Friday, February 24, 2017

Narrate Damn It!

This is a personal gripe as a filmmaker (which is just nominal now – I and everyone else shoot video), about something that irritates me more and more about young documentary videomakers. It perhaps just bothers me alone – having taken classes and grown into an appreciative mindset of respect about a concept called... presentation. Even with minimal visual resources, I've strove to present professional quality; and that goes double for the apparently lost art of voice-over narration. I realize not everyone is Morgan Freeman, but that doesn't excuse a complete lack of competence regarding a soundtrack's verbal content. Especially in this age where industry-level graphics and visual effects are available via computer video apps sold retail, it would only seem logical to reflect that capability with a performance ethic – but no. Cluelessness rules.

More and more I see video narrated by people who basically can't f___ing talk! Granted, they've shown some kind of influence regarding the rhythm of an ongoing narration... only they've neglected some very obvious components vital to competent voicework; articulation, motivation, pronunciation, context, and that element that admittedly not everyone understands – emotion.

ARTICULATION – Have Subway AFTER you narrate, not AS you narrate. I tend to fast-forward to the end, when I hear a mouthful of marbles. To see if I can surmise your point through the visuals, as your voice makes my ears wad up in spontaneous self-defense mode. This disregard for quality leads directly to a need for...

MOTIVATION – If you don't care what you're talking about, trust me, it's audible. It gives the viewer subconscious permission to NOT CARE EITHER, to click off of your video and move on.

PRONUNCIATION – Narration is edification concerning elements not fully discerned by the visuals. Research proper pronunciations of things like names, places, and historical points. Nothing will drive away viewers as fast as cringing while you presume that General Washington's first name was “General,” or can't discern anything awkward in phraseology like “the World War II” or “John Elf Kennidely.”

CONTEXT – Being young and less knowledgeable is only a partial excuse. Learn the chronology of your subject. Charlie Chaplin didn't “make videos,” he shot FILM. Einstein didn't send a famous email to Roosevelt.

EMOTION – Yes... please. Take a frigging acting class. Learn to communicate. Even the most well written narration falls short if it's read like a recipe for salt water. If it's worth making a video about, it's worth telling in a compelling tone, no? Do you want an audience? Are they living? Would you like a LIVING AUDIENCE to RELATE to your video?

Friday, June 10, 2016


You are a Bernie Sanders supporter. There's something going on that ought to greatly disturb you. I'm not talking about vote tampering or network bias; if you'd allow me to play devil's advocate. The following is just an opinion, but please do not misconstrue or oversimplify it. You may have a different one, so I'll go ahead now and apologize for the offense – though it's not my intent to offend. Unfriend me if you must, but be assured at the outset, this isn't a sermon on capitalism vs. socialism (though I could probably set fire to my own mouth giving one).

I'm doing my Solonic duty here. (Look up Solon and his famous decree – which made me cringe as a younger man.)

A month or so ago, on my Facebook page I stated my shock at Ted Cruz and John Kasich for their audacity and duplicitousness. Candidates (should) have an unspoken contract – a mandate – to those who invest their time, personal resources, energy, and yes their faith, some their very lives, into his/her campaign. Both Cruz and Kasich verbally pledged (they'd now deny it, even after being shown the video) to fight to the end, take the battle all the way to their party's Convention even if they were outright defeated on paper. Their supporters stood behind them – committed their integrity – based on that. Cruz and Kasich then both reneged. Cruz walked away, left his loyals high and dry, and Kasich made it plain to anyone with eyes and a brain that he was only a puppet on a mission. I said that the crowd had every right to take the bastards outside and hang them. Those poor people, their whole past year had been proven based on slick rhetorical gift-wrap around a box of hot air. The candidates were just sales reps trying to tap dance their party back into power. They were "madmen."

Back in early 2015, they didn't count on there being serious competition. Their handlers and gravy-train assured them that they were "the next big thing," and of a breezy path into office. They had no intention to go hardcore for voters, the little people who committed, who attached actual hope for their lives to it. (Catch the old movie "Meet John Doe" some time… seriously.)

So I've noticed something very peculiar. After Tuesday night's California primary, and the media declaring Hillary Clinton, like Trump, the "presumptive" nominee of her respective party… (I've been voting for 30 years, never heard "presumptive" used there before)… Bernie Sanders has yet to announce his concession, yet has dismissed most of his campaign staff. Then he requested, and very quickly got (!), a private conference with President Obama to… what… discuss alternate campaign strategy? A pretty unprecedented little powwow, frankly; during which, according to rumor anyway, he suggested the dismissal of the current DNC Chair. Then in an even wilder turnabout, four hours later, the POTUS officially announced his endorsement of… Hillary Clinton! He called her the most qualified person ever to run for the office. (I think Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy et al, might disagree there.)

Does any of the above seem odd? Do you honestly see just a series of coincidences taking place?

Then… Sanders made a very coy statement that he will do everything he can to prevent Trump from becoming President (without mentioning Clinton). At the same time I hear and read all these references to a Clinton-Sanders ticket. A few people have even said it's a natural. Uh… really??

Folks, you people with brains (I pride myself on having a friend list – this means you – whose smarts I'd put up against anyone's)… if, and I say IF, Sanders joining forces with Clinton is a "natural"…? Remember the comparisons between Sanders and Jesus, and yeah, all that? I have a better comparison: Judas. If Sanders accepts the VP spot with Clinton, then may I suggest (as a conscientious observer) that the "Revolution" was BULLSHIT. There's no revolution… there never was a revolution… and Bernie Sanders won't even look a TV camera in the eye and admit it to you. Like Cruz, he's lingering near the exit now that the stink has risen to nose-level.

You want a real "two corinthians" quote? Here it is: "For Satan masquerades as an angel of light." – II Corinthians 11:14

Sanders may show up at the Democratic Convention, or may even do the third-party option, but make no mistake that he is obediently handing over your hard work, your vestment, your faith, your words shouted so bravely on Facebook among other places, to Hillary Clinton under the table. The fact that he is now claiming only an ambiguous, strangely vague effort to impede Trump, rather than uphold the contract with you – his supporters – to fight Hillary to the end, should speak volumes to you. She is, after all, still his priority opponent; he has to beat her before he can – according to you – outpoll Trump in the g.e. Starting a third-party is a moot point if he can't get past Hillary; she'll be the same brick wall in the general, that she was in the primary. At best, he'll split the vote in Trump's favor.

I'm not endorsing anyone with this particular rant, btw.

I imagine Sanders is a gracious man privately; sings to babies, cuddles kittens... But like Cruz and Kasich, when his armor was cracked in battle – it revealed he wasn't in it. Bernie Sanders will not go hardcore for you, because he has NO core for you. Like all politicians, he knew what battle cry you'd salivate to, and led you to the battleground. Risking it all was your job, never his. This was his long career's natural time to attempt a last hurrah, it was never about you.

That's the most astute observation I've offered: he's just doing what all career-politicians do in the last mile. Trying to make it the victory lap. If he were about the people, why not run in say, 2004? 2008? 2012? It's because he wasn't at the end yet. He carries no cross now. The "cause" won't be there in 2020.

Did you get Cruzed? Just now "feelin' the bern" around your backside? No sarcasm here. If you don't think too hard, you won't grieve long. You gave your heart and got dumped anyway. Been there. The Kiss of Judas. Yes he would; you don't live 70+ years never holding a legitimate job (his legacy), without somehow placating the Romans. Welcome to the club.

No matter who wins, this is our country. I will not leave it, like a few soulless moron celebrities have "bravely" promised. About them: that's called Cut-n'-Run. It's what the ultra-RICH did in the Great Depression – left the country while the little people mopped their own blood and guts up.

They said if Reagan became President, America was over. They said if Bill Clinton became President, America was over… Only if WE give it up, it is. I will survive, like I always have. Like you always have. There's always as asshole in office – haven't you paid attention? Amen.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Where's The Rest Of Me?

Just over a hundred years ago, newspapers were the entirety of "the media." Great thinkers, writers, and artists did time there. Some genuine legends were birthed there, or at least passed through from time to time. Ambrose Bierce, James Thurber, Ring Lardner, Dorothy Parker, Heywood Broun, Dorothy Kilgallen, George Herriman, Rube Goldberg, (and those are just the names that pop into my noggin in no actual historical order). There were scoundrels to be sure, and over-rich corporate dabblers as usual. The Donald Trump of the early 20th century was a media mogul named William Randolph Hearst. Only he didn't need to be POTUS – his influence elected and unelected them.

But then the cinema, the radio, television, and ultimately the internet and the wi-scape (in that order) took over as "the multi-media" evolved. Now, the printed newspaper is the family dog begging for table scraps. And some of the greedy scarfers at the table are just pretend media – trivia and satire pitched like real news – with ambiguous, cliffhangerish headlines. (Why have we developed a NEED for that?) The dog metaphor is even more apropos; why do I feel like we're about to be driven out to barren country and abandoned?

When I first got in, there were still (the last generation) of full-time illustrators & cartoonists making livings in the newspaper industry – people doing just that, not made to multi-task in other areas to justify their employment. Slowly emerged that miraculous little box that "made jobs easier," then "did part of the job for you," then "made you obsolete." I set down my pen and ink, after winning several awards following in the footsteps (so I thought) of those great illustrators of yesteryear. When the computer began its march to conquer, I jumped aboard thinking I'd be a part of the so-called revolution, not even realizing that I was self-hastening my own irrelevance over the long-term. Each and every digital expert-overseer that entered my professional life turned out to be part assassin. No wonder most of my office demeanor over the years was hot-headed and defensive.

It was an ever dimming shadow of the industry I only thought I'd joined... no one needed illustrators, or cartoonists, or "different thinkers" anymore. Only template tracers, mouse clickers, cut & pasters, copy-flow clerks. Proof-readers? No, Spellcheck – the employees don't spell. If they can, they're placed on remote desks and made to do that for publications in multiple counties. Saves each paper from having to hire a separate one. Now, even they are hired more and more overseas – and work for pennies. People who live a half a globe away – your town's number one source for "news" with minimal local navigation. Can't grieve forever, right?

We took a vital industry with a vested connection to the communities it served, as rooted in each as the police, fire and utility departments (a family member in print form, if you will) and turned it into a generic recycle product with pretend relevance and zero accountability brought to you by people who wouldn't know you from a striped polo shirt in a Lands End catalog... and could care even less. A Big Mac in print form.

People of those older generations I'd sometimes hear laughingly recall using newspaper for toilet paper – because toilet paper did not yet exist and that ironically gave the newspaper added value, beyond its publish date. Groucho Marx once complimented the now defunct New York World that it even smoked well, if one couldn't afford actual cigars. Today, some current editions are hardly worth outhouse use, off the press. In my 30+ years (did I hope against hope that it would get better if I persevered?) – this once great industry unraveled. And I allowed myself to unravel with it. The great thinkers and doers – literati, the adventurers with pens and ink and type presses – were all replaced by hedge fund brokers and real estate flippers – with their outsourced minions.

A newspaper job was once a goal. Newspapers had tangible value and made tangible profit. Today they offer an artifice of tangibility and the revenues reflect that emptiness. Yet, the sales department is forced to constantly raise the nose higher each quarter, in a year pointed at the ground like a plane out of fuel.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

February Randomary

From "soft-serve" back into "the logging business." I can only hope it means my bowels are making a comeback.

Now that it's viral on Youtube, do you still "not give a shit" what people think of your behavior in public?

Only Hollywood A-Listers are in show biz as hard as Realtors. Making million dollar deals and getting their pix in the paper every week.

Some rejected Candy Heart slogans:
Need My Meds
Wipe First
Fist Ride
Tested OK
C U N Court
My Turn Yet?
I Taste Onion
Scratch Already
Shave It 2-Nite

Walk-in of the week: "Hey can I buy a shitload of newspapers? My daughter's making a volcano!"

Media people who are always on camera every day… even in their own houses… it's a kind of porn.

Inspiration used to mean come up with your own, not put your spin on a cliché.

You're on a roll and don't take shit off of anyone? So... you're like cheap toilet paper.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Brief Rant On Sexism

A little Monday night rant. About sexism. Bear with me.

Years ago, at my first newspaper job, they were to publish a special section called "Women In Business" which spotlighted local female CEOs, business owners and various movers & shakers. They thought that they would utilize my cartooning chops somewhere between its covers, and requested a light-hearted drawing depicting the above. I drew a woman balancing a multitude of hats on her head, representing a woman intimidated by nothing, able to fill any role – among the hats were especially those traditionally (at the time) branded as generally masculine, like a construction hardhat, a soldier's helmet, etc.

The next day at work, I discovered that no one in the office would speak to me. Even discussing assignment instructions, my supervisor would only bark orders at me in single syllables. I finally asked what the matter was – and when someone would finally communicate back, I was informed that I had committed the most brazen act of sexism and gender-phobic puerility (my cartoon).

I made some churlish response to the order of "sorry for depicting a woman as universally capable – what exactly did you want a cartoon for anyway?" followed by "and how long were you mature adults going to pout in moral turpitude instead of communicating?"

Well today, for my current job, I designed an entire section called… wait for it… "Women In Business." In fact, over the past 20 years I have designed several such special sections, entitled… "Women In Business" (every time a paper produces a section like this, it always seems to get the title "Women In Business.") ???

Back on that first time… if I apologized (I don't recall anymore), I hereby take it back. I meant something positive. I rendered a cartoon, as requested. And in the years since, I have dutifully cranked out these dinosaurish "Women In Business" 'special' sections even though they subliminally treat professional women as a special needs group. Like a sub-culture of pretenders who need this annual spotlight to make them 'feel' important. Like say, "Children In Business."

It's never grown beyond this model in 20 years; a special section looking at this interesting oddity among our workforce: "women in business." It is still that in 2015. In my career, I've had 7 female supervisors, 3 female publishers (!) and even a female pastry chef that I reported to. I've had a grand total of only 4 male bosses and 1 male middle-management supervisor that I directly reported to, my entire professional life. All but one job interview I've ever had, was presided over by women.

Dear Newspaper Industry – may I say this is pretty sexist, not to mention gender-phobically puerile, of you. But hey, I'm just a cog performing my job.

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Note To Job Seekers, and the Damn Poetry Corner Returns!

Hint To Job Seekers, from an Old Codger:

Don't waste a résumé on the following type of company – nothing important happens there; they'll pay you a minimally acceptable salary to show up every day and participate in office politics and management-worship. The company is insanely busy, and produces… nothing.

Under "Job Description" they don't detail the position's purpose, but insert a repetitively written "mission statement" about the company as a whole.

Under "Operational Duties" they don't describe any actual tasks, but merely list the other offices over yours, whom you'll report to, and ask permission to take bathroom breaks.

Under "Qualifications" their list of educational and experiential must-haves is the equivalent of a senior employee making at least 5 times what they're willing to pay you.

If you choose to throw your hat in the ring, just keep in mind it's only for a paycheck and whatever medical benefits they offer. You won't be participating in anything tangible, or productive, much less essential.



I fall off ladders
I fall off bikes
I'm off the radar
Everyone yells yikes

When I walk
The Children laugh
But I'm too poor
To hire a staff


He hooked up with a drunk whore who smoked in bed.
Put asunder by a sipper who slumbered with a cinder.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

That Kid Educated Me


I was at a restaurant here called Dickey's BBQ. One of their customer enticements is free ice-cream with your meal; they provide the cones, and you help yourself at the soft-serve machine. It's located alongside the beverage fountain.

The kid to who I refer, paid full price for a large cup – the take-along cups at Dickey's are plastic, not paper, and meant to be reusable, in a kind of "permanent" way that makes one a little uneasy about tossing them in the trashcan if one is at all environment-conscious.

The unspoken routine is that you come back when you're finished, and make yourself a quick ice-cream cone on the house, on your way out. Thanks, and have a great day, compliments of your friends at Dickey's BBQ!

The kid marched past the soda fountain, and put his cup under the soft-serve dispenser. He'd paid for it. There was no spoken rule or signage to the affect of "use cups for beverages, cones for ice-cream." He filled it up. An epic serving of ice-cream. There may be a sign like that now, however, but I was taught something important by watching this kid use the rules to his advantage without technically breaking them…

It's not about watching what you eat, or being irresponsible with one's life choices. It's about interpreting life.

My I offer to you, that the old clichéd adages, "Live life to its fullest," "Live each day like it's your last," and "Seize the day," et al… are a big crock o' horsecrap. Seriously.

How exactly can you be sure what your personal "fullest" day would be like? Are you sure yesterday was "full" enough to qualify? There's no mean measurement to refer against, when judging a given day's "full" mark.

When you pretend today is your "last," and proceed to live it accordingly, it's kind of self-aggrandizing. You do that knowing in the back of your mind, that it's likely not your last – unless you habitually run across open freeways, flagpole sit or poke grizzly bears for fun. So you're really living today like it's your last day of messing around, not necessarily your last day of being alive.

Seize the day? You do that all the time, or at least attempt it – getting chores done, paying bills, tending to your family, resting, vacationing, working, figuring out random day-to-day stuff. "Seize the day" is a pretty damn vague task, subject to a million different interpretations, and just as many grey areas of criteria. It's a faux-erudite spin of "get off your ass," actually. A cowboy would say, "make hay while the sun shines." Confucious might say something like, "wait not on the morrow," in Chinese, of course. Yoda would be all "all hesitation, end you must."

Sometimes you have no other choice but to seize the day. "What do you mean the offer expires at midnight?" Enlightenment cannot be forced on you – if it is, it's usually a penalty, not an epiphany. You got it wrong! What have we learned today?

So what do I offer in place of those wise old nuggets of self-helptardism?

How about this… think back to that kid and his cup. At some point he put the concepts together: I paid for this big cup. There's an ice-cream machine next to the soda fountain. Why did I assume the cones were exclusive, because they're free like the ice-cream?

Don't live like today is your last. Live like YESTERDAY was your last… and you somehow landed a bonus one. Don't worry how "full" it is, just regard every day you wake up as another one you're "getting away with."

Occasionally I ponder all the things I've been through, the turns life has taken, the obstacles, failures and triumphs I've had… and I ponder sometimes, "maybe I was supposed to be gone by now." Today is a gift. It's that jackpot you won by following that whim to pull the handle when the machine's regular player who "owned" it, took a bathroom break.

Wake up, thinking, "I'm getting ONE MORE." Don't worry if it isn't outwardly miraculous, or perfect to the last minute. There's one more cookie in the jar, after you thought it empty. There's an ice-cream machine… and you've paid for that big cup anyway – why was I settling for soda before?

Begin tomorrow with an accurate assessment of it: "I wasn't promised this, but here it is."