Wednesday, May 28, 2014

No call list...

Although I have registered every phone number I have with the "National Do Not Disturb" list, I still get about a dozen calls a week from telemarketers.  If I do not recognize the number or if someone doesn't answer within five seconds of me answering I hang up.  
Other times I will engage the telemarketer just to ask them to take my number off their list.  They are usually polite and apologize for disturbing me, though I doubt they really take my number off the list. 
Yesterday was a day when I tried to engage the telemarketer to stop calling my number.  It was almost 10 seconds before he picked up after I had said hello ( I actually start counting out loud once I answer the phone). 
The voice said, "Hey Jay, how are ya?" 
"Who's calling?"
"This is Alex, you remember, we talked, I believe it was last summer about a new mortgage refinance."
Having nothing to do with the blog today.
"No, I don't think we did." I replied. "Would you do me a favor..."
Usually that stops their pitch and I am able to say, take this number off your list, or let me speak to your supervisor or whatever comes to mind.  However, Alex kept on talking with a very thick southern accent.  His next words were... exactly this:
"Well, since I had spoken with you together, the interest rates have went down and you now qualify...."
There was no use saying another word. If his best pitch is "interest rates have went down" that is all I need to know.  It would have been interesting to find out what bank thinks that I would be willing to sign up for a refi from a guy who informs me that "interest rates have went down." 
I keep adding my number to the "National Do Not Disturb" list which says it may take as many as 30 days to clear the number.  I have been doing this for about a year so... the 30 days is bogus. 
Hope your calls are all important, prosperous and full of correct grammar.
As you were,

Monday, May 12, 2014

Jim Henson does it again...

I am not much on reality television, to put it mildly. I don't keep up with Kardashians, care who survives, or give a F___ about what the pseudo redneck Duck family is doing. I'm also not interested in contest shows mainly because of the contest part.  I love to see artists in the process of making art but hate that it gets  judged. This is true for every show from cooking to dress design except one,  "Jim Henson's Creature Shop."
It's  no surprise that I would like a show where the goal is to create robotic-puppet creatures. That is my kind of process. I have worked with artists of that genre most of my life in one way or another. Also, for full disclosure I am not a completely disconnected viewer, my friend Kirk Thatcher is one of the judges.  You know my admiration for Kirk and the puppets he has created for me in the past.  If not, read the blog I wrote about Kirk by clicking here.
That said here is what I love about the show.  First of all the "contestant" artists are unbelievably talented. They are that rare bread of puppet creator who can do it all from sculpting, molding, mechanics, servos, design and painting.  It is fascinating to see how artists approach a rush project and how their minds work. And because the Jim Henson Creature Shop is the holy grail and state of the art for film ready creatures the mentoring advice they receive is brilliant. 
But mainly the show maintains that Henson class and innovation with Brian Henson, son and heir to the franchise. He is in control without controlling, he is pleasant but never pandering and he is spot on with constructive criticism without ever being mean spirited. It is smart, sharp and never stoops to humiliating anyone's work or process as an artist. The judges look for the "best of the best" and departing contestant are not required to jump into an ego shredder.  
I am addicted to the show which is on the SyFy channel. I DVR them all and have watched a few episodes several times.  So far there is not a person appearing on the show that I would not hire to build a puppet for me.  I'm not sure where you would find it on your cable system but here is a link to the site. Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge.
I have no connection to the show other than watching my friend Kirk and "wanta be friend" Brian Henson. I've never met Brian but he seems like he would be a great guy to know.  
But...Check it out.  For those who like contest shows, reality shows and artisan shows this is one of the best.  For those like me that don't care for the genera, check it out anyway, it might restore your faith in commercial television.  
As you were,

Saturday, May 03, 2014

I Never Read Instructions

In addition to true crime stories I am facinated by conspiracy threories and cults. I don't know if that interest is connected to being a ventriloquist but I suspect it is. It's not that I am supporting the stereo type that ventriloquists are weird by the very nature of their profession.  Instead I think a mind that is driven to be curious about such things might find a facination in ventriloquism as well.  Again this is not to suggest that ventriloquism is connected to cults, crime or conspiracies, it is rather that these obscure subjects tend to captivate the curious more than say Algebra. 
The more one tries to normalize an obsession the stranger it becomes so let's move on shall we?
David Koresh was the cult leader of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.  We know his influence ended when he was burned to death with other members of his cult after a long stand off.  Like Jim Jones, Charles Manson and even Warren Jeffs I am drawn to how a single person can sway others to embrace ideas and committ acts so contrary to their own morals and mor├ęs. These cult leaders  had the ability to lead their followers to committ crimes or even die for the "cause". In all of these cases religion or some form of spirituality was used as the hook.  Although Charles Manson was the only one to actually claim he was Jesus Christ, the others claimed they were prophets or devinely ordained  with the same authority.  
In the case of David Koresh, it is said he gained attention of the Davidians because of his unusual mental ability.  Evidently he could quote the entire Bible chapter and verse by memory. The ability to recite obscure Bible quotes to support his ideas was seen as some divine  gift.  I know stage mentalist who can do more impressive mental tricks but they do it simply for the cash. 
It is also known that David Koresh was a dyslexic, a fact over looked by most profilers when studying his influence. Being a dyslexic myself, that fact is not so unimportant to me.  
One of the problems associated with dyslexia is difficulty reading.  It is a chore for us.  We don't read for enjoyment we read because we have to, and slowly at that. However, like a person who looses their sight the mind tends to compensate with increased ablilities in the other senses.  For the blind, hearing and touch are excellerated; for the dyslexic the mind generally compensates with an acute ablility to memorize and recall. (I can still recite my brothers 10 digit Army service number from 50 years ago. I'm not even sure he can.)
So, some how Koresh's dyslexia was confused with divine anointing.  I certainly wish my teachers would have seen it that way when I was struggling in school. Maybe that is why I am not impressed with Bible quoting theology.  Although I can quote only a few verses by memory I have read the Bible cover to cover.  In truth if all you need is a quote of five words or so, you can justify any action with a Biblical quote.  A friend once found a quote for Thanksgiving from Proverbs that stated, "Ye shall eat of a clean bird."  
Just knowing words, even a lot of them, even words refered to as scripture is absolutely useless.  Let's say you buy a desk from Ikea. It comes in a box full of parts and  instructions.  You can read the instructions for hours, studying them and interpreting them all day.  You can even commit them to memory and know where every screw must be placed by heart. You can become an expert on the instructions of assembly, and be revered for the knowledge. People who want to have a desk can come to you and ask questions like, "Why is my desk just a bunch of parts".  The "expert" can quote the instructions and say, "Because you have not attached part A to part B."  But, you are still no closer to having a desk than you were when you opened the box. It is how you put the instructions to use that matters not the memory of the proceedure.
More important to the seeker than the repetition of instructions would be to show them what the desk looks like after it has been assembled. Showing some initiate how you have used the instructions to create the desired result is more important than meer words, no matter how true thoes words might be.
To paraphrase the parable, you will know each tree by the fruit it creates, not by the sap it has stored. 
As you were,

Refrigerator Logic

I watch true crime stories to the point of obsession.  My wife thinks I am corrupting my soul by watching such stuff, while she watches "Bones", "CSI", "Castle" and other such fictionalized crime to almost the same degree. I'm not sure which is worse, a writers furtile mind manufacturing how crimes  are committed or watching real dectectives solve the real thing.
I do know that watching the real thing eleminates "refridgerator logic" in the story.  Refridgerator logic is a term I heard a television mystery writer use once.  He described it as a story point which makes the plot work for the audience, but hours later when they go to the refridgerator to get a beer they say, "Wait a minute... how did that guy know (fill in the blank)".  Refidgerator logic is totally acceptable in a good script, as long as it makes some sense during the show.  A writer certainly wouldn't want the audiece to say.. "Wait a minute" during the story.  
One of the greatest examples of refrigerator logic is in the movie "Citizen Kane".  The entire movie plot involves a reporter searching for the meaning of "rosebud", the last words uttered by billionaire John Foster Kane. We watch Kane utter the words at the first of the movie when he dies and drops a snow globe.  This scene is quickly followed by the report of his death in the news that states, "John Foster Kane died alone at his massive estate of Xanadu".  If he died alone at his home... who was it that heard him say these mysterious last words? No one.  That's the ultimate refridgerator logic... the entire movie hangs on a point that doesn't really make sense later when you go to get a beer. Doesn't matter it is a great movie.. a classic.
True crime has no moments like that.  Detectives have to prove what happened with evidence strong enough to convience a jury; any hint of refrigerator logic is "reasonable doubt." I also like these stories because they do not glamorize crime or criminals. In true crime the bad guys are bad actors, not romantic, sexy or clever, most of the time they are common and ignorant. Their motives are petty and their methods crude.  The real detectives have to work harder and longer to solve the real thing.
Recently there was the case of a murderer who was caught almost by chance.  He was stopped for a minor traffic offense.  When he handed the officer his license, a bag of heroin was attached. They took his DNA when they booked him for possession and it matched the crime scene DNA of the murderer.  No television writer would write that in a plot because it is so stupid. You can't portray the antagonist as a complete idiot because that would make the protagonist stupid as well.  
Writers work long and hard to make their heros smart, insiteful, appealing and clever. They work even harder to create villians who are their equal polar-opposite.  What is Sherlock without Moriarty?  The second most important character in a James Bond film... besides the Bond girl,  is the villian.  And in film and television the crimes are spectacular with a complicated motive especially murder.  In real life it is as dumb as a double amputee olympic runner losing his temper and shooting his girlfriend through a bathroom door. The Oscar Pistorius case may be the "trial of the century" but it is hardly a crime worthy of a television detective with good ratings. 
So there you go. My reasons for continuing to watch "Forensic Files" and "The First 48".  If it was earlier in my career I would turn those stories into scripts for refridgerator logic television shows... perhaps in my next life when I come back as Dashiell Hammett.
As you were,