Sunday, October 31, 2010

Is That A Camera In Your Pocket?

The shift from summer to Fall in New York City is always different. Sometimes it is abrupt, sometimes prolonged. But one thing always makes it easy to tell that summer has left is the fact that the 750 Billion tourists who visit New York with their cameras, are gone.

I’ve been doing a lot of filming around the city lately. Not in the touristy way of “Oh my gosh those people are doing hip hop dancing on the street, I have to film this!” And not in the “QUIET ON THE SET” type of way either. The filming I have been doing is more project based. Videos for contests, friends’ companies, and things like that.

I mean I still stop and watch the hip hoppers, I just don’t film them.

Filming in the city is a very interesting experience. If you spend any amount of time walking around the city you will see 2 things. The first is a movie set. You see them all over the city. I have seen the set for Gossip Girl nearly a half dozen times… which is kind of unrewarding because I don’t even watch Gossip Girl.

Seriously I don’t. What? Stop looking at me like that.

But if it’s not professional big budget movie/tv sets that you see, its amateur photogs, film makers, and students shooting every square corner of this fine city. I suppose it makes you feel like you are really somebody walking around the city with a camera. But as a passive observer, when you look at some of the other people walking around this city with cameras, you realize carrying a camera may not necessarily make you look like somebody.

The amount of tourists that roam around the city in Summertime seems to increase every year. But the amount of tourists that meander around Manhattan with digital cameras that cost thousands of dollars appears to have dramatically increased in the last couple of years.

And its not just expensive cameras, it is the expensive cameras with gigantic telephoto lenses attached.

Now you might be saying, but maybe they are press. Maybe they are here to take pictures of professional athletes. Maybe they work for the news.

I considered that. But press photographers typically don’t walk around 5th avenue with 7 Abercrombie bags wearing an I Love New York shirt and a camera lens so big it looks like it could tell the last time there was a high tide in the Sea of Tranquility.

What is so far away that they need to be taking pictures of? The whole point of coming to New York City is so you can see these things up close. Who comes to this city to get pictures of things that you want to stand far away from. That’s like going to a strip club to stand outside. I mean, like, other people. Not me, I’m, ya know… uh… moving on.

Like this guy whom I saw outside a taco shop near Union Square.

He stood there for a good 10 minutes looking around with his monstrosity hanging from his neck. I’m not sure if he was lost or just looking for something to take a picture of. Maybe people from other countries have stronger neck muscles than Americans. I don’t even like having change in my pocket. Anything heavier than a granola bar and I want a wagon to pull my stuff around town.

I mean lugging a 4 pound camera around a city all day just doesn’t seem like my idea of a good time. That is why I bought a video camera that I can fit in my back pocket.

Well, I mean that and the fact that I don’t have a couple of thousand dollars.

It is with this camera that I have recorded the last 6 or so videos I have posted up on my YouTube channel.

Recently I was working on a video in Central Park. Now I haven’t filmed a video in a park since the very first video contest I entered.

And the main reason is I am terrified of being arrested. I mean currently I owe the library some money and that is causing me massive stress. And that’s just the library. But New York City has very specific rules about filming in certain places and requiring permits for certain types of filming in specific locations.

So the last time we went to film I was very discrete about my tiny little camera and my cast of 7 that I was filming with. No giant telephoto lenses for me. It was guerilla film making at its finest. Well, as much as you can call 7 people lounging in the middle of the Sheep Meadow on a September day “guerilla.”

In fact the greatest threat came not from Johnny Law himself, but of the Asian Jungle Jim who was throwing a rather large glider plane around the meadow. He was dressed in a vest and explorers hat just hanging out by himself throwing a plane around, nearly hitting small children and unsuspecting loungers. He didn’t hit us but he came close.

But filming with a pocket sized camera doesn’t make you feel like some kind of fancy professional. It actually makes you feel kind of goofy. Like you are trying to fool people into believing you actually have a camera. Which in some cases, actually enhances the quality of your work so that you're not focusing on trying to appear like some fancy pants, but rather actually trying to make something decent.

But we actually succeeded in completing our Central Park project. I was happy with the way it came out. Hopefully it will lead to more projects doing videos for companies. And that way, maybe I too will be able to afford a 4 pound camera. And a wagon. I will need a wagon too.

But either way, enjoy the end result.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Toothpaste, Margarine and the Toilet Seat

I will honestly state that I do not make the best decisions. I regularly base my actions on ideas that seem to make sense to me but in hindsight appear to never have really made sense to me at all.

This is not a new thing. In fact there are several instances within my life that I can point to as being extremely ridiculous and lacking any intelligent base. There are 3 specific time periods in my life where I was making different poor decisions on a recurring basis.

The Toothpaste

When I was very little, back when my sister and I were still brushing our teeth at the same time to get ready for bed. We had Crest or Colgate toothpaste, and we’d stand in the bathroom scrubbing our chompers in our pajamas.

We’d put the toothpaste on the toothbrush first, then rinse it under water (and don’t you dare tell me you rinse the toothbrush first) and then commence our brushing.

Now the natural completion to brushing your teeth is to then spit that mouth full of foam into the sink and wash it way.

Not lil Richy Boehmcke. Nope, so sir, that was a mouth full of tasty I was processing. No I wanted the full experience. So I would swallow it.

I distinctly remember my sister yelling at me telling me not to do that because it was wrong. I didn’t understand why. How could something so delicious be wrong? Certainly she was mistaken.

She even told our parents. I think she told my father specifically who came in to the bathroom and wasn’t quite sure about what to say to me. I mean, it may have been gross but it certainly wasn’t a mean-spirited thing to do. It was my mouthful of toothpaste to do with as I wished.

Upon further research it would appear that swallowing toothpaste that you have used to brush your teeth is NOT advised, but that was not what stopped it for me. I guess I just lost interesting in swallowing the nasty I had just removed from my teeth… even if it did taste minty.

The Margarine

My family used to buy margarine. Specifically we bought a brand called promise. It came in a plastic tub with a swirl in the middle. I loved that swirl. I loved that swirl more than anything else in the fridge. I loved that swirl so much that I would get jealous as well as angry any time somebody would get to the swirl before me.

I’m sure my parents and sister thought there was something wrong with me. I mean, not just because of the way I looked, but also because I would throw mini tantrums any time I discovered a missing swirl.

It was for this reason that I started eating this swirl before the rest of my family could get to it. And I don’t just meeting being the first to spread it on toast. No, I mean I would sneak into the fridge and eat the swirl out of the tub of margarine before somebody else got to it.

Now I will be the first to admit that eating margarine straight from the tub is not a good idea. It is a very easy way to become the world’s fattest man. That was not my goal, I just needed that swirl.

I don’t’ even know how I fell in love with the swirl. But it’s kind of like falling in love with somebody from across the room and then immediately hating any man that talks to her. It was like that for me.

I’m not sure if I stopped eating that swirl first, or if we just stopped buying margarine. Either way it was for the best because I still think fondly off that swirl.

The Toilet Seat

And finally, there were about 4 years of my life where I did not sit on the toilet seat.

And trust me, I am well aware that nothing I can write here will make this make sense to you. I know this. But from about the time I was 7 until I was about 11 the toilet seat and my butt did not have a close relationship.

I don’t know how it happened or what cued up the initial thought. I just remember looking at the hole in the toilet seat and thinking to myself, “that doesn’t seem big enough.”

Granted a very cursory knowledge of the human body, and toilet seats for that matter, would make it easy to see that the toilet seat was working for the other 8 billion people on the planet, surely it would work for me.

But defying logical though is something I excel at and this time was no exception. I just didn’t feel comfortable sitting on a toilet seat. The confidence I needed to exist on that flat surface was just something I did not have. I don’t know how I lost that confidence, where it went, or why I didn’t think to speak to somebody about this.

What I do know, is that those 4 years of bathroom use were hands down the most stressful of my life. The threat of falling into a toilet was ever present as was the discomfort of that hard porcelain.

I imagine it is similar to being afraid of the dark. You don’t really remember when it started, or when it ended, you just are one day no longer afraid of the dark. Except, I am still kind of afraid of the dark, and any time I am in a dark completely black room I see that creepy chick from The Ring climbing out of mirrors and TVs and accosting me, and that’s something I absolutely cannot handle, so maybe this metaphor isn’t really doing the trick right now.

So my point is I just remember one day thinking to myself, well, let’s give the toilet seat another try. And just like that, after being estranged for 4 years, the toilet seat and I rekindled our relationship, thereby ending a string of extremely poor decision making that included consuming the inconsumable and poor hygienic decisions.

Granted it would be another 10 years before I had the experience of going #2 into a hole in the ground. That’s a story for another day. But even that wasn’t my poor decision making that was just a poor decision I was forced to make. Big difference.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Julie of J. Crew

I operate under the assumption that every customer service representative everywhere in the world, hates their job. I think it’s a pretty fair assumption. I mean if you think about it, you never call customer service to be like


No, you call because the item in question is a piece of shit, doesn’t work, is broken, costs too much, didn’t do what it was supposed to, or gave you a splinter. So the people who work in customer service must anticipate nobody wants to say nice things to them… ever.

Hi thanks for calling customer service. What’s that you say? Oh you have a problem? Wow, I’m shocked, please, proceed to yell at me for the next 20 minutes.

In fact everybody in America is so fed up with dealing with everybody else in America that there is literally nobody left in America to be mad at you. We had to outsource that to another country that isn’t yet fed up with us calling to be pissed off.

Most of the times those calls are really confusing and don’t accomplish much since yelling at someone 5,000 miles away is probably not going to get you to speak with their manager.

But recently when I have issues (which, who are we kidding, I have issues daily) I have been redirected to the online chat feature. I don’t mind this so much. Most of the time it is some robot sending you a link. But sometimes, you get a human. And when I do get a human, oh man, I become about as ridiculous as humanly possible.

Like when I had questions for J.Crew recently. It was extremely late at night so I was a bit loopy, but as you will see, the woman on the other end of the chat was fantastic. Naturally I saved it.

Richard: Hi Julie how is your evening going?
Julie: Hello...fine
Richard: lol that doesn't sound too wonderful
Julie: Sorry, I am doing well.
Richard: You don't have to lie on my account, we all have those days no worries.
Richard: Tell me Julie, how is your knowledge about shirts?
Julie: Thanks for waiting--will be with you in just a moment.  
Richard: Oh no worries at all. I'm sure there's not many people around to answer questions at this hour.
Julie: I'm sorry for the delay--will be right with you.  
Richard: Please, please, take your time. Like I said, they are just shirts. They are not going anywhere. Well, I mean, hopefully for your business sake they do get sold ya know?
Julie: Thanks for your patience.
Julie: Are we speaking of men's dress shirts?
Richard: Indeed we are Julie!
Julie: I do have some knowledge and I also have exact measurements for each garment we sell, except for shoes, that is.
Richard: Well quite the good thing I am not in the market for shoes tonight, at least not shoes from J Crew
Richard: I am curious about shirts that are slimmer than your classic fit.
Julie: I'll be right with you.
Richard: Oh absolutely Julie, like I said, this isn't a shirt emergency.
Richard: I have very few of those.
Julie: You would then be looking for those listed as 'Regular Fit' which is a more tailored fit.
Julie: By the way, my software sends those messages automatically. I hope they aren't annoying you.
Richard: Lol no not at all.
Richard: I find them quite entertaining, I'm actually surprised you are a human.
Julie: 100% human guaranteed.
Richard: I bought furniture from a site that was all automated responses. It was like talking to Rain Man.
Julie: :)
Julie: We also sell a Men's Slim.
Richard: Now about these regular fit shirts, do you know what the actual different in inches is from the classic fitting shirts?
Richard: Ah yes, my question also applies to those slim fit shirts.
Julie: If you'll bear with me for just a minute, I will give you some details. OK?
Richard: I will bear with you Julie.
Richard: I place my complete shirt trust in you, Julie of J. Crew.
Julie: What size would you normally wear? S,M,L,?
Richard: I usually fit into a medium comfortably
Julie: Great...just a few moments.
Richard: Fantastic
Richard: I imagine you have quite the shirt handbook over... well... wherever you are.
Julie: I'll be right with you.
Julie: Ok...I have some numbers.
Richard: Fire at will.
Julie: For the Regular fit medium the chest circumference is 45", waist 42.5", sleeve length-shoulder seam to cuff-25.875" and neck 16.25.
Julie: For the SlimFit medium chest is 43.5", waist is 41", sleeve is 26" and neck is 16.25".
Julie: So, I guess it's 1 1/2 inches slimmer.
Richard: and what is the classic fit, if you have that number?
Julie: Ok...another minute please
Richard: Quite the wild goose chase if you will.
Julie: I'm sorry for the delay--will be right with you.  
Julie: Ok...classic fit medium is chest 47", waist 44.5", sleeve 25.5" and neck is the same 16.25".
Richard: So I guess no matter how skinny you are we all have the same size neck huh?
Julie: Looks that way...sorry.
Richard: Oh no worries, you didn't make the shirt...necks.
Julie: Does that help you determine which one you need?
Richard: It certainly does Julie. I can't thank you enough for your diligence and your commitment to problem solving.
Julie: It's my pleasure, especially for such a nice gentleman.
Julie: Is there anything else I can help with?
Richard: If I knew how to do some sort of virtual bow, I would.
Richard: No, alas I believe our time here has come to a close.
Richard: Unless there is some question you have that I can answer.
Richard: I can't imagine what that would be though.
Julie: Well, thanks for taking the time to chat with me and for shopping with J.Crew. Anytime you need help, just ask.
Richard: Brilliant. Enjoy your evening, I hope it continues well past more than just... well.
Julie: Thanks for waiting--will be with you in just a moment.  
Richard: lol naturally.

Quite a pleasant exchange we had. My only regret is that I didn’t get her phone number or email. I could use a new friend. Especially one who knows about shirts.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Picture of a Perfect Flight

I just bought a plane ticket to visit my parents for Thanksgiving. It is the most I have ever paid for a domestic plane ticket in my life. And it is for this reason that I will be eating air sandwiches and sneaking into movies until my bank account recovers from the hit.

Airlines make me angry. Not angry like, say, the way slow walkers piss me off. No I’m talking about feeling violated. Like I’m in an abusive relationship with somebody that I only see 6 weekends a year, but I still can’t get out of it.

Rich are you going out with Delta AGAIN?
I can’t help it. I just know we’re so good together.
The last time you were together Delta punched you in the mouth and stole your money!
You just don’t understand her. She did that out of love.

Air travel hasn’t been a pleasant experience since… well, I really can’t remember the last time it was a pleasant experience.

And certainly with the new baggage fees in play, passengers are extremely angry. I don’t know who charges what to check bags, I just don’t do it. I try to pack as little as humanly possible, and if I have to pack a lot, I jam my stuff into my carry on so tightly that I anticipate the zipper snapping off and killing somebody.

But when I have the ability to do so, I travel only with my laptop, a book, and a toothbrush.

The latest wave of airline backlash has resulted in some pretty interesting airline ads. They are getting very creative in describing just why THEIR airline is the one you should choose. And when you are on these planes they are sooo gracious.

“Thank you so much for choosing our airline.”

It is at that point that I want to stand up and say;

Excuse me, I would just like to point out that I didn’t choose this airline OK? I was forced into it by the fact that you are the only airline that cost less than 500 dollars and wasn’t leaving from New Jersey. OK? So when you say I chose you, well yea, but I also choose to go to the dentist and he regularly stabs my mouth until I bleed. So don’t get a swelled head. Airline.

Really the only interesting thing about flying is the Sky Mall magazine and half the time somebody has stolen the copy that I am supposed to read. So I just pour over the safety guide and try to imagine what the people in the pictures are saying to each other.

I wanted to take some home so I could use them in this particular post but I am not in the habit of stealing other people’s safety guides. I feel like that is really bad karma. And I also didn’t want to be the creepy guy on the plane taking pictures of the safety guide.

But I really need to express the ridiculousness of the safety guides so I googled a couple to show you just what I mean. Like this one:

It appears to say, “In case of an emergency landing, if there is a redheaded woman on the flight…. Push that bitch off the plane!”

And I really love this one.

This woman doesn’t open her eyes throughout all of the examples. As though in a time of airplane crisis its just soooo easy to find your life vest, attach it to yourself, find your way to the open door, and then strike a hip-out pose before jumping into the ocean.


After I am done judging the artists who try to save our lives through instructional cartoons, I start browsing the airline’s magazine. It is sometimes interesting, and usually doesn’t get me riled up. But on my last flight I realized a drastic and inexcusable bit of false advertising.

As I got to the back of the magazine where they show food and beverage items available for purchase, I realized something I had never noticed before. This image:

Now I know first class is different than coach, but I have never been on a flight where TAP BEER was an option. Unless of course they are advertising that this particular beer magically fills up a glass (and who gets a glass on a flight - its plastic cups all around friendo) twice the size of the can it came from? In which case I would like to see the science behind that.

So now I am salivating over the idea of a beer but I know the best thing to drink on a flight is water. Doctors say so. Your body needs water on a flight. So I throw back a couple of waters because I am terrified of DVT, but now I have to pee. And there are few experiences more uncomfortable than an airline bathroom.

In fact I try to avoid using them.

I am not a big person. I am not a wide person. I’m 6’2 and on the skinny side. But sweet baby Jesus, every time I have to use an airplane bathroom I have to contort my body into a series of angles and loops that are far from natural. I feel like I’m auditioning for a spot in Crap Du Soleil.

I am too tall for the bathroom though so I have to stand with my neck at a right angle. Its such an uncomfortable experience that I need a visit to the chiropractor just to undo the damage from a simple potty break.

There’s no making any of this better. It just sucks. Well, unless maybe I kept my eyes closed the whole time. Yea, maybe that will work.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Social Network

There has been tremendous buzz lately about the new movie The Social Network that was just released. The movie is of course about the founding and early days of Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg and others who were a part of the company in the beginning have said that the movie is a fictionalized account of how the website and company were actually started – that the beginning of Facebook was Zuckerberg and his cofounders sitting in a room coding, programming, and geeking out.

But whether or not that is the case is of no consequence. And even though the movie pulls a lot of its information from actual depositions of the ensuing lawsuits that followed, it wouldn’t even matter if the beginning of Facebook was Zuckerberg sitting in Sunday school writing letters to Jesus. It doesn’t matter if Facebook was just a dorm room project started to meet girls in a really auspicious beginning. What the movie captures and showcases is our new reality, the way we view our world. In essence, The Social Network is the movie we as a culture need it to be.

While the movie may have set out to capture the before, what it has actually captured is the after, our now, our present reality. The zeitgeist of the Facebook moment. If Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Foursquare, and others are on the left side of the equation, what lies on the other side of the = sign might as well be infinity. This movie is far greater than the sum of its parts.

When Facebook started, it seemed we had all gotten over the hype of a website changing everything… again. Few would have imagined that the creation of another new website would have the effect that it did, and those that did, well, they have a lot of money now.

What Facebook has done is speed up the process. It has taken the rate at which we consume information and increased it a million fold. It has created the possibility for connection with every person we meet in our lives. It has turned strangers into “friends” and friends into voyeurs. It has taken our (previously unknown to ourselves) siloed lives and turned them into a web of connectivity that is nearly inescapable.

What is most interesting is that for as Facebook as evolved, in 6 years, as large as it has grown, as fast as it has expanded, it is still grounded in a collegiate mentality. Whether you are 16 or 60 you are doing the exact same thing - you are cultivating your personality, adding friends, keeping your eyes on what everybody else is doing, all from the comfort of your own home, all without moving more than your index finger, all without even opening your mouth.

Facebook quickly became the pacesetter in an industry that is all about connectivity. How many different aspects of our lives can we share with each other and how fast we can do it? We understand the benefits. We are reuniting with people we had otherwise forgotten about, and staying connected to people we might not otherwise have a chance to. The drawbacks? Well, they are different for everybody.

It’s all very Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind. Don’t want to know what’s going on with your ex boyfriend? Defriend him. Don’t particularly like how you looked at that holiday party? Untag yourself, it’s like you were never there. More than any time in the history of the planet we have the ability to cultivate the kind of life we appear to have, and the life we choose to remember.
I know this is nothing new, and I’m not saying anything earth shattering, but I think that’s just the point. The arrival of Facebook didn’t instantly change the way we live our lives the way 9/11 did, it has done it almost surreptitiously, working its way into every corner of your behavior. Kind of like the difference between making a sharp left turn and veering just slightly off course can both take you way off your path.

This is our new reality. Not just dramatically different, epically so. Whereas every mistake, mishap, missed connection, and messed up relationship became reassigned to the bowels of our memories, fleeing from our present with a tremendous ephemerality, now our history is incredibly tied to our present. We define ourselves by it.

It is unlike any other innovation of media we have seen. It is unignorable. Trust me, I tried. Whether or not you choose to be you are a part of it, you are. In the background of a picture you didn’t now you were in, acknowledged as a relative, or otherwise.

Even though Facebook may not have had a cutthroat beginning with back stabbings, parties with coke and booze, that kind of a lifestyle could exist for it now. Social media isn’t just a thing or a trend, it is an industry, a cash crop capable of being grown in the most unlikely of locations.

Silicon valley isn’t so much a location anymore as it is a mentality, a spirit, and an energy that has spread across the country creating a tech industry in New York that was previously nonexistent. There is a line in the social network where Justin Timberlake’s character says to Jesse Eisenberg’s

This is our time.

And he couldn’t be more right. This is our time, to create, to share, to ignore and to cultivate as we see fit.

Facebook may indeed have been just a couple of guys from Harvard coding through the night in the same clothes they wore yesterday, but the film conveys the significance and gravitas that we as a culture, hell, we as a species, have attached to it. It is the single most significant change to the way we as human beings interact with each other and ourselves.

It is not unfair to say that the future of Facebook and the future of our lives are now inextricably linked. And just like the Social Network may not necessarily be a perfect representation of what actually happened, neither are our lives.

Not anymore.