Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Thoughts

One of my favorite jokes to tell music people is "What do Eric Clapton and coffee have in common? They both suck without Cream." I don't even think that's true, but I think it's funny to say it.

What has 9 arms and sucks? Def Leppard.

One of the first things I do when I get uncomfortable in a crowd is to put on my jacket. I don't know why.

I don't understand how people can't keep up with the news. Follow USA Today or CNN on Twitter. You don't even have to click the links; the headlines enough will give you a basic understanding of what's going on.

I also don't get how my Facebook friends can be so gullible and dim as to fall for fake news articles. Check the source; if you've never heard of it before, then take it with a grain of salt.

When discussing Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL player, a friend actually said to me, "But wouldn't you feel weird about showering with him?" I don't understand why that's still an argument against gay athletes.

I recently saw Candace Nelson, my friend & former girlfriend, for the first time in nearly 2 years. That was fun.

The other day, I tried to think of the last time I wasn't tired. When I woke up and actually felt energy. I don't know. I've been running on auto pilot lately.

I don't know if I need more friends or more hobbies or both. I probably have enough friends. And hobbies.

Have talked to a girl multiple times at the bar when drunk. Saw her at the library while sober and didn't know what to do. Left without saying anything. Probably didn't help matters that I didn't remember her name.

I follow a lot of people on Twitter whose views I don't actually agree with. I do it just to see what they're saying. That's the same reason I occasionally check out Bill O'Reilly or Family Guy - to make sure I still don't like it.

All I can think of for now. I'll come back with some more eventually.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Me at work

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've secured a little side gig covering high school football for the Beckley Register-Herald newspaper. It's a fun job. I'm really glad that I was considered for it and I hope this is the beginning of a healthy relationship.

Basically, here's what I do:

1) Travel to the game.

2) Watch the game.

3) Collect the statistics.

4) Talk to the coaches and players.

5) Write the story.

For those who know my history, number one is a little hard. But luckily my mom loves me, so she drives me to high school football games around the state. We'll talk more about how pathetic my life is at a later date. Number three is disgustingly hard for me. I'm just awful at it. Luckily, the coaches usually have that information for me.

What I'm good at is 4 and 5. I feel like I have a knack for asking people questions and recording their answers, then putting them into readable sentences. Occasionally, what I write can even be considered entertaining.

About the only thing I really need in order to write is a chair and a desk. Give me a place to sit and a spot for my computer and I'll crank out anything you need. 

I'm going to throw a couple pictures out here to illustrate my conditions the last couple weeks. This isn't complaining; I think it's funny. I had what I felt were less-than-ideal conditions and I feel like I made them work.

Both of these stories take place in Wyoming County, WV. For those who don't know, that's a land of no cell phone service and... that's all I'm going to say about "WyCo." If you know the area, then you know.

My friend Josh, who helped set up this writing gig for me, told me that he called one of the Vice Principals of the school and got me hooked up with a spot to write and a wifi password. As the game was winding down, I asked around and found out that there were two Vice Principals at the game. I wrote their names down and went to the concession stand area looking for them. I found one.

"Excuse me sir, are you [this guy] or [this guy]?" 

He was one of them. 

"I was told that my friend from the newspaper had spoken with you and I could have a spot to sit at to write this story about tonight's game and a wifi password."

He told me he had no idea what I was talking about. The other VP walked in. First guy said, this is a guy from the newspaper. Second guy interrupted, "Yeah, Josh talked to me. It's cool." He then walked away.

The guy who had no clue who I was asked for my computer. He punched in the wifi password. He told me I could sit outside to write my story. We're standing inside the concession stand area. There are lots of chairs and the game is over, so nobody needs anything there. I ask if I can sit in here. He says no.

I walk outside and look around. Many years of working at Pizza Hut and dealing with shipments of Pepsi two-liters and 20-oz bottles taught me that the leftover plastic crates they deliver the soda on could be turned over and made into chairs. There were several there that night. I grabbed a couple stacks and fashioned myself a crude chair and desk. I told my mom to take a picture.

So, outside by the trash I did what I needed to do. The chair was actually pretty comfortable. I used to make seats like that all the time outside at Pizza Hut.

To the next week, I was told I would need to make arrangements for a place to write and wifi. I'm at a different school in the same county. I'm sitting in the press box during the game and walk up to a guy. "Is there a wifi password I can steal from you?" He holds his hand out and I give him my phone. He punches it in for me.

As the game is nearing an end, I walk back over there with my computer. I'm looking for the same guy but can't find him. I ask the guys standing there if I can have a wifi password. One says "That's only for school-related things." I tell him who I am. Another guy just tells it to me. I thank him and ask if anybody would mind if I hung out in here after the game and wrote the story. He said he figured it would be okay.

I go do what I need to do and come back to the press box. There's another guy in there doing something radio related. He finishes up and leaves. Around 10:45 pm a guy walks into the area with me. "You're gonna have to leave" he tells me. I ask if I can have 20 minutes to write this article. "I've gotta be back here early in the morning. I gotta shut everything down." 

I tell him to let me see if I can get the wifi signal outside. I walk outside, sit down on a parking thing, play on my phone for a minute, and see that the signal works. I go back up and tell him that I can work outside.

I walk out and sit back on that parking thing. I get my computer out and start typing. My mom grabs my phone and takes a picture.

This picture was taken a couple minutes before they shut all the lights at the stadium off. Total darkness. Can't see more than a couple feet in front of me. The only light is the one coming from my computer screen, which is attracting bugs. My mom then shines her phone's light on me, creating some additional vision.

So, that's been my last couple weeks. It's been an adventure, to say the least. It definitely gives me a fun story to tell. Those guys were kind of dicks to me, but that'll happen occasionally. I have met way more nice people working these games than I have bad eggs, so I'm grateful for that. I'm having fun with it, so I don't really care where I have to sit.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Episode 27: Steven Allen Adams

Episode 27 of #CommunicationBreakdown is live and it's the second ever video version of the podcast, the collaboration between myself and Eric Proffit.

As I wrote here sometime last week, Eric and I took a day and drove throughout the state getting some video interviews. Steven Adams was the second interview we recorded that day and the first that we are presenting to you.

This is a must-listen for anybody living in West Virginia. We talk about all sorts of issues facing people in the state. Some of what we talk about: 

- The death of Robert C. Byrd in 2010 and how the state is still recovering from it.

- WV being a Republican state who elects Democratic leaders, and how that may change this November.

- Is West Virginia a good state for young people to have a career and live here?

- Pros and cons of Natalie Tennant and Shelley Moore Capito, the two women vying for Jay Rockefeller's Senate seat. Plus, we get Steven Adam's prediction of who will win.

- Social media in West Virginia, including what hashtags are important and what can be done to improve communication.

- What is the proper "West Virginia hot dog" and why nobody should care.

All that and more. Below is a partial transcript of some of my conversation with Steven.

* * *

His job, Constituent Outreach Speciliast for the WV Senate:

My job primarily with the State Senate is using social media twofold, A) using social media to help lawmakers reach their constituents and their district about what laws they are trying to pass, about what initiatives they are trying to push and vice versa. My job is to try and help constituents through social media get their concerns in front of the lawmakers. I do this a bunch of different ways. We instituted a lot of video when I started. We put ourselves - we, meaning me; I’m the only one in the office - we use that for the committees.

TV News reporters using social media: 

They’re not as concerned with getting that story on the web as quickly as it should in a world where that’s what people are relying on. They haven’t really figured out a way to do that because they are trapped in their time slots. And, even if you look at some of the stuff TV reporters do on twitter when they try to tease their shows, they do their traditional tease that you would hear right before Seinfeld comes on leading up to their news show to promote their news. That’s great for TV, but that doesn’t really work for twitter where, you know, there’s something happening in St. Albans, ‘Wanna know more about it? Tune in at 5.’ I don’t wanna tune in at 5, I want it now.

Robert C. Byrd's death and its effect on WV: 

I call it the big domino effect. Robert C. Byrd was the big domino. And when that domino fell, we’re still seeing the results of that even now and you’ll still see them in this coming election here in November. Robert C. Byrd was a powerhouse. Whether you liked him or didn’t like him, whether you were on the same political side as him or not, you had to acknowledge at the end of the day he had a pretty positive affect on West Virginia and we’re still benefitting from that. And, because he is gone, we’re also hurting from that because a lot of the federal money that came in the state, he’s responsible for. Since he had the seniority there for so many years, West Virginia benefitted from all of that greatly. You have a situation now, as soon as he fell, as soon as he died, you just saw a major cascade in West Virginia politics.

Somebody who has a poli. sci. degree ought to get their butts to West Virginia, because I think it’s a really interesting study, and you can trace it all back to Robert Byrd. For the younger viewers, and you’re right, there are some younger reporters who don’t quite get it either because they’re too young or they’re not from West Virginia and haven’t really experienced that.

Is West Virginia a good state for young people: 

Well, no. At least not yet. I’ll talk to you about the only thing I can really kind of compare it to: journalism. For any of you future, budding journalism stars out there. You see stories all the time, you have Gannett newspapers, they’ve now spun off their newspapers to concentrate on TV. We’ve got the same situation with Tribune. Newspapers are in trouble, at least across the nation. 

West Virginia is sort of shielded from that, at least for the moment, and all of that has to do with the fact that broadband implementation in the state is just crap right now. It’s getting better but it’s crap. As soon as it gets better, you’re going to tend to see more people going online. 

When you’re talking about your journalism pay, you’re talking about the largest newspapers in the state are three blocks that way. Charleston Daily Mail. Charleston Gazette. They pay, maybe starting out, $26, maybe $27 and I may be being generous. The people they recruit are usually people right out of college. So, people that just literally graduated from Marshall or WVU j-schools and this will be their first job, maybe second job. And, they’ll stay. They’ll stay for about one year, sometimes two years. But, they’ll go. 

And they’ll either go for one or two or three or a dozen reason. Either because they want to keep moving up in their career, so they go to the next biggest publication they can go to, A) because it will pay better and B) because of the recognition it will bring to their career. Or, you have a situation where you want to make more money for the same reasons I mentioned earlier. You want to provide for your family or for the future family you’re going to have. So, making $27 just isn’t enough money to do that. So, you leave for the next market or you leave to take a better paying job. And the cycle continues. Instead of trying to hire a journalist that has several years experience that has several skills, they’ll go back to the well of the recent college graduate and grab them and hire them. So, they can’t keep anybody; they can’t pay what needs to be paid.

* * *

All that and more is included in my nearly hour-long interview with Steven Adams. If you have any questions for me or him, feel free to leave them here or Facebook or Twitter. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

[book and movie review] Bob Saget & Reign Over Me

I read a book recently. I say that like it's some sort of accomplishment. On a much lazier scale, I also watched a movie the other day. I had been interested in reading Bob Saget's autobiography since I saw his appearance on the Norm Macdonald video podcast a couple months ago. I had been very intrigued by "Reign Over Me" when I first saw the trailer in 2007. Never got around to watching it. My finishing of the book and movie occurred around the same time. Both were okay, nothing spectacular, which is why they don't each get separate reviews.

* * *

Dirty Daddy: The Chronicles Of A Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian

"Full House" was a show I enjoyed watching when I was a kid. The show hasn't really held up well for me over the years, so I'm not presently involved in the Full House renaissance currently going on over at Nick-At-Nite. 

My favorite genre of books is autobiographies. I enjoy learning about people. I'm a big fan of Norm Macdonald's video podcast. In fact, I've stolen some little quirks and sayings from what he does and threw them into my own podcast. Bob Saget was a guest on Norm's podcast a couple months ago. Norm tells a funny story about being a teenager and sneaking into a club to watch Bob perform. Bob then clarifies that he was 22 and Norm was 19.

Bob was on the podcast to push his new book, and the interview got me wanting to read it. This is where I admit in the interest of full disclosure that I'm not really a fan of Bob Saget's stand up comedy. I can listen to it and get a few chuckles. His bit on the Aristocrats was probably the funniest part of that movie, but that's because that movie really wasn't all that funny. Don't get me wrong, I liked it. But, it was more interesting than funny to me.

The book deals a lot with death and sadness. Bob talks about how the death of his father and the deaths of his two sisters at young ages affected him as a person and comedian. 

The problem with this book is something that you wouldn't normally assume to be a problem: Bob Saget wrote this book by himself, without a ghost writer. The problem with this is a ghost writer will listen to Bob's life story and piece it together in mostly Bob's own words. With this book, Bob is kind of scatter-brained and not staying on point. He's also throwing out a lot of small jokes that probably work in his stand up, but come across as distracting when you're reading about his life.

It was an easy read, marred slightly by distracting jokes. If you're a huge Bob Saget fan, pick it up. If not, listen to his appearance on Norm's podcast; you get all of the good stuff there. And they also talk about Norm's hilarious anti-roast of Bob Saget from his Comedy Central Roast.

* * *

Reign Over Me

This movie came out in 2007. I was a junior at Concord University and was very intrigued by the concept. There was a lot of early Oscar buzz for the film. I had grown up on Adam Sandler being a doofus and was very interested in watching him play a serious role. His turn in "Punch Drunk Love" was a favorite of mine and I was ready for more.

This was one of the first movies in a post-9/11 world to mention the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Don Cheadle plays a successful dentist who runs into his old college roommate, played by Adam Sandler. This was the first time he had seen Sandler's character since his wife and three children had died on one of the 9/11 planes.

Music plays a big role in this film. Bruce Springsteen and The Who, in particular. The movie's title is based off of a song by The Who, which was covered by Pearl Jam for this film. In what is almost a throw-away scene from the movie, Sandler's character mentions that "Quadrophenia," the album containing the song from the movie title, changed his life. It comes to play during a pivotal moment near the film's conclusion.

Sandler gives a very understated performance. They say he's suffering from PTSD and he's basically very awkward in social situations and explodes into rage every time Cheadle's character tries to bring up his family. It's definitely not what you get from his usual stuff.

This isn't delving into spoilers, but it may say a little too much. What I didn't like about the film is that it didn't let itself become a dark, sad movie. There is a moment near the end where something very dark started to happen and I sat up a little bit, expecting something game-changing. Then it passes and the movie continues for another 20 minutes.

It's a good movie, but I think the ending made a lot of the Oscar buzz go away. Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle put in awesome performances, but nothing that makes the film stand out. A dark, "9/11 killed his family and he's never going to be okay because of it" ending would have made this stand out more. For what you get, it's good. But, it could have been a lot better.

Some articles I've written

I've been slacking with my writing lately. This whole summer has seen me be uninspired and lazy, not putting forth a lot of content. But, I see that changing. I've been a little more interested in being alive and writing. Below are some links to stuff that I've written for some various sites and publications.

What Do I Do With This Picture Now? ... A fun tale about a girl from college flirting with me via nude photographs. Then there's a twist ending and I wonder what to do with the picture I still have. Over 3000 views on Thought Catalog; add yourself to that number.

10 Thoughts From My 10-Year Reunion ... Readers of the blog & listeners of the podcast will know that I went to my 10-year high school reunion recently. I asked a couple friends whose opinions I trust if they would be interested in reading something like this. They all said yes, so I wrote it and enjoyed it. Settled around 2000 views.

Observing Young WWE Fans ... I'm an infrequent contributor over at the "Camel Clutch Blog," a side dedicated to professional wrestling. I occasionally throw a piece up over there. I was recently watching wrestling with some kids in the area of 15-20 years younger than me and noticed how different we were. It got me thinking and this is what happened.

Independence dominates in annual Patriot Bowl ... What's black, white, and read all over? I guess that joke doesn't work well when you write it out. Anyway, I'm covering some high school football for the Beckley Register-Herald. It's a cool opportunity and I'm excited about it.

That's all for now here. I have more ideas for things to write, I just have to get around to doing them. And, fun things are happening on the podcast front; I'm excited about that. I also have a few things I tried to write but wasn't really feeling it and nothing happened. Those will eventually get finished and put somewhere or they'll be fodder for B-Sides, volume 02 whenever that is eventually released.