I don't know how I haven't said it in this blog yet, but I am in love with Battlestar Galactica.
For the uninitiated, Battlestar Galactica follows the rag-tag space fleet of humans who survived the near-complete genocide of the human race by the Cylons. The Cylons were once the sentient robotic servants created to do the bidding of humans. The self-aware robotic Cylons rebelled against their masters, starting a war between human and Cylon. The war comes to a cease-fire, and the Cylons retreated to an unknown location, and remained hidden for 40 years.
In the Miniseries, the Cylons execute a surprise attack on the entire human race, murdering billions of people. The only survivors are assembled into a ragtag fleet of ships protected by the military "aircraft carrier and battleship in space", the Battlestar Galactica. The four seasons of BSG follow the humans escape from their decimated planets, and their ongoing search for a mythical world called Earth.
I think I was able to leave out the spoilers. :)
Initially I started watching BSG because it is a science fiction show in space, but I soon became hooked to the characters and writing of the show. There are true philosophical gems and beautiful pieces of dialogue in the series that I truly love, and could really live by...
At my desk, I have four monitors in front of me. Which is great, because I can do multiple things at once and do some crazy multitasking.
The downside is that I can do some crazy multitasking with four monitors and two computers. A moment ago I had to step back and figure out what the hell I was doing.
Monitor 1: DVD of Lost in Translation, for background “noise”.
Monitor 2: Work. Two text docs open, two mail tabs open, Twitter, and Tumblr.
Monitor 3: “Occasional glance” - Chrome open with a Facebook tab, and YouTube playing Battlestar music. For more background “noise” of course.
Monitor 4: iTunes syncing my iPhone, iChat for Facebook and AIM, and GarageBand open, because apparently I was trying to make a custom ringtone.
That, my friends, is far too much going on at once.
I started attending Lawrence Tech in Fall 2004, straight out of high school. I graduated from high school and began college absolutely gung-ho about getting my degree in mechanical engineering. My dad had graduated with two bachelors degrees from Lawrence back in the 70's, my mom earned her bachelors from West Negros University in the Philippines, my Pastor had actually attended Lawrence in the 70's, my girlfirend's (at the time) brother graduated from here in '02, and hell, her dad was even a professor here. Needless to say, I felt I had tons of connections to this school before I even attended my first class.
I was thinking about how long I've been here at LTU, since by the calendar I've been here for over 6 years. In my freshmen year, first semester university seminar class, I remember introducing myself to everyone and saying, "Hi, I'm Tommy Penner, I'm going into mechanical engineering, and I hope to graduate by the end of the decade."
Funny how that's kind of bit me in the ass. But I have attended LTU non-stop from fall 2004 until the spring 2007 semester. I attended Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts during 2008, I didn't come back to LTU until the spring 09 semester. So going by attended semesters, I'm in my 5th year at LTU.
That's not bad, I had always figured that I would be in college for five years.
Although I also figured that I would be done by the end of the decade. Meh.
I'm acting in LTU's Society of Dramatic Arts performance of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. The play takes place in late 1800's Victorian society, and revolves around the lives of Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrief. The two men lead alternate lives, and old-school satirical goofyness occurs while the two try to hide their alter egos from each other, their lovers, and their families.
I'm playing Algernon, an aristocratic chap who has a non-existant friend that he visits routinely, enabling him to leave his life in town as often as he likes. As for the part, this is the first time I've ever acted in a major role on stage. I've been on stage before, but never for such an up-front role.
I feel like I should be nervous, uneasy, or even downright scared for the first performance tonight. However right now, around 5 hours from curtains up, I'm relatively calm. Maybe I'll be nervous later, but I know that I cannot allow myself to be nervous.
If there's one thing that has happened from practicing and performing this part over the course of this semester, it's that my stance of never being in front of the camera, or on stage, has been cemented. Especially acting on stage. Unlike in (recorded) video productions, if you screw up on stage, you've just got to roll with it, and hope that you're not taking anyone else down with you.
This may not be a wonderful advertisement for the performance, but indeed this will probably be my last time acting on stage. The amount of time and mental energy I've put into just simply memorizing lines has taken its toll on me, my academic work, and most every other part of my life. I went into this play not being an actor, and I've had to wing it through this entire production process.
I thoroughly respect all my friends, at LTU or anywhere else, who want to do this sort of work as a profession. Part of college is learning what you're not suited to do, and to be quite frank and clear, acting on stage is not for me.
[LTU Tech News]
This usually happens once a semester, where I try to attain a grasp on what needs to be done, academically.
I was thinking about this earlier, and I realized that when it comes to writing, I need to be secluded and left to my thoughts. On the flip side, if I'm working on video editing or something else creative, I tend to prefer working somewhere with people around.
So it's been quite detrimental to any of my writing that I have been around people constantly for the past few weeks.
I'm not sure why exactly I have to be secluded to write, but I know that I have chronic paranoia sometimes when it comes to working on my computer. I hate having people over my shoulder, possibly looking at what I'm writing.
However it's also that same kind of paranoia that gets me working on other creative things. If someone keeps looking over my shoulder, that person is probably expecting some kind of progress.
I suppose I just need to always work under pressure. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing.
I think I'm addicted to information.
There's a problem with today's constant, ubiquitous, and instant ability to consume information. The problem is that news and information today is constant, ubiquitous, and instant, and I am absolutely addicted to that.
I thought that maybe it was simply a technological addiction for myself, but that is not the case. Last week, our internet-connected production machine at DRIS failed, and with a Faraday-cage isolated studio, my iPhone was not receiving a signal. With no way to stay connected with the outside world, I ended up falling back to the original source of up-to-date information: the newspaper. I read all of the stories that interested me in the Detroit News that day.
I'd like to think that I can be disconnected and not feel adversely about it. The problem is the ubiquity of electronic information; as long as I have my iPhone or laptop with a connection to the internet, I'll be checking my Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter feeds. Everywhere I work or play, there is a connection to the internet, and I feel constantly compelled to check my feeds.
I need to go camping, with my cell phone turned off. Read a book, some kind of fiction.
Blogger disclaimer: My primary personal blog is hosted by Tumblr, and the site has a feature where readers can "ask" the blog author random questions, usually pertaining to the author. A recent question someone asked me I felt appropriate for class and this blog.
The Night Dances asked: You have $19 million. The person giving you the $19 million wants you to give at least $100,000 to charity. What charity do you choose and why? What do you do with the rest of the money?
This is one of those questions that I think about when going to sleep at night - if I won the lotto, what would I do with a large sum of money?
In recent years I’ve been thinking that I would donate the vast majority of the money, or spend it in a way that many people can benefit. I can live on very little. Of $19 million, I would probably only spend $1 million on myself. I would buy a modest home, a nice car that I could fix up, build myself a video studio and editing lab, and finally a home theater room.
Donation-wise I think I would give a decent amount to organizations in the Philippines. Living there for a month last year showed me how much some people really need help, and that experience brought me perspective on how lucky we have it in the US and Canada.
I think I would also donate to various Children’s Hospitals around Metro Detroit.
The last thing I would do with my lottery money could only happen if I received the money today or tomorrow. There’s an old movie theatre in St. Clair Shores, aptly named the Shores Theater, that I would like to purchase, and either restore as an old-school super-classy movie theatre, or refurbish and modify into a live music venue. Growing up in the SCS, I’m familiar with the whole “there’s nothing to do here” mantra many people have.
And also pay of debt, student loans, yadda yadda yadda.
A couple of weeks ago, the Vimeo Community Team announced on their blog that they are looking for a new intern. The timing was perfect, as far as I'm concerned, because I was already planning on sending a "cold call" e-mail to the Community Director asking if they were looking for interns.
I've been using Vimeo for 2 1/2 years now for the majority of my uploaded video work. I stumbled upon the site while watching a video posted to a blog. That video, which I still maintain is one of the most fun things I've seen on the internet. was made by the employees of Vimeo and sister-site CollegeHumor.com. From there I signed up and became addicted to the atmosphere of the users on the site.
The community on Vimeo makes Vimeo. The film makers, artists, and videographers are some of the most creative individuals on the web. On top of that, many projects that I've seen on Vimeo are of a collaborative nature, employing the nature of the internet to create truly unique video.
I feel a little lukewarm about my application video, especially with some of the latest application videos that have been uploaded, but I have cautious optimism that maybe, just maybe I'll have this internship in New York City, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with such creative minds.
Throughout the week I intern at the Detroit Radio Information Service, which is run by WDET-FM. The Detroit Radio Information Service (DRIS) is a non-profit and largely volunteer service that reads written content for the visually impaired and illiterate. Daily programs include live in-studio readings of The Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, and The Macomb Daily. We also record readings of weekly publications, like the Metro Times, Real Detroit, and the Michigan Chronicle. One of the most popular programs we air, much to my surprise, is the reading of weekly advertisements from local food and grocery stores.
For national publications, DRIS is part of the IAAIS (International Association of Audio Information Services) and the TIC (Talking Information Center). These two services provide the recordings of weekly and daily publications, like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Time Magazine.
My job there is to download these shows from the IAAIS and TIC networks, in addition to handling board operation for the readers when they are on the air. I have also become a weekly reader myself, usually reading parts of the Oakland Press on Wednesdays.
DRIS broadcasts on a sub-carrier of WDET's 101.9 FM frequency, and requires a special radio to receive. Potential listeners must apply to receive the radio, free of charge, with proof of need (verifiable proof of being visually impaired). DRIS also broadcasts live over the internet, compatible with any player that can play streaming content (available here).
I have been working three times a week at DRIS for the past two months now, and overall it has been an enjoyable experience. Working with actual equipment is definitely resume-worthy experience. If all goes well, I may even be working there beyond my semester-long internship.
My favourite band is The Hold Steady. In case you have not heard of them (it's okay), The Hold Steady is an indie rock band out of Brooklyn, with roots from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Craig Finn is the leadman of the band (far right in the picture above), singing and playing guitar on top of writing songs. Craig makes The Hold Steady what they are, with his unique singing/speaking style, in conjunction with his storytelling song style.
I feel lucky enough to have stumbled upon the band, almost literally, back in the fall of 2006. I was planning on going to the opening celebration of MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Arts Detroit), however I went into downtown on the wrong night. Not wanting to waste my time driving downtown, I went into the Magic Stick to check out who was playing that night. I walked to the top of the stairs, prepared to pay the $10 cover, when the girl said, "You were already up here, right?" I nodded my head and walked into the venue.
The Hold Steady was already up on stage as the main act, part-way thru their setlist. I stood at the back of the crowd, overall enjoying the upbeat vibe of the crowd and the music coming from the stage. At the end of the encore, the band played the song "Killer Parties", and the crowd rushed up on stage and danced along with the band as they closed the night up. I had never seen anything like that, at least without the band or bouncers throwing people back off stage.
On my way out that night, I took the $10 I was going to spend on cover and bought a CD, Boys and Girls in America. I figured it was the least I could do after getting in free and not drinking.
Over the next few weeks and months I listened to the album over and over, and I started to go download their older albums as well. Despite the fact that The Hold Steady is comprised of a group of guys in their mid-30s, Craig's songwriting feels relevant not only to young adults in their 20s like me, but down to teenagers. His overall mantra is that rock music can save our souls, and that theme comes through all their songs.
During the past four years I've seen The Hold Steady perform somewhere in the neighborhood of 7-10 times. I've been lucky enough to rush the stage at the end of the setlist 2 or 3 of those times, a privilege since the band has stopped (or at least discouraged) the practice in the last couple of years. During all those performances, I've also had the pleasure of meeting awesome music-loving people. Going to see The Hold Steady isn't just about the band, it's just as much about being with some of the greatest fans, all enjoying the music simultaneously.
The Hold Steady just announced their spring tour dates, and the closest they come to Detroit is a venue in Cleveland. Road trip anyone?
I love movies. While I am a little slow at actually getting around to watching movies (I still have not seen Avatar), I do eventually get around to watching the good ones. There are movies that I love to watch for their entertainment value, like The Dark Knight and Iron Man, movies that I love because they are so bad, like the Starship Troopers trilogy, and there are movies that I absolutely love because they connect on some personal level.
So in no particular order, here's my list of movies that I feel connected to, in some shape or fashion. Basically, if you are a close friend of mine, you have to watch these movies to understand a part of me.
Oh, and, uh, spoilers ahead.
The Shawshank Redemption
Even more than any Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Godfather, or Harry Potter movies (anyone not offended with that list?), I believe Shawshank is one of the greatest movies of all time. The hope that main character Andy Dufresne holds onto throughout the film is inspiring. Also inspiring is how he was able to spread that hope and a sense of optimism onto Red and the other prisoners, despite the fact that all the others are "institutionalized" and have settled into life on the inside. Shawshank is a movie about the endurance of the human spirit, and how it can never be conquered.
High Fidelity stars John Cusack. For most people that's enough to make them love the movie. Cusack plays record store owner Rob Gordon, who breaks up with his girlfriend at the start of the film, goes on to review all his past relationships, and analyzes why each one failed. He comes to realize that what he had given up before is what he has always wanted; basically Rob didn't appreciate what he had until she was gone.
Better Luck Tomorrow
A group of Asian-American over-achieving kids are bored in suburbia. They descend into cheating, drugs, and crime, all while still trying to maintain their straight-kid facade. The main character, Ben, has a set life, and knows what the life ahead of him will be like, revolving mostly around his stellar academics. However at the end of the movie, his set life was changed, and for the first time he doesn't know what life would be like ahead.
Lost in Translation
Two things I love about Lost in Translation: Scarlett Johansson with red hair, and Bill Murray playing a serious role. Johansson and Murry play Charlotte and Bob Harris, respectively, who are two people that connect with each other when they meet in a Japanese hotel. The story and imagery are ambiguous, but play out like trying to recall a memory. In their "American" lives Charlotte is still sorting out her early-20-something life, while Bob is dealing with his own family and personal issues. Together they cast away their worries as much as they can, while learning from one another. When Bob leaves to go back home, Charlotte sums it up saying, "Let's never come here again because it will never be as much fun."
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
While most people may associate Jim Carey with over-the-top comedy movies, I will always think of him in Eternal Sunshine. Carey plays Joel Barish, who undergoes a procedure to erase the memories of his ex-girlfriend. The majority of the film takes place inside Joel's head, who realizes through re-living these memories what he and Clementine had to begin with.
With this late night feud going on at NBC, the internet took sides, and the internet backed Conan O'Brien. Jay Leno's reputation as a poor comedian was already well-known on the internet, however his push to stay on the air made him the most hated comedian nearly overnight.
By and large, young people and the internet backed Conan. On the surface, NBC's handling of the late night situation and Jay Leno's poor ratings and even poorer comedy are both reasons that people backed Conan, however I feel that perhaps the reasoning goes deeper than that.
I think one part of it has to do with the way corporations (and even our government) have handled problems as of late. I believe that many young adults in America, like myself, have grown up watching corporations screw over relatively innocent people, and we have grown tired of that fact. For example, watching the RIAA sue individuals $10,000 per illegal song download is asinine, and it is a fact of life we have grown weary of hearing about. On top of that, the issue that young people have with corporate culture in these types of circumstances is that older executives fail because of their own shortsightedness.
NBC, being the large corporate entity it is, completely gaffed with the handling of their late night programming and hosts. The executives there took a chance with placing Conan in The Tonight Show, however they did not change their expectations accordingly. Conan's primary audience is made up of young people, in their 20's and 30's. This same audience is more technologically inclined than Jay Leno's audience, and is more likely to use DVRs and Hulu to watch their TV content. As such, the actual TV ratings for Conan were not there initially. Had the network allowed more time for audiences to adjust to having Conan at the 11:35 timeslot, taken into consideration internet viewship, and also taken into consideration the poor lead-in of The Jay Leno Show at 10pm, I feel the advertising dollars and ratings would have shown Conan to be an ample replacement to Jay Leno. Again, NBC's own shortsightedness resulted in this gaffe.
Not to mention, of course, Jay Leno just is not funny anymore.
At 12:35 on Friday night, January 22, 2010, we headed into a brave new world: a world without Conan O'Brien on TV.
Allow me to tell the story that we may all know by now. Five years ago, Jay Leno hosted The Tonight Show, while Conan O'Brien hosted Late Night. The two men, along with NBC, said that in mid-2009 Conan would take over The Tonight Show. Sometime in the past year, NBC and Jay Leno came to a separate agreement, placing him in a new weeknight prime-time 10pm show, leading into the 11pm local news broadcast.
The transition from one Tonight Show host to another occurred seven months ago, and Jay began his new prime-time show. In the following months, however, affiliates complained that their local news ratings were dropping. The ratings drop occurred simultaneously with the change in Tonight Show hosts, along with the new 10pm Jay Leno Show. In theory, low ratings and low viewership for the 10pm Jay Leno Show in turn meant lower ratings and lower viewership for the 11pm local news, which finally meant low ratings and viewership for the 11:35 Tonight Show.
In the infinite wisdom of the network, NBC decided that the low-rated Jay Leno Show should be cut down to 30 minutes and moved to 11:35, with Conan's Tonight Show moved to after midnight. Conan O'Brien, upset about having his 11:35 Tonight Show timeslot taken away, and this blatant appease to Jay Leno's ego, decided to leave NBC altogether.
The Internet went wild.
One stop Tommy shop.