Wednesday, October 27, 2010


How would you feel if you met someone who spent most of his or her time playing vintage video games like Donkey Kong or Pac Man? Would you tell this person to "get a life?" Would you automatically peg him or her as a "loser?"

Or what if you met someone who spent their time practicing air guitar rather than actually learning how to play the instrument for real? Another "loser," right?

But what if you realized these people are actually purpose-driven, committed individuals striving to be the best they can be within their chosen fields (master of Donkey Kong, best air guitarist in the world)?

You'd probably still find their obsessions weird but take a look at two documentaries that examine obsessed Donkey Kong and air guitar players - Seth Gordon's THE KING OF KONG: A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS and Alexandra Lipsitz's AIR GUITAR NATION - and you'll see people driven to succeed.

These documentaries aren't so much about the obsessions these people have, they're about unstoppable drive and commitment to achieve.

The challenge for most people is to get good at something. Some people are driven to be really good at something. And others simply need to be the best at this certain something and they'll push themselves to hit this pinnacle no matter what it is or how weird it may seem to the outside world.

Its not hard to figure out why people endlessly play video games. Its because you can keep score and the person with the highest score is deemed best. In THE KING OF KONG, player Steve Wiebe is driven to achieve a Donkey Kong score that will beat record-holder Billy Mitchell, who had previously achieved a Donkey Kong score of over a million in the 1980s. And, using his mathematical and engineering acumen combined with acute hand/eye coordination, Wiebe does it. Subsequently, he's ranked best (much to the consternation of Mitchell).

But what about air guitar? Air guitar's a whole different story. How do you judge best air guitarist? And what does an air guitarist need to do to be judged best? Can you be the best if you simply believe you are? Is it about total immersion into the song? Who doesn't air guitar at some point in his or her life? Am I the best because I can air shred to Yngwie Malmsteen or simply beat the air to Ramones punk chords? Judging air guitar becomes a totally subjective exercise.

Video games are objective. But scores can be marred by game-play error. Yet if I'm airing to Stevie Ray Vaughan's version of LITTLE WING and I miss a note - but I'm filled with the necessary passion - who's going to notice a missed note?

To quote the great Bjorn Turoque (aka Dan Crane) from the Lipsitz film, "To err is human; to air guitar, divine."

Turoque in AIR GUITAR NATION isn't just looking to be the best air guitarist, he's looking for divinity.

And what's better than that?

Sunday, October 10, 2010


In the documentary The Cove, directed by Louis Psihoyos, there's a scene where a panicked dolphin, who has already been slashed and speared, attempts to swim away from the wholesale slaughter of its family by psychotic Japanese fishermen. The dolphin struggles to get away as blood sprays from its wounded body until it finally bobs and rolls over giving way to violent death.

The slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, (official town website) is a daily affair. Thousands of dolphins are murdered in an area called the Cove, where the water turns crimson with blood every morning for no reason. The Japanese government sanctions the endless, senseless killing, where baby dolphins jump from the water in sheer terror as their families are beaten, stabbed and gored by boat hooks. The fishermen, who are diseased in mind and psychopathic, laugh as injured animals spray blood, drown and thrash for life.

Dolphins that survive are taken captive and shipped to waterparks and aquariums where they are imprisoned in tiny tanks and forced to either "swim" with people (who pay exorbitant rates to do this ridiculous act) or put on "shows" in water parks - like SeaWorld - around the world. (Don't buy into SeaWorld's platitudes about caring for the animals held prisoner at their parks. Conservation DOES NOT include holding animals captive in stressful situations. Orcas dying at SeaWorld are becoming commonplace...three senseless deaths in the past four months...)

The tanks at these parks are loud and small and dolphins, who - in their natural environment - typically swim upwards of 35 miles per day, are forced to swim in insanity-inducing circles while people scream and cheer at their tricks during expensive circus-like shows. The noise and lack of space causes unbelievable stress on these highly-intelligent animals, who often die as a result. Stress is also induced because these animals have witnessed the slaughter of their families and friends (dolphins are "pack" animals and highly dependent on one another for happy lives) and are now alone in tiny tanks, aquariums and parks.

Imagine being ripped from your family and friends (after seeing them slashed, stabbed and drowned) and put into a standing-room only cage that barely allows you to take a few steps during your waking hours. Imagine seeing your babies bludgeoned with baseball bats, stabbed with spears, throats slashed with knives.

So, I implore you:
  • DON'T participate in senseless slaughter and murder by visiting aquariums
  • DON'T support places like SeaWorld
  • DON'T participate in senseless slaughter and murder by "swimming" with dolphins
  • DON'T support any Japanese government initiatives until the practice of slaughtering dolphins (and other sea animals like whales and orcas) is deemed illegal
  • DON'T purchase Japanese vehicles (Toyota - are you listening?) until the practice of slaughtering dolphins (and other sea animals like whales and orcas) is deemed illegal
DO become enlightened. Watch The Cove. Follow on Twitter and Facebook.

And take action.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I collected movies on VHS but they took up too much room and were unbelievably inconvenient. Plus I hated watching movies in truncated versions, panned and scanned, cropped, etc.

DVD fixed that and in the early days of the format (the late 90s), movies became a revelation again. You were able to see them as intended, clear of vision. Plus they were cheap. I gobbled up the format and grabbed the movies that I hadn't seen correctly in years.

To see TAXI DRIVER the way Martin Scorsese filmed it, or to view the obscure David Cronenberg flick RABID in its wide screen format, was amazing. The movies that I thought I'd never see as intended made it into my living room: Peckinpah's oeuvre; Kubrick's masterworks; Italian crime films by Umberto Lenzi; the giallo of Dario Argento; the melodramas of Douglas Sirk and Nicholas Ray; the documentaries of the Maysles Brothers; David Lynch's madness; and way too many more to mention. Hundreds of them overflowing book shelves.

And now there's this crazy format called Blu-ray. Thanks Sony. I appreciate it.

Thanks a lot.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


But the medium can throw users for a loop.

We're talking "social media" here and the fact that people may not understand that "social media" is the vehicle that carries the message. "Social networking" is the message you use to make connections with like-minded individuals who share common likes, dislikes, experience, etc.

But, by default, the message's medium does say something about the user and what he or she is trying to convey. Many people use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter simultaneously, tweaking their messages according to the medium and the user's audience. I'm certainly not going to brag about the rivers of beer I consumed over the weekend on my LinkedIn profile but I might on my Facebook (although I probably wouldn't there either because I don't consume rivers of beer anymore - now if I was in my early 20s, maybe - because my Facebook audience may share similar experience).

So the medium kind of designates your messaging...

The struggle for some people and companies embarking on social media usage is choosing the "correct" medium to let fly their messages. All I can say is that it depends on what you're trying to accomplish. And I'd also say that it wouldn't hurt to use multiple media.

Main thing - keep your profiles updated on all of your media. And let people know what you're doing. If you're posting information, let them know your active, that you're alive. Keep posting even if you get zero response.

And don't post anything that would embarrass your mother...especially if you're looking for a job. Know why? Prospective employers are checking you out whether you like it or not.