Less about creativity and more about repetition. Quantity over quality. All of us recognize that we aren't doing award-winning feature film production. It is direct marketing advertising after all. Make the phones ring, get those leads.

But along the way we've forgotten a little bit about what made the job enjoyable. In order to bring about greater consistency, new ideas often get dismissed instantly because someone didn't "get it." It was the old gung-ho attitude that often brought out the best of our creativity. Admittedly at times we may have had too much freedom. But whether or not an idea got used in a project, it often brought a spark to the team that might pave the way for more creative solutions and treatments down the road. I miss the days when we built on each other's ideas or tried to one-up the previous commercial. Frankly, we've been reduced to this one from James McMurtry:

That said, I'd be remiss if I didn't thank everyone for the opportunity I've had there. It doesn't seem all that long ago when I nearly lied my way into some freelance work with them. I learned an awful lot from two veteran editors who had seen it all before. They gave me the opportunity to learn the necessary skills while also letting me stretch out and do some some pretty fun creative work. I hope it isn't too long until you guys get to do what you want to do once again. I also want to thank the producers I've worked with over the years. Especially those that pushed and helped me come up some of our best work together. The best part of my job was always the collaboration between the producers and my fellow editors. To those calling the shots, ease up. Have some patience. Allow a little more independence and have some faith in what your production staff can do. You might be surprised.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Some friendly advice

It is Mother's Day and I'm pretty sure Mr. T still pities the fool who doesn't treat his or her momma right. Here's proof.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Feeling thankful for the small things today

Well, that's it. 33. Yesterday I picked up some copies of my birth certificate and was reminded that my dad was 33 years old when I was born. Not sure if that falls under the ironic category but it certainly raised an eyebrow.

I won't get too philosophical here. It would be quite easy to do so after the six beers my sister generously provided.

Nevertheless, I just wanted to say thanks to my mom and sister and all my friends and family who support me in this upcoming adventure. It really means a lot and I look forward to seeing you all sometime in the new Old World.

Cracker: "Happy Birthday To Me (live)" [mp3]

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Point Zero

The time really seems to be flying now. I've been able to get a fair amount done, but still so much remains.

I suppose at this point, if you're following this blog at all, you're probably curious as to why I'm about to make this transition. The photo at left provides a clue. Some might say it is the end of a great story. I'd like to think it is just the beginning.

Three years ago I was living on the near southside of Chicago. I had a nice two-bedroom apartment all to myself just off Taylor Street in the heart of Little Italy. When I first got the apartment the plan was to one day set up shop as an independent video editor. A nice place close to downtown, in a great neighborhood... who wouldn't want to bring their clients there for work?

At that time I had a Mac G4. Even then it was nearly obsolete. I decided it was time to upgrade it. I couldn't afford something new but I thought maybe I could get it running a bit faster. Doing so might allow me to take on a few more side jobs. My goal was to spend Saturday backing up certain files and deleting whatever else wasn't necessary. Then I could spend Sunday loading all the new hardware and software.

I scoured that computer. I was feeling pretty confident that everything was taken care of when I stumbled upon something I hadn't seen in years. It was the old AOL messenger/chat program. I couldn't even remember the last time I used it. I don't know what possessed me to open it but I did. I stumbled around a bit before I found myself in a Chicago chat room. From the looks of it, no one uses those things anymore. The only messages that popped up appeared to be automated responses to check out porn sites or lures for various phishing scams.

Just before quitting that program and shutting down the computer a message came up that had to be from a live person going by the name of Glühwürmchen. She was from Cologne, Germany and was online looking to speak to someone in order to improve her English. I didn't have all that much time to spare before I had to leave for a friend's party. But we had a nice little chat and ended up exchanging email addresses before I left.

The emails were soon flying back and forth and we were spending hours online chatting on another instant messenger. To me this was perfect. Here was someone thousands of miles away, someone I could speak to about anything and not feel self conscious because we'd never meet. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and soon we knew everything about each other. It wasn't all that long before we were talking on the phone. We'd spend hours, sometimes whole days on the phone baring our souls.

Inevitably, the thought of meeting in person began to creep into my head. It all still seemed so unlikely but it became something I really wanted to do. I think we both began to have real feelings for each other although we didn't want to admit to it. At one point she was set up on a blind date. She sounded apprehensive about it but I wished her well. Privately I hoped it didn't go well.*

It had been years since I had taken a big vacation. The last time I did anything on my own was three years before when I backpacked across France and England to visit friends. I started to formulate a plan. I told her that I was considering going to Paris in the spring of 2007 to visit a friend. I suggested that if she wanted, she should come to Paris for the weekend with a friend and maybe we could meet up for a day. Looking back, it seems foolish that I was so worried about what she thought of my offer. Especially when she countered that she would like to come to Paris on her own. For the entire week.

We met online in early April of 2006. In January of 2007 we made the decision to meet in Paris. Soon we had our tickets booked for the 4th of April. Just one logistical problem remained: how the hell do you meet someone in the middle of such a large city? Especially when you've only seen them in a handful of photos. We knew what we looked like. But it isn't enough to just say, "let's meet under the Eiffel Tower" at 2pm. Landmarks are landmarks for a reason: in general they are huge. And more often than not, they are crawling with tourists.

What we needed was a distinct spot. No, make that a speck. Something that is small and singular yet can't be missed if you are looking for it. And that's when I remembered it: Point Zero. For those who haven't been to Paris yet, Point Zero (also known as Kilometre Zero) is a small marker placed in the square just outside of Notre Dame cathedral. All distances in France are measured from Point Zero. It is easy to miss with the giant front of Notre Dame looming in front of you. But it is there if you look hard enough.

Now, it would be really easy for me to just end this post by saying that we met at Point Zero and lived happily ever after. But it didn't start out quite so perfect. In fact it started out as awkward as you might imagine. It took a little help from the King himself before it became the best week of my life....

more on that in a future post.

*In the interest of fairness, when I told her this she confessed that she also hoped the blind date wouldn't work out for the same reasons.