Taking the Moment

I’m not a creative person. Now typing that “out loud” might elicit some “of course you ares”, and that’s super sweet, but I’m ok with it. I promise no one is going to compel you into including that in my eulogy.  The truth is my brain is simply not wired that way or perhaps it’s that my muse is on a smoke break, who really ever knows.  (I would end that with a question mark, but it’s more rhetorical (unless of course you know what became of my muse, then do tell.))  I’m left brained.  Although, judging by my grades from school, it clearly does not convey any special adeptness in it’s left brainy specialties. (Why left brain? WHY?!? It’s just theoretical mathematics. Get that X girl, get it!)

Now, that doesn’t stop me from dabbling.  For example, I can draw some of the most adorable dust bunnies with these overly-large, super-solicitous eyes (if you anthropomorphize dust bunnies, you don’t have to sweep them up, because it’s like declaring war on an endangered (endangered because I just typed it) species – this is fact). Granted, I’m more likely to doodle a series of hash marks or cubes, but that’s beside the point.  When inspired, I’m a dust bunny drawing pro.  I’ve tried improv (you remember that brief foray into personal humiliation – the one where all of my classmates were approached to move forward and I was applauded for making regular payments – my pro skill) and then I tried sketch writing (where my teacher actually couldn’t remember my name after 8 months and everyone else was encouraged to go forward with sketch shows and videos).  Now some of this stems from me being a bit odd and squirrelly, but some of it is just genuinely me not being particularly good at it and people recognizing that, (which is always a tad awkward). However, I don’t let my awfulness stop me from trying!  Go me!  I’m content to spread my badness.  Make my videos. Take photographs.  Run up on a stage where they’ve invited two people to come up and then realizing a quick game of “short straw” is going on in the crowd before I get a partner.  Write my blog and ultimately just revel in my creative mediocrity. Go Meh-ness!

But here’s the rub. (No, I haven’t been drinking.) Anyway… the rub! Not everything I see others produce is always great art either, but that whole “treat your friends the way they want to be treated” thing usually compels me to offer them encouragement.  That’s especially true if they’re trying something new or challenging. If asked I offer up my “what if’s,” but mostly I tend to say “great job!”  I make an effort to acknowledge what people are sharing and recognize that a piece of their soul lives is in their art.  Apparently, “wow, that’s right shit!” is discouraging to some.

So, last week I did something that was hard for me and then I displayed it for a small world and got crickets in return, with a couple of exceptions. My soul laid a bit bare and the cool (sarcasm) sound of absolutely nothing. By comparison, I told Facebook I forgot my breakfast and immediately got 22 likes.  Maybe the takeaway is that this is where my real strength lies – not in creativity but my slow, public descent into dementia.  Great. My dreams realized.

Where we stand at this moment – I’m done.  I’m done applauding. I’m done helping. I’m done with “the favor”. I’m done encouraging.  That thing my friend did better meet MOMA standards. If they wouldn’t display it, then don’t think I want to see it as a .jpg in an email attachment.  If it’s not on “Funny or Die;” it’s clearly not worth viewing.  If it isn’t published; it’s not worth reading. If critics aren’t aware of it, and there’s not a blurb stating “Bold!” then you’re absolutely wasting my time.

Ok fine, I suppose that won’t actually be the case, but it really feels kind of liberating and also somewhat  compound sentence-y. I made many words!

Maybe I’ll offer some advice instead of declaratives. If you have friends who have chosen to share with you – whether it’s something completely new to them or it’s old hat, then take a moment to really look, listen and acknowledge.  That’s your one job as a friend; it’s actually your most important job. I guarantee they’ll reciprocate.

To my friends who always take those moments – thank you!

Who emptied the liquor cabinet?

That’s A Wrap: The Austin 48 Hour Film Project

Our Team Name for the 48 Hr Film Project and our Mascot

We made it through the 48 Hour Film Fest weekend.  We made a movie!  And we got it turned in with 14 minutes to spare.  We watched other teams run, only to be turned away after failing to meet the 48 Hour deadline by mere seconds – some ran with their computers in their hands as their movie project finished rendering.

I knew there would be a story from the weekend.  I told a co-worker last week, “I look forward to telling you the story, because you know there’ll be one.”  She laughed and nodded. I guess I thought the story would be different.  I mean, how can you possibly write, cast, shoot and edit a film in 48 hours without something going terribly wrong especially when you have a cast and crew that totaled 19 people?  Different people, different temperaments crowded into a small space for a long time – how could there not be a story? There wasn’t.  When the card reader broke (the little reader that allows you to take a camera card and plug it into the computer), I thought “there’s the story”.  When the associate producer, replacing the card reader, was pulled over by a police officer I thought, “ok, maybe that’s the story.”  When the older well coifed white haired woman with her neatly put together summer outfit sauntered onto our porch as we were shooting our last scenes, I didn’t think that was the story.

So of course, that was the story.

When she walked up my sidewalk the Director of Photography (DP) asked, “is that one of your neighbors?” I looked at her; she wasn’t someone I’d ever seen, but we’re those quiet people that stick to themselves and spend too much time indoors.  I may have met four of our neighbors in the time we’ve lived here and other than the two right next to me, I couldn’t pick the rest of them out at the grocery store if asked.  “Maybe?”

Official Clap Board and One Goofy “We’re Making a MOVIE!” Grin

This is where I get a bit fuzzy on the exchange, so know the dialog is what I heard, not necessarily what was said verbatim.

She came up and asked what we were doing.  Our DP answered, “We’re making a movie.”  She wasn’t very satisfied, then she mentioned cars had been in the cul-de-sac all day and that was a problem.  “We’d be glad to move them.”  I made a mental note for future films that I should check.  Sure, I’d asked people to park on a different street, since cul-de-sacs can be tricky with their lack of curb room, but some cars were sticking out in the street and people were parked between me and the adjacent house. “My son has cerebral palsy and he cannot drive in here easily if there are all these cars!” Again, the DP offered to tell anyone who was in the way to move – that we didn’t realize until then that it was a problem, but we’d be happy to correct it.”  She didn’t seem to want that, she wanted to scream at people.  That’s when it all blew up.

“What are you doing?!?! I do not understand WHAT you are doing!”

“We’re making a film.”

“That doesn’t make sense.  What are you talking about?”

“This is for the 48 Hour Film Festival, so we’re finishing up filming today so we can enter.”

“That doesn’t make sense. I ASKED YOU WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!! What kind of movie. Why do you have children?” (or something to that effect)

“You are welcome to look it up online.”

“You are not answering me!”

Our writer stepped in:

“We were given the genre “Fantasy” and our movie is a narrative film based on that genre where magical children are looking for new homes.”

“This is illegal!”

“No ma’am, it’s not.”

“You shouldn’t be doing things with those children.”

“We have their parents here and they have signed releases allowing them to be in the film.”

“Why do you have children?”

“Again, they’re part of the film. One of their parents is right here.” Steve our sound guy waved.

“You had your garage door open with people popping up and down from boxes. We do not want that kind of thing here!! It’s illegal.  I will call the police!!!!!” She was referring to a film shoot we did back in May where we used the space in my garage to shoot one of our writer’s short films – a film about two talking dogs in their bejeweled purses discussing what it was like to be an aging pampered pooch.  There was a gigantic green screen behind them that will eventually be transformed into a hotel lobby.

“You may call the police, but we have permission from the owner to film on their property.”

“If the owner knew what you were doing with their property they would not…”

I raised my hand, “I am the owner of this property.”  I had been sitting on the bench on our porch trying to stay out of the way of the camera while we filmed.  She really hadn’t noticed me until then, since she was completely content to yell at the DP and the writer.

“What you are doing here is illegal.”

“No, it’s actually not.”

“Yes, it is. You cannot do this with the children.”

“We have permission from their parents to film them.”

“The neighborhood does not approve of what you are doing here.”

This went on for awhile until she implied that my husband and I were doing something illicit and creepy in the house.  I was FUMING.

“And you have all of these cars.”

“…which as we told you we would be happy to move.  We didn’t realize it was a problem.”

“Well it IS! You are blocking…!!!!”

“Again, as we have said, we will have those cars moved.”

The whole time, our actors were coming out of the house to move their cars out of the way – heads down as they hurriedly moved passed the craziness. Also, in truth no one was parked near her house.  Now the people across from us were, because they were having a “we better get all of that toilet paper out of the tree” party.  So, between the two of us, we had created a bit of an unexpected bottle neck.

She stomped off telling us we’d better not do that kind of thing in her neighborhood again that the neighbors did not approve of us or our activities.  In my head, this meant all of the neighbors.  She then self-righteously marched to the good neighbor’s house with my neighbor nemesis trailing not far behind her. As the self-appointed spokesperson of them to let them know she had defeated the lascivious child porn purveyors, because that’s basically what it all came down to.  She knew we were clearly doing something disgusting with children and she was not having it.

One clothed actor, one very naked puppet. SCANDALOUS! What is he doing with that puppet?!?!?! What kind of film is this?!?!?!?!

I was shocked.  In fact, my feelings were generally hurt.  There she was on the driveway with my good neighbors, Bill and Becky, listening to her tale of their disgusting neighbors.  We had to move!  That was the only solution.  This whole circle thought we were filthy.  I had to tell Jay.  I had to finish a movie.  Where were we going to move?  While trying to wrap, I was going through all the steps we’d need to go through to sell the house.  I like my house, but I’d like the next house and maybe we’d get better neighbors.  I couldn’t believe Bill and Becky were turning against me right before my eyes.  She attacked my character!

Some background on why this bothered me on many levels; this cul-de-sac troll had managed to find that button – she found my nerve center – she hit my definition of self.  I used to tease my mother that she was a priss.  In fact, I’d sometimes take her middle name and transform it, calling her Priss-tina.  Well, the truth is, I inherited those same genes.  I’m prissy. I’m a prude. I’m so uptight I squeak. I’m good at my job in QA, because I believe in rules and following rules. (This does not always apply to speed limits or trying to convince YOU to do something bad.)  I like rules for me.  They provide a framework.  Once I know the rules, I stick to them.  Rules define the “is-ness” of things.  For the record, so you know what kind of prude I am, I’ve never seen a porn, which makes my friends laugh.  I have never used illegal drugs. I’m ok if you have, but that’s not me. I have never been sick from too much alcohol.  I am Priss-tina’s daughter – Priss-tina’s uptight legacy.  And here was this hateful vile creature telling me that basically the whole neighborhood thought I lived an abhorrent lifestyle and Bill and Becky were listening.  She said I’d broken rules.

We had to keep filming.  Our DP got us back on track, because we didn’t have time to dwell and properly vent.  We only had a few short takes and daylight was burning, but truthfully the whole time I could hear her laughing with Bill and Becky with the evil neighbor standing right there in Bill and Becky’s driveway.  I was dying inside and I didn’t get a chance to grieve.  The film continued and then mid shot I hear, “Neighbor! Neighbor!” It was Bill calling me over, “my wife was really worried you thought we agreed with that woman and asked me to come over and apologize.  I am so sorry.  She’s a crazy person.”  I told him what she’d accused us of and explained “we’re in the 48 Hour film project.  We are just filming the kids; their parents are here.”  He waived me off, “I know, she’s just crazy. How did she even know you had kids in there? She’s just sitting around watching you.  Crazy.”  I added, “I really don’t think we’re bad people.  Sure we’re quiet, but we’re not bad people.”  He nodded and he said, “if you need to use our driveway for the cars, you just say the word.”  I love Bill and Becky.

We finally finished filming.

It was so hard to listen to her craziness, because all of us held back.  You could see how enraged the DP was, and how irritated the sound guy and the writer were.  Everyone wanted to unload full guns, but here was this ballsy lady yelling at two adult men and two women – this human Chihuahua off her meds.  One of the actresses summed it all up so beautifully as she came back from moving her car, “I hate it that she won.”  And won she had.

The wife of the sound guy added a bit of levity, “I bet she’s with one of the other teams and she’s trying to throw us off.”  That made the rounds and had us all laughing a bit.

Then Topping, our writer, said later when we were inside reliving it all, “Beth, I’m mad for you, because if you’re anything like me, you’re thinking about how this is something you’ve always wanted to do and how finally you have these friends who are helping you achieve that dream, and you’re thinking about completely quitting and definitely never filming in your house. The one where we have the most space.”  Yes.  I had planned to tell Jay I wasn’t going to film again, because apparently it made me dirty and I’m not a dirty person.  (Did I mention she attacked how I define myself?)

Jonathan and Nancy as “The Hagels” – fully clothed!

I lost sleep that night, despite my husband reassuring me that she was a crazy person and you couldn’t reason with her AND that me being angry had no affect on her.  She didn’t know I was angry, but me being angry did affect me.

We were down to our last 12 hours and were helping editing.  I’d be lying if I said I had let it all go, but I’d find myself paused, staring at the footage, reliving the event, and thinking of all the things I could have said – to a woman who would never think she was wrong.  (You know great things like to her comment of “this is illegal”.  “Yeah? Well YOUR FACE is illegal!” My four year old retorts.)  Then I declared in my brain, “my Daddy and my friend Anna will beat you up!”  So not true, but it’s what you say when you harrumph and realize playing this all out in your brain is silly and that’s the best silly line you can end with.

As for the film – we did finish it.  We had to cut a couple of scenes and leave an intro bit out to get it all turned in on time, BUT when we do post it for viewing, everyone will see the full movie.  For the record, despite having kids in the movie, it’s all rated G.  I know, I know, hard to believe you could have kids in a movie and it still be rated G, but we broke the stereotype.  Turns out we’re all more Disney than “Deep Throat”.

The Magical CLOTHED Children from L to R: Lyssa, Tryph, Kaitlynn, Kelsey, Nathan and Eryn between takes

I also want to say that I’m proud of the entire team of cast and crew.  They all worked incredibly hard and were all awesome.  My one job was to pick the right team and I did a solid job.  Everyone got along, everyone stayed focused and we made a movie in 48 hours.  I’m so proud of all of you and I’m so lucky to know each and every one of you.  We made something good, especially considering the time constraints, and we did it despite the suburban troll.

Great job all!

Politics LOL: A Bit of a Rant

There are three things you’re not supposed to talk about at the dinner table: politics, religion, and sex (or money, depending on which three things your family subscribed).  I extend the dinner table to my personal forums: my blog, my Facebook account and my Twitter feed.  While my hesitancy is partly due to the belief that you really don’t care and that I won’t eloquently express myself, the other part is that I recognize not everyone is on the same philosophical page as I am.  It’s disheartening, really, but I accept that you all apparently have “free will” to think different (albeit at times “wrong”) thoughts.  This self-discipline is what passes as “manners” and keeps me from devolving into a rage ball of, “Heretics! Treacherous lying dissenters! Imbeciles! BURN THEM ALL!” at Christmas.  It turns out that if you don’t sit quietly when a forbidden topic does appear that you will not get the choicest piece of pie and you might find yourself sitting at the kid’s table.  Since I prefer the adult table, I save my views for the long rant on the drive home.  Woe to the person who finds themselves in that car if a controversial subject arose that I was forced to bite my tongue over.  I was taught to keep things civil by listening quietly while stabbing my food pointedly; it’s how I was raised.

Some background on me: my degree was in Political Science with a focus on foreign policy and political philosophy.  Needless to say, I am somewhat passionate about the subject of government and political ideology.  I am not an independent.  I am not a moderate.  I have very firm and deeply held beliefs based on my education, my experience and my environment.  And with Presidential elections a mere two months away, I’m a bit amped up.  What holds me back are the rules my mother put in place when I was a little girl.

That being said, I choose not to express my views on this blog or on FB unless it’s to “Like” a post or make the occasional comment. I see these forums as an extension of my dinner table. I also try to be keenly aware that my readers and FB “friends” represent a diverse group of people who hold many different religious and political beliefs.  On the rare occasion when I choose to say something, I try to keep that diverse group of people in mind and keep my words free of vitriol and free of insults. Basically, if I feel like posting something insulting, I know it’s time to walk away. I may at times disagree with my friends, but I do respect them and what they believe.  (Unless they believe in something harmful like eating babies – please, try not to eat babies – see, I recently learned it’s not actually a religious practice, it’s something called cannibalism, you can look it up.  It’s apparently a universal taboo. It also may lead to halitosis and no one likes a person with bad baby breath).

This is all a long-winded way of saying that in this political season where people are riled up and forgetting their table manners, I’ve had to dump a few “friends” from FB who forgot they were in a public forum and decided to attack my beliefs.  See, I personally think it’s possible to take an intelligent stance on a difficult issue without attacking your audience.  Of course, I also believe in unicorns.

But let’s say you do feel inspired to post that post and you want to be taken seriously.  Here is my practical guide to political postings based on some missteps I’ve seen on FaceBook:

  • Your statement should be about the ideas, not the people who hold them.  You may not care for a particular ideology, but don’t state that the people who do are knuckle-dragging drooling imbeciles who are best suited for licking walls.  These are your “friends” and in theory you “friended” them because you felt like you had something in common.  Unless you feel like that commonality is knuckle-dragging-wall-licking, then don’t say it.
  • “LOL” –  it’s not a punctuation mark.  For example: “Senator McCain argued that torture didn’t lead the United States to Osama bin Laden LOL.” That makes me immediately want to respond, “WTF?”, because I’m seriously trying to discern whether you did in fact laugh out loud at that and why.   A posting tennis match will ensue where we’ll devolve into l33t speaking brain mush like  “yeah, he totally PWNED the hearing like he roxxored those Vietcong n00bs at that Hilton place. AMIRITE?”“McCain FTW!” A Chuck Norris joke will feel the need to wander in and the entire ridiculous exchange will be followed by a volley of baffling “Likes”. Ultimately, it ends up being distracting and wholly inappropriate if your goal is to be taken seriously.
  • Unless you’re Steve Carell, your statement should never end with “that’s what SHE said”.  I saw this one in reference to a gross misquote from one of the candidates wives.  That’s when my eyes got lodged in the back of my head.  My vision has suffered ever since.

I’m not saying don’t make statements about your beliefs, but be mindful of your audience if you don’t want to lose them.  I know I tune out once the insults start. You can make a strong, controversial statement without being insulting or sounding like a dolt (a euphemism, because I’m being a grown-up today).  Think of it this way – the more educated you sound on a given topic, the more likely people will listen and the higher the chance that someone might be swayed by your argument. Think of yourself as a political evangelist. Go on you, sway those masses.

This rant brought to you care of FB.  Now that it’s off my chest, I won’t be forced to drive to a small town in Texas to thump someone unceremoniously on their idiotic forehead.  (She doesn’t read this blog, so it’s ok if I’m insulting. Also, she does in fact drag her knuckles.  I’ve seen it.)

LOL.

Bloggers, Fans & Trolls

I continuously write blogs in my head.  It’s the thing that will keep me awake on a restless night or drive me to distraction when I’ve lost focus on a dull conversation.  In those moments I wish I had paper in hand so I could begin jotting my ideas down.  Certainly, not all of them would find their way onto a blog – much like this piece will probably find its way to the trash bin when I polish it off, but I’d like to think that there are a couple that would survive and find their way out into the world to be seen by my handful of readers.

I occasionally lament (and joke) about not having readers.  I sometimes yearn for the validation of strangers – to have someone I haven’t bullied into approving of me say “wow, that piece really struck a chord with me”, but then there’s also something great about my blog’s anonymity.  My blog is a conversation that I have between my family and my friends and the few of you who’ve stumbled upon it.  Albeit, it’s a little one sided at times, but still it’s a small way I can connect and share my thoughts or some random story about my misadventures through life.  When I see the bigger blogs I follow, the ones who have grown in popularity, I also see the nuts that come with that.  Fans who offer up their unsolicited “wisdom” or “critiques” based off of what they’re seeing and reading.  There’s a connection they feel with the writer likely based on the writer having shared something personal.  In that reader’s mind a bond (albeit artificial) has developed.  Maybe in this age of technology the lines of normal social interaction are blurred?  Perhaps a solid etiquette hasn’t been established when it comes to personal websites?  Still, I think about a story that a manager at a clothing store shared about a personal tragedy when I was out shopping not too long ago and I think that while I greatly sympathized with what had befallen her (her son had been murdered in Queens by strangers and the parents of the boys who were at the trial laughed at her while she and her family were in the courtroom), I would not presume to try to impose my personal beliefs on her.  My upbringing said that in that moment my job was to listen and be sympathetic. I was irate when she needed me to be and consolatory when the moment called for it.  I judged what she needed based off of what she was saying and the emotions she was displaying.  I felt connected, because she shared something so intimate, but I also was aware she wasn’t a good friend or family, she was another soul in this world in a great deal of pain that needed to reach out to another person and share their story.  I think we can apply how we’d react to a stranger to how we’d react to a person’s written word on their blog.  Maybe it’s the disconnect of the written word that causes some people to feel more comfortable expressing their opinion, but I also suspect it has something to do with the anonymity of the situation.  You can say what you want, the author is oftentimes forced to read it, and you don’t have to worry because you’re hidden by an avatar you use to represent yourself, a handle instead of your name as an identity and likely distance – you probably don’t live across the street from the blogger’s whose stories you rad.  Plus, I think a little of what you see happen with celebrities is occurring.  Here’s this blogger with a huge following and you want to get noticed, because for whatever reason you feel close and you want to be the one among hundred that gets attention even if it’s negative.  I know I’m not immune to swooning when one of the bigger names acknowledges a comment I’ve made.  I once got a small note from Matt.  I lived off of that for days! (See Matt’s video below and join in the dance. It’s a good rant break.  And know every time I watch it, I beam.)

I know I love the blogs I follow and I truly believe those writers are great. I, too, occasionally feel really connected to them. Maybe it was a post that rang true with me the day I read it or a laugh over an anecdote they shared, but I have no illusions that we’re ever going to have a real bond. You guys are CRAZY! Well, obviously not you.  I meant the other person next to you.  I don’t see me showing up in their city and gabbing at their favorite haunt about our personal lives, because I love them the best and am their #1 stalker.  I see our “relationship” as one where I’ve been given the gift of getting to peek into their lives.  And because I know it’s just a small snapshot, I wouldn’t presume to make a judgment call based off of that.  I say that based off of my own writing.  I offer snapshots where sometimes a little truth is sacrificed in the name of the story.

What I’m winding around to is that when you’re on someone’s site, you’re a guest there and you should show some manners while visiting especially if it is someone whose writing you’re enjoying.   As a snapshot of their lives, you may not be seeing the whole truth that surrounds the story and therefore shouldn’t presume to pass judgment.  If a blogger chooses to show me a picture of a bottle of Absinthe, I don’t assume they’re lying around hallucinating on the floor in some drunken stupor (they could be, I don’t know, I don’t have enough information).  If it’s a picture of a child in a car, I don’t assume they’re doing more than just being in that car.  And I’m certainly not going to suggest an intervention is called or question the person’s parenting.

I guess I’m a little wound up after reading an off comment on a site I enjoy.  I know better.  I usually make a rule not to read other’s comments, but sometimes I get sucked in and it always seems I’m rewarded by finding the one commenting troll who gets me completely riled up.  Then, I end up being completely baffled by how this troll and I can live in the same universe since we clearly see things so very differently.  It feels like we’re saying “The sun is yellow!” “No, the sun is blue!” and I’m just left wanting to ask, “what is WRONG with you?”

Rant: Tech Support

Well, it seems I can’t avoid a rant and since Jay claims I can’t just rant at an individual on my blog (something about how the rest of you were crinkle your brows and wonder why I went off the anti-psychotics), I’ll try to pick on a topic everyone can relate to – Tier 1 Tech Support.

These guys represent the first roadblock you encounter to getting your problem resolved. They’re usually armed with a script and tend to short-circuit if you attempt to stray from that script. For example, we all know that step number one is: power it down. It doesn’t matter what “it” is (router, cable modem, DVR), “it” just needs to recycle or reboot or rethink why it’s freaking out on you. Turn it off. Turn it on. Easy. Now most of us who are a little ahead of the game do this, because we know the drill and because sometimes waiting for something to reboot can take an agonizing couple of minutes – a couple of minutes that you prefer to do alone without the joy of a phone cradled on your shoulder while listening to your soon-to-be tech nemesis breathing heavily in your ear or blathering to the person next to them. You just made your first mistake. If you call your soon-to-be tech nemesis, it doesn’t matter that you’ve turned whatever “it” is off and back on again 10 times before you made the call, they want you to do it again. Sometimes I oblige, because like many of you, I secretly believe in the magic that can often occur when someone else is watching/listening and I believe it will be a benevolent form of magic (the other occurs when you say “look at me” while attempting to perform some amazing feat and end up eating dirt before a crowd of friends and family), but again, we tend to believe that if the tech nemesis is listening, “it” might work better. OR if you’re not feeling the magic, you just listen to the heavy breather while pretending it’s booting up while making happy reassuring noises or saying things like, “ok… I’m shutting it down now – just a sec… yeah, it’s coming up now… hang on” while you make a grocery list or examine your toe nails.

Now, I’m not saying that this baby-step approach to troubleshooting issues can’t help other people, I’m sure it takes care of 90% of their calls, but I think I should be able to earn some special rating – something that says “ok, she has IT experience, isn’t a moron and she likely turned off the device, reseated all her cables and verified all the lights that should be blinking are in fact blinking”. I want a rating that says “she is beyond our Tier 1 skill level and we need to send her straight to Tier 2 or 3 – the folks with the IQs that are OVER 100 and are capable of independent, unscripted thought.” I’d even be willing to just walk through the steps “yes, I have done x, y, and z” if it would mean that I didn’t have to do it while they were snuffling in my ear waiting for me to scramble around on the floor.

To avoid flipping out on the phone, I occasionally opt to send an email where I can lay out all the steps I’ve taken and succinctly state the issue. Again, this is another huge mistake, because I make the assumption that tech support has basic reading comprehension skills. They don’t. After the first two sentences, you’ve lost them and they’re just going to troubleshoot what is in those two lines. It’s actually gotten so bad that I type and edit and re-type and re-edit in some vane attempt to make my note as clear as possible and the little tech gnomes ALWAYS blow it (and when I say “always” understand that I’m not making a simple generalization, I mean 100% of the time – not 95% of the time, not 99.9% of the time, I mean ONE HUNDRED BLOODY PERCENT OF THE TIME. Thankfully, I’m not bitter about this.)

I could type “my orange tree has a parasite and has not produced fruit, how should I treat it?” and the response would be, “why is it orange? Lemon trees are heartier during full moons when Saturn is in retrograde. We are closing this ticket on the color of your tree because the issue has been addressed. Thank you for contacting tree support. If we can be of further assistance…” And you sit and say “buhhh…? WHAT?”

I wish, if the tech world absolutely refuses to give me some sort of rating that would allow me to skip ahead to Tier 2 support or above, that we could come to some sort of truce – maybe draft an agreement that read something like: We understand and agree that the annoying tech tard (hereafter referred to as You in the document) wrongly believes that I, the angelic tech protagonist (hereafter referred to as I/Me in the document) am stupid with a hint of mean thrown in for spite, and we further agree that I have no doubt that you are actually knuckle-dragging-slope-browed stupid; however, despite your short-comings and lack of complex thoughts you will agree to read ALL of the little words and listen politely so that I don’t turn blue and scream. At the end of all the little confusing wordy bits that seemingly stump you, you will then attempt to troubleshoot my actual problem and not some interesting little shiny word or sentence you’ve latched onto. We also agree that it is a bad thing when I (the aforementioned angelic, ever-right, put-upon protagonist who also happens to have a laid back type B personality) am compelled to “nut up” (thank you, Lynn) on you and that it is our mutual benefit that my blood pressure remains low. Swearing only makes angels, bunnies, ponies and knuckle-dragging tech tards cry and crying will not help us achieve our mutual goals that involve resolving my actual problem, not some made up problem you invented by reading between the lines. To re-establish the lines of trust, you will sign this document in blood (yours) and disclose your address, your home phone and the make/model/license plate of your car for my reference should I find myself dissatisfied with your solution.

I’m eye-balling you, Symantec

Imagine Greater? I Can’t Imagine Worse

Let’s start with a story…

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was sitting on some bleachers in a studio full of my fellow co-workers staring at a music stand draped with a black cloth. Beneath that cloth lurked our new company slogan and beside it stood our beaming CEO eagerly waiting to unleash it. Before it was released, she proudly boasted that the slogan had been donated and our benefactors were one of the premiere advertising company in our area – a donation that would not only help revitalize our company, but would help drag it into the 20th century (sadly, the century was wrapping up and we were plowing into the 21st). This particular advertising agency was well known in our area. It was one that sported many of the more popular initials in its name (no x’s or q’s there) and whose very name let you know that they were hip and edgy – no stuffy last names of executive octogenarians strung together for this bunch.

Everyone in the room was filled with anticipation and glowing gratitude as we reflected on charity and how it’s nice to give to the community and even better to have a tax write-off. Looking back, I now suspect the company threw their top local community college interns at the task of creating this “free” slogan. (Oh, and it turns out that “free” actually costs a whole dollar, but it does allow you to have the rights to your slogan.)

When the cloth came off, what I saw was not the bright future of our company, but an amazingly large turd sitting on that stand. A money sucking turd. A turd hell bent on costing us a re-branding fortune. The CEO smiled with great pride and I swear someone shrieked while another person exclaimed “JESUS!” and the rest of us sat in horror-stricken silence, golf-clapping the brilliance of the turd. The surprises didn’t end there. We were also being blessed with a new digital logo – one that was supposed to make us look “high-tech”, but the CEO failed to qualify the statement with “yes, high-tech for 1982 – someone go unearth the old Epson dot matrix, mama wants to slap the new logo on some stationery.” And maybe we weren’t that blindsided – I seem to recall a voting process where several options were presented, but truly when faced with the possibilities we were forced to apply the “suck” scale and made our decisions based on what seemed to suck the least.

I imagine that’s exactly how the minions at the Sci Fi network recently felt the day they heard the news that they were no longer going to be the Sci-Fi network, but were going to “Imagine Greater” and become Syfy.

I’ve given the new name a little over a week to grow me. I mean, at this point, everyone has had the opportunity to take a swing at the name, but now I suppose it’s my turn. I have to start with one of my obvious peeves – the misspelling. Why grossly misspell Sci-Fi especially when the network clearly wants to distance themselves from the genre? Why not a completely different name? Sci-Fi still sounds like Syfy, unless you pronounce it “Siffy”, which is actually what I prefer to call it. As for the misspelling, I can barely take brands like “Artic Ice” or “Liquid Plumr” not to mention any brands that incorporate words like “Qwik”, “Cheez”, “Brite” or “Krazy” and now we have Syfy? Really? Brands like “Infiniti”, “Gleem” and “Flickr” slip by me virtually unnoticed, but “Syfy” makes me choke every time I see it.

As I now re-read the CNN article, “Sci-Fi Channel becomes Syfy; will viewers tune in or drop out?” by Todd Leopold, I can’t help but feel the same amount of contempt for the Syfy channel’s president, David Howe, as he surely must feel for me, one of his core viewers. According to the article the original name is seen as a “barrier” and the feeling is that the viewers will be there if the programming is good. This is already an uphill battle for the network, because the programming is not good. My husband describes it as the “bad movie/wrestling/Ghost Hunter channel”, a fairly accurate description now that their one critically acclaimed show has come to an end. When the channel first aired, you knew you could count on it for re-runs of Sci-Fi classics or original shows like Good vs. Evil or The Invisible Man. Now it’s where I go when I want to watch schlock horror “hits” like “Mansquito”, “Ogre” and “Mega Snake”, and that urge never hits me. “Warehouse 13” is being touted as the “flagship” of this newer/sexier rebranding effort and Howe is quoted as saying it “epitomizes the essence of the new Syfy”. I’ve watched it. Two episodes. I think that’s about all the time I need to devote to the series and it’s hamfisted send-up to “steam punk” and quite frankly, if this is the direction they’re going, then I’m glad they’ve parted ways with the term “Sci-Fi”. The show isn’t “bad”, it’s just not “good”. In my opinion, their “flagship” should be “Stargate Universe” with Robert Carlyle and money should be thrown at the executive producers, Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper and Carl Binder. But I guess that’s Sci-Fi and not the new Syfy, Sci-Fi’s buck-toothed, illiterate cousin.

The executives at Syfy must truly see their core viewers as dirty and undesirable based on their series of decision – from methodically divorcing itself from science fiction over the years to this latest rebranding. My apologies to them – you see, I actually chose to watch science fiction on a channel calling itself “Sci Fi” because I expected science fiction shows. And while Sci-Fi may be geeky and in the narrowest of definitions imply people are floating around in space, what does Syfy say? The network can’t spell? They get to make more poor programming decisions? The implication from the execs at SyFy seems to be that by misspelling Sci-Fi, more people will be drawn to shows like Battlestar Galactica? Really? Who are these people? Drunk people? Blind people? The execs also seem to believe that if you slapped Battlestar Galactica on the Biography channel or TNT, more viewers would be drawn to it because they would be fooled into thinking it was something else. I’m sorry, I do love Battlestar Galactica, but what’s keeping the mainstream from the show is not that it’s on a channel calling itself “Sci-Fi”.

Needless to say, I’m incensed and a lot disappointed. I enjoy Sci-Fi and this new Siffy obviously has no place for me. I can only hope channels like Biography, History, Discovery or even the Military channel don’t wake up one day and say “you know what? Our viewers aren’t cool. Let’s move away from our roots and try to be more like the CW network. We want THAT demographic.” Who knows though, maybe tomorrow I’ll turn on BBC America and find we’re broadcasting from Dubai – I mean, it is sexier and think of the revenues.

… and I’d like to think that when the out-of-touch execs at Siffy unveiled their personal enormous turd of an idea, their more savvy staff snorted with displeasure and maybe a shriek was heard or an indignant “JESUS!”. … and I sincerely hope they didn’t pay more than $1 for the new name.

Belleh

I’m not a “girly-girl”. I can count on one finger the number of times I’ve had a manicure and the number of times I’ve had a pedicure (which was such a terrific disaster involving blood – my blood – that my friends now know better than to even suggest it). I’ve never had a massage, a hot rock treatment or had anything made out of vegetables smeared over my face to clog my pores … I mean cleanse, of course I mean cleanse (unless it was an eating accident). My idea of pampering, with my limited world experience, would involve sitting in Washington Square with a slice of pizza while chatting and people watching. In fact, in this moment, I’m there right now; it’s like my own personal brain massage.

The one exception is when it comes to my hair. I LOVE hair day. All capital letters kind of love. I love going. I love blabbing. I love the bad magazines. I love the new cuts and I LOVE LOVE LOVE hair products. In fact, a great day for me would be getting the perfect cut, having it styled just so and walking out with some obscenely priced shampoo or coconut curl activator (the smell is heaven) or clear mousse that if I wanted I could make my hair stand straight up. My best Saturdays are spent this way and as a reward for having a good day, I’ve taken to swinging by Mangia’s Pizza. I get home and sit with pizza in hand and just veg the rest of the day in my post-hair, happy tummy trance.

I should also mention that I love my hair dresser, Kim. I know several people that go to her each one of them comes out with a cute/great cut that really suits them. And every six weeks for two hours, it’s my turn to sit in her chair and monopolize her time. We chat, I catch up on her stories (as you all know I live for a good story) and I read all of the magazines I’m too embarrassed to buy from the store.

This weekend I cheated. My time with my hairdresser wasn’t working out and I was telling myself it was time for a change. I’d find some place closer, someone who could meet on my schedule, maybe entertain me MORE if there could be a more.

Now let me tell you what my ideal salon would look like based on my favorite salon, Daya. It would have natural lighting, tropical plants, dark paneling, soft music and a water feature of some sort that bubbled. In it is someone whose paid to be a professional shampooer who also happens to be a massage therapist and they rub my head until it feels mushy and I’m on the edge of sleep. Did I say Washington Square? I’m sorry, I meant to say Daya.

Anyway, to the cheating. I chose a place across from my office which was in a sort of upscale shopping area – well, at least it’s desperately trying to be upscale, but I digress. I head into the salon ready for my new experience and the first thing that hit me was “Wow, this is BRIGHT” followed by “Wow, this is really LOUD!” Sure, none of the stylists had a decent hair cut, but hey, I can’t rate their skill based on their taste. I sit down and the first gal makes some suggestions about the color. “Sure!” I say, it all seemed reasonable. “Great! I’ll mix that up and send over your stylist.” Umm… ok, so they work in tandem. I’m ok with that; it’s a new place – a new experience. The stylist and I discuss my hair, she insults Kim’s cut (mind you, Kim falls under my loyalty umbrella and insulting Kim’s cut is similar to spitting on me, so she’s walking on very thin ice). She instantly redeems herself by whipping out a picture, it’s exactly what I’m trying to describe and she runs off. So far, this is looking a little promising.

Two plus hours of coloring later, I’m still ok. Sure, that process took forever – longer than Kim would have done it (in fact, I would be out of the door by now), but she’s very precise and those little foils were certainly perfectly folded if not a little on the OCD side of things. The gal told GREAT stories; she’s hysterical. I tried to remember them so I could share them (good stories should be passed around). I asked how they got started and she said they’d been at a corporate run chain salon. Now, maybe it’s just me, but I’m thinking Super Cuts, Cost Cutters, Visible Changes… you see where I’m going with this.

Then I’m shuttled on to the stylist. Now mind you this is 2+ hours into the whole too loud, too bright, too sterile and too muchness of the whole experience. She’s got issues, big issues and apparently most of them would be solved if the state would not penalize you for beating your kids. “Don’t you agree?” Ummm… I don’t get into it, but for the record my Dad is a social worker and was a child protective services worker for years, removing kids from bad situations when needed. I’m aghast, but it doesn’t stop her from carrying on about how beating is just another acceptable form of child rearing. The whole time she’s rubbing her belly on me and it was more than a belly, it was “belleh”. Belleh was slowly squished against the length of my arm, around my back and down the other arm only to trace its path back again – never ending belleh. You know that hugging thing? Its got nothing on belleh. Thirty minutes of belleh. Belleh all over me. Belleh. I still twitch. With each pass of belleh, she’s also pulling out my hair and I feel it ripping from my skull with each stroke as the bristles set every last nerve endings on my scalp on fire. I stopped speaking. At some point I agreed that I had sister with children (I’m an only child). I don’t know why. I just wanted to leave and wasn’t up to clarifying anything about my life. OUCH! The curling iron gets thrust into the bottom of my eye socket. Finally she slaps something on my hair that causes each remaining strand to stick to my head. The colorist and stylist practically cheer, “this is a GREAT look! IT’S A TRANSFORMATION!” then practically high five each other while I’m just silently shuddering while thinking “a transformation into what?” I ask myself, “what would Anna do?” Say something. “What would Rita do?” Say something. “What would Beth do?” Not cause ripples and get out of there as quickly as possible.

We’re over the three hour mark when I go to pay. The price tag is $100 MORE than what I pay for my stylist. Without getting into how much I pay in general, let me say that $100 MORE is a lot of money – like, I could buy a small TV lot of money. Like, I could take my tap classes for almost half a year ever single week lot of money. Like, I could walk out and start shaking because I want to vomit out my insides lot of money. OR like I could have gotten almost half a year of Super Cuts haircuts kind of money. And my hair, the hair that’s left that wasn’t unceremoniously jerked from my head, is just sticking to my face and I did the only thing I could do, I FREAKED OUT. Granted, it was a quiet freak out and I contained it in the car, but I couldn’t stop (or drive) for a long time while I tried to pull my shit together over a haircut.

What I learned? To be more flexible in working out my schedule with Kim. Going in another day at a different time is OK.

What I developed? A new and serious belleh phobia.

Belleh.