Head over to my music blog and read my interview with David Gray!
Song referenced: Cake and Eat It from Mutineers
WordPress has been a part of my life for nearly 9 years. This particular blog was created for a class I taught on free and easy website creation at my alma mater. I demonstrated Weebly, Wix, and Google Sites, but I spent the majority of time focused WordPress. I outlined the differences between WordPress.com and a self-hosted site running the software available from WordPress.org.
I’m very proud to say I now work at Automattic, the company that manages WordPress.com. Okay, it’s actually been sine last August and I’m just now getting into regular blogging.
WordPress was the solution to a problem I was having. I knew basic HTML and some CSS and had used those skills to create sites for sharing my artwork. If I wanted to make a change on one page, say the footer, I needed to make it on all of them. And there was no real easy solution to making galleries on a static HTML site. I started doing some reading and found WordPress and gave it a shot. I’ve lost count of the number of sites I’ve created for friends, clients, and myself, but it’s something that I truly love.
I work on a product called Jetpack, though not as a developer. I often test new releases, help with marketing materials, and, more recently, send merchandise to events around the world. Jetpack is another product I’ve used for years and it’s been fascinating to see the internal workings. The short explanation of what Jetpack does (a question I get frequently) is bridge the two versions of WordPress to add functionality to your self-hosted site.
I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds with this job. I certainly never expected to be here, but I’m glad that I am!
TV show referenced: Read All About It!
If there’s one thing I love, it’s movies. I’ve taken three film studies courses in my life and have made some short (not great) films/videos for classes, competitions, and events. However, I’ve found attending movies in the theater to be a bit of a challenge lately.
My wife, like many others, is a fan of the Hunger Games novels. We attended a screening in the theater of one of the films and discovered, much to our amazement, a newborn baby in a carseat at the night-time screening. The baby was well behaved, but at the slightest peep the parents would make a loud shushing noise, which continued through the entire film. We were expecting a child at the time, so don’t chalk this up to disliking babies – only parents with poor decision-making abilities.
We attended a showing of Selma, the moving story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s march in Alabama. The woman next to me chose to eat popcorn, which she’d popped at home, from a (very loud) plastic shopping bag. Ok, that was fine, movie theater popcorn is expensive. She washed it down with a can of Diet Coke, presumably also from home. Fine, I’ll give her that – nothing goes better with free popcorn than free soda. Once her mouth was devoid of popcorn, she started talking to her friend. Next up, rustling of the empty bag while she looked for items in her purse (note the plural ‘items’) for about 20 minutes. First came the Chapstick, then the tissues to blow her nose, and the Pièce de résistance, an eCigarette! Yes, she was smoking during this movie. I think I wouldn’t have minded one of these, but the pairing of talking, digging, and smoking was just exquisite.
My favorite people are what I call “the narrators” – people who feel a need to audibly ask questions or repeat lines from the film. The night before the 2015 Oscars, we had a chance to see The Imitation Game, the story of cracking codes produced by the Enigma machine and Alan Turing’s personal struggles. A graphic explained that World War II would go one for three more years after the code was cracked in 1942. “THREE MORE YEARS!” exclaimed one woman. Along with 1492, 1776, 1812, and 1865, 1945 is one of the few years you should remember from even the most basic of grade school education.
The demographic for these offenders seems to be over the age of 45 and traveling in pairs. They don’t just stick to the cinema either – they enjoy live theater and really bring out their narration A game for community theater.
Seven more years and I get to do what I want in a movie theater!
Movie referenced: Sound and Fury
In 2009 I volunteered to make an introduction video for an event at Maine College of Art. It took some time to come up with a concept, but after seeing a video by Company of Thieves (see below), I had my idea – a Rushmore parody! Although not common at the time, Wes Anderson’s technique has been mimicked more and more frequently over the years. I was never quite happy with the video quality, but it was it was a fun little project and I’ve always wanted to share it. Music is Painter Man by The Creation – the same band that performs Making Time that’s used in Rushmore.
Art class was a bit of an oasis for me. Despite being considered a reasonably bright kid, I didn’t excel at academics – reading on someone else’s schedule just wasn’t my idea of a good time. I’d been drawing and painting from an early age and found it was something that both came naturally and gave me a great sense of enjoyment.
It was in high school art class that I’d make some of the most meaningful friendships, even though many didn’t last beyond graduation. Two of those friendships came my freshman year in the form of two seniors – both of whom I couldn’t be more dislike. It was in painting class where they’d started performing parody songs to entertain others. They’d tap out the rhythms on desks, textbooks, or any other surface the could find. Topics included obscure literary references, chronicles of their experiences hanging out in Portland, and just about anything else under the sun.
I was so into it that I’d offered to help them record their music. It should be noted that this was a ludicrous situation that makes me sound like a teenage entrepreneur/record producer. I had neither the money for, nor did I posses, any recording equipment. My brother, a musician to this day, did own enough cables and splitters for me to assemble something that would work. In addition to recording, I started designing band t-shirts to make in art class, photographed practices, and designed the cassette insert. They chose the name Mint Chocolate Chip as a tongue-in-cheek reference to Vanilla Ice.
Over time they’d developed their musical abilities. To fill out the band, there was a rotating cast of other musicians playing lead guitar and drums (see also Spinal Tap’s drummer issues). We eventually outgrew the cassette recorder and foraged cables and made the decision to pay for a studio about 30 minutes south of our hometown. We made the journey one evening, along with a substitute drummer and cheap electronic drum pads and began the process. Now, I’d led a fairly sheltered life up until that point and, not having spent many nights away from home, I had no clue how to call long distance to alert my mother I’d be home late. It was, after all, the mid ’90s and we didn’t have them new-fangled iPhones and email and texting was in its infancy. After a few failed attempts, too embarrassed to admit my lack of knowledge of telephony, I gave up. I figured “I’d told her we’d be hours, what’s the worry?”
Recording went until the next morning and we were happy with the final tracks. We paid our $75 and headed home. My mother was waiting in the doorway, having stayed up all night, wondering if her 14-year-old son was still alive. I was immediately grounded. Any photoshoots would have to occur at my house, sans-drummer number two as he too had suffered the same punishment.
We eventually sold the cassettes for $5 a piece, easily making back the recording money. The mere mention of Mint Chocolate Chip to those who bought the cassette or were lucky enough to catch a performance will immediately bring a smile to their face.
Movie referenced: Cool as Ice
I made a decision that April 15th would be the day I’d start losing weight. Over the last few years I’d fallen into the habit of adding fries or chips and a soda with lunch, which would frequently feature a larger-than-necessary sandwich. I’d justify a fast food meal here and there because I felt so busy, but if anything I was just being lazy.
The outcome of not paying attention to what I was eating was not a surprise – my weight landed somewhere around 297 pounds. It’s an interesting feeling when your doctor says “I know it’s a big number, but hear me out – you could stand to lose a 100 pounds.” I’m not sure that’s in the cards, but we’ll see.
I’d already lost a few pounds in March from traveling, so I used that opportunity to kick off some intentional weight loss. Starting at 291 pounds, I cut soda and fast food out completely and dramatically decreased my intake of dairy, sugar, and fried foods. At just over a month I’m 13 pounds lighter – almost 19 pounds from my highest weight. There’s still a long way to go, I know, but it feels like a major accomplishment to take a step in the right direction.
Movie referenced: Fatso (1980)
I very much disagree with an article I read this morning in The Guardian and now I have reason to argue my point. To paraphrase the article, the author fel film Birdman: The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is an inaccurate portrayal of typecasting and that serious actors love playing superheroes. I’m sure they do, but acceptance of serious actors in films like The Avengers, The Dark Knight Trilogy, and more is a fairly recent phenomenon. Though many will go on to play other parts and win accolades, a perfect example of such typecasting is Leonard Nimoy, who passed away today at the age of 83.
Though not a superhero in the traditional sense, Spock and Star Trek occupied similar territory. Without a doubt, most who remember him will do so his part as the half-Vulcan science officer, a role he played in two television series, a cartoon, eight films, and countless guest spots over 47 years.
Aside from my own infatuation with Star Trek as kid and teen (I was called Captain Quirk for a reason), I knew him in a few other ways, too. I’ve always had a fascination with the filmmaking process and Mr. Nimoy hosted a behind-the-scenes show on Nickelodeon in the early ’80s called Standby: Lights, Cameras, Action! The episodes that covered special effects and sci-fi were always the most intriguing to me.
In Search of… was an investigatory show that explored the paranormal, extraterrestrial, and other unexplained topics – another fascination from my younger days. Something about his commanding voice made every topic believable, be it the Loch Ness monster or alien abductions.
Let’s not forget his guest spots on shows like Columbo and more recently on Fringe, his starring role in the original Mission Impossible series, his performance in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and other films, or the fact that he not only directed two Star Trek films and 3 Men and a Baby.
He was also a photographer whose works have been exhibited widely and available in book form (NSFW).
Though some of the tracks are laughable by today’s standards, he released six albums of music. A popular practice at the time, the albums were meant to capitalize on his popularity as the Spock character and were released by the same production company as Star Trek and Mission Impossible. Tracks range from space-focused songs in and out of character to covers of Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, and John Hartford to show tunes and originals that Nimoy either co-wrote or wrote on his own.
With all of those accomplishments, he’ll always be thought of as Spock. Unlike Birdman’s Riggan, Nimoy seemed at ease with the role, but the Guardian article really misses the mark in claiming there aren’t drawbacks to fantasy roles. Actors like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Mark Hamill, Christopher Reeve, Adam West and many others might have something to say about it.