Monday, October 31, 2011

FX Sneak Peek: Untitled Jersey City Project

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Untitled Jersey City Project for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

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There has been a lot of buzz about the upcoming Untitled Jersey City Project on FX. I've watched the Sneak Peak video and have done a fair amount of research into the show, and I can tell you that this is the direction that television drama should be going in. Aren't you tired of  black-and-white characters following linear plots where the good guys chase after the bad guys and everything is resolved neatly in 47 minutes? If you're up for something that's both compelling and different, then check out Untitled Jersey City Project. One of the things that makes it so unique is that it's a work-in-progress television drama with out-of-sequence scenes, dimly defined characters and unresolved plot developments. This leave a lot of room for your imagination to fill in the gaps. Does your mind have what it takes?

Even though I personally love the concept, I know that the mere concept itself isn't for everyone. If that's the case, you'll still want to check the show out for its acting and overall storyline which are much better than most of what is out there in TV land today. Check out the Sneak Peak video below and let me know what you think. Is FX on to something? Do you like the concept? What about the actors and the storyline? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. 

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Friday, October 28, 2011

A Farewell To Design

I began packing much of my personal possessions into totes this morning. I pulled down the pictures of my daughter and a number shots of friends and packed them neatly into a folder. I flicked the switch on the coffee maker for one last pot of Margaritaville: Sunrise in Paradise coffee. I'm just moving to an office down the hall, so it shouldn't seem like such a big deal. But it IS a big deal. I've taken a completely different position at work and will be leaving my old web duties behind once I launch my last design this week.

I remember my first job out of college. I was working as a C++ programmer for an insurance company. I made fast friends with a programmer who had been there for years pounding out Windows code for calculating potential reinsurance losses based upon hypothetical scenarios. He often told me between cups of coffee and puffs on his cigarette that insurance coding had made his bones and that he'd go out mid-compile. And he did. One weekend he died of a massive heart attack while tweaking some functions. The task fell to me to finish his work and while I slogged through his meticulously documented code, I swore to myself that I wouldn't let myself stagnate like that. I would always seek out new challenges when they presented themselves.

As I start moving myself into my new, much more spacious office, I tell myself that this is exactly what I am doing in leaving behind my design/programming duties. I'm taking on a new challenge and I know I can handle it. Just before I logged off my computer an e-mail came in requesting changes to the new departmental website design before official launch. Most of the proposed changes are, in my opinion, completely pointless and aren't significant enough concerns to hold up the launch. I briefly thought about simply giving in to the requests rather than waste my time listing the reasons why those changes shouldn't be implemented. But, then, a sly smile crept across my face and I took my place in front of the terminal. I had one last email to send :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Payday The Heist Review

While sitting at our favorite pub last week, Jason's phone beeped loudly indicating that he had gotten a txt message from one of our gaming buddies. Jason looked at it and called the bartender to cash out his tab.

"We have to go", he said as he chugged down his last bit of Old Grandad and Coke. "We're supposed to be playing Payday: The Heist".

I was supposed to download it earlier that day but apparently hadn't gotten the memo. So, I did what any loyal gaming friend would do: I went home and downloaded the game from the PlayStation Store. The full game is $20 and, I'm sorry to say that, in its current state, it's not worth the money.

The maps themselves are very well designed. The AI, however, sucks hard. Payday The Heist gets around its retarded AI by just having enemies enter at multiple points and there's no way you and your team can watch every entry point, so the AI doesn't have to worry about stealth. Enemies just want to rush you which is fun because you can run them over to a choke point in the map and mow them down. It gets old, though, as the enemies seem to have only two switches: "Rush" and "Stay Put".

The real problem is the game matching system for playing with teammates online. It's complete, total and utter crap. It glitches out 75% of the time. You can play in single player mode with AI teammates, but you should know that AI teammates will never do anything to fulfill objectives. They are good shooters and can be depended upon to heal you if you are injured. You can also call them to come to your position or have them follow you.

Payday The Heist has the potential to be a very good game and when I am able to play online, it's a lot of fun. Is it worth $20? No, not in its current condition. It's best to wait for a patch or for a sale before you buy it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Joined The Cast Of Twelfth Night

It started with a conversation with a lady friend of mine who is very into community theater. She remarked that I'm "on" all the time and that, if forced to play it serious for more than a few minutes, I would give in to my comedic urges and end up making some small gesture designed to garner a few laughs. I began to enumerate examples of times where I stayed completely serious such as funerals....and...um...funerals. I had to admit that life didn't often force me into situations that required a complete lack of humor. I expressed confidence, however, that I would be able to "rope it in" for any situation that required it.

Next thing I know, I'm being told to put up or shut up and I've joined the cast of a local production of William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" in the role of Duke Orsino. Twelfth Night is a comedy that centers on mistaken identity. Viola is shipwrecked on the shores of Illyria and loses contact with her twin brother, Sebastian, whom she believes to be dead. She disguises herself as a page boy named Cesario and comes to serve in the court of Duke Orsino who is in love with a local noblewoman named Olivia. Olivia falls in love with Cesario, not realizing that Cesario is really Viola. When Sebastian turns up in Illyria very much alive, the play begins to resemble an old episode of "Three's Company". If you've seen the movie "She's The Man" starring Amanda Bynes, then you'll get the gist of "Twelfth Night".

My acting ability has never been in question. I've created enough radio and youtube goodness to have developed at least a modicum of talent. What's really getting me is context and direction. Since this is Shakespeare, I often don't know exactly what I'm saying or who I'm saying it to. I also find it difficult to understand where I'm supposed to be standing and with which hand I'm supposed to be gesturing. Thankfully, I'm working with a great director and an experienced cast, so I've been getting a lot of good pointers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Assassin Bug

I caught an assassin bug early last week. These bugs are nasty little creatures. I've often been told that their bite hurts much worse than a wasp or a hornet’s sting. What's worse is that the pain may last for several days. The assassin bug is from the Reduviidae family, which is a family of 7000 species of predatory insects.

The way these bugs feed is like something out of a horror film. They use the long rostrum to inject a lethal saliva into their prey that liquefies their insides. The saliva is quite effective at killing substantially larger prey than the bug itself. Common prey includes ants, cockroaches and bedbugs. For this reason, assassin bugs are often used for pest control.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Exchange Motivational Slogans With Full Sail University

I got a call from Full Sail University looking for Mitcua Khan. The recruiter was in very good spirits and seemed to take Mr. Khan's jokes in good spirit. When she transferred me to the Full Sail University admissions rep, I dropped the accent and ended up exchanging motivational phrases with the guy. He sounded like an out-of-work Successories salesman.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hot Nuts

Here's another snippet of clever snack food titling that practically markets itself. Hampton Farms Cajun Creole Hot Nuts are sure to attract attention when they're sitting on the store shelf. They do seem like a fairly low-key company so, getting a television commercial is probably out of the question. However, if they did manage some kind of ad campaign, those ads could be amazing.

"Are you looking for something spicy to put in your mouth? Then try wrapping your lips around some hot nuts. We here at Hampton Farms smother our nuts in cajun creole spices which are so delicious that you'll be begging for more!"

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Irish Wedding Crashers

I was helping a friend of mine with a video project recently which took us to Bloomington, IL. We decided to do some shooting at Ewing Manor which is the estate of the late Hazle Buck Ewing. It boasts a historic looking mansion surrounded by beautiful gardens. Weddings are often held there and it just so happened that we stumbled into one while filming in the garden. I decided to have a little fun with one of the ushers.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Marilyn Monroe Statue In Chicago

I spent last weekend tooling around Chicago's Loop pretending to be a tourist. I decided to walk from La Salle Street Station to Navy Pier. On the way, I happened upon the Marilyn Monroe  statue. The 26-foot sculpture is currently standing in Pioneer Court at 400 North Michigan. The statue was created by New Jersey-based artist Seward Johnson who is known for placing gigantic representations of pop-art icons in public spaces. Many Chicagoans will remember Johnson's "American Gothic" sculpture which represented the iconic farmers standing as if they they were waiting for a cab to get back to the farm.

The Marilyn Monroe statue was pretty controversial when it first went up back in July. The Zeller Realty Group, who administer the artistic installations at Pioneer Court, are well known for seeking out art that sparks conversation. At this point, a number of months after the statue's initial installation, it seems that Chicago's public is used to seeing Marilyn Monroe at Pioneer Court. At the very least, love it or hate it, the statue is a public draw and it has people talking.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Playing Fast-Pitch With The Universe

I was never much of a baseball player when I was a kid. I was always decent at it, but I only really joined little league to placate my father. I would never have been considered a terrible player until my last year in the league. I was ten years old and had started the season in a slump, often hitting the ball right to the first baseman. This subjected me to terrible ridicule from my team-mates and it sapped my confidence not only in my batting ability, but in all other areas of play.

I spent the rest of the season living in fear of pop-flies in the outfield and worrying about swinging and missing. Whenever I came up to bat, I would just stand there. I was fairly short, so my strike-zone was small, which made it difficult for pitchers to throw inside it. I got walked a lot and my teammates couldn't really complain about it as long as I was getting on base.

By the time the last game of the season had come around, I had developed a reputation for never taking a swing. Watching the entire outfield walk in and position themselves on the edge of the infield did something to set me off. I was tired of leaving my the decisions of my own fate up to random chance. I was tired of being the Universe's bitch. I was going to take an active role in determining my own destiny. For better or worse, I was going to take a swing. If I went down, at least I went down swinging.

But, I didn't strike out. I actually connected with the ball and knocked it over the center fielder's head. I rounded first, blatantly ignoring the first-base coach's orders to stick there. I blew through second and was prepared to round third when the third-base coach physically restrained me from running home. The happiness I felt when I heard the excited cheers from my team-mates nearly made my heart explode with pride. And it seemed that a shot of confidence was I needed to get my mojo back because, during the rest of the game, I hit the ball and got on base at each at-bat and even caught a pop-fly in the outfield. I earned the game ball that day, but, even if I didn't, even if I had struck out each time and dropped the ball in the field, I would have been happy that I had finally grown a pair of balls and given it a shot. The risk was minimal because it was the last game of the season. But the payoff was huge.

The lesson here is that you need to take an active part in shaping your own destiny. Allowing the Universe to unfold as it wants to isn't going to get you very far. So, call your corner. Take your shot. And swing for the fences.

Monday, October 3, 2011

College Now Calls Me

These folks from College Now called me recently looking to send some information along to Clovis. College Now obviously uses an overseas call center and the rep that I got sounded like he was reading right from the script. In the middle of the call, I shifted out of the Clovis voice and told the rep that I was a quality control manager for College Now and that I was very disappointed with his performance. Neither he, nor his supervisor had the requisite English speaking skills to understand me.