Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Pop Overs

I saw an article about new relatively inexpensive alternative bands for the Apple Watch and I wanted to check them out. So I clicked on the link taking me to the website. Before the page had finished loading, I was confronted by a pop-over asking me if I wanted to sign up for their newsletter/email/whatever. I had only just arrived. I had not even yet seen what they had to offer or if I was even interested in their stuff.

Imagine if you were walking by a store and thought the window display was interesting so you stopped to look. Suddenly, a man with a clipboard runs out and stands in front of you asking if you want to be on their mailing list. Dude, I’m just looking at your window to see if I am even interested in walking into your store. Slow down.

I see pop-overs with greater frequency and they have to be the most irritating trend on the web today. Sure, pop-unders and pop-ups were annoying too but at least it’s easy to have a quick CMD/DNTRL-W ready to make them go away. This new trend requires me to figure out where the close button is (upper left? upper right? in the body of the ad?) And you can make a case that the intent is working: I have no choice but to look at the ad in order to just get rid of it.

But it’s not working. First off, I refuse to read them. When they pop up, I concentrate only on getting rid of it as fast as I can. If it takes me more than 1-2 seconds to figure that out, I will, more often than not, close the page and never return to that website.

Yeah, I know, these sites need ads to survive. But ads that are interesting, entertaining, informative, or in some way relevant to my life will get my attention. Those that are pushy, annoying, or irrelevant to me will get ignored.

And don’t get me started on Amazon’s piss-poor ads. I, like many people, use Amazon to research purchases. For example, I needed a cordless screw driver and I read reviews of various options on Amazon. I needed it that day so I then went and bought the winner at the local Home Depot. And then for the next few weeks, all I saw were ads for cordless drills. (Once, for a play I was in, I needed a prop deck of girlie playing cards. My ads for the next long while were… interesting to say the least.)

I do like that in Gmail, Google gives me some options to customize the ads I see and I do make use of that. Same with Facebook. I will turn off ads and provide Facebook with the whys of my decision. But the rest of the world needs to catch up. And everyone needs to stop using pop-overs. Seriously.

A Modest Rant

For me, the joy of any theatrical experience, be it a play, tv show, or movie, is immersing myself in what is being presented. Acting works because the audience willfully suspends their disbelief and says, “OK, we will buy that you are trapped in a submarine with your ex-wife” or whatever the scenario is. And in that one act of mutual agreement between actor and audience, magic is created. That’s how I approach all such entertainment. And it is very rare that a movie is so bad that I cannot suspend any disbelief at all and enjoy the movie (Kenneth Brannagh’s Frankenstein was one such movie. Yeesh!)

So, I have grow ever more frustrated with audiences in recent years. And before you roll your eyes and say that this is another one of those, “Damn these kids today!” old man posts, stay with me a moment. It’s not the damn kids (well, it sometimes is, but they are not the only problem.) It is people in general. People are far more selfish today than they were in the past. I remember movie experiences where the loud moron in the theater was the exception, not the rule. People generally enjoyed a production and respected the wishes of their fellow audience members to enjoy it as well. Collectively, we laughed, cried, cheered, booed, and otherwise enjoyed something together. When we needed to ask a question, we whispered so as to not disturb others.

But more and more people have become more selfish and self-centered. They don’t care about anyone else in the theater just their own selves. If they want to talk, they talk. They make no effort to be quiet about it. They use their phones or even throw popcorn at each other. Even parents of kids make no effort to teach their kids to whisper and be quiet in movies. If the kids ask a question or make a comment, the parents don’t quiet them and often answer just as loudly as their kids.

And it frustrates me to no end. Suspension of disbelief needs immersion. And while I can ignore a lot of things (popcorn chewing, wrapper crlnkling, coughing, etc. A conversation between people or other such behavior is too much. And that ruins the experience for me.

I go to movies far more rarely than I used to. It’s just too expensive to be that tense waiting for some inconsiderate jerk to ruin it. And when I go, I am generally not let down. Usually if the problem people are not near me, I can tune them out and enjoy myself. But if they are close by, I either have to move or do the one thing I hate doing: shush them. I’m non-confrontational by nature. I don’t like getting in people’s faces about anything. So, shushing someone is something I rarely ever do and is saved for the most obnoxious of cases.

Twice in recent memory, I have had incredible experiences. The first was in Traverse City, MI at the gorgeous movie theater there in town where I saw The Artist. The audience was silent through the whole movie and we all had an amazing time watching a gorgeous movie. The other was tonight when we went to see The Martian.The audience was quiet and really into the movie. All except one person. And she just happened to be sitting next to me.

She sat to my left and was older than I am by at least a decade if not two. She and the man she was with came in during the previews and plopped down right next to me in the only open two seats left in our row. I politely let her have the arm rest and leaned a bit closer to Ann. Throughout the whole movie, she kept a running dialog with the man next to her. Generally in the form of questions. It was clear to me that she did not really understand a lot of what was going on. In one scene, something really bad happens to Matt Damon’s character and when he is upset and having a bit of a tantrum about it, she asked aloud, “What’s the matter with him?” Twice during the movie (both after the half-way mark when I just couldn’t take it anymore) I shushed her. The first time was a quiet “Shh.” The second time was a more annoyed, “SHHH.” Followed either by a “Please” or a “C’mon” or something similar. Neither time worked. She kept right on asking her inane questions. I never heard what the guy she was with said in reply. He clearly knew how to whisper. But it was enough to pull me out of a fantastic movie (and it was a fantastic movie) and be annoyed at her.

Ultimately, the movie won out and I put her out of my mind as best I could. But the kicker is what happened when the movie ended. She got up and I could see out of the corner of my eye while I read the cast list that she was staring daggers at me. I began saying something to Ann about the movie when I heard her say (while still looking at me), “…piece of shit.” I had to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. So I turned partially to Ann and said loud enough for her to hear, “She talks through the whole movie and I’m the bad guy.” She walked out of the row, down the stairs, and then across the front of the section to the exit, never taking her eyes off of me. I made a point of ignoring her until finally I acted like I just noticed her, pointed, and laughed because it was so inane.

What did we learn from this? Too many people today are just too selfish. She did not care for anyone around her and spoke loud enough to be heard by everyone nearby and was offended when I called her out on it. It’s like when someone runs a stop sign, you honk at them, and they flip you off for honking at them.

I have no solutions except to wish that people could be more considerate of one another. I think things would be considerably better in virtually every aspect of life if we could collectively do that. But instead, I save my trips to the movies only for the movies I cannot wait to hit iTunes (or whatever) or that are loud enough that I can’t hear anything nearby anyway. As for that woman, I wish that there was some way she could see herself from another perspective; that she could see that her disruptive behavior was the problem, not my asking her to be quiet. But seeing ourselves from another’s perspective is hard work and our too-fragile egos make that far too difficult much of the time. Oh well. Hopefully the audience at Star Wars VII this December will be fans and we can all have fun together.

Robin Williams

Reality+What+A+ConceptWhere do I begin? How do I attempt to capture (let alone encompass) what I am feeling right now? I’m currently running sound for Swamp Meadow’s Children’s Theatre production of Annie Jr. During the big song and dance number, NYC, someone shouts “Keep it down out there” (or something to that effect) and all I can think of every time I hear it is Robin Williams from, Reality, What a Concept, and his bit:

And Now, a New York Echo:

“Hello!!!”

“Shut the fuck up!”

We were just about to start the penultimate run through (the show  opens Wednesday) when my wife texted me the news.  My heart sank. I sat there staring at the mixing board trying to form thoughts in my head. All I could think was, “No. No. No. NO! Do NOT let this be true!”

I was about 9 when Mork first showed up in an episode of Happy Days. I remember loving that episode and the character and was overjoyed when I heard they were spinning him out into his own show. I watched every episode of Mork and Mindy and loved every minute of it. When I was in fourth grade, probably a year or two into Mork and Mindy’s run on TV, I did my first play. It was because of Robin. He showed me that I could take this crazy energy I had, this need to entertain my mother’s and sisters’ friends, my friends, my teachers (ok, maybe more drive my teachers crazy) and I could get onto a stage and harness that power for good. I act today because of Robin. In fact, so much of who I am comes from the influence of Robin, Steve Martin, Firesign Theater, Monty Python and more. But Robin was there first. And he was a blazing star to me.

MV5BMTkwMjQ3ODY2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzMwOTc0NA@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_I don’t generally get upset at celebrity deaths. But a few have really hit me hard. Carl Sagan and Jimmy Stewart, to name two, did hit me hard. But this is the cruelest cut of all.  I will always love Robin for the laughs and also for his more heartfelt moments. The Fisher King has always been one of my favorite movies for his inspired performance. And I haven’t seen Good Morning, Vietnam recently enough and need to watch it again.

I wanted to write this last night when it was fresh in my mind but I was just unable to get the words out. Even now, it is hard and I find myself tearing up. I’ll leave this here and just say that the world is a far better place because Robin was in it and rather than be sad he is gone, I will focus on celebrating what he has left us to enjoy and that I am very much the person I am today because of him. Thank you, Robin and rest in peace.

French Press

French Press, Mug, and CreamI have a new obsession: French Press Coffee at Brewed Awakenings. Brewed is a chain in Rhode Island that has fantastic food, pleasant interiors, and, honest to Gods, the best damn coffee I have ever had. Their regular stuff is pretty good but on a whim I ordered the French Press one morning. I figured they’d make it fresh for me and I’d take it and go. But, it turns out, you are given a french press pot, and all the other supplies you need and after a few moments, you pour yourself an amazing cup of coffee. Along with my favorite breakfast sandwich, I now go there after I drop my son off at school and spend about an hour working into my day. It’s the perfect time to have breakfast, sip my coffee, and review my schedule and to do list. When I get to my home office, I am ready to start my day and the coffee is an amazing sustainer. More than any other coffee I have ever had, I feel like it just keeps me going.

I’m doing a lot of reading and research on modern parental attitudes towards their kids and social media. I’m writing about this on my other blog, Navigating the Waters (and am overdue to post something but I want to finish at least one of these books first). One thing that I am finding over and over is the fact that so much of parental attitudes towards their kids (both from Free Range Kids and from It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens) is due to the echo chamber of the media.

Noam Chomsky famously put forth the idea that news is often biased by what sells. One example (from an article by him I read in grad school and cannot for the life of me find online to cite here) is how in the 80’s, the New York Times reporting on the Sandinistas and Contras in Nicaragua was overwhelmingly anti-Sandinista, something that did not reflect the reality on the ground. He contends that the reason the paper did not print more than a tiny handful of pro-Sandinista op-eds is because the common belief was that they were horrible people and that saying otherwise would hurt newspaper sales. Essentially, news is a business and they have to print what people accept. If they don’t, people won’t buy the paper.

Regarding teens, the dominant meme in the media is that they are in constant danger and social media is a horrible thing that is making their lives hell, making them dumber, hurting their future, and all kinds of things like that. I will speak about this in greater detail in a forthcoming article in Navigating the Waters. But I find it a fascinating subject. And I see the media trying to combat it but they are doing it in a ham-fisted way with the false equivelency. Now they will present one side of the story and in an effort to be fair, they will present something or someone on the other side, regardless of how ridiculous it might be. This is why, despite the vast majority of scientists accepting global climate change, we always have to hear from the one who does not agree as if this dissenting view is equal to the other. Same with giving equal time to intelligent design/creationists despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence for any of that and there is overwhelming evidence on the other side. This is why any time someone comes out and says that social media is actually a good thing in the lives of many teens, we have to hear from so-called parenting experts who have done no research and only have their unfounded opinions to share tell us how wrong the researchers are.

This brings me back to my morning french press. Brewed has a policy of always having Fox News on at least one of their tvs. Much has been written and researched about their complete lack of objectivity and the many subtle things they do to influence opinions. And they are hardly the only ones who do it, they’re just the most blatant.

I just find a nice seat where I don’t have to watch it (spoiler: It’s Obama’s fault, whatever it is) and I’m happy. Every so often, MSNBC is on for some inexplicable reason and I watch other regulars get worked up about it. “Can you turn off that propoganda and put Fox back on?” I am amused.

But I think about media that caters to specific groups. People get what they want to hear. Conservatives watch Fox News. Liberals watch MSNBC. I try to get my news from multiple sources to get a more complete picture. This includes the New York Times, BBC, Al Jazeera, and so forth. But I have a liberal arts degree from Dartmouth College and if any one thing was drummed into my head it was to always find as many sources as possible.

Despite all that, I love my morning french press. Much as Colin Firth’s saddest time of the day is driving Aurelia home in Love, Actually, mine is realizing I am near the bottom of my morning coffee. But the swirl of dark brown at the bottom of my cup promises one last blast of flavor before the end. Reminds me of camp coffee when we’d camp with my son’s troop. There were always grounds in the coffee. I loved it. I called it the crunchy surprise at the center.

I really like coffee, did I mention that?

The Digital Nomads | Navigating The Waters

My latest blog post on my new blog is up: The Digital Nomads | Navigating The Waters.

Navigating the Waters

Today I launched a new experiment, Navigating the Waters: a blog for collecting my more formal writings (versus this site which is more off-the-cuff). We’ll see how it goes. Please pop over and take a look.

Housecleaning, and a new Venture

So, it’s been asked so I’ll answer: no, I haven’t given up on the photo-a-day project. I just changed the backend processes that directed where newly shared pictures go so they send them to tumblr instead of here. Click on the Photography link above and you’ll see them in all their glory.

The big news is that I am starting a new blog. I am creating a place for my long-form posts (such as posts like the one on Kids and Social Media from a few years ago) to go. The idea is to create a space where I can explore our modern digital world and make sense of it all (or at least try to) and to  encourage myself to write more often. I hope to launch it shortly so watch this space for details. This blog will remain for my experiments in photography, autobiographical posts, and things that are less serious and not appropriate for the new blog. And I’m hoping that my writing more will actually bleed over to this blog so I will have more content to post here.

And now you know.

Project 365: Ghost Story

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Project 365: Bunny hop, bunny hop, bunny hop, DIG DIG DIG, bunny hop, bunny hop…

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Project365 Day 2: Shake it up

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